DYCHE | Republicans imperfect, but lesser evil - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | Republicans imperfect, but lesser evil

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News: John David Dyche Opinion Graphic News: John David Dyche Opinion Graphic
By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

Thirty years ago, Judge Henry Cox imposed a stiff sentence on a young man in the Garrard Circuit Court. The young man's mother protested loudly.

Judge Cox said, “Ma'am, perhaps if you had been this concerned about your son before now he would not find himself in this situation.” She responded, “Judge, you're no saint yourself!” to which Judge Cox calmly replied, “Truer words were never spoken.”

That is somewhat how this conservative columnist feels in discussing the Republican Party after having harshly discoursed on Democrats after Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear admitted that his party had “lost its way.” The GOP is far from perfect and is perhaps to be preferred not for its own merit, but merely because it is better than the alternative.

Democrats may have lost their way, but Republicans did so first and have not yet rediscovered it. The party's present problems are threefold: the legacy of the last time it wielded power in Washington; its bitter internal divisions; and the absence of a clear, concise agenda for America.

Republicans had the presidency from 2001 through 2008 and controlled both chambers of Congress from 2003 through 2006. It was not a good run.

During the GOP's last time in power America suffered its worst attack on the homeland; launched two wars, one of which was on mistaken premises and neither of which was paid for; made big errors in the execution of those wars; extended federal control of education via the No Child Left Behind Act; created a new and unfunded entitlement with the Medicare prescription drug benefit; ran big deficits; failed to address illegal immigration or health care; experienced the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression; and spent hundreds of billions on various bailouts.

So when Republicans ask to be entrusted with power again Americans are understandably skeptical. The party's well-publicized in-fighting is another reason voters might be dubious.

The Republican Party has been rife with division since its founding. Abraham Lincoln, a moderate unionist, had to contend with radical abolitionists in Congress. Progressive Theodore Roosevelt bolted to run against conservative William Howard Taft. Taft's son, Robert, challenged Dwight Eisenhower from the right. Liberal Nelson Rockefeller opposed centrist Richard Nixon.

Factions within the GOP are nothing new and may be healthy in some respects. The present divide pits libertarians and tea partiers on one side against more mainstream traditionalists on the other. The battle between these ideologues and pragmatists is playing out over issues like immigration and isolationism vs. interventionism.

Lincoln famously borrowed the Biblical wisdom that a house divided against itself cannot stand. The same can be said of a party unless it can produce a unifier like Ronald Reagan, but such political giants are frustratingly few and far between.

Several good people are auditioning for that role in the 2016 presidential campaign, but others simply seek to capture the party for their point of view. The too long process of choosing has already begun and promises to be as entertaining and painful as it is edifying. Who knows whether it will result in a strong candidate or a loser like the last two.

Meanwhile, Republicans lack a real national leader and, even worse, an agenda around which those disenchanted with Democrats can rally. Congressional Republican leaders like Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can do some good things, but each has his hands full with his own caucus.

Opposition to President Obama is a general area of agreement, of course, but negativity and resistance are not a platform. What is the GOP plan for health care if Obamacare is overthrown? What will Republicans do on immigration if Obama's executive amnesty is blocked? What is the party's plan for defeating the Islamic State, stopping Russian aggression, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, or responding to an adventurous and rapidly arming China?

There is a cacophony of comment on these and other issues, but clarity will be elusive until this time next year or later. Until then, the Republican selling point remains that they are not the Democrats.

On the bright side, the Republican Party is producing lots of ideas and plenty of politicians with promising potential. It is enjoying great success at the state level and doing lots of bold things there.

Mainstream media hostility to the GOP is as strong as ever, but there are more and better sympathetic sources of news and opinion than ever before.

Republicans have a well-earned reputation for getting things wrong and may squander their opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, unite, and advance a responsible agenda between now and the next election. Regardless, Democrats will still be much worse in terms of leadership, policy, and tactics.

The GOP can at least take confident refuge in being the lesser of two evils.

(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)

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