12 Steps to a Healthy Republican Party

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  1. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    Nice post, Jaybird, but…..I think the bigger problem is that the Republican party is just plain obsolete.
    Consider Poulos’ post on the “Culture War”.
    Especially you should read the comments….this one–

    I’m with Nietzsche. He was just observing what had become inarguable. Not that God was dead, but that He wasn’t to be found in cultural/civilizational forms out there. Sure the forms exist, but with a few exceptions these forms have as much relevancy to the spirit that once animated them as the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade has to the spirit St. Patrick. They are dead forms animated by the undead energies of nostalgia, jingoism, and other vulgar passions. Conservatives simply don’t want to face up to this truth, and keep fighting this battle for a zombie culture, and in doing so are looking for love in all the wrong places–out there in the mainstream culture. They are fighting for the preservation of cultural forms that were shaped by spiritual cultural energies that simply no longer exist.

    There is no culture war…..there is only an evolutionary event, like an ice age or the extinction event at the K-T boundary. Your 12step program is like trying to battle glacial flow with pitchforks and torches.

    The death of the GOP will enable the rise of a new party with viable memes and a broader demographic appeal.
    Death rocks and evolution rolls.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to matoko_chan says:

      See, when I read that, I see “Permanent Democratic Majority”.

      And you know what that reminds me of? When the Republicans were cackling about “Permanent Republican Majority”.

      Yes, yes. I know. It’s different this time.Report

    • Avatar Reason60 in reply to matoko_chan says:

      I am afraid you may be right. Others have pointed out the deepest cotnradiction in Republican/ conservative platform, that is, the twin pillars of strong defense, and fiscal austerity. (I know these have not been faithfully followed- but they ARE the platform).
      That these two were incompatible was a ignored as long as there was a Cold War to be fought- the necessity of that outweighed any other concern.
      But now it is inescapable; we cannot have an adventurous foreign policy and balance the budget. So the conservative movement will have to make some very painful choices, or split into Wilsonian liberalists versus Jeffersonian small isolationists.
      The other split between social conservatives and libertarians is equally deep; social conservatism leads inevitably to government intrustion into private lives.
      Finally, the split between nativists and anti-immigrationists; oddly enough, I believe this will heal itself, as demographics make the anti-immigrants obsolete. But not without much wailing and gnashing of teeth.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Reason60 says:

        At Redstate, one of the things that I regularly noticed was something that I alluded to in the essay was the whole shift between absolute principle and “reasonable people can disagree”.

        When the topic was abortion, for example, there wasn’t a whole lot of room within conservativism proper that allowed for the wanton slaughter of innocent fetii. When Libertarian Libertines would show up and say that they weren’t comfortable with the government having enough power to investigate such things there were usually two responses (granted, given by two different groups of people):

        1) No one is suggesting that the government have the power to punish or otherwise harass troubled women
        2) Besides, we have an existing model in Child Protective Services

        So when I would ask something like “let’s say I hear my neighbor’s daughter is considering getting an abortion, what ought I do?”, the response was something like “what would you do if you heard that your neighbor’s daughter was beating her children?” Fair enough.

        So I would then ask about calling Fetus Protective Services and they could show up at the house… and then what? Person #2 would talk about interviewing the potential mother/murderer and person #1 would yell that no one is talking about instituting a Fetus Protective Services but Libertarian Libertines who are obviously using it as a rhetorical device to change the subject. They only want doctors investigated and, if a doctor is performing abortions, have their licenses removed and maybe criminal charges.

        I’m rambling. Where was I? Oh, yes. Anyway, the general debate when it came to abortion was somewhere on the continuum between whether there should be exceptions for rape/incest/mother’s life in danger or whether there should only be exceptions for the mother’s life in danger or whether we should have any exceptions at all.

        Those were, more or less, the outer boundaries for conservative discussion on abortion.

        When it came to fiscal conservativism, however, “Reasonable People Can Disagree.” When one of the Libertarian Libertines started screaming about the bailouts, it was pointed out (seriously!) that there are people hurting out there (children!). The bailouts could save jobs and save families. While the strict fiscally conservative view was, they supposed, something that someone in theory could support, surely it must be understood that these circumstances were extraordinary, there could be a worldwide fiscal meltdown, it’s a confidence crisis, reasonable people can disagree.

        Someone who thinks that abortion ought remain legal is someone who supports the wholesale slaughter of unborn infants. Someone who thinks that failing companies ought not be bailed out by the government is someone who might, in theory, have a principled position but reasonable people can disagree.

