Editorial: Parties should not change principles to court voters

Editorial Board

Congressman Steve King, who in January took office as the representative for Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District, often receives attention for the abrasive, unabashed things he says. Some days, it really seems like he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. Friday, April 5, 2013, he made some comments that again received nationwide attention. Unlike other occasions, however, these comments did not merit ridicule or shock or much debate.

Since the Republican National Committee released its report on how, potentially, the Republican Party can reach out to voter demographics and build a nationwide election-winning coalition, King said that if it softened its stance on illegal immigration to garner favor with Latinos, the Grand Old Party would be compromising its principles. Indeed, a person changing his views in order to gain popularity is doing nothing short of selling out and becoming a prostitute on sale for the highest bidder, and the same rule applies to organizations such as political parties.

In fact, since the Republican Party so often gets pidgeon-holed as the indiscriminate enemy of working people, immigrants and other groups, it might do some good to actually examine the party platform used in the 2012 election.

On immigration, the platform has this to say: “Just as immigrant labor helped build our country in the past, today’s legal immigrants are making vital contributions in every aspect of our national life. Their industry and commitment to American values strengthens our economy, enriches our culture, and enables us to better understand and more effectively compete with the rest of the world. Illegal immigration undermines those benefits and affects U.S. workers. In an age of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs, the presence of millions of unidentified persons in this country poses grave risks to the safety and the sovereignty of the United States.” It goes on, but that is the statement of principle.

Such preference for what academic Eric Foner called “free soil, free labor, free men” is one of the last remnants of the pre-Civil War, original Republican Party ideology.

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 on an intensely moralistic opposition to slavery that, in the words of Foner, was “grounded in the precepts that free labor was economically and socially superior to slave labor and that the distinctive quality of Northern society was the opportunity it offered wage earners to rise to property-owning independence.”

More important than this history, however, is the idea that Republicans ought to alter their principles in order to earn more votes.

Politics should be done through a veil of ignorance. In politics, people ought to interact with one another as if they were blind and could not determine a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, age, job, wealth, level of education, religion, marital status, sexual orientation nor any other personal fact that creates identity. In politics, identity should be a function of a person’s beliefs, how he or she addresses the beliefs of others, and how he or she reconciles those with his or her own ideas.

The Republican Party needs to be smarter in the sense that it needs to be more intelligent and articulate, not in the sense that it needs to figure out what a winning coalition of voters wants, and then promise it.