Friday, June 24, 2005
"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
- Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Kelo v. New London
The Republican party has suffered from terrible p.r. when it comes to its reputation as a viable choice for lower-class and middle-class voters. In many ways, the Republican party has lived up to its billing as a party dominated by corporate, monied interests aloof to the plight of the poor working-class and blue collar set. Of course, the Republicans have been victim of demagoguery and misrepresenation by Democrats and a liberal media that loves to perpetuate stereotypes of a country club political party that doesn't care about the majority of American citizens. However, recent events in the judicial, political and international realm bear witness to the fact that the ideas, values and policies emanating from Republicans are the best chance that poor people have to improve their lives and create a more succesful, harmonious and wealthy society for all of us.
KELO V NEW LONDON
The Supreme Court case that shocked millions of Americans should come as no surprise to most of us. People are now in fear that homes could be taken away in order to be replaced by a Starbucks, Wal-Mart or Pfizer office park. If O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist sided with a majority that expanded the constitutional provision of "public use" to "public purpose" there would have been an outcry that conservative judges sold out ordinary citizens to corporate fat cats. Surely, Democratic senators would have appeared on the steps of the Capitol to denounce the court decision and perpetuate the stereotype that Republicans only care about "big business."
However, it was the liberal justices who decided that an anything-goes policy of increasing tax revenue was the reason to stretch the "public use" provision. Millions of Americans won't hear a liberal media ganging up on Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer and Souter but they will still fear for their homes. Poor people who aspire to buy a house will shy away from purchasing a starter home if they fear that the dream could become a nightmare if eminent domain is used to snatch and build a condominium for the rich.
Those who will be most affected by this ruling are middle-class voters who don't live in fancy homes, or even McMansions but love their homes no matter what. Luxury gated communities have nothing to fear. This is when Republicans can stand up and say that they won't tolerate politically connected real estate developers carve up "stodgy suburbs." Liberals and Democrats will argue that the case is good because it will raise taxes and create environmental preserves but that is why middle class homeowners are scared - they are going to be on the outside looking in.
Republicans have to be out in the forefront and declare that they stand up for individual rights, property rights and are on the side of middle-class homeowners who fear that their family castles could be reduced to strip malls and parking lots or "natural habitats" for a spotted owl or pig.
Republicans and President Bush squandered a lot of political capital by not couching Social Security reform in the proper frame of reference. Most people did not even know what President Bush was advocating and why Social Security needed to be reformed in the first place.
What the White House should have done was come out with a much heralded and highly publicized "Save Social Security Now!" campaign. President Bush should have started out by addressing the country in a nationally televised address from the Oval Office during prime time. He should have recounted the history of Social Security and how it started in the mid-1930s and how it has faced problems and reform ideas before. By asking Americans, "would you stil drive a car made in the 30s? Would you still an electrical appliance made in the 30s?" Bush could have shown the American people that Social Security is a great institution that needs revitalization and modernization.
Republicans are pushing for Social Security reform because they want it to succeed. The sad part is how recent opinion polls show that Americans feel that investing in the stock market is a risky proposition when, in fact, it is a successful and reliable way to accumulate wealth over a period of time, as history shows (notwithstanding short-term dips and flatlines).
Social Security reform could have been a good way to show poor and middle class voters that Republican ideas were more beneficial to them then status quo Democratic rhetoric consisting of demagoguery and fear mongering.
Democrats love to say that they were on the side of the poor, especially when it comes to plight of the impoverished in Third World countries. Now, they are standing in the way of progress when it comes to CAFTA. Nancy Pelosi and other prominent Democrats are trying to defeat CAFTA as a way of humiliating President Bush, but their actions will be extremely harmful to the millions of poor people in Central America who have no chance and no hope right now for a better future.
President Bush should stress that not only is CAFTA good economic policy but it is also good social policy. As the countries in Central America prosper there will be a bigger middle class which would lessen the number of illegal alients entering the United States and provide a better check on the excesses of the corrupt and powerful elities in these small nations.
Therefore, the Republican party should try to build upon its success with hispanic voters in the 2004 election by talking up CAFTA. Republican politicians should speak to hispanic constituents and say, "Ths treaty will help your family and friends back in your native and ancestral countries. Call the Democrats and tell them to stop playing politics with your family and encourage them to do what is right for Central America."
The Republican party is full of good ideas that benefit and are aimed at helping poor and middle class people in America and abroad but sometimes it forgets the utility of these advantages. The GOP must recognize that it is a party that can effect serious and meaningful change that can shake up the political core of this country. Too many poor and middle class voters assume and believe the worst about Republicans. Too many Republicans have given up on the poor and middle-class who have so far shut out their message.
By speaking forcefully for property rights, adroitly advocating Social Security reform and passionately fighting for the impoverished of Central America, the Republican party can prove that it is a viable and better option for the poor and middle-class voters.