Trying to Understand Republicans

This is my investigation into why Republicans are Republican. Since most people I know, and therefore, for now, most of the readers of this zine, will be ultra-liberal, even Socialist (yes, even one Communist), it seems fruitless to write some Bush-bashing piece that would preach to the choir. And since most of us are actually baffled by Republicans, I decided to lift some of the veils of mystery and get some honest answers as to why someone would be a Republican and/or support Bush. Just for a start, I have interviewed two highly-educated Republicans who by coincidence happen to both be Harvard graduates from the Upper East Side. (They dont know each other.) However, they have very different reasons for belonging to their party. Let’s see what their beliefs and opinions are on a few current issues.

Republican A:

1. What is your profession?

Hedge funds/finance

2. What are your life goals? Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Senior portfolio manager at a bank/hedge fund

3. Rank in order of personal importance-

(happiness, friends, money, God, love, health, art, family)

Happiness

Love

Family

Health

Friends

Money

Art

God

4. Do you consider yourself a moral person? Or, do you worry about being a good person?

Yes, I consider myself to be a moral person.

5. Why are you a Republican and not a Democrat or something else?

I am Republican because I believe the party is better able to govern the country. I have greater confidence in the Republican party’s ability to fight terrorism (protect the country) and to create a good economy.

6. What political party do your parents belong to?

One is Republican and one is Democrat.

7. At what moment, or because of what issue did it become obvious to you that you were Republican?

National security and economic policy.

8. How much do you care about politics?

Not much.

9. Do you believe in the American Dream, i.e. that anyone can become rich no matter where they started from if they put their mind to it?

No, there are obvious advantages (educations etc) to starting off rich.

10. What religion do you belong to, if any? And, if any, how religious are you?

Do not belong to any religion.

11. How do you feel about separation of Church and State?

Very important.

12. What is your position on gay marriage, abortion, and the death penalty?

Opposed to gay marriage, pro-choice, opposed to death penalty. Although, none of these are significant in determining my political views.

13. Do you feel there is a contradiction in President Bush being against stem-cell research yet pro-death penalty?

Yes, but don’t really care about the matter.

14. If you could have voted on it, would you have been for or against going to war with Iraq?

For.

15. What do you think were the reasons for going to war with Iraq?

Iraq is a potential harborer of terrorists. Saddam Hussein has continually gone against UN sanctions. Additionally, a democracy in Iraq will spread throughout the region and create greater stability there.

16. Do you believe that there was a connection between Al Queida and Saddam Hussein?

Yes, Saddam Hussein and Al Queda were both enemies of the US.

17. Which do you value more, civil liberties or national security?

National Security.

18. Many Republicans say they believe in limited government and states’ rights. Liberals are puzzled that many Republicans nevertheless seem to want government to impose on society a particular set of values, as reflected in the movement to amend the constitution to explicitly forbid gay marriage, and in the administration’s announced intent to prosecute the medical use of marijuana, overriding state laws permitting it. Do you have any comments on this?

Its clear that Republicans favor these issues in order to build a governing coalition. In terms of a governing coalition – I think I am trying to say that a lot of Republicans are willing to compromise on certain issues in order to maintain a majority. Rather cynically, I believe that Bush/other prominent Republicans don’t really care too much about these issues (gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research) and are just catering to the religious right to get votes.

19. It’s sometimes said that Democrats are more compassionate than Republicans in that they are more supportive of the poor, the underdog, and the minorities, while Republicans look out mainly for the interests of the wealthy and the large corporations. How would you respond to that?

Not really that significant. More poor people are Republican than Democrat because they realize that Republicans do a better job protecting the security and economy of the country. Democrats appear to be more compassionate but are actually condescending towards poor people.

20. Do you personally trust George Bush?

Yes.

21. What do you think George Bush’s strong qualities and weak qualities as a leader?

Bush is good at focusing on main issues – like national security. Has a strong ability to build a good team and surround him self with excellent advisors. His weakness has been his inability to gather greater respect in the international community.

