The November 13, 2008 Denver Post published my OpEd on the Republican Party in the online edition:
“How the GOP lost my vote”
After a resounding electoral defeat, in which voters in this once-red state rejected Republicans McCain, Schaffer, and Musgrave, the Colorado Republican Party will undoubtedly be asking themselves, “Why did we lose?”
I want to let them know that they lost the vote of many former supporters (including myself) because they have chosen to embrace the Religious Right.
I voted Republican in 1996, 2000, and 2004. I believe in limited government, individual rights, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms – positions that one normally associates with Republicans.
But I didn’t vote for a single Republican in 2008. I’ve become increasingly alienated by the Republicans” embrace of the religious “social conservative” agenda, including attempts to ban abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage.
The Founding Fathers correctly recognized that the proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But freedom of religion also implies freedom *from* religion. As Thomas Jefferson famously put it, there should be a “wall of separation” between church and state. Public policy should not be based on religious doctrines.
Instead, the government’s role is to protect each person’s right to practice his or her religion as a private matter and to forbid them from forcibly imposing their particular views on others. And this is precisely why I find the Republican Party’s embrace of the Religious Right so dangerous.
If a woman chooses not to have an abortion for reasons of personal faith, then I completely respect her right to do so. But she cannot impose her particular religious views on others. Other women must have the same right to decide that deeply personal issue for themselves.
The Religious Right’s goal of outlawing abortions would violate that important right, and sacrifice the lives of actual women for clumps of cells that are only potential (but not yet actual) human beings, based on religious dogma. As a physician, I find that position abhorrent and deeply anti-life.
In his October 24, 2008 radio broadcast, Rush Limbaugh told pro-choice secular supporters of limited government such as myself that we should leave the Republican Party. Many of us have already taken his advice and changed our affiliation to “independent.”
The Republican Party stands at an important crossroads. The Republican Party could choose to follow the principles of the American Founding Fathers and promote a limited government that protected individual rights but otherwise left people alone to live their lives.
This includes affirming the principle of the separation of church and state. If they did so, I would happily support it.
Or the Republican Party could instead choose to become the party of the Religious Right and seek to forcibly impose the religious values of one particular constituency over others (thus violating everyone else’s rights).
In that case, it will continue to alienate many voters and lose elections — and deservedly so.
Even though I no longer regard myself as a Republican, I definitely regard myself as a loyal American.
My parents immigrated legally from Taiwan to America over 40 years ago. They had very little money, but they worked hard, sent two children to college and medical school, and are now enjoying a well-earned and comfortable retirement.
Their life has been a real-life embodiment of the American dream. America is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world precisely because our system of government allows honest, hard-working people to prosper and thrive.
Our system is a testament to the genius of the Founding Fathers, who recognized that the proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Hence, I believe the Republican Party should choose the first path – the path of limited government, separation of church and state, and protection of individual rights.
This is the America that brought my parents from a ocean away in hopes of a better life for themselves and their children. This is the America I want to live in. And this is the America I want the Republican Party to stand for.
Paul Hsieh is a practicing physician in the south Denver metro area and co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM). He lives in Sedalia.