There can be no debate about the fact that the Republican Party needs to change. But there is much debate on what form that change should take. I believe we can maintain our core beliefs while staking out new ground on our most compelling issues.
Immigration: We are not going to deport 20 million people. There are millions of Hispanic immigrants who are here illegally. Yet millions of those are law-abiding, productive members of American society. They pay taxes. They work hard. They are raising great kids. We need to expedite their path to legalization.
We do need to filter out the criminals and deport them as soon as possible. We can't flip a switch and secure the border, but we have to move much more quickly to get it under control once and for all. Call it amnesty, call it whatever you want, but every wave of immigrants that has been welcomed and assimilated into this society for the past 200 plus years has had a net beneficial impact on it. It is time to let these good, hard-working, God-fearing, productive people come out of the shadows and be fully human within our borders.
Abortion: It is time for us to focus on viability. This is, in fact, the framework that was set up by Roe v. Wade. The pro-abortion lobby has tried for years to ignore this fact and convinced most people that in the Roe v. Wade decision the U.S. Supreme Court held that abortion, for whatever reason and at whatever point in pregnancy, is constitutionally protected. This isn't true. Once the baby is viable, capable of living outside of the womb, it gains its own right to remain alive.
The date for viability has gotten earlier in the pregnancy as each new neonatal medical advance allows shorter-term babies to survive. This should be the heart of the abortion discussion. We are never going to put this genie back into the bottle, and a renewed focus on viability will rationalize our arguments. No Republican I know wants to hurt women or take away their rights, but many of us do want to ensure that the lives of thinking and feeling human beings are not indifferently terminated when they are entitled to legal human rights.
Race relations: The Republican Party was founded on the proposition that all people are created equal. It was Republicans who demanded an end to slavery, even to the point of civil war. It was Republicans who fought for expanding the right to vote, which led to the election of African-American candidates during Reconstruction. It was the Republican Party that drafted the Civil Rights Act in the late 1950s and early '60s, which led to the law that ultimately passed Congress and began the eradication of legally institutionalized racism in America.
We need to do a better job of embracing this history and demonstrating that we are not a racist political party. We must not be afraid to walk city streets to spread the message that private economic freedom is better than multigenerational government dependency.
Finally, we need to have the generational shift that the Democrats underwent in 2008. Do you know why the Democrats are more in tune with younger voters? It is because in 2008, Barack Obama beat Hilary Clinton, and the Watergate-era Dems who came of age in the early 1970s gave way to a new generation of Democratic operatives. Meanwhile, we Republicans have been trying to keep in place entrenched, old-guard figures who want to act like it is still 2000 or even 1980. We must make the generational leap and begin to innovate our outreach if we are not going to be left behind.
None of this requires us to compromise our core principals or give up on the founding ideals of our nation. In fact, these things will strengthen our party and our cause to keep government in check and allow for economic growth through entrepreneurialism in the private sector. We can do this all while showing compassion for the deserving poor and welcoming good and talented people into the American melting pot.
This must be the Republican Party of the 21st century, defined more by what we stand for than by what we are against.
Michael J. Donohue, of South Dennis, is chairman of the Cape May County Regular Republican Organization.