Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guest Column: Josh Varanelli

Here at Lefty's Last Cry, we encourage civilized debate. That is why I bring you this post from Josh Varanelli, President of College Republicans. The views presented here are in no way endorsed by the Lefty's editors and staff. We are not abandoning our progressive values by allowing Mr. Varanelli's post to be displayed on our main site. In fact, we are strengthening our values and our purpose by giving the Lefty's community a chance to sharpen its arguments when presented with the dissenting view. So please enjoy Mr. Varanelli's article in the context in which it is meant to be taken: The spark for meaningful dialogue.

I think Christian Meyers makes an excellent point in his "You Say Progressive, I Say Progressive.." piece (save the jab at the end there -ouch). There are manifestly problems with parts of the Republican Party's worldview in achieving some of the things you mentioned. I think a lot of it stems from intra-party disagreement on what morality, tolerance, heart, etc. consist of.

I, for one, feel that if the Pro-Life aspect in the party is to truly live up to its name, no pro-life Republican should be in support of the death penalty. If a state is to be one that truly respects human life, then a systematic, barbaric method which has been proven time and time again to not work, has no place as a government institution. I know several Republicans who share this idea, and lots who don't. It's a mess.

Yes, the case can also be made very well that the GOP is somewhat blind to the needs of the poor, presenting policy that's not responsive enough to that (growing) lower-income segment of society. I doubt I have to elaborate much here on Lefty's.

The problem that people like me face in attempting to reign in their political and social ideas and throw support into a party has a lot to do with the ever-increasing polarization in policy, from both sides. Fear of "the other side" plays a role as well. The healthcare bill is something I constantly talk about in this sense. I'm a Republican, a Catholic (lapsed with some points maybe, but still..), and a taxpayer. It's my view that any civilized society that has the resources has an obligation to ensure that every citizen has access to healthcare (yes, really!). The problem I had with the bill that passed was the fact that it was THAT bill. It was constructed privately with no transparency, it's overreaching in the role that it tries to give the federal government, and, until Kathleen Sebelius confirms either way (which, for some bewildering, unknown reason, she refuses to do right now..), it forces taxpayers who want a better-than-basic plan to directly fund abortion.

So I think Christian's right. It's a matter of policy and how we go about achieving some human rights. If it's at all relevant, I really do think DADT would have been repealed had Harry Reid not (smartly, for the Democrats) tacked an immigration bill to the measure. If Reid and the Democrats know that Republicans are touchy on immigration, why did he include the DREAM act on a gay-rights issue bill, AND block Republican amendments?

In light of this, it seems to me that at this point, the Democrats are using gays as a political football. If they really wanted to repeal DADT, why not try to pass the bill alone? It probably would get through Congress (and if not, then I'd be REALLY scared of my own party) and could expose what true bigotry there is in the Right by getting Congresspeople to vote one way or another on this ONE human rights issue.

Tying it up with another was a brilliant method to be able to say, after the repeal (et al.) failed, "The Republicans hate gays; they're COMPLETELY against gay rights!" We're tough on immigration during a financial crisis; that doesn't necessitate an anti-gay-military sentiment.. Unless of course they're conjunct. Then it's unnecessarily problematic.

Dems and Repubs will never agree on some policy stances, like the author said. But why does that mean screaming at each other, demonizing the other side, and categorizing people (and policy) into two aggressive airtight boxes will make things better?

I volunteered at public schools through high school where 80%+ of the kids were at or below the poverty line. iMacs and new TVs were in every classroom, but the children were at abysmal reading levels. Teachers taught to the state standardized test, and ONLY to the standardized test. Money can't be pumped into social programs and be expected to solve problems (rather, it can worsen them). On the flipside, cutting funding to the extent some politicians want to would be just as much of a travesty, for obvious reasons. Policies coming from the left AND the right are all too often lackluster, largely because of inter-party strife. Discourse goes from, "How can we solve this together?" to "I'm so liberal that I propose THIS!" and "I'm so conservative that I'm going to pass THIS!" The victims don't end up being the opposing politicians; they're the American people.

That's not to say we need to embrace a kum-bay-ah (did I even spell that right?), let's-all-be-friends approach to solving problems wisely. Disagreement can largely be the best thing for advancement.

So, again, I think Christian hit a great point- even with the title of his piece. "Progressivism," if it's defined just in terms of helping mankind, can be fought for (easily) from both sides. Republicans need to shape up in being a life-affirming improver of society. Democrats need to be more fiscally realistic. That paints the situation far too broadly, but I think the idea is somewhat clear. We're similar in end goals. Policy has got to begin reflecting that.

For social justice and a realistic worldview,
Josh Varanelli
President, Notre Dame College Republicans

**These are my views only, not per se those of College Republicans**


Logan Souder said...

Democrats are using gays as a political football? I think Josh should know best that Republicans are the ones who use social issues as a political football. It's a pretty bad argument to say "if the Democrats didn't do this or that" then gay rights bills would have been passed. So why wasn't a civil rights bill passed when Republicans controlled congress during the Bush Administration?

Josh, you need to realize that no matter how much you argue that it is, the Republican party is not pro gay rights. It's not a party that fights for civil rights. They've dragged their feet for years, and many state parties have it in their agenda to criminalize 'sodomy' (Montana and Texas GOP). You may have strong feelings about civil rights, but the fact of the matter is that GOP policies haven't lead to progress in the area of civil rights.

