Posts Tagged ‘Republican Party Future’

A constructive future for the GOP

August 26, 2020

When Donald Trump was campaigning in 2016, the most powerful thing he said was, ‘We don’t make things in this country anymore.’

He campaigned in the Rustbelt and promised to rebuild American manufacturing.  He said the leaders of China, Mexico and other countries are laughing at us for allowing our industrial base to decline.

He promised to repeal and reject pro-corporate trade treaties.  He promised to stop illegal immigration.  He promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure program. He promise to ‘drain the swamp’ of special interests.

He promised to repeal and replace Obamacare with something better.  He promised to wind down the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and improve relations with Russia.

Nobody else was talking about these issues except Bernie Sanders.  Npbody, including Sanders, talked about them in this year’s election campaign.

Trump did do some things to carry out his promises.  He rejected the pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  He canceled NAFTA and replaced it with a new agreement that was less bad.

He imposed new tariffs on Chinese imports in a willy-nilly way.  He did not propose a systematic industrial policy to rebuild American industry.

On the other hand, he worsened Obamacare instead of improving it.  He did not end the wars.  His administration stepped up the Cold War with Russia.  He did not clean house of special interests; just the reverse.  But it is not as if his Democratic opposition was proposing something better.

Trump benefited from the economic recovery that began under the Obama administration.  If not for the COVID-19 pandemic and his failed response, he would have an excellent chance of winning a fair election.

If I were a Republican strategist, I would be content to see the Democrats win the 2020 election, have them take the blame for the impending economic crash and pick up the pieces in 2024.

There is an emerging school of thought in the Republican Party called National Conservatism.  It consists of an industrial policy to rebuild industry and infrastructure, cancellation of free trade agreements, a non-interventionist foreign policy and social conservatism.

With such a policy, and with a candidate who did not make a fool of himself on a daily basis, like Trump., the GOP could win and deserve to win.

I don’t think a hypothetical national conservative administration would do everything I think needful.  I can’t imagine Republicans supporting a Green New Deal or strong labor unions.  But if such an administration was serious about ending the wars and reversing de-industrialization, it would be an improvement over what we’ve got now.

A certain amount of economic nationalism is needed because all international economic institutions are controlled by global corporations and banks.  At this point in history, the nation-state is the highest level subject to democratic control.

I am not predicting the Republicans will actually choose this path.  I am speculating on the best path open to them.

LINKS

The New Populist Right Imagines a Post-Pandemic America on BIG by Matt Stoller [Added 8/28/2020]

National Conservatism Conference Draws Big Names by Emma Green for The Atlantic.

National Conservatism Conference: ‘Intellectual Trumpist’ Movement Takes Shape by Jimmy Quinn for National Review.

Getting Behind Enlightened Nationalism by Patrick J. Buchanan from his new book.

Joe Biden is already planning a failed presidency by Ryan Cooper for The Week.

The search for a national conservatism

January 20, 2020

I’ve long said that the Republican Party rests on three pillars—the neocons, who believe there is a military solution to every problem; the theo-cons, who believe there is a Biblical solution to every problem; and the libertarians, who believe there is a free-market solution to every problem.

This is an exaggeration, but an exaggeration of reality that’s only a little bit unfair. Many conservatives recognize their problem, and that was the theme of the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., last July.

A German journalist named Thomas Meaney, reported on the conference for Harper’s magazine.  He said His report shows the unifying theme of the new conservatism is patriotism and national unity.  Instead of globalization, the new conservatives want an industrial policy to rebuild American manufacturing strength.

Meaney was moved to ask—

What if Trump had dialed down the white nationalism after taking the White House and, instead of betraying nearly every word of his campaign rhetoric of economic populism, had ruthlessly enacted populist policies, passing gargantuan infrastructure bills, shredding NAFTA instead of remodeling it, giving a tax cut to the lower middle class instead of the rich, and conspiring to raise the wages of American workers?

It doesn’t take much to imagine how that would play against a Democratic challenger with McKinsey or Harvard Law School imprinted on his or her forehead.

There seemed to be two futures for Trumpism as a distinctive strain of populism: one in which the last reserves of white identity politics were mined until the cave collapsed and one in which the coalition was expanded to include working Americans, enlisting blacks and Hispanics and Asians in the cause of conquering the condescending citadels of Wokistan.

Was it predestined that Trump would choose the former?

Source: Harper’s Magazine

My answer is, yes, it was predestined that Trump make the choices he did.  Character is destiny, and Trump has the character of a showman and confidence man.  His business record shows this.

He is smart enough to give the common people the appearance of respect, while serving the interests of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.

There is nothing in his record to indicate that he has either the interest or sense of purpose to do anything more than that.

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The people have spoken: What did they say?

November 5, 2014

I think the Democrats (with some exceptions) deserved to lose the last election, but I don’t think the Republicans (with some exceptions) deserved to win.