22. Are there any Republican positions you disagree with? If so, which ones?

Yes, I am pro-choice.

23. What kind of Republican do you consider yourself to be?

Moderate

24. Are you concerned with the shrinking middle class and what do you think might be the cause of this ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor?

Mildly concerned – although I believe that as the rich grow richer they invest in the country and further increase the standard of living for everyone.

25. If this gap continues to grow, what do you think will happen?

Nothing.

26. Do you feel the liberal media misrepresents the Republican positions? If so, which ones?

Yes, but it’s fairly irrelevant as everyone is aware of it and the Republicans maintain a strong majority across the country.

27. Do you favor a flat tax or bracket tax?

I favor a flat tax, although for very different reasons than most Republicans. I believe the tax system is quite unfair because if you think about it taxing income at a substantially higher level than capital gains is the ultimate benefit to the upper class, because the wealthy make most of their money off of investments. There should be lower income taxes to encourage working for a living and low capital gains to encourage investing in the economy and a higher consumption tax to discourage excess spending.

28. Do you think the Patriot Act should be renewed?

Yes.

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Republican B:

1. What is your profession?

I am currently a medical student at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

2. What are your life goals? Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I want to be a doctor. I don’t know what type of doctor I want to be yet.

3. Rank in order of personal importance-

(happiness, friends, money, God, love, health, art, family)

Family, God, Happiness, Love, Friends, Health, Job, Money, Art

4. Do you consider yourself a moral person? Do you worry about trying to be a good person?

I do consider myself a moral person in the sense that I think that I have a sense of morality–a code, or something like that–that I try to abide by. I can’t say that I am perfectly moral in the sense that everything I do is perfectly moral, but I do consider it important that I try to do my best in sticking with my moral code. I do worry about being a good person, and feel that I am successful at least some of the time. I feel that I struggle at times, especially in the degree to which I let people around me know how much I care about them. That, I think, is one area in which I worry a great deal about my ability to be a good person.

5. Why are you a Republican and not a Democrat or something else?

It is hard for me to say exactly why I am Republican. I don’t think I am a one issue person, nor am I a person who lines up perfectly with any party on all issues. I guess I am a Republican because I line up with them slightly more often than I do with the Democrats.

6. What political party do your parents belong to?

My Dad is a registered Republican. I think my Mom is a registered Republican, but I am not sure.

7. At what moment, or because of what issue did it become obvious to you that you were Republican?

Again, I don’t feel like there was a single moment or issue that made me feel I am Republican. If a realization happened at all, it was gradually, kind of in lock-step with my gradual awakening to various political issues. If anything, as I have gotten older (moving out of my teenage years into my mid-20s), I feel that I have become less reflexively conservative in general, but somewhat more staunchly conservative on a few particular issues.

8. How much do you care about politics? (i.e., not much, a lot, etc…)

I care about governance–the actual management of government and its impact on individual lives–a great deal. I care about politics less, but still a lot. I honestly don’t have the stomach for many of the arguments that pass as politics.

9. Do you believe in the American Dream, i.e. that anyone can become rich no matter where they started from if they put their mind to it?

I believe in the American Dream as a model of aspiration, wherein people in the United States have a greater opportunity than people nearly anywhere else in the world to rise in social and economic terms. The history of my own extended family is indeed a case study in the American Dream. I am not foolish enough, however, to believe that this is any type of a guarantee, or that people have access to the American Dream in equal measure. Many people are born under too many burdens for them to rise.

10. What religion, if any, do you belong to? And, if any, how religious are you?

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I consider myself very religious.

11. How do you feel about separation of Church and State?

I feel that the separation of church and state is vital to our way of life. I do feel, however, that the separation of church and state is often misunderstood. In the anti-establishment clause, the Constitution guarantees that the state will not establish any religion above any other. It does not require that free expressions of religion be absent from political life. My two favorite thoughts on church and state come from Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith. Jefferson said that the separation of church and state protects the state from the corrosive effects of religion, but more importantly protects religion from the corrosive effects of politics. Joseph Smith, as someone who suffered a great deal under government persecution of religion, wrote that he would never want to deprive others of the right to free worship because he would never want to be deprived of his right to free worship.

