The Republican Party may be shooting itself in the foot, so to speak. On Thursday, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)–pictured above– introduced the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow gun owners who have concealed-carry permits in their home state to bring their firearms into any other state with concealed-carry laws.
As sensible as this initiative may be from a strict constitutional or philosophical point of view, it carries serious dangers for the Party, for conservatism, and thus for rebuilding the American Republic. The next two years are critical for the Party’s future and for America’s future. During this period, the Republican Party will be on probation. If it convinces the American people that it can be trusted to address problems that the progressives have refused to do, it may be given far more responsibility in 2016—i.e., the House, the Senate, AND the White House.
The American people may, however, conclude in 2016 that America is lucky we have a strong progressive leader to veto the dangerous bills that a Republican Congress passes. It would then be foolish to entrust the White House to a Republican while the Party controls Congress. It might even be foolish to allow them to continue to control Congress.
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So at this point, we need to make a decision about what issues are essential for America’s survival and what will just make Republicans feel good and briefly bask in the sunshine of power.
Let’s look at the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act as an illustrative example. Is the right to bear arms in public critical for the Party and for America? Is bearing arms in public the big problem that America must solve to get it back on the track toward constitutional republicanism? Absolutely not. It is simply one of those right-wing, feel-good issues that has little fundamental importance in our present circumstances. But it’s even more than that. It’s one of those stick-in-the-eye issues that we all know will infuriate progressives. And it accomplishes nothing because the President has no political imperative requiring him to sign it into law. He can and will veto it and retain the moral high ground. Our progressive media will ensure that he retains the moral high ground. That’s just a fact of life we have to live with.
So if gun control does not have fundamental importance, what does? Slash spending, unshackle the economy, and defend Americans from malicious threats. These are three things the progressives absolutely cannot do, and the American people know it. That’s why they gave the last election to the Republicans. But if the Republicans do not rush to meaningfully address these issues, 2016 will be the end of their power binge. The Republican Party must present the President with plans to make sizable progress toward these goals. The President will then be forced to choose signing or vetoing at his own and at his country’s peril. Any showdown between Congress and the President must be over issues that are central to the direction of our republic. Meanwhile, conservatives must relentlessly remind the American people that progressives have failed to solve these problems—even worse, have refused to do so, and even worse yet have worsened these problems.
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We need to focus on two things—what is important and how progressives have failed America. It is the same “limited powers of government” principle that the Federalists and the anti-Federalists fought about in the Constitution ratification debates and has now fallen to the progressives and the conservatives to sort out. And the American people know in their hearts which side is right. It is up to Republicans now to focus on the limited-powers principle—and not use their power to do something stupid.
I’m afraid that is easier said than done.
If Republicans now march forward with legislation aimed at provincial right-wing issues like gun rights, denial of illegal-immigrant human rights, denial of gay rights, banning abortion at the moment of conception, requiring the teaching of creationism, and denying human responsibility for climate change or the existence of climate change, we could set back the gains conservatives have made, cost them the White House in 2016, and return America back to the well-established path toward socialism. Gun rights and other such issues are not the reasons voters went Republican last November. None of these issues bear on America’s major problem—excessive government size and power. We must keep our eyes on the main event.
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This is the reality of the GOP’s probationary period. We have an opportunity to show America that we can solve big problems, or that we choose instead to engage in reprisals and petty provincialism.
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