Why I’m not a Republican

I’m very slowly and deliberately starting the process of building my own political career, and in exploring every option, I looked at the Republican platform through the lens of a new recruit.

I was curious because I like to be contrarian. I will need to stand out, and being a fairly normal, pretty moderate, left-leaning Republican in the age of Trumpism would certainly help me do so. And I admit a lot of fiscal conservatism resonates with me. If you’ve read anything else I’ve written about business, you wouldn’t be surprised by this.

I like small. I like lean. I like efficient, balanced, in the black rather than in the red. In the political landscape, these are wholly conservative principles: lower the deficit, hire fewer bureaucrats, don’t tread on me.

So I began to dig around. As a lifelong Democratic candidate voter, raised in a liberal family, I never once considered changing parties. As a result, I didn’t know specifically what the California Republican Party stood for.

So I decided to find out. I read the brief platform of the California Republican Party (as of 2015, via Ballotpedia) and I had my answer. I’m not a Republican, not even a California Republican.

Here are my rebuttals to a few of the items on the California Republican Party platform. For the full California Republican platform, you can click here.

Aging Californians

The California Republican Party is committed to promoting the opportunity for aging citizens to enjoy their retirement with the means they have accumulated throughout their working lives.

In other words, if I got malignant cancer, fell off a ladder and was paralyzed, or spent my entire life savings caring for a loved one who did, then the GOP would say tough beans, kid. You’re not entitled to anything more than the coins you saved in your own cookie jar.

It’s a subtle dig at social security, Medicare, and other state subsidies for the elderly.

I’m not a big-government-tell-Uncle-Cal-what-you-want-for-retirement kind of guy, but I do believe that the role of government in our society today is to help people when they need it. I don’t want old, poor people suffering in shelters and I certainly don’t want old, poor people dying in the street.

Collectively we’re too capable and wealthy to not care for our aged citizens. There is a minimum level of comfort that elderly Californians deserve to have regardless of their means.

I know this takes money but I’m willing to pay for it. This is the kind of stuff I want my taxes going towards. This isn’t a bleeding heart liberal position. It’s what makes us human. Going back to the beginning of time, in every great society, we’ve taken care of our sick and elderly. It’s a tradition that we should continue to embrace and take pride in.

This veiled suggestion that aging citizens are stuck with what they’ve saved is inhumane and I can’t support it.

Agriculture

Government should create a favorable policy environment that supports California’s farmers and ranchers, maximizing their ability to receive the reward for the risks they take year after year, while strengthening their ability to provide quality products at reasonable costs to consumers.

I actually have a soft spot for farmers. My great grandfather grew up on a ranch in Northern California. My grandmother’s family once owned land in Oakdale, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Central California.

Every summer for my entire life I’ve driven through Tracy, Manteca, Escalon, and Oakdale on the way to our summer cabin in the mountains. I admired the farmers and ranchers I saw working the fields. I recognize the hard work and high risks they take. It’s important work and it should be rewarded.

Reading between the lines, though, this point essentially says, “Farmers and ranchers deserve tax breaks.” Implied here is, “Other Californians, including poor old people, do not.”

It’s a striking juxtaposition. What’s its purpose? Agriculture is the only industry the GOP singles out for needing government assistance to balance risks and rewards.

When markets aren’t working, when monopolies gain too much power, government should step in. I support that in principle, but singling out agriculture is odd.

I’m against government favoritism especially if it’s purely for politics. I think that’s what the Republican Party is doing here. It doesn’t sit well with me.

The Economy and Jobs

We believe that people make better decisions than does government, and the free market embodies this principle. The government’s role is to ensure that markets are free and that there is genuine competition.

So the GOP supports government interference in the agriculture industry while at the same time supporting free markets?

That’s confusing.

I actually believe in free markets. Markets should be “innocent until proven guilty” of harming society. When free markets do more harm than good, government should step in.

On this point, I agree. This position, though, makes their favoritism for agriculture all the more glaring.

Education

We believe that parents will make better choices than government in almost every case. Consequently, we support school choice programs, voucher and tax-credit scholarships, magnet schools, charter schools, homeschooling, educational savings accounts, and the right of parents to choose to have their child taught in academic English. We support the abolition of all regulatory barriers that prevent parents from exercising these options.

First of all, we just went from, “We believe that people make better decisions than does government,” in the Economy and Jobs point to, “We believe that parents will make better choices than government in almost every case.”

So people make better decisions than does government all the time, but parents make better choices only some of the time? I’m confused again.

I support the right for parents to decide how they want their children to be educated. And if they have the means, by all means, they can send their children to private schools, church schools, boarding schools, whatever. Government can stay out of it.

But schooling is expensive, and as I’ve learned recently, schools double as daycare, and daycare is also expensive. Public schools are massive relief for cash-strapped parents and because California is the 5th or 6th economy in the world, they should deliver a top-notch education.

This principle implies that the GOP prefers diverting resources away from public schools. I’m absolutely 100% against that.

