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Feehery: The new big tent party

When I came to Washington a thousand years ago, all the leading lights of the Republican Party talked about the necessity of being a “big tent party”. The theory back then was that the GOP could successfully integrate the pro-life and pro-choice wings, while still attracting Hispanic voters who hated communists, despite being largely anti-immigration.

But these days, Republicans, overwhelmingly anti-abortion and pro-border control, are attracting more African American and Hispanic voters than they have in generations, so it might be time to revisit what it means to be a big tent. Here are seven principles for the new big tent party:

1)    Respect for the Constitution: Without our founding documents, we are lost as a nation.  The Democrats have grown especially tired of the First, Second and 10th Amendments and seem intent on rewriting the Constitution in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion, the new dogma of the left. Republicans need to not only embrace the Constitution but truly understand what it means and why it must be protected.

2)    Respect for a culture of life: Now that Roe v. Wade looks to be on the chopping block, Republicans need to embrace what it truly means to be pro-life. This means making sure that children are adequately cared for after they are born.

3)    Respect for law and order: Defunding the police was terrible for local communities and helped to cause a spike in crime, but it has been good for Republicans. A bedrock principle for the big tent GOP must be an appreciation for those who serve and protect. Law enforcement is not infallible, though, so while we should embrace the men in blue, we should also be cognizant that bad actors happen in every profession and those who break the law must be held accountable, no matter who they are. 

4)    Respect for the primacy of the family: The Democratic Party may not be overtly trying to destroy the family unit, but at every instance, they favor the state over parents. Their policies favor teacher unions over school choice. They seek to indoctrinate rather than educate. Their agenda isn’t about giving families more power to take care of themselves, but instead to give the state more power in the name of taking care of families.   

5)    Respect for individual agency and local communities: Democrats are the party of victimization. Their coalition is a giant amalgam of groups who have been done wrong by American history. But stoking resentment and playing the race card doesn’t make this country a stronger or better place to live. Our citizens need to understand that they can succeed by working hard and by being personally responsible for their actions. The 10th Amendment also promotes the idea that most major decisions should be made by local communities, not by the federal government

6)    Respect for both free enterprise and fair play: The Republican Party should not continue to pray at the altar of the free market. Markets are not infallible. Monopolies arise that seek to destroy their competitors. Doing business with dangerous dictators may be necessary but we don’t need to be naive about the downsides that come from consorting with the communists. At all times, we need to think through the lens of protecting the livelihoods of our own citizens first. Fair play, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and there is always a tension when it comes to the proper role of government intervention in the marketplace. We can respect the tension but never forget who matters most: The American people.

7)    Respect for national borders and for the role of legal immigration: It is not a contradiction to be both for gaining control of our southern border and for the immigrants who continue to build this country every day. The idea that legal immigrants somehow undermine the essential nature of this country is ridiculous. Immigrants are the essential nature of this county. What undermines this nation is a breakdown of the legal immigration process and the flood of illegal and dangerous drugs that are killing our young people that comes from an open border.   

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at He served as spokesman to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

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