Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Republican big tent

After a guest speaker I hosted yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with students today. My guest, a Republican state representative who on more than one occasion described himself as a "dinosaur," spoke rather forthrightly (and at the same time self-deprecatingly) about what he did and didn’t like about the actions of his colleagues. (I blogged about his talk here.)

I’d describe him as a classic suburban or business-oriented Republican, with little patience for some of the symbolic elements of the social conservative agenda.

Well, one of my students (a freshman) thought he sounded like a Democrat! Her tone wasn’t critical, as if she were a true believer criticizing someone she took to be a RINO. Instead, she seemed simply to think that the Republican Party consisted only of social conservatives, which is certainly the way it’s often portrayed in the media, and sometimes even by religious conservatives themselves. I think that it’s healthy for kids in reddish states like my own to see that there’s more than one kind of Republican, that the GOP can tolerate differences of opinion and even rather tart internal criticism, and that Republicans are capable even of reaching across party lines and forming friendships with their political opponents, all of which was out there for my students to see, courtesy of the dinosaur, who happens to be my state rep.

Fran Millar wouldn’t be mistaken for a Democrat by anyone who pays close attention to Georgia politics, and I’m glad he was there to disabuse some of my students of what they thought they knew about Republicans.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Dr. K

Seems like Rep. Millar keeps most folks on the right side of the aisle happy.

I find your student’s observations telling. Of course, the media has a role in this. However - I think there’s more to it than that.

As I’ve railed within the comment confines at NLT before - the Republicans refusal to halt government growth (at least in DC) makes Cultural/Social issues about the only Conservative legs that Republicans can stand on. I would imagine that a "suburban" Republican who would have ceded to civil unions probably did strike this young person as being a Democrat...

Mr. Anderson, you have a good point.

If Republicans talked more, and more sincerely, about limited government in the economic realm, people would get a more balanced view of them and not perceive them (wrongly) primarily in terms of social issues. They could stick to their (correct, I think) positions on social issues without being unduly tarred by them.

I would add that advocacy of tax cuts is simply the icing on the cake. The broader argument for limited government and against statism is more difficult, intellectually and politically, just as most truly worthwhile things in life are difficult. It needs to be made.

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