How Reviving Reagan's 11th Commandment Could Invigorate the GOP
It seems many Republicans, small-l libertarians, and small-c conservatives have forgotten President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” This is certainly not to say that Republicans should only hold Democrats accountable for their actions, but it does mean that Republicans need to stop arbitrarily attacking each other.
The Republican Party encompasses numerous factions. Many Republicans are focused on advocating for the validity of their faction’s ideology within the GOP. Unfortunately, they often forget that the best way to strengthen the party of small government and freedom is to have an inclusive, “big tent” party that allows for healthy, intelligent debate. If Republicans want to win elections, they need to stop bickering amongst themselves and pointing fingers, and start working together.
The extent to which the GOP’s factions disagree is marginal. Almost every person on the right of the political spectrum can agree on a few principles: Government should be small, taxes and spending should be low, and freedom should be maximized. While each GOP faction may disagree on the exact direction in which to take these principles, the ability to agree on so much is significant.
Unfortunately, many Republicans demonize people belonging to different factions on the right simply because they think differently. Everybody on the right needs to remember that someone disagreeing for a thoughtful reason does not make that person a “RINO” (Republican in name only) — it makes them smart. Thinking is good. That is why we're Republican.
The “Growth and Opportunity Project,” the Republican National Committee’s guide to figuring out what went wrong in 2012 and how to improve, emphasizes inclusion. One point stressed in the project is that their “friends and allies must realize that the Party is at its best as the Party of ideas, and healthy debate of those ideas is fundamentally good for the Republican Party.” In other words, intraparty debate is productive and allows people to strengthen and rethink their arguments, while constriction thereof is detrimental.
The project advocates for a competitive primary process, as “increased choice, robust conversation about issues, and strong voter engagement… allow voters to select the best candidate.” It touts such a process for facilitating the “emergence of outstanding candidates such as” Senators Marcio Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ron Johnson. These senators occasionally disagree on issues and approaches, but they still work together — a lesson for Republican factions.
Similarly, when Senator Rand Paul filibustered in the U.S. Senate, he was joined by Republican senators from different factions, and even some Democrats. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called it “completely awesome.” This kind of unity broadens the Republican base and leads others to appreciate the wide applicability of Republican ideals.
One point of contention for Republicans on several fronts is that of “compromise.” “Compromise” has earned a dirty connotation, often used inappropriately as a synonym for “surrender.” However, Republicans need to be realistic. They can’t win all battles in their entirety in Congress, especially when they do not have control of the Senate. Sometimes they can’t be as hardline as they would like. Rather, inching towards their goal is often the only realistic way to proceed. Sometimes the opposite is true. Regardless, no Republican should be demonized for having an alternate approach.
Furthermore, within a party, compromise rarely means compromising values. This is because Republicans largely share the same guiding principles, even if they interpret them differently.
Finally, In order to achieve unity, Republicans need to retire the term “RINO.” It is meaningless and only used to dismiss the ideas of another without using supporting rationale. “RINO” has become the rope used to form a noose around the party's neck. People in every faction of the Republican spectrum are guilty of using this term to demean those in other factions. Meaningless and divisive language is counterproductive. While Republicans fight each other, Democrats win elections. Attack people for their lack of integrity, disagree with their ideas, but do not brand them as “RINOs” because they have different ideas.
People on the right have more common ground than not. The only way for Republicans to win elections and decrease the size of government is to unify and stop fighting each other. The hope of achieving a smaller and more sensible government becomes increasingly grim as Republicans factionalize and refuse to work together.