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April 1, 2013
Bruce Maiman: Is the Republican Party leaving you?

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(April 1 -- By Bruce Maiman, Special to The Bee)

What does the Republican Party stand for?

I think this question is mighty uncomfortable for many conservatives because answering it requires comparisons with the conversation the party is having with itself today to what it represented when they began voting Republican, and to what the party even recently championed during the presidential campaign.

Last year, primary candidates decried tax increases, opposed any immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship and pledged to repeal Obamacare. Gay marriage was completely off the table. Indeed, delegates at last summer's convention in Tampa supported a constitutional amendment to ban it outright.

Today, views on gay marriage are "evolving," or in Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's recent case, doing a complete 180 in support of gay marriage. More than 100 Republican figures signed a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm that gay couples have the constitutional right to marry, including presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and former California gubernatorial candidate and Mitt Romney campaign adviser Meg Whitman.

Last Sunday, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said it was "inevitable" that a Republican presidential candidate will support marriage equality - a candidate he'd support even if he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

Talk of Republican outreach to Latinos is everywhere. Key senators of the so-called Gang of Eight now say a comprehensive bill on immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship is just days away from a rollout.

At least six Republican 2016 hopefuls have either done a reversal, come out or moved closer in support of a citizenship path: Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio of Florida, 2012 vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Even Sean Hannity and his Fox News boss Roger Ailes have become pro-citizenship.

Republican governors who once ferociously opposed Obamacare have gone from pit bulls to lap dogs, including staunch opponents such as Utah's Gary Herbert, Rick Scott of Florida and Arizona's Jan Brewer. Even Gov. Walker and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are facing increasing pressure to accept the federal program so their states can expand Medicaid coverage, once considered anathema in GOP circles.

With April 15 looming, it's unlikely you need a reminder that your taxes went up thanks to the "fiscal cliff" deal back in January - again, with Republican support.

Even on defense spending, Republicans have grown increasingly comfortable with the idea of cutting the Pentagon budget.

Is this the GOP you joined 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Or did the party of Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and George H.W. Bush become the party of Palin, Bachmann, Santorum and George W. Bush? And has that finally reached its limit?

One could argue that in large measure the party had no place else to go because it won the central battle it vigorously launched with the election of Ronald Reagan.

In those three decades, Republicans turned their fiscal planks into policy. They wanted income tax cuts. They got them. The top income tax rate is half today of what it was when Reagan was elected, and far lower than 91 percent in 1954 when then-President Eisenhower rejected fellow Republicans' efforts to reduce income taxes.

Republicans wanted corporate tax cuts. They got them. The top corporate tax rate is 11 percentage points lower today than it was in 1980, and 17 points lower than it was in the 1950s. They wanted capital gains tax cuts. They haven't been this low since the Great Depression. They wanted deregulation. They've had it in spades, from the Enron loophole to unregulated gambling in all things derivative, to ending the distinction between investment and commercial banks, to allowing more risk throughout the banking industry.

Whether that has translated into more growth, more revenue, more market stability and self-regulation is a matter for another day, but the battle on fiscal principle appears to be over, at least for now, during this period of GOP re-evaluation and reflection.

What's left? Jobs? Reducing debt? Better education? Both parties want that, but it appears Republicans want what Democrats have got: Latinos, women and younger voters. Is that the reason for revising previously bedrock beliefs on immigration, Obamacare, defense spending and even gay marriage? Had you predicted in October 2012 the seismic shift we are seeing today on so many things central to Republican values, you'd have been banished to a bunker with a book on Mayan calendar prophecies. And yet, that's where the party seems headed.

If that's the case, is this about what the Republican Party stands for, or, to paraphrase Reagan, is the Republican Party in the process of leaving you? And if so, why has there been no effort to form a third political party that actually represents you?

Bruce Maiman is a former radio show host who lives in Rocklin. Reach him at brucemaiman@gmail.com.

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