12. What is your position on gay marriage, abortion, and the death penalty?

Gay marriage: I believe that gay people should be allowed to marry or form unions. This is a point where I am at odds with the Republican Party and my religion. Abortion: I believe that life begins with conception, so abortion is inherently wrong–except in cases of health risk to the mother or rape–because it takes a life. That being said, my ultimate goal with abortion is that there be as few as possible. I understand that women will seek out abortions whether they are legal or not, so I endorse whichever abortion policy will keep the number of abortions at its lowest. My impression is that such a policy will involve some legalization for some types of abortion.

Death Penalty: This is a toughy for me. Ultimately, I believe that the state’s inability to adequately ensure the proper administration of the death penalty makes it untenable as a position. Even as I write this, I am conflicted about this issue.

13. Do you feel there is a contradiction in President Bush being against stem-cell research yet pro-death penalty? If so, does this bother you?

I do not feel that there is a contradiction. President Bush is against embryonic stem cell research because it involves the taking of an innocent life. He is for the death penalty because it represents what he feels is the correct punishment that stems from a conscious decision by a rational person to commit a crime for which the death penalty is a legal punishment.

14. If you could have voted on it, would you have been for or against going to war with Iraq?

I would have voted to go to war with Iraq. Chief among my reasons for voting that way would have been the issue of WMD, the desire to create a democratic state in the Middle East, and the need to free people from Hussein’s control.

15. What do you think were the reasons for going to war with Iraq?

At the time, the issue of WMD was paramount. President Bush–despite many people’s inability to remember this later on–did speak many times in the most public of forums about the importance of liberation and democratization for the future of the Middle East.

16. Do you believe that there was a connection between Al Queida and Saddam Hussein?

I believe that Saddam Hussein’s regime was aiding and sheltering some Al Qaida operatives. I do not think that his government was at all related to the direct planning of the September 11th attacks.

17. Which do you value more, civil liberties or national security?

That is a difficult question because I feel that one must take into account the period of time and the actual civil liberties being discussed. Civil liberties is a large, amorphous category that can range from the “biggies” like freedom of speech and freedom of the press to less significant issues, like the ability to not have your library reading list investigated by the FBI. At a time of war, national security is incredibly important, but does still not trump the “biggies.”…

National Security does, in my mind, trump smaller civil liberties, like the ability to have your reading list stay private.

18. Many Republicans say they believe in limited government and states’ rights. Liberals are puzzled that many Republicans nevertheless seem to want government to impose on all of society a particular set of values, as reflected in the movement to amend the constitution to explicitly forbid gay marriage, and in the administration’s anounced intent to prosecute the medical use of marijuana, overriding state laws permitting it. What are your comments on this?

I agree with many liberals’ puzzlement on this issue. Lately, I have considered myself perhaps more Libertarian than Republican, but Libertarians don’t get talked about very often. I think the issue at the core of this non-small government Republican movement is the principle that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Any party, when in a position of power, will do what it needs to do to extend that power. I think it is wrong for the Republican Party to extend itself into private lives as it has done during the Schiavo case, the gay marriage movement, and the extension of federal powers over state powers.

19. It’s sometimes said that Democrats are more compassionate than Republicans in that they are more supportive of the poor, the underdog, and the minorities, while Republicans look out mainly for the interests of the wealthy and the large corporations. How would you respond to that?