There’s scarcity of state and federal dollars for education programs and for decades we have been arguing about how to allocate those dollars. I don’t think the public school system in California is perfect and describing a solution is well beyond the scope of this critique.

To suggest that it’s better to make our school system private is in direct contrast to my belief in the role of government. This is a big one for me. I can’t support a party that doesn’t support our public schools.

Election Integrity

We support efforts to ensure that all registered citizens may easily vote, including the elderly, the handicapped and military personnel. Every time a fraudulent vote is cast, it disenfranchises another voter who casts a legitimate vote. We therefore support requiring photo identification for voting in person, robust signature verification for voting by mail, and proof of citizenship for voter registration.

This is nothing short of a dog whistle.

It implies that non-White people are casting fraudulent votes and ruining the state. It’s a call to nationalist Whites with bigoted tendencies to rally under the GOP flag.

When you register to vote you swear, under penalty of perjury, that you are an American citizen who is lawfully able to vote. It’s the same honor system we use on most legal forms with the government. Why should this be an exception?

Read between the lines and it’s clear that this point is actually about the growing population of non-White, non-Republican voters.

It should not be in their public platform document.

Family

We support the two-parent family as the best environment for raising children, and therefore believe that it is important to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Sigh. This one merits a letter.

Dear Party of Small Government,

You and me, we’re not so different.

We both like lean, efficient systems. We want markets and competition to spur innovation. We want to reward business leaders and help them be more successful so they can create more jobs and improve our economy. We trust that people can fend for themselves.

The ideal government in an ideal society, we’d both agree, is a government you don’t know is there. Everything would just work.

So why would you put that government in the middle of my own bedroom?

You trust me to educate my own kids, to save for my own retirement, to choose my own healthcare, but for some incomprehensible reason you have to dictate who I can and cannot marry?

Focus. Don’t overreach. Stick to what you’re good at, as they say in business!

And stop creeping in my house.

Many thanks,

A concerned citizen

Our Historic and Ongoing Support for Proposition 13

We acknowledge that Proposition 13 has saved residential and commercial property owners hundreds of billions of dollars since it was approved. It provides a uniform one percent property tax rate that provides stability for homeowners and small business owners alike.

I think Proposition 13 was bureaucratic overreach successfully promoted by dogmatic anti-tax activists. Just like the federalism that the national GOP prescribes (defer decisions to states as much as possible), so to should our great state defer to the counties as much as possible.

I don’t understand why Sacramento is dictating what the property tax rate should be across all 164,000 square miles of California.

The writers of Proposition 13 probably didn’t predict back in 1978 when it passed that there would be so much volatility in home prices, and therefore so much discrepancy between property taxes paid by two neighbors in identical homes, the only difference being one was bought 20 years ago and the was other bought yesterday. The new owner could wind up paying 10X higher property taxes.

Worse yet, the funds from property taxes all go to the state for distribution rather than keeping them within the county.

Also, experts from both parties agree this wealth flowing from the counties to Sacramento is the main cause of our public schools falling from the top 10% to the bottom 10% nationally.

I expected the California Republican Party to be against big government and here they are supporting it.

Let the counties decide what the tax rate needs to be in order to support their local institutions, like schools, libraries, and parks.

The Right to Life

The California Republican Party is the party that protects innocent life because we believe life begins at conception and ends at natural death.

Again, small government. Focus. Don’t overreach. Do what’s needed and nothing more.

Political parties don’t get to decide when life starts. I believe governments should treat abortion as a public health issue, not a philosophical or moral one.

Leave the philosophical discussions for the church halls and dinner tables. It’s not the place of government to tell us what to believe.

The fact is nobody knows exactly when life begins. However, if the GOP believes it begins at conception, then they would have to believe that birth control pills cause abortions because the pills allow for menstruation even after an egg is fertilized.

I don’t think the GOP intends to tell millions of Californian women that their birth control pills are killing innocent people. It unnecessary, it’s messy, and it’s stupid for a political party to tell Californians when life begins.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

So don’t be stupid, GOP.

Focus. Focus on the small government stuff. Keep this off your platform or you’ll never attract moderates back into your party.

Taxes and Government Spending

The California Republican Party is the party of balanced budgets, limited government, and fiscal responsibility.

This is a joke, right?

The California Republican Party, by association with the national GOP, has a lot of explaining to do to its own members. In the meantime, moderate non-Republicans like me will remain opposed, confused, and dismayed at the state of conservatism today.

It’s also a Democratic governor who just gave our great state its greatest surplus. Chew on that, GOP.

Conclusion

I am not a Republican.

Even if I could look past these problems and tell myself I’m switching parties to bring good old fashioned fiscal conservatism back, I have concluded that the GOP doesn’t deserve me. I wouldn’t want my candidacy to support and bring resources into a party that abides by the principles above. I don’t like haphazard policies that contradict themselves and have no common theme.

I’ll stick with the Democratic party, the one I’ve always and somewhat blindly ascribed myself to.

I chose it not necessarily for who I am, but because of who I am not.

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