On Party Purpose

CC portrait standing

Ben Domenech over at The Federalist raises a valid question: Why does the Republican party exist? The actions of its leaders reveal how ethereal the reasons must be to them but also discloses how serious an identity crisis the GOP is experiencing. It could almost be said we are at 1932 and 1936 in party outlook, among a “leadership” unable to stomach resistance to what it perceives as a settled and impregnable position set by the White House for the country. The prospect of contrast is anathema when “Big Government” is here to stay. The path of least resistance becomes the daily objective and so anyone who appeals to something better than policies indistinguishable from the other side, like those colorless defeatists Alf Landon or Wendell Willkie, becomes the enemy. There is no Coolidge, Robert Taft, or Ronald Reagan to confront the President’s agenda, explain why we are lost, and to chart the way forward without jettisoning historic principles in the pressures of the moment.

This past week’s actions by Boehner and McConnell scream for all to see what happens when expediency drives one small concession after another until even the value of human life itself (through the defunding of Planned Parenthood) is secondary to reinforcing cronyism. This is not a conservative vs. liberal issue, it is a human issue. As long as the Republican Party hooks its wagon to this kind of “leadership,” it is on its way to oblivion. That would be a convenient outcome for the other side (and no doubt cheered by many) but it would be a disaster for all who cherish the principles of sound government, governance binding all men to a written constitution and just laws.

I am reminded of what Calvin Coolidge observed about parties that no longer represent either their platform or those who vote to advance the party’s very purpose of existence will not long remain relevant as an organization. Consider also what he said about party principles and the role parties legitimately serve in our system, advancing the ideal that government must rest authority on laws not men to remain a government of consent. Anything less is not achieving the legitimate ends or sound purposes of government, Cal knew. Coolidge’s thoughts on political parties contribute mightily to the very debate we are having right now and could not come at a better time.

Read more of his insights in our book, “Keeping Cool on the Campaign Trail,” available at here.

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