Dear RNC: What I Wished You Asked Me in Your “Census”

Perhaps you’ve heard the controversy about a so-called “Congressional District Census” sent out by the Republican National Committee ahead of the U.S.’s national census in 2020. As a recipient of this fundraising letter and political survey, I must say it is obviously a political document and obviously not an official government or legal document. It’s chock full of questions about how to support Trump, and, I am so glad they asked.

This shoring up of support for Trump is apart from any impeachment inquiry. It’s simply a survey of Republican voters, accompanied by a standard fundraising ask. While the letter and attached survey questions are vociferously pro-Trump, the survey questions leave options for non-Trump voters. First, the survey asks, who are you and the options are:

  • Conservative Republican
  • Independent Voter who leans Republican
  • Moderate Republican
  • Liberal Republican
  • Democrat

I could have thrown up my hands here because who knows any more what these modifiers mean anymore. Reflecting on my adult life and world view with Texas as my adopted state (fiscally conservative, socially liberal, pro-Second Amendment, pro-legal when it comes to accessing women’s healthcare) and my leanings coming up in New Jersey (I like the Tom Kean and Christie Todd Whitman-types of Republicans), I opted for “Moderate Republican.” I don’t view Trump as a true conservative, so I am not sure how he or a supporter of his is supposed to self-identify among the options listed above. The second question on this survey expands on how conservative-leaning voters break out; it asks, are you a supporter of Trump, but not the Republican Party, or are you a supporter of the Republican Party, but not Trump?

Bravo to the RNC for still seeking to recognize such key distinctions. The other options were to be a supporter of both or none. Fair enough. The important thing is the party is not demanding fealty. Question #3 is simple: do you plan on supporting Trump in the 2020 election? No, I do not. That said, I’m not thrilled about any alternative.

Next, the RNC wants to frame up just about everything as Trump vs. liberal socialists. Hmmm. I don’t think it’s that simple, but I plowed ahead with answering the survey questions as accurately as possible.

Fiscal Responsibilities

For instance, what to make of this one: “Do you agree with President Trump that fixing our nation’s inner cities and working to rebuild our crumbling highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals must be a top federal priority in the next few years?” No. Whatever happened to local control? I believe state and local governments are responsible for their bridges and hospitals, and can float bonds to pay for them, if approved by local voters. Granted, there are forms of federal assistance and funds, including Medicare and Medicare for covering hospital costs, and tax revenues for highway funds, that are added to the mix, but that question is phrased in such a way that it connotes an out and out federal takeover of “inner cities,” bridges, airports, tunnels, etc. Yikes! How much would that cost? And why on Earth would the Republican Party advocate for such broad federal overreach? We have already seen a rather significant blowout in the federal spending deficit since Trump became president, which is already, ahem, ironic compared to the party’s historical calls for fiscal responsibility and federal deficit reduction. (Scratch your head here.)

Race Relations

Kudos to the party for asking this, though: “Do you think race relations is America are getting better or worse?” I answered worse. This is not because I think we’ve reverted to the sin of slavery, but we have seen our own president stoke racial antipathy (see calling for kneeling NFL players to be fired for peaceful protest, saying members of Congress who are women of color should “go back” to foreign countries, calling white supremacists “fine people,” etc.) and that seems to have invited all manner of racist jerks to crawl out of the woodwork and rant against strangers who are going about normal business while black. It would be nice, in the alternative, to have leadership that speaks up to say something like this: stand up because we stand with you and recognize that police brutality, where it does exist, is falling disproportionally on black people, and we can all work together to eventually cast out racism and toss it on the ash heap of history. Yeah, well, it would be nice to hear something like that from a president from any party.

But, wait, another question delves into illegal immigration, which for many, is really about nativism, which is an extension of racism. The question seems straightforward enough, perhaps: “Do you support canceling all federal funding to sanctuary cities that fail to enforce U.S. immigration laws?” Hold up; only the federal government is responsible for enforcing immigration laws, so this question is specious and deceptive. This also speaks volumes as it echoes a Trumpian notion that any political disagreement becomes transactional and punitive.

This comes as U.S. Attorney General William Barr warned local governments that they will lose federal funding if “communities” protest against law enforcement. Here is what the AG just said: “They have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves. And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they may find themselves without the police protection they need.” Hmmm, what exactly does that mean? Well, Michael Steele, a former chairman of the RNC had this take on Twitter: “Exactly what do you mean by “communities”? And to secure future protection do those communities need “to do [you] a favor though” and not protest police behavior that stand in violation of the rights of the citizens in those communities and under the law?

Foreign Relations

Oooof. Good point, Mr. Steele. He managed to point out that the attorney general seems to be discarding our First Amendment right to seek redress against the government when the government fails in its responsibility to serve the people while invoking the politically disastrous July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine. Sigh. Whether Trump’s words and actions amount to impeachable offenses or just mind-bogglingly inept foreign policy is a whole can of worms that I am not opening in this blog, but at the very least, the episode underscores that Trump’s unconventional approach to foreign policy is counterproductive. Which brings me to another RNC survey question: Do you support President Trump negotiating with Kim Jong-un to try to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons? No, not at the rate Trump is failing in this endeavor. News is breaking now (again) that North Korea is calling Trump a dotard and demanding the U.S. back off on sanctions. Call me unimpressed with Trump’s work here. I would prefer he let diplomats work on this without his ineffective theatrics.

Realistically, barring Trump being removed from office via that constitutional mechanism known as impeachment, he is the 2020 Republican candidate for president and the survey results will likely wholeheartedly support him. But, would the RNC ever release the survey answers? How many respondents support the party, but not the president, or vice versa? The fact that the party even bothered to ask makes me wonder if some within the party are looking ahead to a time beyond Trump. Regardless of what happens this month, next year or over the next four years, the GOP should recognize a need to change, even if that means returning to move conventional, traditional forms of conservatism.  

Here’s what I wished the survey also asked:

  • Do you believe the Republican Party’s current platform planks are fully representative of your viewpoints?
  • Do you think the Republican Party should canvass independents to see what viewpoints it might consider adding to the platform to draw more voters into the party?
  • Do you think the party is balanced when it comes to religious freedom and tolerance for all religions?
  • Do you think more inroads can be made to stem gun violence without curbing the Second Amendment rights of lawful citizens?
  • Do you support expanding legal immigration for a variety of worker skills and educational levels?
  • Would you support providing for abortions that are performed to protect a mother’s health or in cases of rape and incest? Do you support expanding reproductive health educational initiatives that have helped reduce abortion rates to historical lows? Do you support the idea that people (men and women) should be encouraged, in the spirit of personal responsibility, to use birth control to protect against unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs?
  • Are you concerned that certain factions within the Republican Party are coming across as anti-education and anti-science at a time when we should be supporting STEM education and specialized government agencies to face a host of national security concerns, ranging from climate change to modern warfare?
  • Would you like to see the GOP offer a proposal for replacing the Affordable Care Act rather than simply repeal it?
  • Do you think the federal government should look to significantly cut spending?

Those are just a few off the top of my head. My point being is that the GOP seems to be digging itself into a potentially self-defeating Trump rut and this cannot last forever. My hope is that there will be more questions, more surveys and more openness to a wider range of viewpoints under the conservative rubric.

The Sage Leopard,