Sept. 2015 article:
"The Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980-- free markets and social conservatism -- and needs new ones to survive...The bigger joke is that the Republican establishment is fighting so hard against being saved."
9/30/2015, "Donald Trump Is Trying to Save the Republican Party From Itself," Ian Fletcher, Huffington Post (
"I'm neither endorsing nor condemning Mr. Trump, but I do think he's trying to save the Republican party from itself in a very rational way. The last thing he is is a clown or dilettante. (OK, maybe a clown.)
Why? Because the Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980-- free markets and social conservatism -- and needs new ones to survive.
Any ideologues out there, I'm sorry: American history makes quite clear that partisan ideological themes don't last forever, in either party. They're good for a few decades, then they evolve or get dumped.
(Permanent matters of national principle may last forever, but they’re a different issue, and they’re not the ideological possessions of either party, so no party can win competitive leverage in elections by appealing to them.)
First, consider the exhaustion of free-market ideology. This doesn't mean that free markets per se, which obviously have enormous validity, are dead as an idea. But it does mean that pushing even further in the direction of free markets is dead as an idea.
Why? Most obviously, the 2008 financial crisis, whose effects we're still dealing with, was an effect of markets allowed to run amok, not of markets being insufficiently free. (Yes, I know you can blame it all on the government, but that's a tendentious "reality is the opposite of what you see" argument.)
There's a happy medium between too much and too little regulation, and we've basically reached the limit of our ability to improve our economy by deregulating further. Five years ago, I predicted this would happen. Now it has.
In public perception, this wasn't always the case. It certainly wasn't in 1980, when Ronald Reagan rode this theme to victory. And argue the timing if you like, but surely the reader recalls the romanticism about markets of the late 1990s? Remember California deregulating its electricity market in 1996? (Which handed control over to Enron, by the way, and led to blackouts in Silicon Valley.)
So "Even freer markets!" has lost its credibility as an ideological theme. If you disagree, then what industries would you now propose to deregulate, and how do you think that would improve things?
The increased public interest in economic equality is also playing a role here. There are conservative policies that reduce inequality, but they're old-school paternalist conservative policies, not free-market conservative policies. (Some people will tell you that "conservative" simply equals "free market," but this is simply ignorant of history, [influence of Libertarian Koch brothers] though I don't have the space to elaborate here.)
Social conservatism is a more complicated topic, but in a country where both public opinion and the Supreme Court support, to take the obvious example, gay marriage, it doesn't look like a net electoral winner from now on....
So what's the Republican party to do? Luckily, there are other right-wing themes out there to be had, though not an infinite number of truly big ones, substantial enough and popular enough to float a national political party on.
Enter nationalism. Specifically, economic nationalism, because the economy is what voters care about most. Mr. Trump's protectionism is a form of economic nationalism. So is his stance against immigration. (Again, I take no position on the merits, but anti-immigrationism is definitely a form of economic nationalism.)
Trump is not the first person to come up with this strategy: as I noted in an article during the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was going in this direction already, albeit much less aggressively than Trump.
Romney pledged to crack down on China's currency manipulation. He threatened the use of countervailing duties if necessary, a serious and previously ideologically taboo attempt to blunt America's trade deficit. He said illegal immigrants should "self deport."
Why was Romney less aggressive? For one thing, that was several years ago, and the causative trends hadn't yet gone so far. Two, he wasn't a billionaire, only a humble multi-millionaire, so he had to cater to the Republican donor class. Which, while not sincerely socially conservative, very much adores free-market ideology as the perfect rationalization for their crony-capitalist reality. (Their interpretation of "free" markets is "government won't interfere with private distortions of markets in my favor.")
Come to think of it, even Patrick Buchanan got there first, in the sense of taking economic-nationalist positions (anti-free-trade, anti-immigration) as a Republican primary candidate in 1992.