        Anyway, after 8 years of Bush being in charge, you’d think that someone might have noticed that the official position of being pro-life (but not doing anything about it) and being Reasonable People Can Disagree on fiscal conservativism resulted in fiscal conservatives saying something to the effect of “if there is no party that will represent me when it comes to my most important issue, perhaps I ought vote for my second most important issue instead” and there was no guarantee that the second most important issue was necessarily one best represented by the Republican Party.

        I reckon that similar will happen with the Democrats. Once a particular interest group gets told enough times that reasonable people can disagree about stupid shit like the shit that stupid people care about but MY ISSUE IS ONE THAT REQUIRES PURE PRINCIPLE (CHILDREN ARE DYING!), well… they may say “okay, I’ll vote for my second most important issue.”

        And there is no guarantee that the democrats will be the party that will best represent that second most important issue.Report

  2. Avatar Sam M says:

    “To be sure, much of the complaining has taken the form of something like ‘if only you had been more like me, you would have succeeded. Since you were more like you, of course you failed.'”

    I don’t know. It seems to me that there are plenty of elitist conservatives/Republicans who readily admit that their views are well outside the mainstream. Talk to comeone from Cato, or someone like John Derbyshire. They realize that their positions are electoral losers. Unversal healthcare is something people want. Etc.

    Beyond that, I again point to the fact that the GOP are victims of their own success. Talk about governing “seriously.” And look at some of the things people like Yglesias are saying about the legislative proces. The GOP is very good at policing its ranks. If you are a committee chair, and you want to stay the chair, you play ball. Democrats are kind of wishing they did things that way right now.

    You can point to the current legislative juggernaut and say, the Democrats have it right. Well, they have it right right now. But sooner or later they are going to bash some heads, get things done, alienate certain folks, and lose enough member of their governing coalition.

    So which conservative coalition will rise to take advantage? That’s impossible to say. It depends on which issues the Dems decide to champion. If they push healthcare, it’s likely that the deficit will grow. Meaining deficit hawks in the GOP will have an opportunity. Etc.

    My prescription for the GOP is… less soul searching. More sitting around and waiting for the Democrats to collapse from their own success. For instance, let’s say all this soul searching leads the GOP to put deficit hawks in charge of their coalition. But in the intervening years, the economy goes gangbusters and the deficit shrinks despite new spending. That means more wilderness.

    Again. Just sit around and wait for the Democrats to screw up. It’s going to happen.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      The pendulum will swing back, that’s for sure.

      And if the Republican party doesn’t understand why it swung back, it’ll swing again.

      There needs to be more of a foundation than “not the Democrats” underneath.Report

  3. Avatar Sam M says:

    “There needs to be more of a foundation than ‘not the Democrats’ underneath.”

    I disagree. I think “no the Democrats” will be a perfectly reasonable platform. In time. We can look at all the things the Democrats did since 2004. Sure, they coalesced around things like healthcare. But they never said what “healthcare” meant, specifically. Other than healthcare should be better and more people should be insured, there was basically nothing. We are seeing that now. Public option? Mandates? We stil don’t know. Being specific is foolish. The winning thing to do is sit around, see what the other side screws up or fails to address, and hammering that at election time.

    If Obama’s foreign policy becomes a disaster, you paint your party as a solution to that problem. If the economy is a disaster, you talk about that. Even if you really don’t have any solutions. See Obama and Guantanamo Bay. His position on that is… “at least I am not George Bush.” And it worked magnificently. What’s the Obama take on Iraq and Afghanistant? So far, it appears to be, “Hey, at least Dick Cheney isn’t around anymore.” Again, hugely successful.

    Seriously. We keep talking about how the GOP has to come up with these grand ideas and grand coalitions. Did the Democrats do that? Other than really vague no-brainers like “wouldn’t it be great if healthcare was really cheap and we all got all of it we wanted and didn’t have to pay any more taxes to get it,” what did they offer from 2004-2008?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      Well, from 2004 until 2006, they sat down and did some serious soul-searching. This resulted in the Republicans doing most of the talking.

      When the Republicans were doing most of the talking, everyone noticed how awful the Republicans were and voted in the Democrats. The Republicans responded by doubling down and, eventually, booting the Fiscal Conservatives out of the tent entirely. This resulted in 2008.

      Now the Democrats are talking the loudest.

      This will result in the Republicans winning back (some) seats. Of course it will.

      But the other guys losing the election is a different beast than one’s guys actually winning it (as the Republicans didn’t win in 2004 as much as the Democrats lost. The Republicans not only lost in 2008, but the Democrats won). I’m not talking about not losing elections.

      I’m talking about winning them.

