Republicans Believe in Individual Freedom
At the time of America's greatest turmoil, a time when the question before the voters was the choice between free labor and slavery, the Republican Party was born.
Its philosophy in 1860 was that people ought to be free to build a modern, industrial nation and the government ought to use its limited power to encourage prosperity. It seemed like a good idea. It seemed like the proper, moral position for a young but troubled nation. And it was not easy.
In 1864, with a raging War Between the States and a relentless popular debate over the wisdom of that war, an embattled Republican President Abraham Lincoln was haunted by the possible destruction of his new party combined with the possible disembodiment of his nation.
Would America sacrifice the lives of its young, citizen soldiers for the liberation of a people whose race and color were foreign to the American majority culture? Would America support a party that would use military force to free an enslaved people?
The Democratic Party, in its platform written by Ohio Democrat Clement Vallandigham, urged an immediate end to the war and an accommodation with the slave holders. Luckily, battlefield success, or what we today might call the "Surge of 1864" (the part of Gen. David Petraeus being played by future Republican President Ulysses S. Grant), saved both the Union and a fledgling party which favored fighting for the freedom of those enslaved and unleashing the power of capital to give greater prosperity for those whose freedom the nation now assured.
As the party grew, it never lost its ideal that America was established to ensure individual freedom. After the War Between the States, the party encouraged government to support the expansion of railroads and, much later, under President Eisenhower, to create an Interstate highway system, all in an effort to "prime the pump" for the expansion of a market economy.
From the dawn of the 20th century through the 1950s, whether it became necessary to fuel the economy with public works like Hoover Dam or send troops to Little Rock and oppose segregationist politics of Democratic governors like Orval Faubus of Arkansas, the Republican Party maintained its core philosophy of individual freedom.
Yet as the 1950s rolled into the 1960s, the philosophy of the Republican and Democratic parties started to diverge even further. What the Democrats called the "Great Society" created a system of entitlements, effectively nationalizing charity.
It guaranteed a minimal subsistence to certain Americans who were willing to fill out government forms in exchange for a small amount of food stamps, minimal medical care and cheap but generally dangerous public housing. It was a philosophy based upon the theory that there was a finite amount of wealth in America and, in the recent words of Barack Obama, that wealth has to be spread around.
'City on a Hill'
On the other hand, Republicans have always believed that poverty is destroyed by the expansion of wealth to all who are willing to work for success rather than stand in line for the guarantee of mere subsistence. With that in mind, most Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, spearheaded by Republican leader Everett Dirksen, a bill which ensured equal treatment for all. The party opposed discrimination in any form. Whether it was called "racism" or "affirmative action," it was contrary to the ideals of liberty.
And, given the blessings of individual liberty, the philosophy of the Republican Party was that our economy was free to expand. The fight against poverty was real, but the cornerstone of that fight was to ensure equal opportunity upon which a strong building of good jobs could be erected.
Redistribution of wealth was counterproductive. Wealth itself would only grow so long as production was allowed to expand and employment was encouraged as an alternative to welfare. Government need not engineer a society if each individual was free to create the society that best suited himself and his family.
It was Ronald Reagan who finally sharpened this philosophy by his argument that a "Shining City on a Hill" based upon a self-reliant free people was superior to the idea of a "Great Society" based upon the generosity of government.
Today, that philosophy has expanded further. The Republican Party and most of its candidates have come to realize that true freedom only exists where guarantees of free worship are included. This means that artificial regulation concerning the presence of God in the "public square" and a refusal to allow prayer in schools run counter to the freedom the party supports.
Symbols of Freedom
Nor can true freedom be experienced where the government has a monopoly on education and refuses to allow the expansion of charter schools and vouchers serving the poor in the same way private schooling has always favored the wealthy. In such a society, individual rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, are symbols of true freedom and self-reliance.
So what is a person to do if he or she is undecided about how to vote? That person ought to remember an old saying: "If you give someone a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach him to fish, he and his family will eat forever."
Some people believe and some may want their government to do the fishing. They are happy with a steady diet of "fish sticks." Others believe that with hard work they and their families can enjoy the variety of bounty the sea has to offer.
At times, the seas may be rough, but the role of government is to guarantee the equality of opportunity, not the equality of result. A good government, Republican governance, will always be based upon a philosophy that protects the equal opportunity of all its citizens, with all its might, anywhere in the world, and however long it takes to achieve victory.
John Owen, of Pinehurst, is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Vice Chairman Robert M. Levy contributed to this article.
More like this story