These days, Republicans have the desperate aura of an endangered species. They lost Congress, then the White House; more recently, they lost a slam-dunk House election in a conservative New York district, then Senator Arlen Specter. Polls suggest that only one-fourth of the electorate considers itself Republican, that independents are trending Democratic and that as few as five states have solid Republican pluralities
So are the Republicans going extinct?
Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, tells TIME he’s so outraged by GOP overspending, he’s quitting the party — and he’s the bull’s-eye of its target audience.
But he also said he wouldn’t support any cuts in defense, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid — which, along with debt payments, would put more than two-thirds of the budget off limits.
The problem for Republicans, as the RNC’s [Michael] Steele memorably put it in a TV appearance, is that there’s “absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions.” Republicans, after all, proclaimed that President Clinton’s tax hikes would destroy the economy, that GOP rule would mean smaller government, that Bush’s tax cuts would usher in a new era of prosperity; now the House minority leader says it’s “comical” to think carbon dioxide could be harmful, and Steele says the earth is cooling.
Polls show that most Republicans who haven’t jumped ship want the party to move even further right; it takes vision to imagine a presidential candidate with national appeal emerging from a GOP primary in 2012. [Jim] DeMint, the South Carolina Senator, greeted Specter’s departure with the astonishing observation that he’d rather have 30 Republican colleagues who believe in conservatism than 60 who don’t. “I don’t want us to have power until we have principles,” DeMint told TIME after firing up that tea-party crowd in Columbia. Voters certainly soured on unprincipled Republicans. But it’s not clear they’d like principled Republicans better.
But back to Joe the Genius. From ChristianityToday:
Samuel Wurzelbacher was launched into the public arena after Senator John McCain used him as an example of an average American during a presidential debate last fall. “Joe the Plumber” quickly became a celebrity because he questioned then-candidate Barack Obama about his small business tax policy during a stop in Ohio. Now, Wurzelbacher travels the country promoting his book, campaigning for candidates, and speaking at conservative rallies. Wurzelbacher spoke with Christianity Today at an event near Chicago.
Why does conservatism appeal to you as a Christian?
Conservatism is about the basic rights of individuals. God created us. As far as the government goes, the Founding Fathers based the Constitution off of Christian values. It goes hand-in-hand. As far as the Republican Party? I felt connected to it because individual freedom should not be legislated by the federal government.
In the last month, same-sex marriage has become legal in Iowa and Vermont. What do you think about same-sex marriage at a state level?
At a state level, it’s up to them. I don’t want it to be a federal thing. I personally still think it’s wrong. People don’t understand the dictionary—it’s called queer. Queer means strange and unusual. It’s not like a slur, like you would call a white person a honky or something like that. You know, God is pretty explicit in what we’re supposed to do—what man and woman are for. Now, at the same time, we’re supposed to love everybody and accept people, and preach against the sins. I’ve had some friends that are actually homosexual. And, I mean, they know where I stand, and they know that I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children. But at the same time, they’re people, and they’re going to do their thing.
Does the Republican Party reach out to evangelicals enough?
No. None of them stand up for anything. They use God as a punch line. [blah, blah, blah…] God is recognized as, if you will, America’s religion.
Who do you see as the emerging leaders for the Republican Party?
There isn’t one. You got the RNC talking about repackaging principles and values to make them hip and cool to the younger generation. You can’t repackage them. They are what they are. You can’t make what they are.
I like Sarah Palin a lot, actually. I just don’t know if that’s where God’s leading her. I just know the Republican Party’s done its best to blackball her. I don’t know what her agenda is. If she ran, would I vote for her? Absolutely. John McCain was the lesser of two evils.
Who do you see as the emerging Christian leaders?
James Dobson. I love Dobson.
Do you see any Christians becoming stronger voices in politics?
[yadda, yadda] I like to see real action in that area. I heard some stories about George Bush, and how he wrote an original letter to each and every soldier that died. And his prayer life was listed to be pretty intense. That kind of thing, it’s awesome. I would love it to be true. I would love to hear our leaders actually check with God before he does stuff.