Why the Republican Party?
After the latest dismal performance by congressional Republicans in their battle (a generous description) with the president and his minions over the budget and ObamaCare, it's time to ask, "Why the Republican Party?"
From Jed Babbin, writing for American Spectator:
Staggering, without direction, not quite dead and in search of brains, the Republican Party is giving a really good performance as the Zombie Party. According to the media's current narrative, it has to rid itself of the Tea Party's influence or die.
The saddest of facts is that the media narrative is shared by many establishment Republicans. The fossil media and Washington Republicans are simpatico in wanting to rid the Grand Old Party of noisome Tea Party patriots.
But back to the questions.
What purpose does the establishment-dominated GOP serve other than as doormats for Democrats, handy and durable ones?
We've seen John Boehner, along with top bananas Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, sally forth time and again, sans lances and swords sheathed, in budget fights. The last go-round, Boehner and his Knights of Impotence had swords shoved into their hands. The results? No difference. Why?
The speaker did his duty, not his heart. (Mitch McConnell simply cut a deal for a slab of pork.)
Was it realistic for anyone to expect that Boehner-led Republicans could wrest substantial concessions from our leftist president and his congressional allies? Or that McConnell, the old sausage-grinder, could do any better? No.
But beyond Boehner's lack of swordsmanship, the Ohioan is no general -- at least not one with a strategic sense. Not a general with an eye for seizing an opportunity and exploiting it. Boehner's instincts are of the cloakroom variety.
The last lost battle was a chance for Republicans to roll out a national campaign that reached out to persuadable constituencies, featuring an indictment of ObamaCare, Obama profligacy, Obama debt, and the Obama big government cudgel, used to beat down liberty in small and big ways. But that would've taken imagination and daring, two qualities in short supply among Washington's shirking and shrinking pachyderms.
Yet other questions --
Are establishment Republicans naïfs, or are they culpable in the damage being done to liberty?
Because they gain. Establishment Republicans are in their ways as invested in big government as are Democrats. They gain status, incomes, privilege, and much else by being part of the problem -- i.e., the system -- than being against it.
Establishment Republicans aren't change agents; they're "tweak agents." They tweak the system, if that, because they 1) don't really believe that real change is achievable and 2) why change a system that works for them?
Now, the big question -- at least about the GOP's future.
What purpose does the Republican Party serve when its establishment regularly displays contempt for much of its own base? When it ridicules Tea Party patriots as scourges? When grassroots conservatives are told to clam up, go along, or get lost?
The Republican Party is at its lowest ebb since the early 1930s. Goldwater? Nonsense. Goldwater set the stage for one the great resurgences in Republican fortunes post FDR. Watergate? Not good, but Reagan fixed that, coming within a hair of toppling Jerry Ford -- the establishment favorite -- in 1976. Dutch fired up the grassroots and engaged young people hungry for change.
In 1980, Reagan gave the nation a revolution by and for the grassroots. Washington Republicans rode the Reagan wave into the early 21st Century, only to deride Reagan as passé when their candidates and policies tanked.
What has the Republican establishment done for us lately?
Rove's experiment in "compassionate conservatism?" How did that work out? Dole Drab before that in '96? Bush I's tax pledge back-peddle and flameout in '92? Congressional Republicans dipping deep into pork barrels in the early decade of this century, aping oinking Democrats, and discouraging their conservative bases in '06 and '08, thereby losing their majorities?
John McCain, who shamelessly presented himself to Arizonans in 2010 as a conservative only to revert to his old Washington self once safely reelected to the Senate? McCain, the moderate who was trounced by a leftist charlatan in '08?
Wrote Randall Hoven, in an excellent article on these pages:
Look at those years again [2006 through 2009]. The loss of the both houses of Congress, Obama's election, the Obama Stimulus, and ObamaCare all happened before the 2010 elections, meaning before the first nationwide election in which the Tea Party existed.
The most dramatic, substantial political successes for Republicans since 1994 (Gingrich's Contract with America triumph) occurred in 2010, not because of Republicans, but because of the emergence of the Tea Party -- and, importantly, the reemergence of grassroots conservatives.
The rewards? Vilification. Chicanery. Surrender. Those are the prizes bestowed by establishment Republicans on honest, hardworking Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party patriots or grassroots conservatives; who gave the GOP its biggest midterm election gains since the 1940s; who made switches in state legislative chambers, governorships, and local offices possible.
If the 2012 GOP presidential primaries are reflective, about a third of the GOP base identifies as establishment voters. The other two-thirds are primarily Tea Party patriots and grassroots conservatives.
Ingratitude and doubling-dealing occur in politics aplenty. But for a party's elite to so nakedly disdain huge portions of its own base is political suicide. You don't slap activists and voters in their faces, particularly those who've given your party majorities and muscle. You embrace and elevate them; you find common ground and work hard to maintain their trust.
The Republican Party seems to have moved past its expiration date.
Phillip Bump, in an article ("No One Should Be More Excited About a New Third Party Than Democrats") at Atlantic Wire, wrote:
You may have noticed however that we don't already have a bunch of robust third parties. There are a number of reasons for that -- institutionalized bias to two parties, electoral systems that make new parties tricky. Historically, America reverts to two parties even when there is a new party that has a decent showing. But no third party has had a decent showing in quite some time.
Let's think bigger than Bump does. What if the aim isn't to create a third party but to replace one of the two major parties, namely, the GOP?
Bump's error is that he looks at the creation of a "Tea Party," which, if limited to Tea Party identifiers, would have meager prospects. Yet if -- let's say -- a Liberty Party includes tea partiers, grassroots conservatives, and libertarians, might that party send the GOP packing? Or serve as the core of a new major party that pushes the GOP to extinction? Is our political system so ossified that Americans can't instigate far-reaching change?
I'll wager that American dynamism can break the political system's rigidity.
Political scientists have a couple of terms germane to this discussion. "Dealignment" and "realignment."
The Republican Party may be in the onset of a dealignment, with two-thirds of its base alienated and moving away. What remains, if so? A rump party comprised of establishmentarians and their voters, mostly. That's less a party than a satellite, which will in shorter order, be scattered or gobbled up by the Democrats.
Why not go the easier route, a takeover of the GOP by the grassroots?
Why didn't restive factions and interests takeover the remnants of the Whigs in the mid 1850s? Why did anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats, Free Soilers, and other key factions choose to form a new party rather than to assume the old?
The Whigs' demise and the rise of the Republican Party are beyond the scope of this article, but it may be said that the interests and factions that combined to create the Republican Party needed a new brand. They needed not to be hamstrung by old associations and failed ways. The new Republican Party was a bold declaration, an unleashing of powerful forces emanating from the grassroots, which would change America in ways still being felt today.