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“The 80% Solution”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

A guest posy from retired Army Colonel Fritz Mehrtens:

THE 80% SOLUTION- How to reunite the Republican Party in 60 days or less.

By Fritz Mehrtens, Orange County, CA

Amid the musings about the recent primaries, some observe the fracture of the Republican Party and predict disaster for conservatives in November. The logic goes like this: those interested in foreign policy and winning in Iraq support McCain; Evangelicals support Huckabee; traditional conservatives (fiscal discipline, less government) support Romney, and none of these groups will enthusiastically embrace a candidate of the other in the general election. So, a divided and distracted GOP stumbles into November and loses the presidency to Hillary or Obama. Not a far-fetched scenario.

Much of the disarray comes from the take-no-prisoners attitude of Evangelical Republicans who impose litmus tests on abortion, gay marriage, etc and proclaim that only candidates who meet their specifications will be supported. Rush Limbaugh recently added fuel to this fire by proclaiming that he might not support any Republican candidate because all were insufficiently conservative. John McCain’s recent success lends credence to Limbaugh’s prediction that the Party might split over the nomination.

At a recent Republican Committee meeting here in Orange County, I asked if there was room in the Party for me, a conservative Christian who believes in the separation of church and state. The clear answer, disguised in evasive language, was ‘no.’ If that view is widely held among Republicans, we need a new conservative party.

What is needed is a Republican Party that recognizes differences of opinion on a wide variety of issues but concentrates on the 80% of the issues that draw broad support. The Democrats coalesce around populist issues like universal healthcare, government funded social security, taxing the rich, taxing more, and supporting the middle class. Don’t Republicans have a set of common values that can produce principles that not only unite the Party but appeal to a broad base of voters? The problem is, no one talks about the areas of agreement: everyone emphasizes the differences.

My father ran into a similar problem years ago in trying to recruit members into his congregation. Many were interested, but some balked at formal membership because of some area of disagreement- a view on transubstantiation, or local prohibition, or kneeling during communion, or the doctrine of the Trinity. Some people could not commit themselves into Christian fellowship because of some personal issue the church sought to span through broad appeal. Perhaps this divisiveness where religion is concerned is the reason we have so many denominations.

In religion, diversity is not a bad thing. In politics however, the lack of unifying themes spells defeat. Enter the 80% solution. Republicans of all stripes need to recognize that honest disagreements exist on issues like abortion, prayer in schools, immigration reform, etc and focus on the issues that unite. Clearly, the 2004 platform is no model for such reconciliation of views and objectives. A new effort to identify the 80% of issues where substantial agreement exists is needed. I believe a group of 50 or so ‘thought leaders’ could hammer out a new Republican platform in a few days, given mutual tolerance and a focus on the objective. This assembly would not pick the candidate, because it would simply identify those principles that most Republicans and most of the candidates agree on. McCain, Romney, and perhaps Huckabee have mainstream positions that would agree with 80% of the new platform. This needs to be done now, not at the national convention, when the pressures of nominating a presidential candidate, positions entrenched as a result of state primaries, and the media frenzy make reasoned dialogue impossible.

Unfortunately, we have no convening authority. Where have all the elder statesmen gone?

30 JAN 08

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