Finally, "Right" that I can support, endorse, and stand with! Finally!!
A few years ago, I attended the National School Boards Association's (NSBA) annual conference, where Colin Powell was a keynote speaker. Do you know how many moderate Republicans are school board directors? A lot. Frankly, a lot more than you might think. Many are the very people that Powell described to Bob Shieffer (CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent), on Sunday, May 24, 2009, when he was interviewed on Face the Nation (transcript):
"...the number of people identifying themselves as Republicans has dropped significantly, into the low 20s. And among those low 20s, they're not all conservatives. A lot of them are fairly moderate or right-of-center Republicans, who are concerned about the right wing. And they're not that vocal about it, because if you are vocal, you're going to get your voice mail filled up and you're going to get lots of emails, like I did."
Many peers that I chatted with, before and after Powell's speech, spoke of feeling alienated because either they didn't want to be associated with the Republican Party because of it's perceived extremism on social issues or they didn't feel that their local Republican Party really wanted to include them because party "loyalists" shun them as "RINOS" (Republican In Name Only) for their support of public education and moderate social positions. I have had these same quiet conversations with school board directors from across Washington State.
Colin Powell is absolutely right on the mark. If the Republican Party is to regain it's strength, it must do more than just retain a base. It must expand it's base. One more quote from Powell's Face the Nation interview:
Last year, attending a similar conference on federal education issues, one speaker's statement stood out as that "take away" lesson that would not be forgotten. I have long forgotten the speaker's name, but will never forget what he said...
"And if we don't do that, if we don't reach out
more, the party is going to be sitting on a very, very narrow base. You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on the base. And I believe we should build on the base because the nation needs two parties. Two parties debating each other. But what we have to do is debate and define who we are and what we are and not just listen to diktats that come down from the right wing of the party."
"If you aren't at the table, you are on the menu"
Fellow Republicans, unless we are at the table, our issues will be on the menu. We must learn to select and support candidates that have the ability to get to the table and engage the discussion on the issues most important to our party and our nation.
We cannot get to the table on fiscal issues unless we become more inclusive. We cannot address issues of the size and scope of government unless we are at the table. If we cannot get to the table, the issues will be debated by those who are at the table and Republican views on fiscal conservancy and effective government will not be represented by either conservative or moderate Republicans.
If the extremist Republican Party membership persists with an attitude of, "If I don't get 100% of my way, I'm going to take my ball and go home", then Republicans will continue to sit at home while Democrats and Independents decide the fate of our great nation.
I have very conservative social values. I chose them freely and want my fellow citizens to choose freely their own social values. If they are different than mine, I will still respect them just as I expect them to respect my choices. Getting to the table does not require us to compromise our values. It does require mutual respect. Let us respect our differences as we embrace and value the liberty that so defines our great nation.
Tom Ridge said recently, "...words mean things and how you use words is very important."
As Republicans, let us change our ways so that the words we use mean inclusion rather than exclusion. We have engaged in words and attitudes that have persisted in excluding us from the adult table as if we were children at Thanksgiving dinner relegated to the "kid's table" and forced to eat what is served by the adults who decided the menu.
We can and must earn back seats at the "adult table" where we can help select the menu and be represented and heard. In order to do so, we must first engage one another, in honest debate of the priorities of the Republican Party platform. Then we must engage our fellow citizens, united and inclusive on those issues, and let go of our childish ways.