      But, hell, if the Republicans don’t want to follow the advice, it ain’t no skin off my nose. I’m sure that the pendulum will swing and they’ll call that a mandate.Report

      • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to Jaybird says:

        No. The pendulum isn’t swinging back, except in an extremely damped arc. Consider abortion. The next shot teh Pro-Life have at changing the composition of the Supremes is post 2016. By then we will be buying Bene Tleilax human ectogenisis machines from the Japanese….they have been doing goat embryos to fullterm for the last 10 years. In 5 more years we will have the last few codons for synthetic life.
        The advance of science and technology and the evolution of culture and electoral demographics have simply rendered huge chunks of white christian conservatism obsolete…. not to mention the abject and obvious FAIL of neocon interventionism.
        You need a renaissance, a rebirth.
        And creative destruction is how it will have to happen.Report

  4. They re-won the White House with a majority vote and that is something that people hadn’t seen since 1988.

    1984? At any rate, Clinton won by a much larger margin in 1996 (8.5% to Bush’s 2.4%). He didn’t earn a majority (getting a mere 49.2% of the popular vote) because of Perot’s 8.4%. Add a credible thrid-party candidate to the mix in 2004, and Bush isn’t close to 50%.Report

  5. The Republican Party had a young, up-and-comer who would surely be a star some day… Jack Ryan.

    That was the problem: what he needed to do to up and come.Report

  6. Avatar Sam M says:

    “Well, from 2004 until 2006, they sat down and did some serious soul-searching.”

    What kind of soul searching? What did they find? Did they develop a foreign policy that would have then shut down Gitmo, pull out of Iraq, or stop doubling down in Afghanistan? Did the soul-searching lead to a consensus on the need for single-payer, or even a government option?

    Instead, it seems to have generated just enough support to get us a completely unsustainable set of policies. Such as healthcare for everyone, but no more taxes on actuakl people. Foreign policy that is completely indistinguishable from what we had before. Etc. Etc.

    Seriously. What was the grand, intellectual and policy pay-off from all this soul-searching? How is the current administration’s set of policies any different from the set of proposals we would have gotten without the soul-searching?

    What I see is a party that won an election. Nothing more. All the stuff about change, etc. seems more like campaign rhetoric. Or am I missing something?Report

    • Avatar matoko_chan in reply to Sam M says:

      Sam, you are seeing graceful degradation of service to WEC ideology.
      Or at least as graceful as Obama can manage.
      11-dimensional chess games take a long time.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      They didn’t find anything, really. The point was that the Republicans were the only ones stomping around (and crowing about a permanent Republican Majority).

      Once the Democrats stopped yelling “look at me!”, the focus shifted back to the Republicans and the American people did not like what they saw. They threw the bums out.

      In 2008, there was actually someone to vote *FOR* on the Democratic side (rather than merely voting against Dubya) and, what do you know? The Democrats won and won hard.

      If the Republicans don’t give people a reason to vote *FOR* them, the pendulum will swing back like it did in 2006… but if they give a reason to vote *FOR* Republicans, it will swing like it did in 2008.

      The question becomes “will this happen in 2016?” vs. “will this happen in 2020?”Report

  7. Avatar Sam M says:

    Damn. System just ate my comment. But here it is in a nutshell:

    In what sense in Obama someone to vote FOR? When did that introspection happen? Seems to me that the Democrats were poised to elect Hilary Clinton until the last minute. That’s introspection? That’s change? That’s soul searching?

    I am serious: When did the soul-searching happen? Was it at a conference? A series of op-eds?

    I think what we got was a gregarious guy who made “throw the buns out” sound pretty. You seem convinced that he’s proof of a grand moment of introspection. So seriously. What is he FOR?


    Right. Not the bums. Me.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      You watched the last election. Did you not notice the difference in the dynamic between McCain and Obama? People were excited to vote *FOR* Obama.Report

  8. Avatar Sam M says:

    “You watched the last election. Did you not notice the difference in the dynamic between McCain and Obama? People were excited to vote *FOR* Obama.”

    Right. I say it’s because he found a prettier way to say “throw the bums out.” You say it’s because his party engaged in serious soul-searching which led to a positive agenda. I say rhetoric. You say substance.

    Ten months into his administration, who’s assessment seems closer to the mark?

    To your answer, I preemptively reply: Gitmo, Afghanistan, Iraq, no new taxes on anyone making more than $250,000 a year, etc.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      I see a difference between “voting for someone” and “voting someone out”.

      The dynamic that existed with Obama was that people were excited to be voting for him while, say, 2004 had the dynamic of people excited to be voting against Bush.

      Do you disagree?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      “You say it’s because his party engaged in serious soul-searching which led to a positive agenda.”

