Fist-thumping critique claims the Republican Party has abandoned its values and vision.
When Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, R.I., entered the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 2006, he encountered every conceivable obstacle. In a two-pronged attack, he berates the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican National Committee for being a shortsighted, ego-saturated, old boys/girls club unwilling to unseat incumbents no matter how far they have strayed from party principles. “Ted Kennedy Republican” Lincoln Chafee, who beat Laffey in the primary then lost the election, is the author’s prime example of someone who has strayed from the party’s core, deeply conservative convictions. Laffey also lambastes the Republican elite for egregious pork-barrel projects, for sham tax breaks and a nearly indecipherable tax code, for a failed educational program (No Child Left Behind) with attendant elephantine bureaucracy. He sees the popular mandate as comprising tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, eliminating non-defense discretionary spending, reducing tariffs and simplifying the tax code. He stands for what he considers the essence of conservative Republicanism: opposition to abortion and gay marriage, a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning, strict immigration laws with zero tolerance and no amnesty. Laffey is forceful and avuncular, lacing his firm opinions with gotta-laugh stories from the campaign. Specifics about his programs are in much shorter supply. Many would take exception to his notion that school vouchers would boost quality by spurring competition within the public-school community. Beefed-up border patrols, supported by Laffey, have not been the answer to illegal immigration, nor does he say enough about health insurance beyond suggesting direct subsidies for seniors’ prescriptions. And his call for “a new national energy plan that gets us off foreign oil to win the war on terror” is a stretch: Petrodollars may pay for the bombs, but they don’t create terrorists.
Heartfelt deep-conservative convictions, but little in the way of mechanics to make his agenda take flight in the public imagination.