2013 – The Year The G.O.P. Must Change Or Die

Mark McKinnon, campaign advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain, unloads on his party in a must-read over at The Daily Beast. He’s not the only one saying this stuff, but it is well put.

Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the party is against everything and for nothing.

Nothing on taxes. Nothing on gun control. Nothing on climate change. Nothing on gay marriage. Nothing on immigration reform (or an incremental, piece-by-piece approach, which will result in nothing). It’s a very odd situation when the losing party is the party refusing to negotiate. It may be how you disrupt, but it is not how you govern, or how you ever hope to regain a majority.

And so, we have a Republican Party today willing to eliminate any prospect for a decent future for anyone, including itself, if it cannot be a future that is 100 percent in accordance with its core beliefs and principles. That’s not governing. That’s just lobbing hand grenades. If you’re only standing on principle to appear taller, then you appear smaller. And the GOP is shrinking daily before our eyes.

The only way out for the Republican Party is to give up on having a monolithic caucus. John Boehner was embarassed and humiliated when he couldn’t carry fifty members of his own party on his fiscal “Plan B” and the Dems staid firm. He shouldn’t have bothered. As soon as he saw that he wouldn’t be able to deliver his own collegaues as a block, he should have quietly turned to the President and did a deal on which he could carry enough of them to pass a bill. That might now happen in the Senate, instead.

As McKinnon says, Republicans responding with a “one-finger salute to everything” will get blamed for gridlock, and punished at the polls in 2014.

All sanity seems to have left the ranks of those in charge of the GOP—or, more accurately, those who want to be in charge. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) demonstrated in a jaw-dropping performance Thursday on Morning Joethe depth of the problem and why we are bound to go over the fiscal cliff. He made it clear he won’t vote for a tax increase on anyone, no matter how much they make. So, by his logic, we will end up going over the cliff, and raise taxes on everybody, because he and too many others like him in the party are unwilling to raise taxes on anyone. This intransigence will also make a core Republican tenet of broader tax reform more difficult to pursue because the new Congress will then be fixated on smaller bore issues like fixing the rates.

…No one questioned Reagan’s principles or values. But he was seen as great because he had the ability to maintain his principles while adapting, evolving, and negotiating as the world around him changed. When I raise these issues, many of my Republican friends respond, “We will not become a stronger Republican Party by acting more like the Democratic Party.” And I say, “No, we become a stronger Republican Party by acting like reasonable human beings who acknowledge reality.”

The world is still changing. Faster than ever. And so should the Republican Party. Or condemn itself to a smaller and smaller base of core supporters and permanent minority status.

Here’s a prediction for you – I believe 2013 is the year the Republican party must adapt or die. That adaptation is going to have to come in the form of a schism between the far right hardliners and those who don’t want to cut of their own nose to spite their face. The Republican leadership is going to have to accept that it won’t carry all of its members on any issue anymore and begin looking to simply carry as many as possible – all for the sake of becoming again a “do something” party. If that doesn’t happen, the Republican party will be Dead On Arrival at the 2014 midterms.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • Even Thomas Friedman: Send in the Clowns

    When thinking about the state of the Republican Party, I defer to a point that the Democratic consultant James Carville made the other day: “When I hear people talking about the troubled state of today’s Republican Party, it calls to mind something Lester Maddox said one time back when he was governor of Georgia. He said the problem with Georgia prisons was ‘the quality of the inmates.’ The problem with the Republican Party is the quality of the people who vote in their primaries and caucuses. Everybody says they need a better candidate, or they need a better message but — in my opinion — the Republicans have an inmate problem.” The political obsessions of the Republican base — from denying global warming to defending assault weapons to opposing any tax increases under any conditions, to resisting any immigration reform — are making it impossible to be a Republican moderate, said Carville. And without more Republican moderates, there is no way to strike the kind of centrist bargains that have been at the heart of American progress — that got us where we are and are essential for where we need to go.

