Monday, June 18, 2012

Can the GOP Evolve?

The title of this post is a question I sometimes get  asked given that I am a former Republican.  My answer typically is an emphatic "No."  Not with the current Christianist/Tea Party base and the total lack of guts in the party leadership to stand up to hate and bigotry - not to mention calling out statements and positions that ignore objective reality.    Thus, I see only repeated electoral defeats as the route to any sort of evolution.    When and how such defeats will happen is anyone's guess, but sooner or later the aging bigoted core of the GOP will die off and defeat will be the norm for the GOP.  That process cannot happen soon enough in my book.  David Frum a rational conservative - something that is becoming an oxymoron - looks at this question of whether or not the GOP can evolve.  Here are some excerpts:

It’s 2024. The vast majority of baby boomers have arrived at retirement age. The pre-baby boomers are rapidly passing from the scene. (The youngest of them, born in 1945, are about to turn 80.) The long-predicted crisis of the American fiscal system has arrived.

The political scientist Harold Lasswell famously defined politics as a contest over “who gets what, when, and how.” Over the next dozen years, as the gap between the revenue lines and the expenditure lines of the federal and state governments widen, that definition could aptly be amended: Who gets disappointed—and by how much?   .  .  .  .  These harrowing questions have disconcerting political implications for the country’s two great political parties.

For Democrats, the trends pose a stark distributional question. The younger people of the 2020s, survivors of the Great Recession, will in the aggregate be poorer than their elders. Should these younger workers be taxed or see their own social services squeezed in order to support Medicare and public-service pensions in their full amplitude?

For Republicans, the trends pose a coalition-management question. Throughout the Obama years, Republicans built a powerful coalition of the rich and the old. The coalition was built on two principles: militant rejection of any and all new taxes, and unyielding defense of existing government benefits for those at or near retirement age.   But as Medicare costs rise, the no-new-taxes/no-cuts-in-Medicare combination will become increasingly difficult to sustain. Already, polls show that Republican voters (as opposed to activists) prefer tax increases on upper-income earners to Medicare cuts. So long as the choice between taxes and Medicare cuts remains latent, the preferences of rank-and-file Republicans may not matter much. But as budget gaps widen, that tension will surely come to the fore.
If the fiscal squeeze tightens enough, Republicans will be forced to choose between their limited government ideology and their older voting base. If they choose their ideology, they will need to locate some new voters in upper-income America. They will need to draw back to the Grand Old Party the kind of voters who defected to Barack Obama in 2008: affluent professionals, especially women, in major urban centers. This was the kind of Republicanism practiced in the 1990s by governors like Christine Todd Whitman, John Engler, Tommy Thompson, and George Pataki. Such a Republicanism would not need to jettison its pro-life message, just de-emphasize it, as Democrats have, for example, de-emphasized their message on gun control.

At the beginning of the Tea Party era, there was much talk that Republicans might switch to a more economic, less culturally exclusive message. That talk came to nothing. Instead, Republicans infused cultural exclusion into their economics, drawing a sharp distinction between the “earned” benefit of Medicare and Social Security and other programs that serve supposedly less deserving populations: food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.

Yet it does not have to be this way. The GOP can remain a culturally conservative party without needing to endorse vaginal inspections of women or miring itself in fights over birth control. The coming generational shift within the GOP on gay rights points the way to such future change.

Such a GOP would look more like conservative parties elsewhere on the planet—and less like the Southern Democrats of the 1950s. And while some Republicans might dismiss those non-U.S. conservative parties as squishy, it’s worth noting that at least some of them—notably the Germans and Canadians—managed successfully to complete the fiscal consolidation that in the United States still looms terrifyingly ahead.

Frum's views make sense but for one thing: the Christian Right. Until the GOP sends the Christofascists back to the political wilderness, the type of conservatism he contemplates will not be possible.  The big question is when will the Party realize this and take the steps to regain its soul.

1 comment:

Jack Scott said...

The Christian Right's Days as a political force are already numbered and most of the leaders know it. That is why they are becoming more and more militant.

Their militancy is actually a defensive bunker mentality. Young people by and large are going to take one of two paths. They will remain people of faith and change the fundamentalist dogma to something more akin to the Gospel of Christ, or the will leave the church altogether.

Either way, the Fundamentalist's days are numbered.

Hopefully we'll be just as lucky to see the end to Democrat mentally diseased radical Left Wingers as well.

If we do, then real statesmen might again rise in the country and forge bilateral solutions to our bilateral problems.

I don't fault you for your hatred of Republicans. I hate the Right Wingers too. I do fault you because you cannot bring yourself to admit that Democrats exhibit all the same characteristics you attribute to Republicans. You, along with the National Press just choose to turn a blind eye to that.

Jack Scott