In anticipation of tomorrow’s debate(s) among the 16 proclaimed Republican Presidential candidates, I find myself wondering, as usual, what there is in the Republican agenda that could appeal to someone we know. And I also wonder, and regret, that there cannot be areas of bipartisan agreement where the parties could put aside their differences to get things done. Three of the latter that immediately come to mind, because they have been in the news, are 1) saving the planet as we know it from the effects of climate change; 2) rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, which includes trains and mass transit as well as bridges and roads; and 3) providing birth control information and care, to reduce a) abortions, b) unwanted children and c) economic hardship all around. I could add foreign policy, which has traditionally been more bipartisan than it is now, although the benefits there are less clear.

Of course, the biggest impediment to getting anything, let alone the above, done is the zero-sum mentality of, at the moment, the Republicans: anything that Obama can get done is, ipso facto, bad for their party, no matter what it is. This mindset is not new or uniquely American, but it is nevertheless unfortunate. There would still be plenty of areas that the Republicans could fight Obama and the Democrats even if they agreed to work together on the three points above.

The biggest disconnect between our Republican friends and the Republican Party as it will be represented at the debate is the so-called social issues. This particularly is where the stridency of the Tea Party has all but eliminated the Republican moderate, although very few of those former self-styled moderates have changed party allegiance as a result. The pull, or the inertia, of how you have always defined yourself is strong. Most Republicans we know support Planned Parenthood, gay rights and even gun control. It is common to hear someone say he is “socially liberal but fiscally conservative.”

The fiscal conservatism of the Republican politicians is, however, more or less a historical memory. The expansion of government spending, size and the deficit under George Bush is well documented but, again, didn’t prompt anyone really to change sides. Examples abound today of Republican positions, such as cutting Title X, eliminating the Export-Import Bank, increasing the military budget and even rescinding Obamacare that make no sense from a fiscal conservative perspective. If there is one common thread to Republican positions it is the desire to reduce the size and reach of the federal government, whether the result is a net economic savings for the country or not.

I can think of only one legitimate point of difference between my Republican friends and the Democratic, and my, position; and I would be glad to have this discussion if we could agree on all the points above. The typical Republican wants to have lower taxes, which necessarily means fewer government benefits to the economically disadvantaged. There is a sense – and I’m reading minds here – that I have made my money through either hard work or superior skills and intelligence, and I shouldn’t have to support those who either haven’t worked as hard or didn’t have my abilities. This feeling is aggravated when it comes to illegal aliens: just because they have snuck across the border, against the law, doesn’t entitle them to share our wealth.

I acknowledge that there are good arguments to be made for and against particular welfare benefits. Let the Democrats stand for more taxes and more government benefits, let the Republicans stand for lower taxes and fewer benefits, and let the voters decide which they prefer, what kind of society they want. But let’s end the foolishness of denying women the right to choose whether they have a child; denying gays the right to marry; denying the existence of climate change; refusing to raise the gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure; dismantling the Affordable Health Care Act without proposing an alternative; rejecting the Iran nuclear arms treaty; expanding the “war on terrorism” and all the other so-called positions I expect the candidates to take tomorrow night.