But Buchanan, of course, never attracted more than a fringe following. It's no mystery why. One, he wasn't a billionaire who could finance an entire campaign while defying the donor class and cowing the Republican establishment with the tacit threat of a third-party run tipping the election to the Democrats. Two, the credibility of "even freer markets are always the solution" economics hadn't exhausted itself in 1992. (As noted above, it didn't even peak until the late 1990s.) Three, there was not yet a collapse of social conservatism forcing a search for new ideological themes.
Even poor old H. Ross Perot fits perfectly into this picture. He was a trade hawk, anti-immigration, and relatively socially liberal. But he tried to do it without the legitimacy and infrastructure of an established party, and his political inexperience led to him getting spooked out of the race by, among other things, Republican dirty tricks. Still, astonishingly popular with the voters for a while.
So economic nationalism is a rich theme that's been waiting to be exploited for a long time. Like, say, civil rights in the early 1960s. Mr. Trump's comically blustering persona, which seems to confuse a lot of commentators, fits perfectly into this picture. Why? Because it enables him to seem much more right-wing than he really is, which is essential to retreating from obsolete rightist positions without incurring the wrath of primary voters....
And no, Donald Trump is not a “fascist.” Not even close. Which some people seem to genuinely believe: Paul Krugman wrote that “Trump is trying to become America’s Mussolini,” and there are other examples. Pick the right Italian, for a start! He’s plausibly an American Silvio Berlusconi, the playboy media billionaire who became prime minister in 2001. Or he’s a billionaire Huey Long, the populist demagogue from Louisiana who sparred with FDR in the 1930s. Or maybe even a non-alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, a maniacal figure who kicked over the entire Soviet establishment. But jackboots? Nope.
The bigger joke is that the Republican establishment is fighting so hard against being saved. They may be the last to figure this all out."
Two related articles by Fletcher:
2/12/17, "On Trade, The GOP Tax Plan Is Bonkers," Ian Fletcher
"So crazy, in fact, that despite not being an ultra-partisan
fanatic, I am forced to the conclusion that either the GOP leadership is
even stupider than ordinary political cynicism would assume, or the
plan is simply not meant in earnest. (Is it a trap for Trump, to
discredit him if he’s foolish enough to buy into it? Dunno. A trap for
the idea of tax-based trade reform? Ditto. But either of these
hypotheses would make more sense than the idea that they actually mean
"So crazy, in fact, that despite not being an ultra-partisan fanatic, I am forced to the conclusion that either the GOP leadership is even stupider than ordinary political cynicism would assume, or the plan is simply not meant in earnest. (Is it a trap for Trump, to discredit him if he’s foolish enough to buy into it? Dunno. A trap for the idea of tax-based trade reform? Ditto. But either of these hypotheses would make more sense than the idea that they actually mean it.)"...
Comment: The GOP E doesn't want to be saved. Deep State GOP has exactly the same agenda as the Democrat Party: extreme globalism, open borders, massive free trade deals, endless foreign wars--none of which "favor the tangible interests of the average American....Hillary Clinton could have run interchangeably with Bush and Rubio in the Republican field, and vice versa....The core of Trump's supporters are the political descendants of what had been the backbone of the Democratic New Deal coalition: working-class whites, politically strongest in the South and flyover states. On the triad of trade, immigration, and foreign policy, these voters are nationalist, not globalist—they would limit America’s intervention in foreign conflicts and subject the importation of products and people from the rest of the world to a more rigorous is-it-good-for-us test. (And by “us” they mean themselves, not the Fortune 500.) By nominating Trump, the Republican Party has finally been forced to come to terms with these sentiments, choosing a candidate who is largely disdainful of the globalist consensus of GOP donors, pundits, and think-tank experts."...
[Ed. note: It's never been the case that the Republican Party Establishment would "come to terms with these sentiments" or Trump voters. Voters mean nothing to the GOP E.]
(continuing): "For Trump and his voters, the “Reaganite” basket of so-called "conservative" issues—free trade, high immigration, tax cuts for those with high incomes and entitlement cuts for the middle class—was irrelevant or actually undesirable.
Meanwhile the Democrats under Hillary Clinton have solidified their identity as a party of America’s top and bottom, revolving around the dual axis of urban coastal elites who benefit from their ties to a global economy and poorer ethnic minorities."... 6/27/16, "Why Trump Wins," "He knows border wars have replaced culture wars." The American Conservative, by
NY Times confirms that none of this matters, that elections don't matter, that all US presidents take orders from the "iron triangle" (also known as the "Deep State"), the criminal mob nullifying 62 million votes behind the scenes. "The Washington press corps" is part of the "iron triangle:" ""Trump “is being force-fed lessons all presidents eventually learn– that the iron triangle of the Washington press corps, West Wing staff and federal bureaucracy is simply too powerful to bully.”
Iron triangle? Permanent government?...The Times seems to be going out of its way to confirm dark paranoid fears of a “deep state” lurking behind the scenes and dictating what political leaders can and cannot do. “Too powerful to bully”...is another way of saying that the permanent government wants to do things its way and will not put up with a president telling it to take a different approach. Entrenched interests are nothing new, of course. But a major news outlet bragging about collaborating with such elements in order to cripple a legally established government is." 3/1/17, "How the Press Serves the Deep State," Consortium News, Daniel Lazare. "Mainstream U.S. media is proud to be the Deep State’s tip of the spear."
As to the GOP Establishment, it just wants to be left alone. Being a permanent minority would be fine with them-it's what they're used to. Until 1994, the Democrats had controlled the House for 40 straight years. After Nov. 2008, the Republican Party barely existed and deservedly so. They were happy. It was easy getting rid of concerned voters: Hey, don't look at me, the other party controls everything. In 2010 we gave the GOP House a historic landslide. This enraged the GOP. They hated all the people we gave them, spent all their time trying to shut them up and get rid of them.
Added: The Republican Party is very happy being in the minority:
In 1994 the GOP won control of the House of Representatives for the first time 40 years by pledging Republican Revolution and return of 'citizen lawmakers.' Once in power, they backed out of their pledges. By Jan. 2003, they were no better than 40 years of Democrats: "You're going to see extreme arrogance on display...the same thing that brought down the Democrats," said an observer-USA Today, 1/19/2003
Jan. 19, 2003, "Republican Revolution fades," USA Today, Andrea Stone
"Eight years after wresting control of the House of Representatives, the party that waged the "Republican Revolution" has become somewhat less revolutionary.
House Republicans have grown less enamored with term limits. They have reversed some ethics reforms and rules aimed at budget discipline. Their leaders have tightened their grip on power.
As they begin their fifth two-year congressional session in control of the House, some of the practices Republicans attacked in 1994 after 40 years of Democratic rule don't seem so bad after all.
"Republicans have gone native," says Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist. "They've got a raging case of Potomac Fever. Having won the battle, they don't want to relinquish power."...
"It's hard to continue to revolt when you're in charge," says Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, head of the House Republican Conference.
Signs the revolution is over:
- Term limits. Many of the Republicans elected in 1994 pledged to limit their time in office, most often to six years. But they failed to pass a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms, and in recent years many Republicans have discarded the notion that the country needs "citizen lawmakers."
At least 10 current House Republicans have reneged on term-limit pledges. Among them: George Nethercutt of Washington state, who unseated Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., with a vow to limit himself to three terms. Nethercutt is now in his fifth term....
"Now they've decided the ways Democrats were doing things when we were in control is OK," he (Democrat Martin Frost of Texas) says. "They want the perks back. The revolution has grown old.""
Added: From link in top article. Whatever happened to the Koch Brothers?
2/2/2015, "Libertarians hijacked the right: How free-market zealots doomed American conservatism," Salon.com, Michael Lind
"Instead of denouncing the Koch brothers, the Club for Growth, Paul Ryan and other free-market zealots on the right, American progressives should thank them for hijacking American conservatism."...(near end of article)