COLUMN: From Here and Back Again

Jim Coufal

What Republicans Believe: With editorial comments

This piece looks at the results of a recent survey that asked Republicans what principles are most important to them, from which the researchers compiled the list below, shown in the order they appeared.
Each principle listed in boldface is followed by my editorial remarks (in italics), admittedly those of a freethinking secular humanist. So what principles do republicans assert they believe?:

I (Republicans) believe that our:
  • Country is exceptional (an idea we have been fed since birth, but in truth, the country really isn’t exceptional,  except in areas like gun deaths, incarceration rate and anti-science stances).
  • Constitution should be honored, valued and upheld (strongly agree; a motherhood statement, the crux comes in interpreting the Constitution).
  • Leaders should serve people, not special interests (strongly agree, but the Republican party simply doesn’t do this and hasn’t since Goldwater and Reagan).
  • Families and communities should be strong and free from government intrusion (unless it comes to women’s rights, gun laws and other things that serve getting re-elected).
  • Institution of traditional marriage is the foundation of society (history shows societies with many successful forms of family; this idea is rooted in ancient holy books from ancient agrarian cultures).
  • Government should be smaller, smarter and more efficient (agree; a lofty goal if privatization worked, or if they didn’t want control of your bedroom or guns).
  • Healthcare decisions should be made by us and our doctors (agree, but in most cases they are, especially when you have health coverage to begin with).
  • Paychecks should not be wasted on poorly run government programs (including being wasted on subsidizing big business and wealthy individuals, failing industries [i.e., coal], supporting religion, etc.).
  • Military must be strong and prepared to defend our shores (curiously it says “our shores” while most of our historical and current wars have been and are being fought elsewhere. And  speaking of wasteful spending, what about our bloated military budget?).
  • Culture should respect and protect life (strongly agree, but “life” includes more than human lives. It especially includes our environment where environmental protection is being openly dismantled for the benefit of the few, the rich and for expediency).
  • Children should never be left in failing schools (How does this relate to small government and local control? How does it relate to failing parochial and charter schools? How does it relate to government support of religious schools?)
  • Veterans should have the best care and opportunities in the world (they haven’t been getting it in a Republican-controlled government).
  • Social programs should help lift people out of poverty (strongly agree; so why do they promulgate and vote against such programs, including in budgets and tax packages?).
  • America should be energy independent (At the expense of what? Human and other life? The future?).
I take some lessons from this. It’s clear that there are principles that Republicans and liberals agree on; how can we capitalize on this? Further, the devil is in the details; such as how we define when human life starts, how we interpret free speech, etc.
It is also clear that stated principles are a handy tool to have but don’t mean you will live up to them. The old saying about walking the walk applies, and we must be careful because it can and does apply across the political spectrum.
A follow-up piece will look at progressive values and principles as widely understood, allowing comparison with the above.
Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at

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