Election2014.155806_600Rather than bringing about change we can believe in, the Obama administration and its supporters in Congress committed to perpetual warfare, Big Brother surveillance, bailouts for the banks and austerity for everybody else.

But the Republicans did not win by proposing a constructive alternative.  Rather they won by stoking fears of Ebola, ISIS, immigrants and gun confiscation, by attack dads financed by dark money, and by suppressing and discouraging the votes of minorities, poor people and young people.

I don’t think the American people are committed to the Republican Party, but I think they are willing to give the Republicans a chance to show what they can do, just as they were willing to give the Democrats a chance in 2006 and 2008.

If the Republicans can put the USA on the path to peace and prosperity, they will deservedly make their majority permanent.  If they fail or make things worse, which I think is highly probable, their sweep will be as ephemeral as the Democrats’ victories of six or eight years ago.

The Republican Party is not doomed to disappear

October 17, 2013

Some smart people think the Republican Party is doomed because of the government shutdown debacle.  But Republicans have come back from worse than this.

The Republicans came back from the failures of the George W. Bush administration, from the Newt Gingrich-led shutdown in the 1990s, from the Watergate scandals, and from the Goldwater defeat in 1964.  So I think the Republican Party is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

bs-ed-horsey-gloomy-gop-20130429American laws and customs make it difficult to challenge the two-party system.  It’s hard for third party candidates to get on a ballot.  Even when they do, few if any journalists take them seriously or give them equal treatment.  Both Democrats and Republicans have a solid base of supporters who will vote for them no matter what.  I don’t see this changing any time soon.

Republicans have a problem in that there is a conflict between their core supporters and their core financial contributors.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers don’t want the government to be shut down.  But the Democrats have the same conflict between what their core voters want and what their campaign donors want.  Silicon Valley and Wall Street donors won’t want a higher minimum wage, a better social safety net or higher upper-bracket taxes.

Partly because the two parties are so much alike in their economic and foreign policies, voters tend to divide along ethnic, regional and generational lines.  Demographic trends are running against the Republican Party, but party leaders have an answer to that:  Rig the election against the demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic.  Techniques include gerrymandering, voter ID laws and other restrictions and possibly tampering with hack-able touch-screen voting machines.  This is reprehensible, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work.

Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932 because the American people thought the Herbert Hoover administration was a failure.  But he was re-elected in 1936 and set the stage for decades of Democratic power because of the popularity of the New Deal.

The Democrats have no such positive program today.   The Tea Party Republicans do stand for something, and have the courage of their convictions, as flawed as these may be.   Democrats when in power—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama—govern as if they were the Republican B Team, the replacements for when the Republicans mess up.

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The Republican failure in Congress

February 5, 2013
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

In 2010, when the Republicans recaptured majority control of the House of Representatives while gaining in the Senate, I thought this might be the beginning of a Republican resurgence, like the Democratic gains in 2006.  This didn’t prove to be the case.  The Republicans in Congress threw away their opportunity through their obstructionism and negativism.

The Republicans could win the approval of a majority of Americans, and still could, if they had opposed the Obama administration’s bailout of the “too big to fail” banks and held the administration responsible for failure to prosecute Wall Street financial fraud.   The bailouts are even more unpopular among rank-and-file Republicans than they are among rank-and-file Democrats, and the law enforcement failure is unpopular to the extent that it is understood.

Why don’t the leaders of either party pursue a popular policy?  I think the answer is in books such as Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Political Parties and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems by Thomas Ferguson and Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.  Their argument is that the political system is rigged in favor of monied interests.   In an election, we the voters get to pick the winners, but they get to pick the players.

I don’t count the Republican Party out.  The Republicans are in a stronger position than they were after their defeat in 1964, and a stronger position than the Democrats were after 1972 and 1984.  It is too bad that the Republicans neither provide a credible opposition nor fade from the scene.   If they disappeared, then liberals and progressives might stop believing they’re obligated to support the Obama administration for fear of something worse.   As it is, the irresponsibility of the Republicans makes the failed Democratic leadership seem not so bad in comparison.

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Another problem with the electoral college

November 10, 2012

The brilliant statistical election analyst, Nate Silver, pointed out that if Mitt Romney had won the popular vote by as big a margin as Barack Obama did, he would still have lost the electoral vote, provided the distribution of his vote among the states was the same as it was.

Silver-Nate-artSilver said Romney would have had to win by three percentage points—more than any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988—in order to win the electoral vote.  Moreover, Silver said, the Democratic advantage in the electoral vote is likely to persist for the next few elections.

I’m of the opinion that the Presidential candidate who gets a majority of the votes is the one who ought to be declared the winner.  I’m aware that the rules are different, and I don’t blame anybody for playing by those rules, but I think the rules should be changed.

Besides being more fair and just, an election by popular vote would dilute the influence of voter suppression on the Presidential election.  Voter suppression matters most when, as in Florida in 2000, a small number of votes more or less than tip the electoral votes of a big state.

