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Varun Gupta Headshot

Why I Lost My Fascination for the Republican Party

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Let me confess at the outset - I used to and still identify with the fundamental Republican philosophy. But over the last two years, my fascination for the GOP has transformed into long spells of disbelief and sometimes outright disgust.

I was born and raised in India where Mixed Economy' or State Directed Capitalism', where public sector controlled the commanding heights of the economy, was the guiding economic philosophy. Private sector was subjected to endless layers of bureaucratic hurdles that led to what was termed as 'Hindu Rate' or 'Substantially below Potential' rate of growth for over 4 decades that created a largely impoverished third world country. Our political debates used to be centered around caste, religion, region and the ever growing need for affirmative action for the unprivileged and minorities. On top of lack of economic freedom, there were strict defamation laws and censorship of content in the name of preserving our deep cultural and religious heritage that restricted creative freedom of expression and speech. Imposing bans on books or movies that could potentially incite a particular section of population, even if in a light-hearted or comedic sense was commonplace. Therefore, we never really heard our leaders debating issues of economic and personal freedom to win or influence elections.

It was therefore fascinating to see the American politicians vigorously debating issues around the role of government in our lives and personal freedom. I was fascinated by the Republican ideology of limited government, belief in the power of private sector to drive the economy and promoting civility and secularism in true form. On top of it, I was always inspired by the nationalistic and patriotic passion that used to always surround the Republican leaders. Republican party was the party that so passionately loved the USA.

Over the last few years, especially the last two years however, I have begun to feel discomforted at identifying myself as a Republican. Republican party in its current avatar seem to have sold its fundamental beliefs to the views of religion right-wing and to the beneficiaries and propagators of crony capitalism. Since the late 1970s the religious right has steadily transformed the Republican Party from a secular, conservative, civic party to become the poster child of of the otherwise alien values of the radical religious right while corrupting influence of money has made it indifferentiable from the Democratic party.

GOP's present stand on abortion is not only ridiculous, it borders on being inhumane. Steve Brill has a brilliant post on Reuters asking the Romney-Ryan ticket how would they enforce the promised 'Human Life' amendment' or their 'anti-choice stance that excludes rape' in their administration. It is beyond contemptible to make a distinction between a rape and legitimate rape and to further project a female body as a robot that can shut itself down in the event of an access violation.

I am surprised to see there was no outrage or protest from Republican women on this issue. Common sense and basic American value around individual freedom dictates just like a woman has a choice to have as many babies as she wants, another women must have the right to access birth control or choose abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy as long as such an abortion is not out of gender preference. An unwanted child that grows up in poverty, without family or without proper care and ends up becoming a criminal is better off not born for the society overall. For the pro-life lobby, the solution lies not in imposing bans on abortions but in educating young men and women and providing and promoting even greater access to birth control to stop unwanted pregnancies from taking place.

It hurts to see the Civic-minded Republican Party trying to systematically undermine the American democracy by trying to limit voting rights through a variety of means. While one could still present a logical reasoning to justify presentation of an ID to vote, it speaks volume about the height of desperation and contempt for democracy within the Republican party when efforts are made to restrict early voting in democratic counties while expanding the same in republican counties. It is a different question altogether why US despite being the technology and innovation leader in the world still has such an outdated and unbelievably complex and fragmented voting system. Why cant the country have a Federally run electronic voting machine based system that is uniform across all States for Presidential elections beats me.

On economic philosophy that initially drew me to the Republican party, while their leaders still retain belief in having a limited government and giving private sector the freedom it needs to innovate and grow, it is painful to see that Republicans have failed to distinguish between capitalism and crony capitalism. A party that long advocated the noble principle of eliminating collusion between the big government and big business is now hostage to campaign donations and lobbying from free spending businessmen with dubious credentials. It was painful to see Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee falling all over themselves in praising Jamie Dimon in the disguise of questioning him simply because JP Morgan happens to be a large donor to the senate banking committee members. Lobbying influence seems to be gradually taking over sensible policy making within the Republican circles that make them hardly differentiable from the Democratic party that was long ago taken over by the corrupting influence of union donations and political power.

While I cannot vote in the US given that I retain my Indian Citizenship, I doubt if I would step out and vote for either the Democratic or Republican Party in their present form. The country probably needs a center right party to fill the void and bring pragmatism at a time when no one seems to be debating the real issues of the day. I though remain a hopeful for the Republican Party to once again reinvent itself for the better.

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