I think that on a superficial level, it is fair to say that the Democratic Party is friendlier to the “underdog.” It is primarily the Democratic Party that creates and sustains the entitlement society. On a deeper level, if you move past the rhetoric that Republicans only look out for their business cronies, I feel that Republican policies, especially in the economic sphere, are ultimately more to the advantage of the poor than Democratic policies. Economically speaking Republicans/conservatives stand for freer markets and lower taxes, which in the long term are far more important to the creation and sharing of wealth than restricted markets and higher taxes. This is not an argument for trickle-down economics or completely unregulated industry. Taxes should have some degree of progressiveness and industry needs regulations to prevent malfeasance. But at the same time, economic growth on the micro and macro scale occurs for the most part in the absence of government meddling, not because of it. Socially speaking, Republican policies against “hate-crime” legislation, affirmative action, and overwrought welfare are far more important in terms of creating a colorblind and economically equal society because they do not perpetuate the chronic protection of sub-groups. I feel that maintaining a government support system is necessary to protect those who truly need it, but that the best way to create long-term equality is to make the benefits of ingenuity, hard work, and dedication more tangible for those who demonstrate those qualities.

20. Do you personally trust George Bush?

I do.

21. What do you think are George Bush’s strong qualities and weak qualities as a leader?

I think that President Bush’s strengths are his ability to maintain a clear vision of his policies despite criticism; his instinctual feeling that democracy is worth fighting for, and his ability to inspire at crucial moments.

I think that President Bush’s weaknesses are his inability to articulate his positions, his occasional slow responses to important issues, and his occasional reliance on overly sweeping or religious language.

22. Are there any Republican positions that you disagree with? If so, which ones?

Gay marriage and the death penalty, as mentioned above. Abortion, depending on what wing of the party you are talking to.

23. What kind of Republican do you consider yourself to be? (i.e. moderate, extreme, etc…)

I guess I would say moderate. As I mentioned before, I am starting to think of myself as something of a Libertarian, but I am not really willing to accept that party’s thought that the least government intervention in people’s lives is always best. Moderate, is probably the best descriptor.

24. Are you concerned with the shrinking middle class and what do you think might be the cause of this ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor?

I think that the problem of the shrinking middle class can likely be reduced to the changing nature of the economy. The middle class in the United States historically contained people working in heavy industry… As that industry moves overseas, and as the workplace becomes increasingly skill-based and technology-based, the jobs that usually defined the middle class are increasingly scarce. People either develop skills that make them competitive in the workplace or they don’t, and hence either move towards the upper class or the lower class.

25. If this gap continues to grow, what do you think will happen?

I don’t know where this will take us if it continues. I guess it can go one of two ways. The middle class can reemerge, which would happen either by some combination of rich people getting poorer and poor people getting richer. Whether this happens by organic (i.e. capitalistic) means or by government means will relate to what types of politicians leaders elect in the coming decades. I can’t really say.

26. Do you feel the liberal media misrepresents Republican positions? If so, which ones?

I do think that there are strategic misrepresentations of Republican positions.

A few:

-On stem cells, President Bush has not banned research. He has restricted research on new embryological lines, but has funded it for existing embryological lines and for somatic stem cells.

-Despite the claims of many media outlets, the President did include liberation and democratization in his rationale for the Iraq war.

-The economy has shown relatively steady improvement over the past 18-24 months, yet nearly all press accounts talk exclusively about a terrible economy that has not grown since the Clinton era…forgetting that the beginning of the last recession began after the Internet bubble burst during the end of the Clinton presidency.

27. Are you for flat tax or bracket tax?

I am for a progressive, bracketed tax. I do, however, feel that it is unfair in the way that it is currently structured. Nearly one third of Americans pay absolutely no taxes. I believe that everyone should have some tax burden, regardless of how small it would be. For some people it would only be a dollar. I feel that required taxes for everyone would do a lot to create a sense of shared ownership in our country’s economy.

28. Do you think the Patriot Act should be renewed?

I support the renewal of the Patriot Act. I think it is an important tool for fighting terrorism. The issues that are typically raised when people argue against it–the library search stuff, the roving phone tap stuff–is either inconsequential (as in the former) or absolutely necessary (as in the latter).

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