Accessibility links

Analyst: Self-Reliance Unifies Republicans as Core Belief - 2004-09-01


The Republican National Convention in New York has featured speakers with differing views on abortion, gay rights, gun control, stem cell research and other controversial issues. But there are core beliefs that unite Republicans, as well. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may disagree with President Bush on some social issues and policies. But speaking at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, Mr. Schwarzenegger said Republicans agree on certain basic principles.

"How do you know if you are a Republican? I tell you how," he said. "If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican. And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican!"

Asked what it means to be a Republican, the first response of most delegates at the New York convention has to do with the relationship between individuals and the government.

"To be a Republican means that you are trusting people with their own destiny, to empower themselves," said Texas delegate Rex Teeter.

Iowa delegate Loras Schulte echoed the theme.

"Individuals have got to do for themselves what they can. Government has very limited and defined roles by our Constitution," said Mr. Schulte.

South Dakota delegate Christopher Jackson also agreed.

"What it means for me to be a Republican is that we are the party of hope and individual rights," he said. "That the individual's ability to get ahead in life should be paramount, and that government should not do things for people unless it is absolutely necessary."

But is the concept of relying on oneself the exclusive domain of Republicans? Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says no, but he says Democrats and Republicans definitely differ on the role of the government.

"This notion of self reliance is an important one in American history and American society. And it is not just the Republicans that hold that [belief]," he said. "If you talk to Democrats, they will talk about self-reliance, too. But ultimately they do have a different view of government. And they see government as giving people an opportunity to help themselves. And for Republicans government tends to be a central group of bureaucrats dictating what people should think."

Many Republican delegates say limiting the size and scope of government is not enough. They argue that citizens must adhere to a moral code if a free society is to prosper.

"If we say every man for himself, that is anarchy," added Wyoming delegate Bob Rule. "We have to have a set of rules to live by. Our Creator gave us those rules. When we turn away from those rules we fail."

Some delegates, like Mr. Rule, are adamant in their opposition to gay rights and abortion, and in their support for allowing prayer in public schools.

Stuart Rothenberg says evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives tend to vote Republican, but that this has not always been the case in American politics.

"If you go back to the late 1890s, it was the Democrats like [1896 presidential candidate] William Jennings Bryan invoking God, invoking traditional values," he noted. "And the Republicans were much more of the cosmopolitan business class. The realignment of evangelicals from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party has been a major change in American politics and American society."

None of the delegates interviewed by this reporter voluntarily mentioned anything about foreign affairs as a defining tenet of the Republican Party. But when specifically asked several stated that being a Republican means backing an assertive U.S. foreign policy that takes the battle directly to America's enemies abroad.

XS
SM
MD
LG