America's Future Depends upon Which Republican Wins

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama pledged to "change the trajectory of America," to discard the political triangulation of the Clinton years and transform the Democratic Party.

President Obama has remade his party, but he has not changed most Americans.  

National Journal’s Josh Krashaar wrote: “[T]here's no doubt [Obama has] successfully pushed Democrats to adopt his favored policies with minimal dissent -- and that will have lasting consequences for many elections to come. Despite uneven personal relations with his own party in Congress, there have been very few instances when his party's members have split from his governing course, even on issues where the politics would dictate they should.”

Democrats’ complacent fealty to Obama’s hard-left policies poses a generational electoral problem for Democrats, but, in a two-party system, an anxious American electorate faces another quandary: the controlling wing of the Republican Party isn’t very conservative.

Limited-government conservatives faced the same dilemma before reluctantly aligning with Republicans who share closer, albeit inexact world views.

But there’s tension in the Republican alliance, primarily because being pro-business and pro-free markets are not the same thing.

Many Republicans -- establishment, big-government Republicans -- view the interests of America’s biggest businesses as America’s interest, and, just as Democrats do, many GOP members of Congress endeavor to position their states’ and districts’ enterprises at the head of the public trough.

Most noticeably, since 2009, at least, the establishment side of the GOP coalition -- the pro-business, big government side -- has butted heads with free market, limited-government conservatives.

Establishment Republicans talk about shrinking government and invoke President Ronald Reagan, usually insincerely. The Republican Party’s policies differ in the details and, granted, the party remains a far better alternative to out-of-control Obama-style Democrats, but a significant part of the GOP is very comfortable with current spending practices, debt accumulation, pork and market-distorting preferential regulations, cronyism, farm and other subsidies, tax loopholes and federal “insurance” such as “too big to fail.”

Ironically, on some important issues, liberal “populists” have more in common with conservative reformers than they do with most elected Democrats.

Conservatives understand how the government distorts free markets at taxpayer expense and want to stimulate economic growth by cleaning up America’s fiscal, tax and regulatory messes.

Unfortunately, a reformed system allows insufficient opportunities for graft.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has correctly observed: "Americans intuitively understand that crony capitalism is not a form of private enterprise, it's a form of public corruption."

The record of generally-recognized “conservative” governance hasn’t always been blemish-free, either. Although partially justified by economic and population growth, government grew incrementally even during the Reagan years. Differing only in degree, larger government, cronyism, and corruption are baked into Washington’s cake no matter who’s in charge.

During President George W. Bush’s years in office, 2003 through 2006, when Republicans last controlled Congress and the White House, Congress set records for pork-barrel spending, and Bush signed authorization for the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), No Child Left Behind, and a deficit-financed Medicare prescription drug plan, among other extravagances.

During periods of strong economic performance when both average household incomes and corporate profits grow, prosperity can be seen as symbiotic and the divergent interests of limited and big-government Republicans ignored.

That’s changed.

Because the economy has been anemic and middle-class income is suffering, the party and the nation have reached inflection points.

Today, pro-business and pro-market Republicans disagree, not just on tax, regulatory and spending reform, but on immigration and income gaps.

The establishment still has the upper hand, but GOP reformers in both chambers of Congress have become too influential to ignore. The 2010 to 2014 electoral trend line favors conservative reformers who are gathering strength in Washington.

The Republican internecine divide is evident among the likely candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, too. The most-viable pro-business, establishment candidates include Jeb Bush and, since Mitt Romney dropped out, Jeb Bush. (New Jersey Governor Chris Christy has already missed his window, somewhat surprising for a man his size.)

Jeb swears “I’m my own man,” but, antithetically, has been consulting and hiring long-time family advisors.

Considering the family’s well-known big-government baggage and his pro-amnesty views, Bush may be the only Republican Hillary Clinton can beat.

That’s why Bush receives so much favorable coverage from left-leaning media who know that four million conservative voters who stayed home in 2012, spurning Romney, will pass on Bush as well.

A successful Republican must 1) understand and 2) mobilize conservatives. Bush 1) does not and 2) cannot

The Democratic Party’s Obama-induced leftward stampede presents an opportunity for a proven, pro-market, conservative Republican.

For its economic health, America must elect a reform conservative, but, first, Republicans must nominate one.

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