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The Republican Party Must Define Itself

Political parties must define themselves. Failing to do so creates opportunities for the opposing team to do the defining.

Setting standards is as at the heart of defining a party. While ours is a big, broad-based party that has enjoyed much success since Californian John C. Fremont first carried the Republican banner nationally in 1856, the party cannot stand for everything and anything.  Just because some Republican somewhere said something, does not make it true.

When a candidate or other representative takes positions or makes statements fundamentally at odds with the party’s core principles, decisions must be made whether to call it out, risking drawing more attention to it, or letting it slide and hoping no one notices.

Delaware Republican U.S. Senate nominee Lauren Witzke’s recent statements are so absurd and at odds with conservative principles they must be repudiated.

“Most third world migrants cannot assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong,” she tweeted on October 7.

The assertion is factually baseless and carries the underlying assumption counter to the basic conservative principle of personal responsibility: that individuals should be judged by their own actions, not by some group to which they are presumed to belong.

First, some facts. America generally and California specifically is full of communities that every day demonstrate the fallacy of Witzke’s claim. In Orange County, a Vietnamese community founded by refugees from the Vietnam War continues to thrive. Silicon Valley is home to countless engineers and technology experts who can trace their ancestry to India and other parts of Asia. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, for example, was born in Hyderabad.  San Diego’s East County is home to the second largest Chaldean community outside of Iraq.  Many of its members are very successful entrepreneurs.  The list goes on and on.

The children of Asian immigrants are the most academically successful of any ethnic group in America, yet most Asian countries were indeed “third world” when their parents or grandparents first came to this country.

The claim that success in America is dependent upon where one was born is not supported by any facts. The claim is often asserted in a racist or nativist context that holds outsiders are somehow bad for America. Thankfully, this view did not prevail when my parents came to America from Germany in 1961 with only a 10th grade education and not much money.  Keep in mind this was only 16 years after the Second World War — not everyone rolled out the welcome mat.

It’s not where one was born that matters.  Conduct is what counts: Hard work, drive, ethics, tenacity, judgment, perseverance, respect.

America is an incubator for immigrant success, but it is not the only one. Consider the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, the child of a Ugandan-Indian family. Or Sajid Javid, the son of British Pakistani parents who served until recently as the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a sidenote, both are leaders in the UK’S Conservative Party, highlighting how center-right parties on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the value of our immigrant communities.

While Witzke’s claim invokes the term “migrant,” the only difference between a migrant and an immigrant is whether their movement is temporary or permanent. Many of those who are termed “migrants,” are in fact immigrants because their movement is permanent, or intended to be.

That so many people want to come to America is a sign of the opportunities inherent in the American system of free markets and entrepreneurship.  Who wants to immigrate to Russia?

We oppose illegal immigration because it undermines our system of legal immigration and runs counter to our respect for the rule of law.  Opposing illegal immigration should not entail painting with the broad brush of disparaging immigration or immigrants.

Unfortunately, social media platforms today lend themselves to outlandish claims which provoke more engagement. Fringe candidates obsess over Twitter and Facebook as a substitute for mounting a serious and credible campaign capable of victory.   

Next month, Witzke will be crushed by incumbent Democrat Senator Chris Coons. If she is like other fringe candidates, she will not take responsibility for the outcome, but will blame the loss on others, such as “the Establishment” or “RINOs,” whom she will fault for not backing her candidacy despite her flaky claims. In doing so, she will again undermine the core conservative principle of personal responsibility by casting blame on others.

As Republican leaders, we owe it to our party to define it by the core principles and dignity that Ronald Reagan made foundational to the party when he defined it in its modern form with his 1980 landslide victory. Limited government, personal responsibility, traditional values, and a strong national defense are the foundation of our party. These are all ideas, and as such they are open to everyone, from any country, of any religion and ethnicity.

Anyone, from any country, can become an American if they work hard and follow the rules. As leaders, it is our job to ensure hard working, law abiding immigrants feel they have a home in the Republican Party.

Ron Nehring is the former Chairman of the California Republican Party and the Republican Party of San Diego County.  In 2016 he was national spokesman for the Presidential campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.