      Where have I ever said that?

      I said that they engaged in soul-searching which resulted in them shutting the hell up. This changed the focus on the Democrats to the focus on the Republicans and the Republicans became less awful than the Democrats by virtue of NOTHING MORE than the fact that the Democrats were QUIET.

      Then, after 2006, the Republicans (having learned nothing) were still awful… and Obama came out and created a dynamic where people wanted to vote *FOR* him rather than merely against McCain/Bush.Report

  9. Avatar Sam M says:

    I am a little confused, I guess. If the Democrats were “quiet,” this would seem to imply some degree of absence from the political scene. Some degree of… not being there. Or not being heard. A void, if you will.Which resulted in a guy being there to vote FOR?

    Seems to me that if you are quiet, you are obviously following a strategy of “not the other guy.” I don’t think you can have it both ways.

    Or are you saying that the strategy shifted? In 2006, it was throw the bums out, but later, it became, “Vote FOR this guy who you love”?

    More broadly when did this ingenious strategy take hold? Again, Clinton was the presumptive nominee pretty far into the race.

    Finally, HOW did Obama create this desire to vote FOR him? Was it policies? I can’t recall that he mentioned many. I seem to recall that his whole campaign was based on CHANGE. Even rhetorically, he based his chances on, “What the other guys were doing was wrong. I am not those guys. Vote for me to get less of what those guys were doing.” That’s what change means, right? In what sense is this “creating a dynamic in which people wanted to vote for him”?

    From what I can tell, policy wise. what Obama is promoting is far LESS ambitious than what Clinton proposed in 1994. So it doesn’t seem like this could be the change people were looking for. Instead, I do recall a ton pf people being angry over Iraq, civil rights, a tanking economy, etc. And I recall that message falling kind of flat when put out there by tired old also-rans like Candidate Biden. Obama made it sound better. So is the message, “nominate a good speaker”?

    Be that as it may, fine. Let’s assume what the right needs is introspection and soul-searching. Seeing that the Democrats went through that already, we have identified it and found it worth emulating… what’s it mean? Let’s say tomorrow I want to search my soul. Do I write a policy paper for Heritage? Have a conference? Invite David Frum to lunch? What are the specific elements of the sould searching process?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      “If the Democrats were “quiet,” this would seem to imply some degree of absence from the political scene. Some degree of… not being there.”

      It’s not that they weren’t there as much as they weren’t there as much as the Republicans *WERE* there.

      Here, let me show you:
      2004: 55 Senators. 231 Representatives.

      “In 2006, it was throw the bums out, but later, it became, “Vote FOR this guy who you love”?”

      In 2006, it was “vote against the Republicans!!!”
      In 2008, it was “vote *FOR* Obama!”

      Do you disagree that this was the dynamic that took place? I base these statements on my observation of the elections.

      If you disagree that these are the dynamics that took place, could you instead explain the dynamic that you think took place? (Here’s one you could use: Howard Dean’s brilliant strategy paid off leaving the Republicans flat-footed.)

      “More broadly when did this ingenious strategy take hold?”

      You misunderstand. I am not saying that this was the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of the Democrats.

      I am saying that the democrats, as a result of the soul-searching after losing in 2004, spent more time arguing among themselves (“Kerry sucked!” “No, Howard Dean sucked!”) than they did bringing it to Bush and/or the American People. As a result, the Republicans were able to engage in a lot of high-profile stuff (including, of course, stuff like Terri Schiavo and Bill Frist passing laws that benefitted the clients of Jack Abramoff) that were owned pretty fully by the Republicans. After the Republicans finished their nuttery, the Democrats looked good by comparison. Why? Because they were relatively quiet compared to the Republicans.

      If you want to argue that the Democrats were, in fact, just as loud as the Republicans and I am completely misunderstanding the dynamics that existed between 2004 and 2006, please give your theory of the dynamics that were going on. (Here’s one you could use: the liberal media ganged up on the Republicans and the gullible sheeple did like their masters ordered.)

      “HOW did Obama create this desire to vote FOR him?”

      I don’t care. I am noting that the desire to vote *FOR* him (as opposed to merely *AGAINST* McCain) was there.

      Do you disagree that it was there?

      “Let’s say tomorrow I want to search my soul. Do I write a policy paper for Heritage? Have a conference? Invite David Frum to lunch? What are the specific elements of the sould searching process?”

      If only someone would write an essay with, like, a dozen steps that people might take!!!Report

  10. Avatar Katherine says:

    It’s a good prescription. But if the Republicans followed it, would you join them? Is “reasonable people can disagree” on matters of social conservatism sufficient for you?

