There are basically two ways people approach politics, on the basis of self-interest or on the basis of principle. The easiest, and most common way to organize a political party is by a collection of interest groups. The party cuts ad-hoc deals with various interest groups, such as business, labor, or ethnic groups. Think of a wagon wheel with the party as the hub and the interest groups on the rim. Each interest group is connected to the hub by a spoke, representing the deal between the group and the party. “I’ll support you if you give me this.” The party’s goal is to cut enough deals with enough interest groups to get to a majority of voters. This method requires little or no devotion to any principle but power. It is a cynical approach characterized by “us vs. them” thinking and rhetoric. It is by far the most common way to organize a political party.
The alternative way to organize a political party is on the basis of principle. A set of principles is articulated that should appeal to all men on the basis of reason and conscience, on the basis of “right vs. wrong.” This is a more difficult approach intellectually since it is harder to agree on the general principles than to just identify immediate self-interests. It is also harder since it requires a certain nobility of character to sacrifice and work for principles you believe in which may not be in your personal interest.
On the other hand, the interest group model lacks unifying principles for the various interest groups, and as the party grows to a majority, the interests of the groups start conflicting with each other. The principle-based model can potentially integrate all groups around concepts of right and wrong.
The Democratic Party is an almost pure example of the interest group “wagon wheel” model. We see member groups clashing with each other all the time. The Republican Party tries to be a principle-based party, and faces both the difficulty of articulating and selling a compelling set of principles and by its own contamination of interest group politics.
A major reason for the California Republican Party’s weakness is the influence of interest groups such as business and developers in its ranks, an influence not adequately offset by the forces of principle. We cannot beat the Democrats by playing their “us vs. them” game. We can only prevail when we stand for what is right and oppose what is morally wrong. Our appeal must be to conscience.
This is where the California Republican Assembly comes in. The CRA, which Ronal Reagan once called “the conscience of the Republican Party,” is organized around a set of fourteen principles summarizing conservative political beliefs which it seeks to advance within the Republican Party. These principles are:
- America’s Judeo-Christian Foundation namely the moral law of the Bible
- Inalienable Rights come from Creator and can’t be taken by man.
- Self-Government first, then family, community, state, and nation.
- Education for all with parental choice.
- Taxes should be sales and/or use based rather than income based.
- Free Enterprise is best.
- The Natural Family should be supported by government policy.
- The Sanctity of Life. The preborn child’s right to life should be protected.
- National Defense should be strong, consistent, and victory over tyranny oriented.
- The Right to Bear Arms is supported without qualification.
- Victims’ Rights should take priority over criminal rights.
- Term Limitation is supported not as an ideal but as a necessity.
- National Sovereignty America first, not protectionism but fair trade.
- Decentralized Government favoring self and small government.
The only way to really influence government is not with petitions or demonstrations or letter writing, bu by putting the right people in office. Political parties exist for this purpose. The only way for us to have good government is to have a party committed to putting people in office who are committed to conservative principles of government.
The best available vehicle for moving the Republican Party in the principled direction against the corrupting forces of self-interest is the California Republican Assembly, the CRA. The CRA has many local chapters. Join one or start one in your area. Recruit principled conservatives to your local chapter and put your shoulder to the task.
If you are not in California, check out the National Federation of Republican Assemblies.