Joshua Heath: A Democrat’s defense of the GOP

An American flag waves in the wind outside of City Hall in Valencia. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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Though I have served as an official in the California Democratic Party for the past four years, I deeply admire the GOP as an entity. Its core philosophy, conservatism, has an elegance and wisdom worth savoring.

Personal responsibility, hard work, strong communities and families — these virtues are critical for individual happiness and collective prosperity. By constantly promoting them in our civic debate, Republicans do an important service for the country.

If a time were to come when conservatism became politically extinct, every American would be worse off as a result.

At critical moments in our nation’s history, Republicans have introduced important innovations. For example, after World War II, many liberals sought to improve the lot of the poor by giving them more government handouts.

To this end Republicans enacted the food stamps program and worked to give every poor person a basic income, among other initiatives.

President Ronald Reagan upended this approach when he declared, “the best social program is a job,” not a handout. And he was absolutely correct; jobs are far superior to government benefits.

Not only do they allow the poor to integrate into mainstream society, free of stigma, but they give people’s lives meaning and purpose.

Reagan was so effective in making his argument that he reoriented the conversation around poverty in America. Future presidents, from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, would center their efforts for the poor on delivering them quality employment, not government benefits. For this welcome development we have the Republican Party to thank.

Republicans have additionally studiously fought against anti-American attitudes on the left for decades. Far too often, liberals define America by its flaws — a harrowing history of racism, Native American genocide, class and gender oppression and more.

While these issues are mighty and worth constant discussion, the GOP has rightfully offered a more nuanced perspective, the contours of which go like this:

It is certainly true that America has sinned, but so has every nation in the history of man. The evil we’ve done is not due to some sickness in our national character but the malice in human nature itself.

America’s mistakes are of a piece with the errors of all nations, and therefore it is foolish to hate our country for them.

By contrast, our achievements and wisdom are uniquely our own. We were the first democracy in the modern world, the first nation dedicated to human rights and a government of the people. Our founding documents, in their embrace of the dignity of man and human equality, laid out a guide for improving the lot of mankind.

When you consider these facts, Republicans say, the only proper feeling toward our country is one of awe and love. And they’re absolutely right. It is vital to continue to fight to improve our society, but at its heart, this is a marvelous nation that we should be proud of.

I am thankful for these contributions, and more, that the GOP has given us in the past 150 years. They’ve made our country stronger, wiser, and more secure. I could have mentioned others, including Republicans’ fight for the nuclear family, the rights of the unborn, government efficiency, free trade and a strong military.

But the critical point is that whether you are a Democrat, an Independent or communist, you should respect the Republican Party and what it has given this country.

Though I am a Democrat, I would never want a country in which my party ruled supreme. That would be cancerous for our democracy. When only one side has power, its members become arrogant and conformist; their ideas grow stale and resistant to revision. America needs Republicans to remind us of the importance of our traditions, the capitalist system, a strong work ethic and a patriotic spirit.

Without that influence, as well as the contributions of a vigorous Democratic Party, we will never Make America Great Again. The great problems that plague us today will only metastasize further until our country is little more than a hollowed shell of its former self.

So my message to the Republicans is this: As a Democrat, I obviously hold different views on most key issues, but I also recognize that America needs all of you. And I hope that you can conclude the same about my side of the aisle.

Politics is war by other means, but in this war, Democrats and Republicans must be collaborators, not enemies. Our combat must be against the problems of society, not each other. We must not continue to weaken this great country with more unproductive partisanship.

Our American heritage of freedom, equality, rugged individualism and perpetual progress, so delicately woven by the founders, Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan, is a frightful gift. To ensure its protection and safeguarding for future generations, we are commanded to work together—succored by the courage of our convictions, with enough humility to admit our flaws — and devise solutions to the great problems before us.

Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.

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