Click on As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are At an Electoral College Disadvantage for Nate Silver’s full report in his FiveThirtyEight column.

Click on National Popular Vote for a plan for reforming the Electoral College.

The face of the Republican Party

November 9, 2012

Matt Taibbi wrote a great article for his Rolling Stone web log this week, picking apart a post-election broadcast by Rush Limbaugh line by line, and concluding that it is the attitude of people such as Limbaugh, rather than the actual Republican policies, that prevents the Republicans from enlarging their base of support among Hispanics, women and young people.

limbaughrush

The fact that so many Republicans this week think that all Hispanics care about is amnesty, all women want is abortions (and lots of them) and all teenagers want is to sit on their couches and smoke tons of weed legally, that tells you everything you need to know about the hopeless, anachronistic cluelessness of the modern Republican Party.  A lot of these people, believe it or not, would respond positively, or at least with genuine curiosity, to the traditional conservative message of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility.

But modern Republicans will never be able to spread that message effectively, because they have so much of their own collective identity wrapped up in the belief that they’re surrounded by free-loading, job-averse parasites who not only want to smoke weed and have recreational abortions all day long, but want hardworking white Christians like them to pay the tab. 

Their whole belief system, which is really an endless effort at congratulating themselves for how hard they work compared to everyone else (by the way, the average “illegal,” as Rush calls them, does more real work in 24 hours than people like Rush and me do in a year), is inherently insulting to everyone outside the tent – and you can’t win votes when you’re calling people lazy, stoned moochers.

It’s hard to say whether it’s good or bad that the Rushes of the world are too clueless to realize that it’s their attitude, not their policies, that is screwing them most with minority voters.  If they were self-aware at all, Mitt Romney would probably be president right now.  So I guess we should be grateful that the light doesn’t look like it will ever go on. But wow, is their angst tough to listen to.

Click on Hey, Rush Limbaugh: ‘Starting an Abortion Industry’ Won’t Win You Female Voters for Matt Taibbi’s full essay.

The problem for the Republican leadership is that although Limbaugh is perceived as a spokesman for the Republican Party, the Republican leadership has no control over him.  The influence runs the other way.  Republican politicians don’t dare defy Limbaugh, even when they know he is harming their party.

It’s not just Limbaugh.  It’s the Fox News team, Glenn Beck and all of Limbaugh’s imitators on talk radio.  Or recall how Mitt Romney went to the NAACP convention and boasted about how he lectured the delegates on the superiority of hard work to food stamps.   NAACP delegates, as anyone familiar with that organization would know, are respectable, middle=class, achievement-oriented African Americans who need no lectures on the value of work from the likes of Mitt Romney.  He didn’t even try to win their support.  Rather he used the occasion to boast about how he doesn’t cater to black people.

So black people didn’t vote for him.  Big surprise.  Romney told a group of fund-raisers that he was handicapped because he wasn’t born Hispanic instead of a rich white guy.  So Hispanics didn’t vote for him.  Big surprise.  I’m not accusing either Limbaugh or Romney of being racist.  I’m accusing them of either not being intelligent enough to know the consequences of insulting large number of potential voters, or not being intelligent enough to know when they are being insulting.

Click on The GOP Must Choose: Rush Limbaugh or Minority Voters for Conor Friedersdorf’s thoughts in The Atlantic Monthly.

The problems facing the Republicans

November 8, 2012

The first problem is that while the Republicans are very well-organized as an opposition party, they have not functioned well as a governing party in recent years.  That is the reason Republican resurgences in recent years—under Newt Gingrich in 1994, under George W. Bush in 2000, and under the current leadership two years ago—all petered out.  A short time after the 2008 elections, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said his priority goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term President.  What is his goal now?

republican-party-elephantsThe second problem is that, in addition to being tied in with Wall Street, the military industrial complex and the oil and drug industries at least as much as the Democrats, the Republicans also depend on support from Fox News commentators, talk radio hosts and Tea Party leaders who live in an alternate reality, in which, as an example, President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim-loving socialist.  To paraphrase the late Ayn Rand, it is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

The third problem is that the Democratic leadership has moved to the right, and pre-empted positions on the political spectrum once occupied by figures such as Dwight Eisenhower, Earl Warren and, here in upstate New York, Reps. Barber Conable and Amo Houghton.   The Republicans need to find a way to differentiate themselves from Democrats other than catering to the lunatic fringe.

But so long as the United States has a two-party system, the Democrats from time to time will fail, and the Republican Party will have new opportunities to govern.  If they govern well, they will stay in power.  But to get to that point will require one of the hardest things in the world—learning from past mistakes and doing things differently.

Republican commentators are overly preoccupied, in my opinion, with the increase in the Hispanic population and other groups that tend to vote Democratic.   If Republican leaders, the next time they are in power, can bring about peace and prosperity, the Republican Party will gain among all demographic groups.

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