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Jim Lee: GOP needs a positive makeover

With all the soul searching going on within the Republican Party about what it needs to do to reinvent itself, or whether it even needs reinventing at all, I would think that one goal in the coming year should be to come up with a message that isn't contradictory to previously stated beliefs.

The Republican Party over the past four years has spent so much time opposing everything that President Barack Obama and the Democrats have proposed that I don't know what they stand for anymore.

Apparently I'm not alone. Many within the party have complained about the negativity, saying they need to change the message from focusing on what they are against to a message that focuses on what they are for.

The only problem with that is that between the mainstream Republicans and their tea party offshoot, there isn't much consensus on what they stand for.

For example, it would be easier to believe the tea party argument that President Barack Obama's Race To The Top initiative is nothing short of the federal government dictating local education if not for the fact that conservatives wholly supported Republican President George W. Bush's nationalization of education through his No Child Left Behind law.

The current message: Republican takeover of education is good; Democratic takeover of education is bad.

Conservatives have also long voiced their opposition to the bank, financial industry and auto bailouts. Their mantra is that the best course is letting the free market decide which businesses fail and which succeed. That would be more believable, however, if they applied the same principle to subsidies that they give in the budget each year to the oil companies and others.

The current message: Democrats giving out money to big business is bad. Republicans giving money to big business is good.

The Republican Party is also pushing for voter reforms in many states. They believe that you should have to show an ID and go through a rigorous process in order to vote. At the same time, as talk of gun control efforts increase they maintain the position that anyone should be able to buy a gun with no restrictions.

The message: As it stands, Republicans support efforts that they say are designed to keep illegal immigrants from voting, but it is OK if those same illegal immigrants go to a gun show, auction or private seller to purchase a gun.

And as long as we're on the subject of guns and the Second Amendment, why does that particular amendment warrant special treatment over so many other amendments in the eyes of so many Republicans?

Banning protestors from the funerals of military men and women killed in duty was a direct response to one bizarre cult that calls itself a religion that was engaging in the practice. At the time, respect for the rights of grieving families, common sensibilities and honoring those who died for our country were cited as reasons for setting limits on people's First Amendment rights. Today, however, respect for the rights of others and common sensibilities are dismissed as inadequate reasons to pass gun control measures.

Apparently the view of many in the Republican Party is highly narcissistic: I should be guaranteed my rights, but nobody else except those who agree with me has the same rights. That view is reinforced by an adamant stand to protect tax breaks and exemptions for the rich, even if that means middle class taxpayers have to carry more of the burden.

Before the last election campaign began the image of a Republican Party staunchly protecting the rich and big business at the expense of everyone else grew among the voting populace. The trend continued through the election, and it is an image that the GOP must work hard at shaking if they want to increase their voting base.

Add to that some of the more wacky candidates and their skewed views and it is no wonder that the national party is stepping up efforts to try to improve the quality of those seeking office under the GOP brand.

I long for the days when the Republican Party stood for things and pushed an agenda that aimed to help make the country better, like during the Ronald Reagan years. Sadly, as we have come to learn, even that president wouldn't live up to what's currently required to be considered "a good Republican" in the eyes of many in the party who stand united against Obama, but for virtually nothing.

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