GOP needs heart transplant |

GOP needs heart transplant

Jack Van Ens

The Republican Party’s national political influence wanes. With a base of older, white, southern citizens, it needs substantive changes.

The GOP continues its slide because it merely switches perspectives on strategy and focus. The party indulges itself with faulty ideological stances and tries to gussy them with adjustments in tone. Republicans revise wording, trying to make failed messages sound palatable to voters. Verbally turning “a sow’s ear into a silk purse” rarely fools voters.

Such cosmetic changes to cover wrinkles in policy and strategy are doomed. The GOP needs a major heart transplant.

In the biblical sense, Republicans must undergo radical heart transplant surgery. When the Bible uses the word “heart,” as in “My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart” (Psalm 6:10), the Hebrew poet isn’t suggesting becoming more emotional. The biblical “heart” functions as a vortex through which will, mind and feelings intersect, propelling an individual to make changes and act on them.

How does the Republican Party show a new heart, which appeals to more than older white guys who live in the rural South and long for days of glory when they called the shots?

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Skip slogans.

Republicans box themselves into anti-intellectual corners when they use hackneyed slogans, such as “Don’t ever raise taxes.” This gives the no-tax party few options to maneuver amid an economic roller-coaster.

Even President Ronald Reagan realized a “no new taxes” pledge would have ruined the economy. If fiscal policy is compared to football, the Gipper punted when it came to anti-tax legislation. To right a recession about to end in 1982, Reagan passed a hefty tax increase. This resulted in the economy skyrocketing. Copy-cat President Bill Clinton raised taxes in 1993. Again, the economy roared into high gear.

Ditch, too, the slogan, “The only good government is small government.” With drum-beat regularity, anti-tax icon Grover Norquist aims to “make government so small that he could douse it in a bathtub and drown it.”

Such rigid ideology sets up the GOP for big failures. Most Americans are grateful for programs that Republicans try to kill. Fringe GOP-ers brand Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as socialistic programs.

Go for compromise.

Republican ideologues hate to compromise. The Constitution, however, is built on the bedrock of compromise and wouldn’t have been ratified without it.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush broke ranks with party loyalists in 2012. He declared in a June speech that neither his father, George H.W. Bush, nor Ronald Reagan, “based on (their) record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground” with Democrats would feel welcomed in today’s GOP.

Does the younger Bush remind us of Thomas Jefferson who balanced fierce convictions with pragmatism to get legislation passed? Because he embraced compromise as a powerful tool for broadening the common good, Jefferson was savaged by radicals. Biographer Jon Meacham describes them in “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” as critics bemoaning he “was no longer Republican enough (because) …he had been guided not by dogmas but by principled pragmatism.”

Give credit when due.

The voting American majority dismiss Republican gibberish that President Obama’s policies are socialistic. The GOP caricatured his rescue of banks and the automotive industry as bailouts. Then they excoriated the president for promoting big government high on socialistic steroids with Romney-style health care reforms.

Why doesn’t the GOP congratulate the Obama administration for its fiscal progress?

The Big Three auto-makers increase car production. Banks make record profits. The stock market sets records. Housing booms. Oil and gas extraction makes North Dakota prosperous. The federal budget deficit decreases faster than prognosticators predicted. Health-care inflation stalls. Large stimulus packages infused into a faltering economy lift our nation out of severe economic doldrums. The Federal Reserve’s policy of flooding markets with liquidity functions like heart by-pass surgery, ridding the financial grid of clogged fiscal arteries.

Give credit to Obama’s policies. Productive good government rescued a once-moribund economy from the Great Recession. Work together with Democrats, GOP. Pass a budget. End sequestration that shrinks the middle class, picks on the poor and widens the wealth gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens heads Creative Growth (

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