Thursday, October 26, 2017

What is Orthodox Republicanism?

What does Republicanism mean?  This is the burning question for the Republican Party today with
Steve Bannon declaring war on his party enemies and the likes of Senators Flake and Corker opting to resign because they are outcasts likely unable to win their nominations in the party that Donald Trump remade.  And the answer will have fateful consequences not only for the GOP but the health of the American Democracy.  Contrary to the hopes of Democrats, there needs to be a responsible Republican Party that has a soul.
The Republican Party today is not the party of Lincoln and civil rights.  It is not the environmental party of Teddy Roosevelt, and it is not the party of Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits from New York where I grew up.  Back then it would not have been farfetched to argue of the two New York senators–Republican Javits and Democrat Bobby Kennedy–the former was more liberal.  Nor is this the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan that worked across the aisle with Tip O’Neill, or the Party of George H.W. Bush who signed the American with Disabilities Act,  supported tax increases because it was in interest of the nation, and forged international alliances to  liberate Kuwait.  And it is not the Party of George W. Bush who supported immigration reform.
The Republican Party today is an ugly, selfish, and mean party.  It is a Party premised on the  anger, resentment, intolerance, and nastiness.  It is a party that does not want government to work, one that tolerates a president referring to women as pussy, immigrants as rapists, Muslims as terrorists.  It is a party that looks at someone like Jeff Flake–a pro free trade, internationalist who believes in a strong US international presence while also endorsing tax cuts and small government –as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). 
The same is true of Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and John McCain.  All traditional Republicans, but none of them find a place in the Party of Bannon and Trump.  It is not enough to support some principles of Republicanism, it is an ideological purity test demanding 100% loyalty. Bannon and Trump have become the Grand Inquisitor and Joe McCarthy of the Republican Party, and when Flake or Corker step into the role of Joseph Welch, asking of them “Have You No Sense of Decency,?" few within the Republican Party are willing to support them.  The new orthodoxy overrides principle, integrity, and what is right for the party and the county.
George Washington warned in his farewell address of the dangers of parties, seeing in them how they encouraged “the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, [and] kindles the animosity of one part against another.  He thought we would be better as a nation without them.  Perhaps, but they day is long since past.  Parties are a reality and the task as political scientists such as E.E. Schattschneider said, is to make them responsible.  Parties make governance possible, they make American democracy possible by mobilizing voters, checking the opposition, and articulating a vision for the public good.
The Republican Party of Bannon and Trump does not do that.  It is a party of nihilism, consuming itself and American democracy with it.  There is a need for a Republican Party to speak for the Constitution, Bill of Rights, free speech, and freedom of religion.  It is a party that needs to respect the right of people to kneel at football games, to acknowledge that scientific facts and that alternative facts are not facts but lies.  It needs to say that conspiring with a foreign government to  influence an election is treason, that conflating personal wealth and self-interest with the public good is wrong, and that remaining silent in the hope that it will advance a party agenda is wrong. 
There was time in my lifetime during Watergate when the likes of Howard Baker, William Ruckelhaus, and Elliot Richardson put the good of the nation ahead of party and did the right thing in opposing  Richard Nixon.  They were heroes, and Republicans, and no one tried to oust or outcast them.  The Republican Party needs people like this, as does the country, and we need a Republican Party and an American public that will support people like this.  This is what orthodox Republicanism once was, and it needs to be that again.


  1. So what unites the Trumpian GOP? What is the defining kernel that neither Flake nor McCain nor Corker possess?

    As best as i can tell, it is a remake of the old culture wars, the ethno-nationalism of Pat Buchanan and George Wallace, the insularity of "America First" and the Know Nothings, the fear of all "others" (including the rest of the world), and a generalized politics of resentment--generated by a zero sum view of politics and directed towards all those "others" (defined by religion or skin color or sex or accent or region or....whatever) who seem to be doing better at the cost of "real" Americans (defined as us, or the Party of Trump).

    How Trump ever got to be the spokesperson for this group is quite an irony, but as long as he is loud, his followers don't seem to care whether he really is one of them or not. And perhaps that is why he is running this circus as he is--if he slows down, it may become apparent that the Emperor has no clothes, and his followers will abandon him.

    Maybe his followers need to listen again to the Who: