Who Mourns for the GOP?

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Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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29 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    I’m enjoying the podcast so far BTW.

    The GOP isn’t going anywhere and single party states don’t work well. Even with all the dumber then a bag of hammers culture war stuff there might be some near term hope for the Rs if they weren’t so set on voter suppression. There is no working with that so I don’t know what the answer is.

    One problem the Rs have is so many seem to see any adaptation or evolution of their prescious principals as anathema. Principals are great and all, but there are many ways they can be put in practice or even not always work well in practice. But Rs won’t hear any of that so any sort pragmatic solution or learning seems out of the question. Ug.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak
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      says:

      Ideally, we should just be able to create a competing conservative party that would eclipse the GOP. But IIRC, we can’t, because the two main parties have so incorporated themselves specifically into law that you can’t just fire up a new party and allow the GOP to dissolve without legislative action.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        The 2010 governor’s election in Colorado is instructive. Colorado law only differentiates between major and minor parties. Major parties are those that get >10% of the votes in the governor’s election, minor parties those with <10%. In 2010 the Republicans’ process produced a terrible nominee. A more popular Republican switched to the Constitution Party. Final results: D 51%, C 36%, R 11%. During the final days of the campaign, the Republicans were polling below 10% and pleading with their members to vote for the Republican to avoid being classified as a minor party.

        The next year, the Constitution Party had to follow the law for major parties. That required lots more document filing and procedures. They simply lacked the infrastructure and membership to keep up and dissolved part way through the year. The Republicans, despite how close they came to minor party status, had no problem keeping up with the paperwork.Report

  2. Avatar JoeSal
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    says:

    You can count the number of social constructs the left wont infiltrate on one hand and have fingers left over. They are far right.

    Everything else is subject to leftism erosion, including the GOP.

    The only thing that stops leftism erosion is radicalism or extremism. There are no other tools.Report

  3. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    The modern American left is functionally like Godzilla, destroying cities in demented rage. But sure, let’s talk some more about the Republican Party not being moderate enough.Report

  4. Avatar Brent F
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    says:

    An important element of the Canadian example is they needed a long period of political irrelevancy before consolidation and moderation were on the table. The populist conservative movement represented by the Reform party existed for more than a decade and it took a long stretch of getting their butts whipped in every election before people were wiling to water their wine in a broader coalition.

    Moderate centrist parties are the product of the electoral failure of uncompromising extreme parties. You don’t get there without the failure.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Brent F
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      says:

      This is an especially salient point. The best thing liberals can do to speed the development of a sane new GOP is to enact popular policy, improve voters lives and beat the GOP like a fishing drum in election after election. Ol’ Jean Chrétien ran rings around the conservatives for a decade and his acolyte Martin imitated the act for a cycle or so more until the conservatives in Canada adapted and finally got themselves up off the matt.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to North
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        says:

        I think you’re absolutely right that it’s what has to happen. However I also think it’s a lot harder in our system to truly lay down the level of spanking that can be achieved in a parliamentary model. Unlike them we have these cyclical forces around the separation of executive and legislative branch and set timing of elections that dampen the ability to sustain multi-cycle dominance.

        I also think the Democrats seem to struggle to exploit GOP turmoil. Hb.1 is IMO a good example of that. You’ve got some concepts that are good ideas on their own merits and that would help tilt the playing field. But instead of a narrow, focused bill we’ve got an unpassable, constitutionally suspect, activist grab bag.

        I also think the David Shor interview on Linky Friday was telling. There is no law set in stone that Democrats are guaranteed to run up the score with racial minorities in hugely one-sided ways. 2020 was a stark reminder that in America a thumping needs to be earned by one side as much as deserved by the other. It isn’t going to happen by default.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to InMD
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          says:

          Yeah the American system is a tough nut to tackle. The Democratic Party is, in theory, overstuffed at the moment. The left wing idealists & fanatics (at least, what, three different flavors of each set of them!) packed in with the centrist pragmatists AND the centrist opportunists/corporatists AND now potentially the right wing moderates as well? That is a lot of cats to herd. That is a lot of fingers in the pies.

          I share your concern about Hb.1; it will be an interesting experiment. The new Covid bill was absolutely necessary but also basically the bare minimum required for Biden to stay in business. Hb.1 could just go die in the Senate or, maybe, hopefully, it could end up batted viscously back and forth until the superfluous/indefensible crap is cleaved off. I don’t know what will happen.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to North
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            says:

            Covid relief is definitely a victory and the Ds deserve a lot of credit for ramming it through. They both got Manchin and resisted the temptation to get stuck spinning wheels with the Romney version which is no small thing. Maybe there really has been some learning from Obama’s mistakes.

            I’d love it if Hb.1 came back as some limited re-establishing of VRA and the non-partisan district line drawing commission. I have to think the House would still take that and it would be one of those rare things where the partisan interest is truly aligned with the national interest in maintaining democracy.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to InMD
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              says:

              Yeah well unfortunately the GOP would still vote lockstep against even such a limited Hb. 1 bill. So it ultimately is a question of what Manchin and Sinema would do about it. Le sigh. If only Cunningham had kept it in his fishing pants!Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Excellent essay.

    I remember something that I said back when RTod was doing his “How to Fix a Broken Elephant” series.

    Conservative, in this case, seems to mean “the type of liberalism that was mainstream in 1986 or thereabouts”. A good, straightforward, Walter Mondale/Mike Dukakis tax and spendism, a return to a less vigorous foreign policy, embracing the welfare state and shoring it up (but not *TOO* much, of course), and otherwise being staid and genteel.

