Friday, December 19, 2008

Freedom Coalition Agenda for the Republican Party - Update 1

Updates will be published at the bottom of the article.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to advance an agenda that would further the cause of freedom. In my experience, being right on the issues isn't enough, one's coalition must pick issues that are winners and can capture the public imagination. Ron Paul provides the negative example. He was right about the current bubble collapsing, but framed his brief in anti-Federal Reserve, "bring back the gold standard" rhetoric associated with the lunatic fringe.

The Republican party has some great opportunities to advance a popular agenda. So here is my proposed Freedom Coalition agenda and a little about why I think these issues are winners. As with any agenda, it should change with circumstances and I will update it periodically.

  • Champion Freedom of Speech. We oppose campaign finance reform that protects incumbents and vested interests. Ultimately, these laws abridge free speech. There are so many examples of small groups harassed by monied opponents when they seek to organize to protect their rights. In Colorado, some neighbors who didn't want to be annexed by another city held some bakes sales to raise money for signs and ended being fined thousands of dollars. See Sampson v. Coffman. We also oppose campus speech codes that are intended to silence any point of view except the prevailing leftist orthodoxy. See FIRE article. This issue is a winner because Americans have long rejected the claim that others can tell us how to think and what we can say, especially when it comes to politics. Although they aren't happy about money in politics, it is easy to demonstrate that opposition to free speech isn't the answer. More on the right answer below.
  • Oppose Eminent Domain abuse. Originally, the concept of eminent domain was meant to prevent individual property owners from holding the government hostage when building a road or other public good. Over time, this right of government morphed into the power to seize your land at the behest of the powerful for any reason, however flimsy. This view was challenged in Kelo vs. New London, but our side lost on a 5-4 decision, one of the most unjust outcomes since Dred Scott vs. Sandford. Fortunately, the appalling sight of the powerful and well connected preying on small business owners and individuals is fueling a backlash. But eminent domain abuse continues and this remains a powerful issue for our side. Here is an example of a hard fought victory n Long Branch, NJ, where officials want to replace middle class households with upper class ones. Frequently, the victims of this abuse are poor minorities. In this case a victorious homeowner was also presented an award from the NAACP. This is real outreach on issues that affect minorities that would benefit the GOP.
  • Support School Choice. We could continue this outreach by taking on the school choice issue at full tilt. I previously blogged where the Arizona school teachers union wants to take away the ability of special needs kids to get much needed educational help through a voucher program. I think the Democrats are VERY vulnerable on this issue. School choice is the real civil rights issue of our day. Bad schools are wrecking the chances of poor and predominately minority students of being successful in college. Even the liberal University of California agrees with me that minorities are educationally disadvantaged. Interestingly, even though the academic literature on the benefits of choice are somewhat mixed, it seems to be that the greatest beneficiaries of school choice seem to be the urban poor. Further, as we experiment with choice we will find the combination of programs and incentives that really work.
  • Oppose Partial-Birth Abortions. Because the practice is as odious and repugnant as the name suggests. Americans can viscerally understand this issue. How can it be legal to kill a baby 8 months into a pregnancy when that same child if delivered, would be afforded full protection of the law? It is illogical, and even though I am a Christian and hold all human life sacred, I don't have to rest my case on theological arguments. One need only talk to an abortion survivor to understand the horror of this procedure. I blogged about the politics of this issue here.
  • Advance Economic Freedom. The recent move to bail out everyone, everywhere who is having economic difficulties is just not going to work and will wreck our country. We need to insist that the loans made to banks and industry be paid back as soon as possible and that we take measures to prevent such loans from being made with such poor oversight in the future. Americans are very uncomfortable with mortgaging their children's future as polls still indicate. The next big battle will be around health care. The Democrats will seek a government system that will slowly drive out private alternatives. There will be fines for big business at first, later for small businesses and finally for individuals. But this approach will wreck progress in health care. We need to do a good job of explaining why such an approach inevitably leads to rationing and bureaucratic stupidity on deciding how much health care you can receive. Dean launched an excellent overview of the issue in light of Ted Kennedy's cancer treatment.
  • Support Freedom Abroad. Newly liberated peoples the world over have shown a propensity to embrace freedom and markets when the yoke of tyranny has been lifted. The policy of America should be to actively work against dictatorship in allits forms (Islamic, Socialist, Fascist and Communist). We should seek to advance the cause of freedom, not through force of arms, but through steady pressure. Every piece of foreign policy should be weighed against this end. Further, we are also ready to use force of arms in this cause when defense of our national interest requires it. Americans resonate with the concepts of helping to liberate peoples from tyranny, this is a winner.
  • Small Government and Reform. These issues go hand in glove. The public loathes the sight of big business getting handout in the form of bailouts, subsidies and tax code preferences. They see the Congress get gobs of campaign contributions and rightly conclude that the money is buying access that tilts the playing field, at best; or buying Congressman at worst. Smaller government means less goodies to hand out. A reform agenda to end earmarks, end subsidies (even for ethanol) and simplify the tax code removes the incentives for business to try to buy the votes of the Congress. I can't find the original quote, but I remember Steve Forbes saying, "If you have a vermin problem in your kitchen, you can set traps and board up holes, but sooner or later your going to have to remove the cake from under the sink."
So that's my proposal. Short, but I hope substantive. I welcome your comments, disagreements, additions and satire. And I'm looking for a better acronym.


Health Care Reform. We have shamelessly taken John Mackey's program and adopted it as our own:

  1. "Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts."
  2. "Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits."
  3. Allow competition across state lines.
  4. "Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover."
  5. "Enact tort reform."
  6. "Make costs transparent."
  7. "Enact medicare reform."
  8. Revise tax law to make it easier to donate to those without insurance.