SPECIAL SERIES : The War Issue
GOP Support For Bush Waning; Backlash Begins
SF State Republicans express their alternative views
March 9, 2006 10:00 PM
Throughout his turbulent six years in office, many Republicans have unconditionally supported President Bush. With his approval rating hovering right around 36 percent according to this week's CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, it is clear that not all of them feel that he represents the party’s values.
Ronnie Higgins, a 26-year-old cinema major, said that although his knowledge of military issues is limited, he feels that the real reasons for the invasion of Iraq lie in the country’s need to feed its military industry, along with interest in securing the oil supply.
“I feel for the soldiers’ lives that we are losing to keep our head above water,” he said. “If (the war) is justified, I really wish I were let on to that secret.”
Higgins, who moved to San Francisco from New Orleans in December, said he originally signed on with the GOP because he agreed with their fiscally conservative platform. Back in Louisiana, Higgins met several people whom he felt were "milking" the welfare system to get as much out of it as they could, rather than using it to lift themselves out of a financial hole. The GOP seemed to best represent his value of financial independence.
Higgins said he hopes to someday earn a good living and he disagrees with the government taking his income and giving it to those who will not work for it. While he feels it is important to help those who are less fortunate, he does not believe it is the government’s role to redistribute wealth.
“I would give my share to charity, but I never want government control over who I should give it to,” he said.
Under the Bush administration, however, Higgins feels the GOP has come to represent something completely different from traditional conservative values. In 2004, Higgins voted for Kerry, though he did not agree with much of what Kerry stood for, because he felt Kerry was the “lesser of two evils.”
“Everything that’s conservative now isn’t what was conservative when I was 18,” said Higgins. “They want to call themselves conservatives, but they’re not.”
Higgins is not a member of the College Republicans, and has no plan to join anytime soon. He said he avoids calling himself “Republican” because he does not want to bare a political label.
One significant problem that Higgins has with the Bush administration is its pandering to the religious right. Higgins, who is Catholic, said he does not feel religious beliefs should play a role in legislation. For example, while it may conflict with his religious beliefs, Higgins supports gay rights and believes they should have the legal right to marry.
“I don’t want a gay marriage in my church,” Higgins said. “But if the state wants to acknowledge them, I see the benefits.”
But Higgins feels the way the administration panders to the religious right is more of a political strategy than an expression of morality.
“I believe those people don’t even care about religion,” he said. “They just know it pulls in votes.”
Higgins lived in Chalmette, La. when Hurricane Katrina hit, and his community suffered terrible losses from the storm. Higgins does not blame Bush for the damage caused by Katrina, since the levee problems existed long before Bush was elected, but Higgins does feel that Bush should have reacted more quickly to compensate for the shortcomings of Louisiana’s state government.
“If he wanted to solidify the Republican Party’s image, that would have not only been an easy effort, but a valiant one,” Higgins said. “I don’t like the fact that our president is not a leader."
Leigh Wolf, public relations officer for the SF State College Republicans, said he thinks Bush has overall done a good job as president, but he understands the positions of conservatives who do not support Bush, especially in his fiscal policies.
“He’s spending like a drunken sailor,” Wolf said.
While Wolf, 19, does not always agree with Bush opponents, he does feel that it is important to acknowledge when politicians make mistakes, and to consider different points of view.
“We need people of all backgrounds,” Wolf said. “I support the president, but I support the people who check the president as well.”
“I genuinely understand the compassion from the left,” he added.
Wolf said he votes for politicians based on issues, not party affiliations, and voters occasionally disagree with the politicians of their party.
“The College Republicans support Bush, but that doesn’t mean we agree with everything he does,” Wolf said.
While he feels the GOP has lost sight of its core values under Bush, Higgins said he would feel confident in the party if Sen. John McCain is nominated to run for president in 2008. Higgins supported McCain when he ran against Bush in the Republican primary before the 2000 election.
“He thinks with his heart and mind,” Higgins said. “I think that man could single-handedly sew this country back together.”
Adam Jay Weissmiller, a 25 year-old double majoring in international business and Chinese, said he believes Bush is doing the best he can as president, but Bush is in a difficult situation with the war going the way it is.
“I honestly believe Bush wants our troops to come home,” Weissmiller said.
Weissmiller, a member of the College Republicans, emphasized that the decision is not just as easy as pulling the troops out.
“I believe if we were to pull our troops out, the Sunnis and the Shiites would break into civil war. There’s really not a lot of black and white, but it’s too complicated to find some gray area or middle ground.”
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