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Sunday, Nov 25 2012 11:00 PM

SOUNDING BOARD: What we all need is a leader with integrity, grace

By The Bakersfield Californian

Republicans have been asking themselves about the future, including the need for more inclusiveness, since Nov. 6. Should the party inch toward the center or stand on its conservative principles? Is this a policy problem or a public relations problem? The Californian asked those questions of the members of its Sounding Board. Here are some of their responses.

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Ratification debates over the Constitution gave birth to Federalist and anti-Federalist dialogue. Left out of the founding document was the inevitable rise of the party system. Today, the two parties no longer meet this vision. Needed is a new approach that deeply questions the current government.

Third parties do not do well; they are usually patched-together factions with a common interest. Politics makes strange bedfellows.

Now, rampant partisanship cripples the nation. Needed is a new player, one that represents the "people" of the Declaration of Independence. There is still a clarion call for the rise of an inspired true leader.

Someone strong enough, dedicated to preserving the spirit of the founding document. Someone with integrity, grace and undeniable stature. Wealth or a lack of it, religious beliefs and personal lifestyle will not matter, as their distinction will be unique.

Politicians say and do anything to win. How much their forward reflection contributes often falls short. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in our 236-year legacy rose to this level. No one is on the horizon. So it is with a third party, or even a dramatic restructuring of the existing ones. Time and events may produce an individual or new party better attuned to the future.

In the meantime, call those that represent us to government to task. Contribute some of your wealth, all of your talent and positive ideas to preserving and defending this miracle of an ideal that is the United States of America.

Rich Partain is a retired Bakersfield College professor.

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As a disenchanted Republican, I have not changed my voter registration. I hope that somehow my feedback and voting record will influence the party to realize that many of their positions do not reflect the opinions of longtime members as well as new and younger voters. I have been a registered Republican for more than 60 years. In the past, the Republicans have reflected my view that less government is preferable to more government.

My religious beliefs have nothing to do with my political beliefs and I resent the concentration devoted to this aspect of my life by a political party. I believe that birth control, abortion and gay marriage are personal choices and not a function of government.

Government does have a responsibility to provide basic services for those who are unable (not simply unwilling) to care for themselves. Government regulation is also necessary to protect the public from the actions of those, who for personal gain, take advantage of the public through financial manipulation, medical malpractice, or harmful drug or manufacturing procedures, for example. It is possible that many of our governmental agencies can be reorganized and combined for better use of facilities and personnel. Unfortunately, bureaucracies, once established, take on a life of their own and vested interests make them very hard to abolish.

As a former educator, I believe education is very important, but the growth of federal education control and unionization has played a role in lowering the performance of California schools from the top in the nation to almost the bottom. Proposition 13 addressed a significant problem at the time of passage but the result is the loss of the ability of local schools to provide the financial resources and local control of expenditures.

When the Republicans begin to address some of my concerns, I might be willing to support them again -- but time is running out.

Louise Bond of Bakersfield is a retired teacher.

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Previous writers have given excellent critiques of Republican problems and thoughtful suggestions for their improvement. I can only add some observations as a former Republican who left in 1980 and who is now an old, white, hetero male member of the fast-growing "No-Preference Party." I witnessed the evolution of the GOP from the party of "better dead than Red" Joe McCarthy, Spiro Agnew and George Romney into the party of red-county Kern Kevin McCarthy, "nattering nabobs of negativism" and Mitt Romney. I watched Republ-icon Ronald Reagan begin the religious right's now 30-year crusade to destroy America's public schools, masterfully detailed by David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle in their book "The Manufactured Crisis." Then there's the most recent Republican president -- OMG!

So what can the Republicans do to improve their future prospects? Changing strategies may win particular races in the short term. But long-term success depends on changing the party's message and image. The party's principles and platform must be moderated to more thoughtful, nuanced and centered positions on nearly all issues. Instead of rich, old, white fundamentalist guys with pretty blond wives, they could nominate a young agnostic lesbian black Latina, but she would still lose if saddled with the current GOP platform. Also, the message can't be determined or promoted by neo-Nazi naysaying Bachmanns, repulsive retrogressing Rushes or strident, pistol-packing Palins.

Succinctly stated: The party of "¡Si se puede!" (Yes we can!) will not be defeated by the party of "No, you can't!" (Nein, du kannst nicht!)

Rob Parsons is a retired Bakersfield College professor.

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The Californian's question posed to Sounding Board members is suggestive of a "correct" response. The question states that "not enough voters see the Republican Party as representative of their views." Perhaps you didn't notice how close the popular vote was.

The Republican Party is not at a crucial crossroads any more than the Democratic Party is. The country is at a crossroads. The world is at a crossroads. The media are at a crossroads. The misleading and biased news coverage we were fed on a daily basis during the recent presidential campaign was insulting to those of us eager for reliable information. "Journalism" has descended into something that could be defined by more unflattering adjectives.

To suggest that there should be a way for the Republican Party to "bring in" more Latino and black voters is absurd. You'd have to be "asleep at the wheel" not to realize that demographics are changing. This is America. Stand up and be counted as an American.

America is a multicultural country. It is possible to adhere to our founding principles and respect each other, in spite of differing political views and cultural backgrounds. We can be proud of those who are willing to take risks by starting new businesses and inventing the technology we love. Our lives are immeasurably enhanced by people with vision.

No, it's not the Republican Party that's at a crossroads; it's America at the crossroads.

Caroline O. Reid of Bakersfield is a retired executive assistant.

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Will the Republican Party rise again? Certainly it will. It will take some time: Our country will change, not for the better, and then the voters will welcome a change of party. At the present, the Republican Party does not represent the majority of people, that is obvious. There are too many rich Republicans and too many poor voters. There are too many people struggling with health care. That will need some fixing. The Republican Party will still be our best bet when the time is right.

Ken Cannon of Bakersfield is retired from a career in telecommunications.

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