Bruce Bartlett explains in New Majority why he is so “anti-Republican” these days.
I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?
Bush doubled the size of government. He passed campaign finance reform, he hiked steel tariffs. He handed more tax-payer money to Africa than any previous President (maybe more than all previous Presidents combined) and was so sold out to the viscous right his signature education reform bill had Ted “Jesus” Kennedy’s name and stamp of approval attached (though Kennedy later criticized the bill for not being properly profligate).
The moderate and Washington wing of the Republican party (or now formerly, according to Barlett) continues to misconstrue reality. Bush was an effectively moderate President outside of foreign policy and taxes, where he strangely resembled the noted right-wing schizoid John F. Kennedy. The bank bailout was resoundingly supported by Democrats. Even against extremist and unprecedented criticism and invective from the opposition party, Bush did little biting back. While ANSWER protesters burned his image in effigy in the streets, the White House’s partisan response was to release a statement about the importance of the freedom of assembly. Not exactly Michael Savage, but it doesn’t do good to remind Bartlett.
I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP.
Bartlett must have missed the entire 2008 election when the GOP ran John McCain, the most centrist Republican since Gerald Ford. He doesn’t acknowledge that the Democrats were still the major players in the House and Senate during the early 1980s. Their biggest problem, beyond their policies, was viable Presidential candidates and a radically successful Republican in the White House.
Lost in any of the moderate commentary – be it Brooks, Parker, Frum or Miss Meghan – is any criticism of the Democrats for turning into a socialist front group the last eight years. When the person in the third seat from the Presidency is reduced to calling old people “un-American” and mobs, where’s the rage? Why should the GOP not pander to its base when the Democrats used their own as a profitable fundraising tool? Nothing sells better than the image of Dick Cheney with devil horns arriving in your inbox. These are the people Meghan McCain wants to be friends with.
The way to make the Republicans more center is to bring the Democrats to the right. The union can’t survive with one party so blindly bent beyond reality. Defeating Obamacare would be progress in that regard. Sending Obama home in 2012 (which may be difficult, as the CBO is projecting 4-percent economic growth by that period, according to Bartlett) might scare enough conservative Democrats into kicking the academic wing of its party back to the campus. Democrats love government, but they love staying in power more i.e. Bill Clinton.
Outside of Michael Steele’s op-ed in the Washington Post (which is hardly the low-point of partisan name-calling, no matter how he portrays it), Bartlett shows little evidence of this evil Republican partisanship against he so rails. One wonders if his criticism isn’t so much of rank-and-file Republican politicians, who have been all but absent (outside of Senator Hatch’s rousing tributes to Dead Ted), but for the rabble at the town halls. No surprise that moderates are now inheriting contempt for ma and pa from the Democrats, as they often inherit everything.
I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me. We are the most likely group among independents to vote Republican. But I see no effort to do so. All I see is pandering to the party’s crazies like the birthers . In the short run that may be enough to pick up a few congressional seats next year, but I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future. Both CBO and OMB are predicting better than 4% real growth in 2011 and 2012. If those numbers are even remotely correct Obama will have it in the bag. Also, Republicans have to find a way to win some minority votes because it is not viable as a whites-only party in presidential elections. That’s why I wrote my Wrong on Race book, which no one read.
Yes, Republicans need to attract voters like Bartlett – the independent book-writing sect and the guy who thinks there is a massive media campaign to attract birthers to the party. If the GOP was actually trying to attract birthers, I would be relieved – it would mean the Republican party was busy trying to attract someone.
As for race, yes the Republican party is too white, but the Democratic party is too focused on identity groups, it’s largely a party of minority constituencies, unions, lobbyists, corporatists and lawyers – not exactly a mirror image of America. Like the old criticism from George Voinovich, that the GOP is largely becoming a party of the Midwest and South – unlike the Democratic party, which holds vasts swaths of the coasts, urban areas, and more of the coasts, and more of the urban areas. I guess no one likes the Midwest or the South.
I’m all for criticizing the Republican party when it’s merited, but Bartlett and company are more interested in bashing right-wing boogeymen than reality. Come up with something new.