Friday, December 4, 2020
Dec. 4, 2020

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Donnelly: Vote Republican as a matter of bigger principles


The first presidential debate was a painful reminder that our national candidates are far from perfect spokesmen for their parties. President Trump excelled at interrupting his opponent and irritating the moderator. His estimable accomplishments were overshadowed. But I still intend to vote Trump-Pence.

Similarly, on the state level, I’m eager to vote for Loren Culp for governor, even though some detractors in the Columbian’s Letters to the Editor have argued that he could never be the best choice because he hails from a mountain town of only 1,100 residents.

I urge a Republican vote on principle.

The real choice now is not about the individuals running. It’s about the big ideas that separate the two major parties. This election presents a choice between fundamental approaches to government that would take our country in starkly different directions. Voters must choose, despite flaws in their candidates.

On the Republican side, the big ideas have always seemed to me fundamentally optimistic, morally sound, and proven to promote economic expansion. The primary drivers of progress, profit, and other values are the freedom of the individual and of the private sector. Put more simply, the choice is a greater reliance upon individual and economic freedom as opposed to a shift toward government control of and involvement in our economy. Free markets versus socialism.

Another big idea to be defended is that life — including that of tiny infants before and after birth — is protected under the Constitution. A strong border and consistent immigration policy are not only essential but humane; our rights to bear arms are unique and precious; and U.S. foreign policy, though recognizing the necessity of alliances, must primarily benefit our nation.

Focusing primarily on the candidates in the general election ignores reality. Whether for governor or president, the winner, upon taking office, elevates thousands of appointees to powerful posts. Cabinet secretaries, heads of agencies, regulators and others to varying degrees share the executive’s approach to government. Their decisions have profound consequences throughout society.

Appointed Supreme Court judges such as Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and now Barrett, for example, constitute the most important adherents to the philosophical approach of the chief executive. Their standard is appropriately the Constitution and the strict meaning of the law.

Adam Smith, David Hume, Thomas Paine, the Constitution and the Bible were just some of the early sources of big ideas for the Republican Party during its founding in the late 1850s. Abraham Lincoln succeeded in becoming the movement’s leader not because of his impressive resume, but because he could frame the philosophical substance of his nascent abolitionist party.

Nationally, Lincoln was regarded as a backwoods jokester until the richly substantive Lincoln-Douglas debates, which prefaced Lincoln’s idea-rich Cooper Union speech in February 1860. His powerfully expressed big ideas on those occasions secured his nomination and then election.

Twentieth century deep thinkers inspired successive generations of conservatives who have put their stamp on today’s Republican Party. Notables include Friedrich Hayek, whose 1944 “Road to Serfdom” demonstrated the abject failure of socialism, Whittaker Chambers, whose 1952 anti-totalitarian autobiography “Witness” inspired Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater, whose plain-spoken “Conscience of a Conservative” spoke in 1960 to those who later supported Reagan.

The Republican Party was and is still founded on big ideas. Those ideas are more important now than ever.