Maybe you'll be able to pull your party into a sensible stance on civil rights, but fact of the matter is the GOP is not progressive, and won't be for the foreseeable future.

Christian Myers said...

I also think Christian MYERS makes an excellent point in his article. Just kidding, it happens all the time. I'm not sure how my title was a dig at anyone; it definitely wasn't meant to be. If anything, I was saying that labels like progressive, liberal, conservative, neocon, etc. are often misleading and only serve political ends. In fact, those political ends tend to be divisive and negative. As for the parts of your article that don't relate to me, you have a viewpoint I can definitely respect, but I'm not sure the rest of your party is so reasonable. Sure there are Democrats I don't agree with, but I feel Democrats are more practical, caring, and reasonable overall.

Gordon Stanton said...

Josh, I have a question. Why are you Republican? I mean all the things you explained that you stand for, your party has pretty uniformly voted against. (although I agree with you about Harry Reid, as you can see in my post about DADT/Dream Act a week or two ago)

In all seriousness, you are too smart and caring to be a real Republican as the Party stands today. Maybe 20 years ago your views and the Republican Party were fairly compatible. Now with the rise of the Tea Party aka the even more ULTRA conservatives, you really don't fit in.

It's not too late for you. Come over to the side of the light. You know you want to.

OK so jokes aside, why are you are a Republican in your own words?

Josh said...

Good questions all around.

Logan, this is one of the reasons I wrote this exact piece. I'm NOT at all trying to portray the vast majority of Republicans as gung-ho towards pro-gay rights.. Of course, most are not. But I definitely stand by the idea that "'if the Democrats didn't do this or that' then gay rights bills would have been passed." Counterintuitive as that may seem, it makes sense, in my view. If repealing DADT were as important to Democrats as they claim it is, how would adding on an amnesty bill (JUST doing that alone, let's consider) help DADT pass among Republicans? With Republican tepidity toward immigration, amnesty, etc., in mind, it wouldn't! And it didn't. I’ll say again, if a DADT repeal alone were to go though Congress, I think it would be repealed. It's not gay marriage, adoption, etc. It's repeal of a bill that degrades the military and those fighting for the country, as a growing number of even mainstream Republicans are coming to understand.

Of course that alone doesn't imply that Republicans are pro-gay rights. I understand the history of resistance behind most if not all pro-gay legislation. Now, PERSONALLY, I'm a lot more.. I don’t know - I don't want to say "liberal," but maybe “forward-thinking?” - on all gay rights issues, and I know the modern version of my own party is not. But I believe that TRUE Republicanism should see gay rights, gay marriage IN PARTICULAR, as things to be fought for. Less government intrusion into the life (and money) of citizens, including, of course, gay citizens, SHOULD be fought for by a true Republican. The bastardization/erasing of that in the modern party is apparent, though, for sure.

I guess this answers Gordon's question (I hope), too. I'm disgusted at the way many Republican politicians view gay rights overall. But as far as the policies put forth by both sides on everything (considering the economy, spending, even immigration on a lot of points ((NO, not the Arizona law)) etc.), I still think Republicans have it right (no.. not right, just less wrong) for now. Like my article said, we're in a financial crisis with a Democratic President who's destroyed the deficit. It wasn't all a gift from George W. like I hear all the time; it's Obama's (and others') shortsightedness in reviving the markets. Gay rights are important to me, but making the country economically stable and fiscally sustainable takes a top priority. Are today’s elite Republicans backwards on gay marriage? Yes. But considering the state of affairs under this administration and the blithe unawareness to the fiscal insolvency that the country’s heading for, I’m keeping an R on my voter’s registration. For now, at least.

Josh said...

And Christian the "jab at the end" was not about the title! I meant the jab at the end of the piece. Rereading the article just now I can see why it came across as a comment on the title... I was just cutting corners in referencing your article and not typing the full thing out. lawl.

But, all things considered, maybe the jab wasn't too far off (with "Progressivism" finally described in the context of policy).

Bill said...

I agree with Josh about tacking the DREAM act onto the DADT repeal. That was not a very good idea. I'm sure a few (or even just one) Republicans could have voted for repeal if the DREAM act wasn't attached. Or maybe they wouldn't, since they seem content to filibuster everything. Who knows, but it would have been worth it to at least try to put repeal up for a vote by itself, with nothing else controversial attached to it.

pinko said...

Josh I think it's great that you have these social values, but your excuse of caring about the fiscal aspect of politics as being what keeps you republican doesn't hold water at the end of the day.

Republicans are only painted as the "fiscally sound" party, and on top of that its really thin paint. If you know about the history of our national debt you should know republicans don't handle it well.

The national debt was at an all time low in 1981 after it slowly dropped after WWII. Does anyone know what happen to the deficit then? Well in the hands of two REPUBLICAN presidents it went up for the first time since WWII by trillions of dollars after 12 years of RED budgets.

Clinton reduced the debt by 10% while still paying interest on the debt Reagan and Bush acquired.

Bush jr. walked in and increased the debt 6 trillion, with 8 more years of RED budgets.

Lets give Obama a full term before we knock his fiscal policy, for crying out loud we gave the republicans 20 years and still they can claim to be the fiscally sound party with their heads high after 20 years of unbalanced budgets and debt.

In the end the republican party has nothing to offer you except some moral superiority.