This week, I got my ballot for the upcoming election. I’ve been a Republican my whole millennial life. If you haven’t noticed, the party is changing. Good or bad, change is inevitable. Parties are not immutable. They are dynamic, iterative and evolve in response to generational change, shifting economics and cultural variation over time.
Despite the blindingly caustic campaign discourse, before the election is the time to discuss not just wonkery or platforms, but principles. Mine are drawn from perspective as a father and husband and yes, lifelong Republican. Nobody has all the answers, but I hope to contribute to an ongoing conversation about the party’s future.
Some might call this virtue signaling, but the stars guide us when at sea. There is value in stating virtue. So I propose the following pillars of a New Republicanism for Frederick County that champions the humanity of our community, includes all members and appeals to our peoples’ better angels. Through this, we can commit to the same principles presented by George Washington as he paraphrased Micah 4:4, “...every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
Pillar One: Strengthen the communityRepublicanism ought to focus on localism where folks commune in healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. We must carve out spaces for associational life by supporting faith-based institutions, civil society and business to prosper and respond to emergent needs in society. Helping community groups grow is crucial when loneliness and atomization are so high. Empathy and compassion have to be part of a lexicon that humanizes all life.
Above all, New Republicanism should be family first. This includes increasing the affordability of having a family, advancing a modern approach to child care and improving student education. As citizens, we too have the responsibility to prioritize family and community.
Further, we should embrace diversity in our community. There is real marginalization in society. Social stress impacts community members differently, but marginalization is complex and cannot be reduced to one theory. Unfortunately, pain is prolific and diverse, and so compassion must be equitably abundant. Life should be not just tolerated, but appreciated and every citizen should feel welcome in our community with equal access to opportunities and justice regardless of gender, race, class, ethnicity, belief, sexual orientation or politics.
As a Black man, I can attest that society has issues with individual bigotry and institutional marginalization. This isn’t privilege shaming, but it is about expanding privileges and affirming rights and civil liberties. Between extremes, there can be a moment for progress in our community. It’s complex, but a truth redounds: Justice and law and order must be in equitable harmony, otherwise we have neither.
Pillar Two: Equal opportunityThe party should remain pro-business. Free market solutions are a part of an organic approach to addressing community problems. Businesses bring jobs, resources and support needed to help families and facilitate associational life.
But we can also think about the intended result: accessible opportunity. A strong opportunity climate means that innovators innovate, small businesses grow, competition multiplies and that we ensure that citizens have access to dignified work for diverse skill sets.
Pillar Three: Smart governanceI’ve always been a small government conservative, largely due to a general skepticism for big organizations: big government, big business, big union and big etc. That needs to remain a part of Republicanism going forward. However, effective small government is a tool that can be used incisively when it is adaptive, reliable, responsive and data-based.
This means that governing organizations must practice responsible fiscal management with clear objectives (aware of demands in the community, economy and environment) that can be understood and observed by all citizens.
Good governance in a New Republicanism means that officials and citizens act according to (small “r”) republican virtues. If there is a decent deficit in our politics, it can be rectified. Our officials need to be civil, responsive, open and transparent. Citizens can demand that. Republican principles require a fruitful relationship of responsibility between the governed and those governing.
To prepare our community to pass on something of value to our children, all hands have to be onboard. We benefit from the vibrant exchange of ideas. We cannot cede policy or communities to other parties like they are fiefdoms in a modern duopoly. It is our responsibility in Frederick to meet the new demands burdening our community with a human-centered vision to provide a better and more enriching tomorrow for the next generation.
Dylan Diggs is the vice president of the Republican Club of Frederick County.