    I think it would strengthen the Republican coalition if everyone could agree to some extent that they screwed up, at minimum, on the execution of their policies. If defense hawks could say “yes, we went into Iraq blind and should have considered the repercussions more”, even if they still think the war was a good idea. If social conservatives could admit that the uses of executive power for Terri Schiavo probably hurt their case, if Christians would admit that scorched earth politics don’t line up with what their faith calls for. If fiscal conservatives noted that lowering taxes somehow failed to correspondingly lower spending. Or pick their own issues where things went off the rails if they don’t agree with my picks. But it comes down to this: Republicans did a crummy job of governing. How can they do better?

    I’d also disagree with all the people above who are saying Obama didn’t have policies. His initial ones in the primary focused on what Democrats disagreed about internally, notably foreign policy and how hawkish they needed to be. The message people liked was that Democrats could advocate what they actually considered to be the best ideas – they didn’t have to base their proposals on fear of what Republicans would say. By combining that with the recognition that Republicans weren’t all evil and conservatives could have good ideas, he could run simultaneously to the left of Hillary (end the Iraq War, close Gitmo) and to her right (bipartisanship, no health care mandates). And the Presidential election campaign was all about policy – cap and trade, health care reform, education reform, tax cuts for the middle class and not for the rich.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Katherine says:

      Please understand. I am a crazy third-party voter.

      I understand the position of the pro-lifers… I merely disagree when it comes to the hill that they have chosen to die upon.

      I will be dead in the cold, cold ground before I vote Republican. (Notable exception: Joel Hefley, whose INS liason helped me with the fiance visa for my wife to come here to the US. I figure that he earned it.)Report

    • Avatar Kyle in reply to Katherine says:

      Maybe you saw a different campaign than I did, I thought the election was all about whether John McCain would bomb Iran because he was Bush III or whether Barack Obama was some kind of celebrity cult leader?

      There were policy differences?Report

      • Avatar Katherine in reply to Kyle says:

        I must have seen a different one. At least on Obama’s side, I heard a lot of talk about green jobs, health-care reform, tax cuts for “90% of Americans [or thereabouts],” greater investment in education, measures to fix the economy (most of which were beyond my comprehension), cap and trade, and the need for greater engagement with other nations.

        But then, I was following the Atlantic, various blogs, and speech transcripts; US news channels may have showed something more like the election you saw.Report

  11. Avatar Sam M says:

    “In 2006, it was vote against the Republicans!!! In 2008, it was vote *FOR* Obama! Do you disagree that this was the dynamic that took place? I base these statements on my observation of the elections. If you disagree that these are the dynamics that took place, could you instead explain the dynamic that you think took place?”

    Yes, I disagree. I think it was “vote against Republicans” in both elections. Perhaps less obviously so in the second one, because Bus wasn’t running. But if you don;t think the election was a referendum on the previous 10 years… why the “change” rhetoric?

    You seem to think we were voting FOR something. For what? What did you see as the positive platform on which he was running? His record? What was his record? How would we KNOW what we were getting?

    We will clearly have to agree to disagree. But I see the whole thing as an exercise in “throw the bums out.” Which is why it wasn’t just Bush who got tossed. It was the bums. Plural. Republicans, writ large. Because they sucked.

    I think the lesson to learn from this is: Sit around. Wait for them to screw up. Craft a rhetoric and some policy initiatives that respond accordingly. But mostly rhetoric.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      Well, my first inclination is that you aren’t acknowledging Step One. But that’s fine.

      For the record, I think that your plan will probably work. For a short while.Report

  12. Avatar Kyle says:

    I think the genius of this is, “it’s about becoming healthy.” It’s about being healthy not just winning, that’s rather Margaret Chase Smith of you.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kyle says:

      There are (see above) folks who are content with just letting the pendulum swing back. If there is no underlying principle beneath a thin veneer of “not the democrats”, they won’t be able to accomplish much of anything and, to an alien race, they’ll be indistinguishable from the party before.

      The Republicans, under Bush, really betrayed a lot of principles that they later demonstrated to have not held. Their followers, who did and do hold those principles, either plugged their noses and voted for McCain anyway, plugged their noses and voted for Obama, shrugged and looked at their 2nd and 3rd most important issues (or 4th or 5th or 6th) and voted for the guy they thought would be best for that, or they shrugged and stayed home.

      Here’s the wacky thing: The Republicans whose principles most closely aligned them with Bush (vigorous foreign policy hawks) are not that disappointed with Obama.

      That ought to give the Obamites pause.

      But, please understand, I am a crazy 3rd party voter so I probably lack necessary perspective on this.Report