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Opinion

Why we are Republicans

By Patrick Bedard ’14

May 2, 2013

While I certainly cannot speak for every member of the Republican Party, every conservative Hamilton student or even every member of the Hamilton College Republicans, I do believe that a great number of my rightward leaning peers share many of the sentiments which I am about to lay before you. I hope that even if you are not moved to accept any of our beliefs or reasoning, you can at least better understand why it is that we are proud to call ourselves Republicans.

Many Hamilton Republicans fit a similar mold—we tend to be socially moderate and fiscally conservative. Many of us are supportive of extending marriage benefits to same sex couples and passing background check legislation for firearms purchases and we too become exasperated when candidates running for national office deny the scientific validity of climate change.

Because of this, many of our more liberal friends and acquaintances are often perplexed as to how we can support a party with a platform that seems to contradict a number of the social tenets that we value. So, why do so many—alright, maybe not so many, but more than you might think young, educated, socially moderate students support the Republican Party? It’s simple—social issues just are not the biggest problem.

Our country currently faces the biggest threat to its existence since its inception over 230 years ago. It is a danger far greater than past wars, economic depressions or social upheavals, a danger that has no equal in imminence or in scope. It is the threat of crushing national debt brought on by the overexpansion of government. I have neither the time nor the space to do justice to the perils posed by a $16.8 trillion national debt ($150,000 per tax payer), but past examples—from the economic collapse of Argentina to the fall of Rome—provide ample illustration for those in need of convincing. Denying the threat of a crushing national debt is as large a folly as denying the existence of global climate change.

At this point, you may be thinking that neither Republicans nor Democrats have a particularly illustrious history when it comes to tackling the issue of spending. You might be preparing to point out that Congress has failed to produce serious spending cuts regardless of which party has been in power, and that George Bush left our nation’s finances in a sorry state when he left office. This may be true, but in the systematic deadlock that often grips our government’s 535 members of Congress, rhetoric is an important tool for understanding the disparate views that our two political parties hold for this country’s future. And the rhetoric could not be more different.

President Obama and the Democratic Party leadership are open in their belief that the solution to our current economic woes is more regulation, more spending and—most importantly—more government. I know that I speak for nearly every member of the Republican Party when I emphatically and wholeheartedly refute that notion.

To quote Ronald Reagan, the man who defined better than any other our party’s core principles in this modern age, I say that, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?” This belief in less government and more liberty is still as true and vibrant in the hearts and minds of Republicans as it was when President Regan so beautifully articulated it back in 1981.

In the words of our recent presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, “We believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams, and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we’re seeing right now is, in my view, a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams.” It is this belief in the ability of men over the ability of government that separates the Republicanism we believe in from the liberal alternative.

Right now, the GOP is far from perfect. It is divided among many lines, with neocons, the old guard and libertarians all vying to set the agenda of our party’s future. The one thing we can all agree on, though, is that the current financial crisis that faces our nation is more than just the just the result of a recession. It is the result of a government run amok. It is the result of conscious and deliberate decisions made by the President and the Democratic Party leadership to spend and not to cut.

The decision to nearly double the nation’s publicly held debt since 2012, despite $2 trillion in tax hikes. The decision to engage in the greatest spending deficit of any presidential administration since the Second World War. The decision to devote more than 50 percent of the U.S. federal budget to social spending programs. The decision to oppose serious reform to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, programs which will account for all federal revenue by 2045 if left unchecked. The decision to vilify the top 10 percent of U.S. income earners for not “paying their fair share,” even when their current share happens to be over 70 percent of all federal income taxes. Most of all, it is the decision to reshape and remold our long held American ideals of liberty and equality of opportunity into ideals of dependency and equality of outcome.

While we hope and pray that the Republican Party and the country will soon reach an amicable solution to issues like marriage equality and universal background checks, it is not these issues that keep us up at night. What frightens us is the prospect of a government so crushed by debt and wrecked by dependency that it can no longer afford to secure our borders, protect our citizens, educate our children, provide for our seniors, or convey spousal benefits to couples, whether gay or straight.

Will I continue to advocate for equality in marriage, universal background checks, and a solution to climate change?

Of course. But I will do so as a proud member of the Republican Party, and with the firm knowledge that my party’s deficiency on these issues pales in comparison to the opposition’s failure, both in rhetoric and in action, to provide for a sustainable system of governance that respects the ideals of life, liberty and property that make our country and our Constitution so exceptional.

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