My Independence Institute colleague Jessica Corry has a column up at Politics West about a Denver event last night that she says holds out hope for re-uniting key wings of the old Reagan Republican coalition. Former Owens adviser Sean Duffy and Colorado Family Institute president Jim Pfaff were two of the panelists:
Duffy calls himself a “pro-life, pro-gay” Republican, jokingly claiming that he’s been kicked out of the Republican Party multiple times only to come back for more abuse. You may remember him as the right-hand man of former Gov. Bill Owens, a conservative Republican. “At the end of the day, as Republicans, we should all just want the government to leave us alone,” he told me.
And Pfaff, while frequently identified by his ties to Focus On The Family’s Dr. James Dobson and his commitment to “life” issues, says he wants to work with Duffy and other libertarian Republicans to begin rebuilding the Republican Party in the West after years of Democratic gains. In the last few years alone, five traditionally Republican Western states have elected Democratic governors. Pfaff is passionately eager to work through differences because he says he wouldn’t want to live in a pro-life socialist America. Socialism, he says, ultimately leads to a loss of all freedoms.
While pleased to see some shared purpose between these two men and the blocs they represent, Jessica is frank about the challenges, too:
The problem is huge. Republicans are facing an identity crisis of immense proportions. And social issues like gay rights and abortion are only the beginning. With George W. Bush at the helm, the federal government has maxed out our collective credit cards to continue funding the expansion of entitlement programs and an unpopular â€” but difficult to end â€” war.
For Republicans taking a stand against such reckless governance, they risk getting slapped with an “extremist” label. It’s no wonder so few of them are willing to stick their necks out.
I would add that there’s a difference between the issues of the global war on terrorism and the battle of Iraq on one hand, and federal government entitlement spending and fiscal irresponsibility on the other. Even though we face the consequences of some earlier tactical mismanagement in Iraq, the former is a difficult but necessary burden. The latter is unnecessary and of Republican officials’ own doing.
And therefore fiscal responsibility, limited-government issues should be the tie that binds a Republican coalition looking for rejuvenation. That the issue of victory vs. surrender has sadly become (to some extent) such a partisan divide should only provide greater motivation.
Thus I concur with Jessica’s conclusion:
Conservatives and libertarians should follow the lead of Pfaff and Duffy, putting aside their differences on social issues to elect viable candidates dedicated to protecting the working families and small business owners who suffer most when government spending expands. Now, after years of watching Republicans falter, here’s something I can toast to
One final notice: Hoping for a Republican electoral victory this fall primarily on the backs of Democrat failures and in-fighting will not be a tremendous – and will barely be a desirable – outcome. What we should long to see is not a slower creep to the Left but a stop and a turn back to fiscal sanity. And that hard work is done in the trenches.