Who's In the Big Republican Tent?

Persuading voters.

A couple of mornings ago Geraldo Rivera was on Fox and Friends.  In response to Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican party, Rivera stated that the Republican party would no longer be a majority or national party.  They had shrunk their tent.

He, and other pundits, have all said that the days of the "big tent" Republicans are over unless they change to be more inclusive.  He couldn't be more right.

He's right that the days of the all-inclusive Republican party is over.

And that's not a bad thing.

The Republican party can't include everyone because not everyone's ideas are those of the Republican party.  The "big tent of ideas" is a fallacy based on the premise that all ideas are equally valid.

It's based on the premise that opposing ideas about the Constitution can coexist in the same party.  As the Republican party struggles to get back to its conservative and Constitutional roots, it must discard those ideas that do not fit.

If you are unwilling to be persuaded that there is a different way of thinking, then you need to get out of the Republican tent.  The Democratic circus of wanting government to control everything has plenty of room for you in their tent.

At the same time, Rivera couldn't be more wrong, too.  Although the Republican party is not and cannot be a "big tent" the way he means it, the idea of the "big tent" is the goal Republicans should pursue.

In fact, if Republicans want to ever see power again, a "big tent" chock full of voters has to be the goal - not because they've included all the ideas everyone has, but because they've successfully convinced the majority that their ideas are right.

The number of people in a successful Republican party's tent will grow because the people have come to understand that conservatism (which means Constitutionally based rule of law and associated capitalism) is the system that will provide the most liberty, security, and prosperity.  The job of the Republican party is to help people reject bad ideas of increasing government power and embrace good ones - and by doing so, they'll wind up inside the tent and it will grow.

But what about the so-called "social" issues?  Abortion, gay rights, etc?  What if I'm a "fiscal conservative and social liberal"?  Am I welcome in the tent?

Again, check the premise of your question.  We think we need to separate fiscal issues from social issues, but they're intertwined.  Tax policy has been used as a social tool.  In fact, many government programs are used as social tools.  Until the government stops meddling in issues it shouldn't be involved in, the issues are dependent upon each other.

Rivera mentioned on air that 95% of the black population and more than 50% of this Hispanic population voted for Obama.  This was presented as why the Republican tent needs to include all ideas - but it isn't.

Research has shown that in many ways, these groups live their lives like conservative Republicans and hold to socially conservative views - for example, many Hispanics are devout Catholics, and black support put California's traditional-marriage Proposition 8 over the top.  These are people who need to be brought into the tent of individual liberty, responsibility, and achievement.

When they can see that what they do every day is what is represented by the Republican ideas they'll want to come into the tent.  Those who live as conservatives but vote as liberals should be shown that those they've voted for do not represent the ideas they support.

If most blacks understood that the Democratic party needs them to feel oppressed but the Republican party wants to see them succeed through education and hard work just as their own greatest leaders once did, the next election could see 95% of them vote Republican.

In Walt Disney's Pinocchio, Pinocchio is lured to Pleasure Island (please excuse the temporary switching of metaphors from tent to island).  On Pleasure Island the visitors are allowed to do all the things they can't do at home including behaving poorly and gorging themselves on junk food - until eventually they turn into donkeys and are enslaved in the salt mines.

Today's Democrats have created a Pleasure Island of a party.  They promise everything to everyone, but the eventual result will be enslavement.  Accepting all ideas as equally valid creates a Pleasure Island.  The Republicans do not want Pleasure Island, but a Land of Liberty.

The premise of the debate about the Republican "big tent" has been successfully framed to be about the ideas the party accepts.  The correct premise is that the tent should be about how many people accept its ideas.  Those conservative voices with large audiences need to be more successful at articulating why conservative ideas are correct and why liberal ideas are incorrect.

Essentially all of the media voices sing the siren song of enslavement to government, but our own voices are more important than the media voices.  We need to articulate why Mr. Obama's policies are bad for the country.  Yes, it's going to take some proselyting to get more people under the tent.  Essentially, we need to provide our friends and family a ticket to the big tent.

