I mentioned in my last post that my friend Philip has blogrolled me as "Coach GOP Sal" because I blogged on some conservative topics. He offered to change it, but I demurred. Still, I thought it might be worthwhile to blog about why I tend to ally with the GOP (Grand Old Party, for the acronym-challenged, AKA the Republicans). I want to first offer a couple of disclaimers: first, I'm NOT a registered Republican. It just so happens that I voted for a Democrat for mayor just a couple of weeks ago. I've also voted Dem for several state offices, and even once for US Senator. But in my voting lifetime (since '88), I have yet to vote for a Democrat for President. That's not to say I couldn't, but that has never been even a close call thus far. Secondly, I'm not really a Republican as much as I am a conservative. Which is why if the GOP nominates a liberal, like Rudy Giuliani, my loyalty slips a good bit. That said, and this has been the case at least since '88, if the other choice is even worse, what's a body to do? Finally, I firmly reject cartoonish stereotypes--of both parties. Yes, "my" party has some fat-cat northern businesspeople, plus some percentage of gap-toothed rednecks. But that's the fringe, and don't represent me. Likewise, I recognize that not every Democrat is a borderline communist who thinks America is the source of evil in the world and considers abortion a sacrament. Those bozos are out there, but my differences with the Dems lie not in that straw man. If anything, I'd like to think I'm reasonably thoughtful, and that I fight fair.
OK. So what does it mean to be "conservative" nowadays? Well, for starters, I'm a Reagan Republican, not a William Howard Taft or James Blaine, or even a Nelson Rockefeller Republican. You may remember that Reagan used to be a Democrat himself (voted 4 times for FDR, as I recall, and I think once for Truman). What I want to "conserve" includes most of the "safety net" of the New Deal, as well as the Civil Rights gains of the 50s and 60s. But as the Gipper himself said, "I didn't leave the Democrats. The party left me." Since 1968 or so, the muscular defense policy of the Truman and JFK Democrats has given way to the peace-at-any-price weakness of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and their successors. One of the legs that holds up my conservatism is peace through strength. I find that more in the Republican party (since '80 or even since Ike) than in the Democrats since the 60s.
The next thing--actually, an even bigger thing, for me--is my faith. Now don't get me wrong--I'm not going to be one of those people who claims that one cannot be simultaneously a Christian and a social liberal. Many of my Christian friends have made their peace with that, and I respect them. Nor do I buy the argument that the "Christian Right" in a political sense speaks for every evangelical. But despite those allowances, the fact remains that up until the 1970s, most southern evangelicals found their home among the Democrats. The 1960s and Roe v. Wade changed that somewhat, and Reagan's embrace of anti-abortion religious people in 1980 sealed the deal. Now, a key part of being "red state" is being pro-life. And that's a bedrock issue for me. I will entertain discussion on exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother--which together account for maybe 2-3% of all abortions. I'm not an absolutist. I'll even take incremental change in the right direction--the partial-birth abortion ban, parental notification. Shucks, if we could even go back to the original ruling in Roe which allowed only first-term abortion, that would be a good move. But in my view, a fetus is a baby, and killing it is WRONG. Despite lip service from the Democrats about "safe, legal, and rare," the fact is that the Supreme Court has upheld that "health of the mother" exceptions include anything the pregnant woman and her abortionist decide, and mainstream Dems have stood firmly against even the most reasonable restrictions. Their refusal to even let a pro-lifer speak at their '92 convention shows how limited the options on that side are. I just can't go there.
Moreover, on the "socio-con" or "theo-con" side, the increasing allegiance between people of faith and the Republicans has led, or at least contributed, to what I think is even further erosion of respect for religion and its practicioners by the Democrats. Their world-view is already more secular and relativistic, but there is, in some quarters among their elites, barely-veiled hostility to those of us who believe in a creator and absolute morality. I think I can sympathize with how some minorities must feel about the Republicans... "my" side may take me for granted and only pay me lip service, but the other guys pay me no attention at all unless it's in the form of an attack. And hand in hand with that is my biggest issue--the judiciary. If I want to see my world-view prevail over time, I believe that the Constitution needs to be interpreted as the framers wrote it, not seen through the lens of late-20th-century social engineering. And since judges serve life terms, I've gotta vote for the party that at least PRETENDS to respect my world-view. As much as old George W. Bush may have fallen out of my good graces in the last couple of years, it has never, never occurred to me that I'd be happier if John Kerry had named the last two Supreme Court justices.
Last, and also least in my mind, is economics. As I have blogged about extensively in the past, I am FAR from a "party of the rich" Republican. I have the utmost sympathy for the "working poor," for the stretched-too-thin "middle class" (of which I am a member), and those who need help. To the extent that it would actually work, I would welcome more equality of resources across the board. However, I generally believe that 1960s-70s style welfare doesn't work. And in general, what little economic history I know leads me to believe that supply-side (low tax) economic theory does work. Also (maybe it's the touch of Calvinism in my formerly-Presbyterian upbringing), I tend to have a rather low view of human nature. So, sadly, I don't think that, in most cases, taking from those who work and earn and distributing it to those who don't works all that well, either. Insetad, I think it fosters a culture of entitlement and dependency which in the end is more damaging to the very people that the good-hearted liberals are trying to help.
So, there you are. A committed Christian from the south who is pro-life, favors a strong defense, judicial originalism, and low-tax, pro-growth economics. If that makes me "Coach GOP Sal," fine. But let the GOP beware--I'm only with them, so long as they are with me. I could have voted for Truman. At the turn of the century, I would have been a Teddy Roosevelt Progressive. And if ever there's a party realignment where some old or new party best represents my views, I'll jump in a heartbeat. Don't think it can happen? Ask a Whig!