    Well, plus gay marriage, of course.

    The liberalism of 30 years ago.

    Now, of course, back in the 80’s, you’d still have conservatives (or “conservatives”) who argued that we needed to abolish this or that Federal Department of This Or That. (Remember when “We need to abolish the Department of Education!” was something that presidential candidates said? Good times.) Now, of course, those Departments are no longer fairly new and getting rid of them is no longer “going back to the way we were before” but “let’s change this thing that we’ve had for a long long time”.

    Conservatism as a brake, as a voice that says “let’s do things the way my parents did them (but not my grandparents, because that’s crazy talk)”. A conservatism whose job it is to lose every battle, but lose it slowly, and with dignity.

    I can see why we’d want those people to be like that.
    I just don’t see why they’d agree to it.

    That was back in 2016. So I’d say, now, the liberalism of 1991.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      More like the conservatism of the 1850s. 1/6/2021 was Bleeding Kansas all over again.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      It’s always been a risk to conflate ideological conservatism and contemporary American political conservatism. You can lose more information than you gain.

      I’ve never been a fan of eliminating federal departments, if that just means redistributing the agencies and missions. But there’s hardly a less popular organization in the country than the educational bureaucracy is today. The argument for national educational policy has always been protecting the poor from falling behind in funding. But the priorities of the educational monolith these days seems to be paying off upper-middle-class student loans, teaching critical race theory, and getting boys on every sports team. And in the past year, someone left “education” off the list of priorities and no one’s noticed.

      Anecdotally, more than half of the parents of K-12 kids I know have pulled their kids out of the system in the past year. And that’s not just a bunch of home-schooling preppers. In a year, we’ve gone from a governmental system doing a poor job educating lower- to middle-class children to a system not educating lower-class children.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        And that system is, in the end, run locally. Which means to ding the federal Education Department for choice Des Moines makes is ridiculous. but sure, lets get rid of the one group actually looking around at what works and what doesn’t and trying get what works promulgated, instead of going to the local school board and demanding to know why they aren’t asking us to pay more for teachers and technology in the schools so that lower class folks CAN achieve what upper class folks achieve.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I think Sean Illing meant stability balanced with progress, rather than equality. High levels of inequality tend to correlate pretty strongly with social instability, which is why conservatives, as opposed to reactionaries, should support social mobility and relative equality.

    But, I think in general, there’s a problem in contemporary politics that parties aim to rewrite the sales pitch instead of reworking the product.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      And there you have the way in which American conservatism is the author of its own destruction. It let economic policies that may have had some merit in the context of the late 70s/80s turn into an ideological commitment to faux-Randianism (selectively applied of course). The instability that causes drives the appetite for policies and pathologies conservatives loath.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    The GOP is reacting to the loss of the presidency and Congress by doubling down on vote suppression. It needs to die in a fire.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Siegel
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    says:

    I think this critique is very on point. Every democracy has a tug of war between two forces. Call them revolutionary and conservative. You need both. If the conservatives have absolute control, you have a decaying Empire. But if the revolutionaries take over, you have the Killing Fields.

    The asymmetry is that you can tolerate a lot crazy in the revolutionary segment; that’s what they’re for. but if the conservative segment gets crazy, you’re in big trouble.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Michael Siegel
      Ignored
      says:

      I have to disagree. There are dozens of political disputes that don’t line up with two sides corresponding to conservative and revolutionary. Witness the arguments within conservatism and within liberalism, with multiple groups claiming authenticity. Views on centralized versus regional control don’t line up the same country to country. Regional independence movements often have cultural or ethnic roots, and those get complicated. Add in disputes over elitism versus populism, and differing views on the role of religion, or the role of which religion.Report

  9. Avatar JS
    Ignored
    says:

    “There is an old saying that Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line. The old saying believes that Democrats have feelings for their party and aren’t going to easily leave the party”

    That has not ever been my understanding of that line, and your conclusion there is probably directly opposite of what that line you should drive you to.

    “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line” is a pithy little statement about how Republicans tend to close up ranks behind a chosen candidate, no matter what, whereas Democrats will cheerfully keep infighting well past the primary and into the general election because their special snowflake of a candidate didn’t get enough time at the second debate and was therefore ROBBED.

    The statement is normally read to me Republicans are prone to place party above candidate, whereas Democrats are more prone to place the candidate above party loyalty. Frankly the only thing that prevented 2016 from having the same level of Democratic infighting was Trump being extraordinarily disliked among the left.

    If anything, what you should take from “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line” is that it takes a particularly extreme case for a Republican to walk away from the party, whereas your average Democrat will stay home on election day because — as noted — their preferred candidate was screwed out of 30 seconds at a debate, therefore DNC elite conspiracy rigged election to prevent blah-blah-blah”Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to JS
      Ignored
      says:

      If anything, what you should take from “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line” is that it takes a particularly extreme case for a Republican to walk away from the party, whereas your average Democrat will stay home on election day because — as noted — their preferred candidate was screwed out of 30 seconds at a debate, therefore DNC elite conspiracy rigged election to prevent blah-blah-blah”

      This is also a central tenant of the various disinformation campaigns – trash the democrats enough and their people stay home. which is part and parcel of why Republicans want to force people to vote on a designated election day because they know their voters will turn out.Report

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