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Searching for Intelligent Life in the Republican Party

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As a Berkeley liberal, I'm convinced that whomever the Democrats nominate as their 2016 presidential candidate will soundly defeat the GOP nominee. Nonetheless, I'd like to see a sensible Republican candidate, one that agrees with me (and most voters) on the important national issues. Unfortunately, we've yet to see signs of intelligence in this set of GOP candidates.

The most recent Huffington Post summary of Republican Candidate Polls shows a tightly bunched group. The top ten are Florida Senator Marco Rubio (13.2 percent), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (12.7 percent), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (10.9 percent), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (9.1 percent), Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (9 percent), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (8.6 percent), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (7.9 percent), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (4.6 percent), former Texas Governor Rick Perry (2.5 percent), and Ohio Governor John Kasich (2.1 percent).

These GOP candidates seem content to pander to their base, tell them how much they hate President Obama and how badly they want to re-invade Iraq. However, it's informative to examine their positions on issues that most informed Americans care about -- that, is voters other than Republicans.

Under the Obama Administration stock values have more than doubled, corporate profits have tripled, and 12.6 million private sector jobs have been added. The latest Gallup Poll says that 63 percent of Americans believe their standard of living is getting better. Nonetheless, voters continue to be concerned about the economy. Sadly, the Republican candidates have nothing original to say; they're content paraphrasing the message Mitt Romney used in his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign. Marco Rubio says, "If we reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace Obamacare, the American people will create millions of better-paying modern jobs." In his January speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit Scott Walker lamented the "decline of America" because: Washington is controlled by big government special interests, taxes are too high ("It's the people's money not the government's money"), and too many Americans are content to "be dependent upon the government." Jeb Bush shares these sentiments. Ditto Rand Paul: "What the Republicans offer is less tangible than a government check. The promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets, lower taxes, and fewer regulations doesn't arrive in a mailbox at the first of the month"

Recent polls indicate that 75 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Nonetheless, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker oppose raising the minimum wage. Jeb Bush goes a step further, called for the elimination of the Federal minimum wage, "We need to leave it to the private sector." The only major Republican supporting a minimum wage increase is Mitt Romney, who isn't running in 2016.

Many voters are concerned about immigration policy, what to do with the 11 million plus illegal residents of the US. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll found that 57 percent of respondents believed that illegal residents should be able to stay in the US and apply for citizenship. In 2013, Marco Rubio championed immigration reform, then he abruptly switched his position and now says border security should be the first step. Scott Walker's views on immigration are TBD but recently he opined that, "legal immigration may need to be curbed to protect US jobs." Among the leading GOP candidates, only Jeb Bush supports a path to citizenship.

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A recent Gallup Poll found that most Americans believe that climate change is happening and is primarily due to "pollution from human activities." Nonetheless, among all Republican candidates only South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham believes climate change is real and wants to do something about it. Marco Rubio doesn't believe humans are causing climate change. Scott Walker's exact position on climate change is unclear but as Wisconsin Governor "he has gone after every single piece of climate protection." Jeb Bush isn't sure about climate change: "I'm not a scientist."

It comes as no surprise that all major Republican candidates decry Obamacare, (The latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll found public opinion split on the "Affordable Care Act": 43 percent in favor and 42 percent unfavorable.) Marco Rubio plans to "repeal and replace" Obamacare with a system that heavily relies upon an undefined system of tax credits. Scott Walker has been vague about what he would do if elected President, however as Governor of Wisconsin he's continuously fought Obamacare. Jeb Bush referred to Obamacare as "a monstrosity;" he wants to repeal it, and have the government provide only catastrophic coverage. Rand Paul opposes Obamacare and promises that, if elected, he would repeal it and replace it with "freedom."

The 2016 GOP candidates seem totally out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. Where's the intelligence in the Republican Party?

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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