So far in this series, I’ve ascribed blame for the dismal downward curve in the greatest society in the history of the world – from the apogee in the early nineties to the riot at the Capitol amid dueling thud-witted social media chanting mobs – to some easy suspects; the President himself, the extreme Progressive tilt of the left, and the collapse of trust in the institutions, education and law enforcement and the media, that we depend on to keep government fair, accountable and transparent.
Today? I turn the cannon on the Republican Party.
The GOP had virtually nothing to lose when it nominated Ronald Reagan in 1980. Gutted by Watergate and the Nixon resignation after four decades of basically being Democrats with better suits, sometimes it seemed that Ronald Reagan dragged the GOP into success, kicking and screaming and against its own will.
But by 1994, when the Newt Gringrich phalanx swung Congress to the GOP for the first time since the ’20s, the Party seemed to have its priorities straight: limit the size of government, cut taxes, and defend the country. Being a polyglot party, it enacted policy perfectly in none of those areas. But from 1980-ish until about 2000, the GOP was clear, principled alternative to the Democratic Party.
I left the GOP in 1994, disgusted by the votes of so many Republicans for the 1994 “Crime Bill”, a knee-jerk reaction to a surge in crime that marked a high-water point in gun control as well as the weaponizing of drug policy.
I complained that the GOP – which had always paid lip service to gun rights – was happy to collect the votes of gun owners, but wouldn’t deliver for them when the chips were down. (Which was true – it took a surging gun rights movement to give the GOP religion on the subject). The complacent assumption that gun owners owed the GOP their votes drove me to the Libertarians – for a while, anyway.
The complacency drove me crazy.
And it still does.
Of course, economic economic conservatism is hard and tends to get people un-elected these days, so that by 2000 the Republican president was a bigger spender than the Demcorat he replaced (albet Clinton’s relative “conservatism” was a reaction to the 1994 Congress).
Hey – he was better than Algore would have been…
Fifteen years after Newt Gingrich’s revolution, the GOP was back in the minority in both chambers, victims of economic circumstance and offering roughly no reason to vote for them other than…you guessed it, they were better than the alternative.
The Tea Party sprang from nowhere, doing for basic conservative causes like fiscal discipline and limited government what the gun rights movement had done for “Shall Issue” over the previous two decades – took it to the streets and the halls of the Capitol. Very successfully…
…briefly. The “establishments” of both parties teamed up to slander the Tea Party out of existence – leaving only a few elected members of the Class of 2010 left to tell the tale.
And with the Tea Party beaten back underground, the GOP stood for…
Really, two things – an appeal to cliche, and another to some party crashers.
The Business Of The GOP Is…
The GOP’s commitment to business – or, mostly, limiting the impact of business taxes – is undeniable.
Unfortunately, it was a broad brush approach that focused on the sorts of breaks larger companies get with the help of offices full of tax lawyers, and left smaller busineses, and especially younger consumers, mostly alone.
Which played its part in creating a generation to whom the wealth hasn’t “trickled down” yet, and may well not at this rate.
We’ll come back to that later.
And of course, after nearly twenty years of standing for nothing, it spent five years falling for something that gave it purpose – populism. Giving the people what they want, rather than what a civilization needs. Given a choice between standing for the principles that gave it success in the first place, and the dog’s breakfast of big spending and big lip service to its ideals, the GOP ditched its principles like a two dollar date.
And with Donald Trump’s imminent departure from office, what will the GOP replace him with?
The GOP doesn’t even know, at this point.
Given an opportunity to cement our nation’s, and civilization’s, status, the GOP…
It had help, of course.
More in the next installment.