What Are Our Goals?
Here's where it gets fun. Yesterday we talked about leadership, so today we are taking the next logical step to talk about goals. Leadership without goals is just aimless wandering through the landscape of ideas.
Obviously there are some broad goals that we, as a Party should always strive for. These include things such as recruiting new voters to our ranks, reaching out to potentially new constituencies, seeding our grassroots, and yadda, yadda, yadda. Likewise there are always specific issues that are the subject of narrow focus at any one time such as is the case in the current transportation debate. However, in order to avoid the aimless wandering, I suggest that we focus on some broader, non-organizational goals that the Republican Party of Virginia should face within the coming years.
As always, I want this to be an open discussion. I want this to be something that we come back to on a regular basis because I believe that this discussion is good for our Party. I firmly believe that if we are able to identify problems before they mature, rather than simply react to things as they arise, then the Republican Party will be able to provide the thoughtful, practical, and fair solutions that are needed to address the problems of the day. I do not believe that the other side is capable of doing so in any unified, coherent fashion.
The question then becomes, where do we see problems on the horizon? What are the areas of social, economic, and political policy that we can identify today as needing reform before greater problems strike down the road. As I desire this topic to involve more free-flowing debate, I will only mention a couple of areas that I see as potential problem areas in our not-too-distant future.
First of all, I will point out that my analysis is focused on the State level, and therefore I will ignore some goals in areas that I would otherwise identify as national issues. The first of these state issues is education. While I support the improvements that were made under to our education system under Governor Allen, I am concerned that Virginia may now begin to fall behind the curve in the area of education reform. Virginia has always been a leader of reform in areas like criminal justice and welfare. However, many other states have taken the lead in reforming their education systems, leaving Virginia behind. While Virginia continues to have one of the most outstanding higher education systems in the nation, it is our elementary and secondary education that is ready for an overhaul. What I am talking about is school choice. We must bring competition and free-market principles to our education system in order to improve school performance and efficiency and provide parents with educational choices. Particularly in the poorest areas of the state, school choice will provide a wider range of opportunities to the very students who will benefit most from those opportunities. Denying quality education to any Virginia students in order to preserve a public monopoly on the provision of these services makes no sense and only limits our children's potential. It is past time to remedy that situation and unleash the creative potential of the next generation.
A second goal that I think we as a Party should address is environmental conservatism. I personally come from an agricultural tradition that values Virginia's natural resources not just because of their beauty, but also because my faith teaches me that they have been entrusted to our care. We are blessed to live in a beautiful Commonwealth with many natural splendors and bounty of open spaces. Unfortunately, many Virginians are too far divorced from a relationship with the land and waters of this State to be affected by their health. As a result, growth and development are beginning to threaten many of our natural, as well as historical, landmarks. I believe that there are many conservative solutions out there that can address the problems of pollution, sprawl and unplanned development, and inefficient use of lands. I believe that most Virginians do not favor high-cost, high-regulation, anti-technology solutions to environmental problems. I also believe that conservative principles can be applied to encourage people to take individual and community responsibility for their lands and resources so that government interference will be, in many cases, unnecessary. Unfortunately, we do not hear conservatives talk about these issues very much, which is why I fear that we will not be prepared to act before the problem gets out of hand.
The third goal that I will identify for our Party is the goal of fiscal discipline. I mean seriously folks, I'm tired of beating around the Bush right here. It is simply re-gosh-darn-diculous for the Republican Party to be adopting this kind of tax-and-spend philosophy that we are seeing. Our State government's appetite for taxpayer dollars is simply astounding. The growth of our State budget has left inflation in the dust. Here we are two years after the largest tax increase in state history and some Republicans are right back onboard with another tax hike. What is going on here? It is frustrating as all get out to try and tell people I belong to a Party that believes expanding individual freedom and opportunity by letting taxpayers decide how to spend their money, when every time they turn around our GOP Legislature is reaching back in their pocket. I am really pleased to see the remarks of Speaker Howell this week and I hope that the House of Delegates has finally decided to draw a line in the sand on this thing. I'm as frustrated about 2004 as anyone else, but we can't keep fighting that battle. I'm not optimistic about how things are going to turn out this year, but we've simply got to take on this issue as it stands and then we've got to come together and decide what our priorities are going to be. If we are not able to simply go in front of the people of Virginia and tell them exactly what we think a fiscally responsible budget should look like, then we're always going to find something more that we can spend money on. I am not sitting here saying "Off with their heads!" to any Republican who ever votes for a tax increase. What I am saying is that we've got to be honest with the taxpayers of Virginia. Some folks just are not being honest, and that is a problem for our Party as a whole. We have allowed the Democrats in this State to adopt a theme of "good government" even though we know that all that means is taking more from the people and giving more to the bloated, inefficient bureaucracies. That doesn't fly with me and it shouldn't fly with a lot of other people either. The people of Virginia must live within their means, their government should have to do the same.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts, what about yours?