Sunday, May 06, 2012

Schwarzenegger: GOP Nees to Take Down Its Small Tent

In a piece that will do nothing to endear him to the extremists who now make up the GOP base, Arnold Schwarzenegger has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that takes today's Republican Party to task for its narrowness and rigidity - and shrinking membership.  His lament is all to familiar to me and the many moderates who have fled the GOP as it has become a de facto religious party that embraces ignorance and preaches exclusion for anyone who is not a far right white Christian.  Here are column highlights:

I've been writing my memoirs recently, and looking back at how I came to my political identity has reminded me that this election cycle marks my 44th year as a Republican. I can't imagine being anything else.

That's why I am so bothered by the party's recent loss of two up-and-coming Republicans: San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, currently a state assemblyman, and former assemblyman and current Congressional candidate Anthony Adams, both of whom left the party to become independents. On the one hand, I respect their standing up for principle. On the other, I hate to see them go.

I'm sure they would have preferred to remain Republicans, but in the current climate, the extreme right wing of the party is targeting anyone who doesn't meet its strict criteria. Its new and narrow litmus test for party membership doesn't allow compromise.

It's time for the Republicans who are so bent on enforcing conformity to ask themselves a question: What would Ronald Reagan have done? He worked hard to maintain a welcoming, open and diverse Republican Party. He would have been appalled to see Republicans like Fletcher and Adams conclude that they had no other option than to leave the party.

As president, Reagan worked very well with Democrats to do big things. It is true that he worked to reduce the size of government and cut federal taxes and he eliminated many regulations, but he also raised taxes when necessary. In 1983, he doubled the gas tax to pay for highway infrastructure improvements.  Today, that would be enough for some of the ideological enforcers to start looking for a "real" conservative to challenge him in a primary.

Some Republicans today aren't even willing to have conversations about protecting the environment, investing in the infrastructure America needs or improving healthcare. By holding their fingers in their ears when those topics arise, these Republicans aren't just denying themselves a seat at the table; in a state such as California, they also deny a seat to every other Republican.
Being a Republican used to mean finding solutions for the American people that worked for everyone. It used to mean having big ideas that moved the country forward.  It can mean that again, but big ideas don't often come from small tents.

It's time to stop thinking of the Republican Party as an exclusive club where your ideological card is checked at the door, and start thinking about how we can attract more solution-based leaders like Nathan Fletcher and Anthony Adams.

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