Is the GOP really the “big tent” party?

It’s only a few days after the election from hell, but it feels like November 6, 2012 was a lifetime ago. After spending the week trying to make sense of what happened, reading all the punditry, trying to wrap my head around the ORCA debacle and watching the melt downs, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers. But there are a few things I’ve observed that are worth discussing.

My pals in the conservative world are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. They’re artistic and creative. They’re film-makers, techies, painters, writers, builders, engineers, attorneys, gamblers, activists and teachers. Some serve or have served in the military, some work several jobs to make ends meet. Many are brilliant visionaries. They come from all backgrounds, races, nationalities.  Some are cityfolk and others drive loud diesel trucks in the middle of nowhere Texas. They’re from all over the country and many from outside of these great United States. They have varying religious beliefs, practices and ideas.  Some are gay, some straight and some still haven’t figured out what they like.  They listen to punk and indie rock, love obscure cinema and song and some are inked, pierced and mohawked.  Far from the straight-laced, didactic, nerdy stereotype, they know how to have a good time better than anyone else I know.  Their political leanings fall anywhere from radical libertarianism to moderate Republicanism. We argue about our ideological and policy orientated differences as much as we agree, yet we’re all connected by one common thread – hatred of Nickelback. But seriously, regardless of our philosophical differences we’re connected by our commitment to America’s founding principles.

Looking at the GOP, the GOP brand and the how the GOP is publicly perceived, reality doesn’t match perception.  The faces of the conservatives I know aren’t what the public sees as the GOP.  Therein lies the problem.  If we’ve learned our lesson from this election (we’re doomed if we haven’t), then we’ve noticed the American landscape has changed, and that like it or not, so has our party.

For all the talk of being the “big tent” party, we’re fatally fragmented and divided. Social cons don’t want to accept the new crop of young cons, like myself, who tend to be socially liberal, but fiercely fiscally conservative.  They see us as a threat to traditional American values and unbefitting of the fight to install conservatism.  Hardcore libertarians don’t want to play with anyone except Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, meanwhile blaming everyone else for what ails America.  Moderate Republicans may as well be turncoats because they are viewed with scorn and disdain as the embodiment of why we’ve failed.   As long as these striations remain, our hopes of political dominance will be nothing more than that – hopes.

We all too willingly impose ridiculous purity tests on people we agree with 90% of the time.  Not everyone we elect will be the next Reagan, and guess what?  That’s OK.  Different communities and demographics have different needs, all of which can be successfully adressed by conservatism, and it’s not always going to look the same.  We’ve wandered down the very road we lambast the left for traveling — homogenization of ideas.  “Either agree 100% with what we have to say or get out.”  Yet we sit around baffled that we were annihilated Tuesday.  “We don’t care who you are, where you’ve been, what you believe or what you do in your own time, we just want government to leave us alone.”  Or at least that’s what we say.  So why do we bother squabbling about any of the aforementioned anyway?

Liberalism is a wily foe. With the groupthink, collective mentality, leftists have little trouble rallying the troops towards a common goal.  As conservatives, we’re stubbornly independent and avoid group association at all costs. This election being any indicator, that’s not working. If our efforts are ever to materialize into results, we will have to find a way to come together. Yes, as cheesy as it sounds, we have to work together. From the Paulbots to the RINOs, it’s time to kiss and make up, light the fire and bust out the marshmallows for a nice little round of campfire Kumbaya.  Rather than engaging in bitter battles over ideological nuances, conservatism would be better served if we worked from the common ground that we ALL share. I know some of you are already thinking, “but PRINCIPLES!!!!11!” if that’s you — stop it.  I’m not asserting we abandon God and country, simply that we focus on our common ground before freaking out about our ideological differences. Crazy, I know.

We have to not only accept, but understand that we’re not always going to agree with one another. But… and here’s the good part, because of who we are and what we believe, we’re perfectly suited to be the “big tent” party.  It’s time we start acting like it, time we started practicing what we preach.  God help us if we don’t.

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