Friday, March 18, 2016

Death of the GOP? Not so....

After Tuesday's primaries that saw Republican front runner Donald Trump claim victories in every state possible except for Ohio (which was won by Ohio governor John Kasich), and likewise forced Florida senator Marco Rubio to finally bow out of the race, it seems even more probable that Trump will eventually claim enough delegates to be the GOP nominee. A poll conducted shortly thereafter showed that with Rubio dropping out, Trump built an even more impressive lead in the primary states ahead, including an unimaginable 50 point lead in his home state of New York. Whether the Republican Party leadership likes it or not, it seems almost certain that Trump will win the nomination and probable that on January 20, 2017 he will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Who would have thought this was possible on June 16, 2015 (the author's birthday) when Trump announced his candidacy?

In light of this, libertarian-conservative commentator and radio show host Glenn Beck announced after the primaries that the GOP was dead. What did he mean by that? That the party, like the Whig Party in the mid nineteenth century, would cease to exist after the election in the fall. He doesn't detail why, although it should be remembered that he has been saying that the GOP would die for some time and it still hasn't, so perhaps we should be skeptical of Mr. Beck's claims. However, this sort of fervor has also caught on with other pundits, and does seem to make the general public wonder if the death of the GOP is imminent and what will come about to replace it if it should die.

As a philosopher, conservative, and member of the GOP, I ask myself that question and go further to ask what is that virus that is making the party come apart. Many people seem to think that the division is centered in Donald Trump, and there is some merit to that since he is a polarizing figure (that may be putting the matter somewhat lightly). However, I argue that the real concern with the GOP is not one man; it is lack of unity in the party to unite behind conservative principles and a lack of willingness to work across the aisle.

The first Republican president, the great Abraham Lincoln, when he was running for the United States Senate in Illinois in 1858, said "A house divided against itself cannot stand." He was referring to the slavery question which would eventually lead to the civil war when he said this, and since it seems a civil war is brewing within the party perhaps his words have equal merit here. How is the GOP divided? First, the GOP seems to be running on one idea: that President Obama is bad, and that if Hillary Clinton is his successor she will be equally bad. They campaign against Obamacare (which was their idea in the 1990's under Bob Dole), but offer no replacement idea if it were repealed. They refuse to even have a hearing when President Obama does his constitutional duty to appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court. In short, the GOP has come to resemble a group of spoiled children rather than legislators who are supposed to represent the American's who elected them. Donald Trump is not the cause; he is the effect.

Further, the fact the the GOP is not even willing to state they will support the candidate that is nominated is astounding. Donald Trump, while no Abraham Lincoln, is not much of a Tea Party politician either. He is rather moderate in his stances, such as who he would appoint to the Supreme Court if elected, proposing to save social security, and supporting planned parenthood. In other words, while Trump seems very untame, he is the kind of guy that party leaders can work with to pass an agenda. The problem is the GOP doesn't seem to have an agenda outside of "Obama is bad" which won't matter in a few months when President Obama leaves office. It might be time that rather than just opposing the agenda of the Democratic Party, that the GOP makes it's own agenda clear if they are elected in the fall.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative author and commentator and author of the book The Conservative Soul often talks about how conservatives have lost their skepticism and have replaced it with a strong fundamentalism. Perhaps, in order to save the soul of the party, conservatives would do well to re-establish the house of conservatism upon its foundation of traditionalism, skepticism, pluralism, and pessimism as conservative philosopher John Kekes states in his book A Case for Conservatism.

In short, to quote President Lincoln again "I do not expect the house to fall. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other." I agree with President Lincoln in that I do not expect that even with a loss in the fall that the GOP will fall as a party; but I do expect that either the GOP will re-establish itself a right of center party with a reasonable agenda that can transcend party lines, or it will be reduced to the party of angry people with no ideas other than blaming others. Or, to prevent the suspicion I am presenting a false dilemma, perhaps somewhere in between. To prevent that from happening, the party establishment should pledge to support the nominee, no matter who it is. Then, they should meet with the nominee to craft out a serious agenda. If it fails in the fall, they can re-craft it and re-shape it until it gains enough approval then run with it. Either way, the death of the GOP is not near. Rather, the reformation of it is imminent.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the GOP has become the Anti-Obama party, but I think that is just a specific example of their general position of being Anti-Democrat. So yes, they are not defined in a positive sense - only by contrast. I wonder if that is inherent in a "conservative" party? Perhaps conservative politics are by nature summed up by my grandpa's (R) motto, "Whatever it is, I'm against it!"