The Perpetual Generational Death of the Republican Party
Let’s play a game. First, read the following passage:
“At lunch the other day I was startled to hear a specialist in Republican Party affairs give it as his judgment that not inconceivably the Republican Party would die in about three years. ‘Here’s what would do it,’ he explained to his two guests. ‘First, a tremendous defeat in the congressional elections in the fall. Next, in the coming presidential cycle, a catastrophic defeat at every level – presidential, congressional, and local.’ After that, he said, in the ruins of the following year, the commanding position of the organizing party would be lost, and ambitious conservatives would look for another label. It would be not unlike the end of the Whig Party in the mid-1850s.”
Okay, now guess the writer and the date.
[Insert Jeopardy theme.]
The answer: William F. Buckley, January 26, 1974. (I cheated a little and took out the specific references to the 1974 and 1976 elections.)
Republicans are always on the verge of extinction, but never seem to get there. Having said that… you never know, the doomsayers could be right this time.
Over at Ace of Spades, Drew M. wonders if the coalition of issues, groups, and philosophies that bound together the Republican Party for our lifetimes is kaput:
After yesterday’s release of the RNC’s 2012 “autopsy” I think it’s time to consider that the current GOP/center-right coalition no longer exists. On immigration and same-sex marriage the committee was essentially saying, the base of the GOP needs to move on to survive…
One note: for what it is worth, Priebus tells Jen Rubin that he isn’t taking a position on immigration reform, and that he doesn’t believe it is the role of the party chairman to “pick and choose what provision of what law is going to be included or excluded.”
Anyway, back to Drew:
Smaller government isn’t even a unifying theme anymore. Look at the Huckabee/Santorum social-con wing of the party. They aren’t for smaller government. Maybe those two will support less spending in some places but they clearly see a larger role for government in some areas of people’s lives.
Rand Paul called for eliminating the Department of Education in his CPAC speech, while Marco Rubio talked about reforming how federal dollars are spent.
Paul and Rubio are also great stand-ins for the foreign policy debate the GOP is having.
And we can go on and on.
Obviously a big national party is never going to agree on everything, but what’s the issue that gets 75-80% support? Tax cuts? Entitlement reform? Maybe but those aren’t electoral winners. Gun rights is but that’s an issue that crosses party lines. Opposition to ObamaCare? The House just passed a Continuing Resolution funding it.
Allow me to offer a fairly simple philosophy for resolving these issues. First, recognize that Republican candidates for higher office are going to be different, depending upon the nature of the state and district they represent. To use another one of WFB’s favorite phrases, mutatis mutandis, “with the necessary changes having been made.” Candidates in heavily-Republican districts are most likely to be full-spectrum conservatives; in the “blue” states and districts, you may get more Libertarian types. In Appalachia and blue-collar districts, you’re going to get more populist candidates who don’t spend as much time lamenting the horrors of the corporate tax rate.
This is okay. In fact, this is a good thing.
Let’s try to keep complaining about other state’s primary choices to a minimum, and trust that Iowa Republicans know the best candidate to run for Senate in their state, and the same applies to Republican primary voters in West Virginia, Louisiana, Iowa, North Carolina and so on. The people who live in those states know who would be best to represent their interests. Yes, out-of-state SuperPACs will spend oodles of money trying to influence the choices.
Remember, Obama’s coalition is just as much of a coalition. There’s really no reason for Colin Powell and Markos Moulitsas to like the same guy, nor William Buffett and Elizabeth Warren, nor Jim Matheson and Nancy Pelosi. Political parties are always going to be exercises in coalition-building and faction-pacifying.