Sunday, January 24, 2016

Today's Republicans Can Only Agree On One Thing: They Know What They DON'T Like

For some time, it's been no secret that the so-called Republican "establishment"--by which is traditionally meant policy moderates (and, believe it or not, once upon a time even included liberals, mirabile dictu)--loathes its party's current front-runner for its 2016 presidential nomination, Donald Trump.  It's no secret as to why:  they loathe him for the same reason that his followers love him. Throwing dog whistles out the window, Trump has given voice to all of the racist instincts that has held together the Republican "base" (a doubly appropriate word) for the past several decades.  And his supporters couldn't be happier that he has done so.  Ironically, Trump has completed the process begun by Barack Obama's election: the exposure of the party of Lincoln transformed into the party of George Wallace.

But, of course, since the regrettable ascension of Ronald Reagan, movement conservatives have become the true Republican "establishment."  Don't let lazy mainstream media reporting to the contrary deceive you:  Rockefeller Republicanism is as dead as its namesake (R.I.P., Rocky, and be thankful you can't see what your party has become).  Nowhere is this more obvious than this denunciation by 22 pillars of the Republican--er, "movement conservative"--establishment of Trump, his candidacy, and the rationale behind it.

It's difficult to suppress the urge to laugh at the pretentiousness of the comments made by the Anti-Trump 22.  They actually believe, in the face of mountains of facts, that they are the leaders of a philosophical movement that has transformed American life for the better, and that Trump is somehow in danger of undermining that philosophy and destroying that movement.  Or so they say.

But, if they really believe those things, why don't they suggest an alternative candidate?  Or an alternative campaign strategy?  Why is all of their energy focused on attempting to dump Trump?

For one very simple reason:  they don't have an alternative.

The 2008 collapse of the financial markets, combined with the disastrous war in Iraq and the shift in public opinion on so-called "social issues," destroyed any factual predicate for so-called "movement conservatism."  We can't cut taxes and balance the budget.  We can't let financial regulation become a case of the fox guarding the hen house.  We can't let evangelical Christians impose their version of Sharia law on the rest of us.  And we can't muscle democracy onto a population that has absolutely no idea of how it is supposed to work.

And all of that means, in a democracy, that the alternatives to these failed ideas should be given a fair chance to succeed.  Unfortunately, "movement conservatism" and its political handmaiden, the GOP, has, in the past seven years, been devoted to one thing, and one thing only:  making sure that the alternatives have no chance at all.  Everything that they done and said during that time has been for one reason, and for one reason only:  to prevent Barack Obama from having a successful presidency. As it turns out, they've even been inept at that.

But never, during that time, have they come up with any alternative vision for solving the country's problems.  Never, for a highly conspicuous example, have they ever come up with a conservative vision of health care reform.  Could it be because the Affordable Care Act, which they have creatively labeled "Obamacare," was a conservative vision of health care reform, developed by a right-wing think tank, endorsed by a Republican House Speaker, and implemented by a Republican governor who was also his party's 2012 presidential nominee?  Could it be that they never thought a Democrat would embrace such an approach--until, of course, he did?

Today's GOP and today's "movement conservatism" isn't about ideas.  It's about power, and the best way to hold onto it.  And, as it turns out, they can't even agree about that; the NR piece led to being shunned (at least for now) by the Republican National Committee.  For that matter, even movement conservatives can't even agree among themselves.  But all of this is purely a disagreement about tactics, not philosophy.  Anti-Obamaism is the only philosophy NR, "movement conservatives," or the RNC have.

In politics, you can't beat something with nothing.  The Democrats have a largely successful eight-year presidency on which to build a successful 2016 campaign.  The Republicans and their followers can only do their best to pretend that it hasn't been successful at all, and that their ideas deserve to be tried again and again, in the hope that you'll never blame those ideas for not working.

The choice, as always, is yours.

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