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.)
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.
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.
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.)
"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.)
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"No, Currency Changes Wouldn’t Make a Tariff Pointless," Ian Fletcher
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--even 62 million of them--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
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
Mafia Dons at NY
Times confirm that none of this matters, elections don't matter, all US presidents take orders from the "iron triangle" (also known as the "Deep State"), a criminal mob nullifying 62 million votes behind the scenes of which the NY Times is a member. ("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 very happy. If a concerned voter called they said, 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 accustomed to 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
"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
"It's hard to continue to revolt when you're in
charge," says Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, head of the House Republican
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)
News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Republican Party has exhausted two ideological themes it has ridden since about 1980, 'free markets' and social conservatism, needs new ones if it wants to survive. Enter the rich theme of economic nationalism and Donald Trump to give the Republican Party a reason to exist. Deep State Republicans not interested-Sept. 2015, Ian Fletcher
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