    Republican politicians today have a choice: either change your base by educating and leading G.O.P. voters back to the center-right from the far right, or start a new party that is more inclusive, focused on smaller but smarter government and market-based, fact-based solutions to our biggest problems.

    But if Republicans continue to be led around by, and live in fear of, a base that denies global warming after Hurricane Sandy and refuses to ban assault weapons after Sandy Hook — a base that would rather see every American’s taxes rise rather than increase taxes on millionaires — the party has no future. It can’t win with a base that is at war with math, physics, human biology, economics and common-sense gun laws all at the same time.

    When you’ve lost Tom Friedman…

  • As a thought experiment, imagine that we “go over the cliff” and everyone in the 99% is miserable because their taxes went up and probably the economy is back in recession. And imagine that from that position, the House republicans offer to reduce taxes for everyone but only if the Senate and President agree to massive entitlement program “reforms”. Imagine that the WH and dem Senate leadership says “no”. The two sides only agree on (if anything) some really inadequate relief for the 99% — a $500 tax credit or some shit.

    Do you think the GOP will gain or lose seats in the house in 2014?

    (My guess: gain.)

    My hypothesis recently is that the most powerful people dominating the GOP these days have an agenda of (1) Further neutering gov’t’s regulatory capacity and capturing greater control of fiscal policy. (2) Pauperizing most of the people. (3) Rallying their “values driven” base to accept that (a) the resulting suffering is the path to virtue; (b) it is only the dangerously wicked who object. (4) Continue to be the stronger party at the state (and perhaps local) level.

    So I don’t agree with the prediction that 2013 is the “reform or die” year for the GOP. I think they see themselves as the stronger party, likely to get stronger as times get harder for folks. If it ain’t broke, in their view, why would they fix it?

  • But they are still winning. Obama is willing, and Dems will go along, to cuts in entitlements and other support for the middle class, exactly what we should not be doing. The Dems are never out in front of the issues, standing tall for what they claim to support. They should have been coming at this from the point of stronger measures to support the safety net, like removing the cap on SS or even higher taxes than 39.6% on really high incomes. But once again, they just react to the wingnuts and wind up having to give way more than they should.

    Someone needs to come up with a set of principles that the Dems can be asked to stand up for at all times. Supoort SS and the Meds, move to a single payer option, remove the bases from Europe and Bumf*ckistan, stand for science, etc. Dems need to lead, not just react.

  • Steve -I have to disagree as well. You don’t understand America. There are 35-40% of Americans who will vote against the Democrats even if they have to vote for Satan. They are brainwashed and brainwashed people aren’t rational people. Now, 35-40% isn’t enough to governor or win national elections, but it is enough to be disruptive and annoying and cause enough people to become disgusted enough that they just stay home!

  • “Government is the problem, not the solution.” Remember who said that? This is the core philosophy of the Republican Party, and it is why Cheney and Bush set out to destroy the Federal bureaucracy in 2000 by pushing out all career managers over a certain grade. They were presumed to be all Democrats anyway. What we got instead were incompetents like Brownie and Donald Rumsfeld, and the Dept. of Justice filled with recent graduates from a religious seminary (Liberty University).

    The party is all about ideology now. It not only has no interest in governing, it has no capability to govern, which means it cannot serve as a loyal opposition to the Democrats. It can only serve as a source of disruption and obstruction, in order to maintain ideological purity.

    For any of this to change, the party would have to revisit its core principle and repudiate the image it has of St. Ronnie. Until they admit that Reagan raised taxes and banned assault rifles, and until they repudiate the puppet masters like Grover Norquist and Roger Ailes, they will continue to wander in the wilderness.

    That, however, may not be a bad thing. What they really need to do is disband, and let the Tea Party form a rump group like the Libertarians, and have some new group of moderate conservatives create a new party. I don’t know how fast all that can happen, but if 2013 isn’t the year the Republicans start falling apart, 2016 surely will be if they can’t retake the White House then. Especially if there is a Depression roiling the economy, which would otherwise doom the Democrats.

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