The Republicans need a big tent, but it's not a big tent of all ideas, it's a tent of the correct ideas with as many people as possible supporting them, and working every day to persuade others to do the same.

Fennoman is a guest writer for Scragged.com.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Fennoman or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
fiscal conservatism VS. social conservatism:

Abortion- policing illegal abortions would be very expensive (think war on drugs) which would increase the size of govt' and infringe on liberties.
Death penalty- believe it or not the death penalty is more expensive than life. not to mention to a true christian pro death penalty is at odds with pro life.
Policing the world as is NEO Con. philosophy is VERY expensive, and also means much bigger government.
Cutting funds for education and/or privatizing schools(making tuition very expensive) does not help the poor minorities.
May 1, 2009 9:55 AM
Zach, you have a few misunderstandings.

Historically, abortion has been illegal in most places and times, and it has never been an oustandingly expensive issue. That's because the most likely abortionists, namely qualified medical doctors, also have the most to lose by breaking the rules, and so generally don't.

The death penalty is insanely expensive only because interminable appeals make it so. There is absolutely no reason that the death penalty cannot be vastly speedier and vastly more cost-effective. "Justice delayed is justice denied." And if you wish to base your death penalty opinion on Christian principles, you could do worse than to consult the Bible's statement on the issue:
"Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

Policing the world - well, yes, that is pretty expensive, and it would be nice if the rest of the world would pick up some of the tab for being policed just as you expect to pay taxes for your local cop's salary. 9-11 wasn't exactly cheap either though.

And on your last point - you could hardly be more profoundly wrong. Private schools, on average, cost half the price of public schools, and do a vastly better job - not just with rich white kids, but specifically with underprivileged minorities, as conclusively proven by the DoE's own report (which they tried to suppress.)

You might find this website interesting, since it records the actual testimony of actual minority kids in DC who directly benefitted from the scholarship voucher program there - which scholarships, I might point out, cost HALF as much as the normal DC public schooling.

May 1, 2009 10:24 AM
Zach: Let's take a look at the issues you've brought up from a Constitutional perspective.

Abortion: It's not a federal issue. Never should have been. Roe vs. Wade is bad law, never mind the moral questions surrounding abortion. Policing them is a distraction from the argument. What you also miss is that Conservatives for the most part are first united around the idea that taxpayer money isn't used to fund or promote them. Then the discussion can be moved (at the state level) as to the legality of it in different circumstances. I don't think there's a strong 14th Amendment case for it. Kick it back to the states. It's not a federal issue.

Death Penalty: This, too, is more of a states rights issue than a federal issue. But is the premise punishment or rehabilitation? Your comment only addresses cost and that may not be the argument upon which the morality of the death penalty is decided. And, who are you to speak for "Christianity" with regard to the death penalty (we can argue theology elsewhere, this is a politics blog). The Constitution also doesn't address it directly, either.

Policing the World: Huh?!? I don't recall that being an item in the party platform. National security is an issue and sometimes taking the fight TO them may be the best way to maintain security (which is doesn't mean anything with respect to Iraq). Constitutionally, the first responsibility of the federal government is national security. We can argue about what that means, but we can't argue about its primacy.

Education: Research and evidence shows that home schooled children do the best at the lowest cost. Providing vouchers worked well in Washington DC, so their teacher's union made sure that program ended. Finally, there is no Constitutional basis for the Department of Education on a federal level. These are local issues that should be managed at a local level. There is NO association with money spent on education and quality (in fact the schools that spend the most have the worst performance).

So, while the government insists on having its hand in things it shouldn't, the issues are intertwined. Of course, except national security, which is a legitimate function of national government.
May 1, 2009 10:35 AM
Fennoman is absolutely correct on ALL counts. And I'm not a Republican.
May 4, 2009 10:18 AM
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