Sunday, February 20, 2005

Towards the Abolition of Identity Politics

Al Franken has a piece in the Los Angeles Times ridiculing the GOP's publication of a calendar spotlighting its civil rights efforts over the last 150 years. In typical Franken fashion, it's a mean-spirited diatribe basically accusing the Republican Party of racism, though without crossing that threshold (meaning Al doesn't have the guts to state out loud the implications of his piece). However, while I applaud the sentiment behind the calendar, I must say that in my Republican Party, such a calendar wouldn't see the light of day.

In my Republican Party, we would not court the black vote. We would be unable to do so in good faith, because our principles would not allow us to group millions of diverse individuals together because of their race. Yes, we would hold community meetings, and visit churches, and some of these communities and churches would be predominantly or entirely black. Yet we would make no promises aimed at earning votes by playing the race card; we would be for affirmative action, but a new type of affirmative action that recognizes that poverty is an obstacle to equal opportunity, regardless of the sufferer's race.

My Party would be attractive to blacks, latinos, asians, and people of all races because it would be open to their ideas, contributions, and achievements. Where injustices were found, we would be swift to action, but our rhetoric would always affirm the individual, not an arbitrary group to which he was assigned. To be sure, there are issues of unique relevance to each of these communities, but a political party that aspires to represent all of a nation with the diversity of ours is not the forum to address those issues.

My Republican Party would not court senior citizens, or women, or upper-income Americans. We would affirm to all Americans, regardless of their age, income, or sex (or voting propensities) that our policies would be formed by core principles that are unchanging with the winds of any particular political season. If we took a stand that appeared to favor one group over another, we would be sure to articulate through our leadership the reasoning behind the stand, and why it's good for all Americans. If the policy could not stand this test, we would have no business advocating it.

My Republican Party would not court religious voters. A vast number of our rank-and-file would be quite religious, and this is proper. Americans with faith in God would admire our party's insistence that morality is a basis, indeed the only basis, for public policy, both foreign and domestic, and while the particulars of what constitutes a moral policy are open to vigorous debate, we will not pretend that actions, even by a government, do not have consequences. The religious would no doubt also admire our insistence that the seperation of Church and State enshrined in our heritage is aimed at precluding an 'official' state religion, not at excluding religion from our civic and political life. Atheists would also admire our party, for its openness and tolerance, and its dedication to the eternal ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In short, my Republican Party would shape every decision around the pillars of freedom, democracy, security, and morality. We would never shirk from war, but never seek it; we would affirm the idea of American exceptionalism, not because we believe Americans themselves have any claim to superiority over the citizens of other nations, but because the idea of America itself is exceptional; and we would never require litmus tests or oaths of loyalty to any concept but these essentials. It's a dream, yes, but a damn good one, and America is full of dreamers.

UPDATE 2:13 pm central: Thanks to Betsy's Page for the link, and welcome to any strangers...take a look around, and if you need any assistance, just give a holler!...

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