The Republican Party has lost its way, and our nation is suffering as a result. It is time for the party to return to its roots, to return to Rational Republicanism.
Rational Republicanism is the belief that a strong federal government is a prerequisite of a strong nation capable of extending individual freedom to its citizens. The belief that government, just like business, can be rationalized and the scientific method applied to make it more efficient and effective. Yes, Rational Republicans actually believe that we need a Federal Government that while limited is still robust and capable.
This recognition of the need for a strong federal government goes back to the founding of our nation. Our first form of government was something called The Articles of Confederation, with a very weak federal government. Many of our Founders recognized that without a stronger national government the United States would not thrive and might not even survive. Their response was to draft the Constitution and then add the Bill of Rights. This third pass, a strong national government with clearly defined individual rights, was the form of government the Founders believed would best allow the United States to prosper and grow.
The signers of the Constitution wanted a strong, expansive country and trusted a strong national government supporting our business community to help achieve these goals. The Republican Party was founded on these ideas. For its first century the Republican Party believed in applying the power of government to help modernize and strengthen our country and economy so extend individual freedom. Republicans believed the principals of business management and the scientific process could be applied to government, that empirical and measurable information could be used to understand what needed to be done and how best do it. And as strange as this sounds today, people used to vote for Republicans because they were better at running the government.
It was the battle over Socialism that changed the party. Socialists saw a larger, even all-encompassing role for government. Instead of providing an infrastructure for private enterprise, government should instead take ownership and control of the economy. Socialists believed that the government could both increase wealth by more efficiently managing the economy and do a better job of distributing the wealth, providing far greater individual freedom.
It’s not true of course, on either count. The government can’t do a better job of running the economy and putting the government in control of virtually everything doesn’t increase individual freedom. But Rational Republicanism got caught in the cross fire. Socialism by revolution is more dramatic, but socialism by evolution is possible as well. Government doing some things efficiently and effectively can be taken to suggest that government could everything better, if only given the responsibility; people, prompted by politicians, could get in the habit of looking to government for more and more. The slow, inexorable growth of government responsibility could conceivably lead to an eventual government takeover of our economy.
But if government was portrayed as inherently ineffective and even incompetent then it shouldn’t be trusted with any responsibilities, let alone control of our economy. Slowly, over time, this became the position of the Republican Party – government is bad at everything it tries. The Republican Party went from being the efficient government party to the anti-government party, distrustful of all government and distrustful even of the scientific method.
The Republican distrust of government is bad for our country and bad for the Republican Party. Most voters do see a need for government, even if contained, and want the government to perform as efficiently as possible. We want government to keep the roads paved and keep planes from falling out of the sky. But it’s hard for voters to believe Republicans can run government better if the party hates government and seems to be purposely sabotaging it just to prove its incompetence.
The party needs to return to its roots, return to Rational Republicanism. It is time for Republicans to remember that there is a middle path between total government and no government, and that what our Founders recognized 200 years ago is still true today – to be a strong nation with a strong national economy requires a strong national government. It is time for the Republican Party to go back to being the party of rational, efficient Government.