October 17, 2016

GOP: A Party In Desperate Search Of Itself.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt’s a mess, this election. One candidate will, of course, win and become President of the United States. The other candidate will, of course, lose. We believe, as we last opined, that Hillary Clinton will win this election and become the 45th President of the United States.

All things considered the alternative, that is, the election of Donald Trump would, to us, represent an unacceptable turn in American politics—a hail-Mary pass into a strange, dark and risky labyrinth. Great nations have, from time to time, found common cause with shallow, blustering, demagogic politicians, and those flirtations have never ended well. We do not believe the vast majority of Americans have made common cause with either candidate, but we believe the discomfort with Trump will trump the discomfort with Clinton.

We are not, however, among those who thrill to the prospect of a Hillary Clinton Presidency. But we’ll hope for the best, and for better alternatives to emerge by 2020. Hillary Clinton is committed to positions that abandon the political center for the siren call of the far left. And, according to the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, her pursuit of that siren call will increase federal spending $1.65 trillion over the next decade, raise taxes by $1.5 trillion and increase the national debt by $200 billion. And anyone who thinks the resulting tax squeeze will be limited to the proverbial one percent should stay away from people with bridges to sell.

We will not excess over her lack of foreign affairs accomplishments or her policy and management missteps or her other flaws that simply don’t commend her to the oval office. Suffice to say, she has a seriously convoluted notion of candor. But then again, her opponent in this election has not made virtue the cornerstone of his campaign either. In fact, other than bumper sticker pronouncements we’re not sure what his governing policies would be. He is, unquestionably, the most divisive personality ever to seriously seek the Presidency of the United States. All of which brings us to the purpose of our essay today.

The Republican Party is in serious trouble. The substantial, and to us troubling, number of Republicans who are devoted Trumpsters will not go away when this election is over. Most, we believe, will not be chastened either. The center will not reconstitute itself, and, indeed, the Republican center has been steadily eroding for years. This is not the party of Lincoln, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Dwight Eisenhower, or Jack Kemp or Richard Lugar, or William Ruckelshaus or, Bob and Elizabeth Dole or, for that matter, Ronald Reagan. This is, today, a largely angry party—sent to Washington by a largely and understandably angry electorate—angry not just because the national debt has grown so large, but angry because no one seems to care. Their constituents are angry because slow-to-no growth seems okay to our elected representatives in Washington. They are angry because student debt now exceeds almost all other “consumer” debt— even more than all credit-card debt combined. And they are frustrated that fewer and fewer of our workers have the skills to command the decent salaries that our technology-based, information economy pays.

This is not the sole fault of either Party. Both Parties have stultified with representatives who are more focused on re-election than the hard work of legislating and governing. They have, much too often, focused on their own business rather than the Peoples’ business.

To be sure, both Parties have migrated away from the political center, but the Republican Party has, generally, drifted to the right further and faster than the Democratic Party has drifted to the left — at least until 2016. The influence of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, however, is changing that. These self-styled political purists have large and very active constituencies that Hillary Clinton will have to satisfy if she is not to be a one-term President, and rest assured, Hillary will have no intention of becoming a one-term President.

America has generally been a centrist nation, always more moderate than extreme. That has been our greatest strength—our unique true North. America’s secret, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835, “lies in her ability to repair her faults.” It is not hard today to discern our faults, either from the left or from the right. We are bereft of moderates in government. Moderation has become a term of abuse on both sides of the aisle, but particularly on the right. Too many Republicans, in particular, today eschew moderation as though it were synonymous with capitulation. But it is no such thing. Governing requires problem solving, and, barring autocratic rule, problem solving requires moderation—a willingness to work together and an understanding that problem solving is, or should be, the business of politics and governing.

Ours is not a perfect system. Indeed, it is rather messy. In 1787, the 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin harbored many concerns about the proposed Constitution and had argued vigorously for provisions that did not make the final draft. Yet, in the final hours of debate at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin urged his colleagues “who may still have objections to it … to doubt a little of their own infallibility” and adopt an excellent, if imperfect, document. That advice, when writing legislation, is as sound today as it was at the founding. Making good the enemy of the perfect in a democratic, two-party system is a disservice to the country. It is foolish, even stupid.

We suspect a functional third party may emerge from this election consisting mostly of those disaffected Republicans who simply will not be able to identify with many of their post-election colleagues.

 We understand the frustration of serious men and women who are frustrated by the extreme positions of their party’s standard bearer, and we would not be surprised to see scores of them coalesce around more moderate leadership. The criticism hurled by many talk radio and cable television personalities that moderates lack principles is, of course, absurd. We have huge problems to solve including our long-term fiscal challenges, global terrorism, a broken immigration system, escalating health care costs and many more.

A more moderate Republican Party will build on the Party’s historical fiscal conservatism while remaining highly skeptical of ever expanding, ever encroaching government. But it will also remain committed to civil and personal rights, providing a safety net for those citizens who are struggling to gain their footing in a rapidly changing economy and a realistic commitment to environmental protection.

We believe a growing number of Americans will support sensible positions emanating from both parties, and that many will, of course, reject certain ideas from both parties. We recently quoted from Charles Wheelan’s Centrist Manifesto, “that the time has come to take the best ideas from each party, discard the nonsense, and build something new and better.”

All of the founders feared the rise of political parties, because they knew how divisive they would become. They also knew that the rise of political parties would be inevitable in the democratic system they were creating. Well, our Parties have, indeed, become as divisive as the founders feared. The remedy, the only remedy, might just be a new third Party that serves to ameliorate the extremes to which both Parties have migrated.

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4 responses to “GOP: A Party In Desperate Search Of Itself.”

  1. Irwin yablans says:

    Your essay clearly is the voice of reason and would that it were possible
    What troubles me is the unrelenting drumbeat of far right media that is already suggesting militant resistance to a presumptive democratic presidential victory. That it seems to me is our “third party”
    I too wish for a political epiphany and your call for a return of responsible politics is admirable and Necessary. Unfortunately I fear that the agents of division who exploit the vast differences,particularly on social issues will continue to exploit the populace. Fox News will not abandon their simplistic brand of jingoistic incalcitrant resistance to compromise. Too much money at stake for that despicable organ to leave unclaimed. And if you doubt the power of Fox and I’ll add Rush Limbaugh to that toxic brew,look no further than the phenomenon of Donald Trump.
    Your hope for good men to come together to restore our democracy is one that I and many of my fellow citizens share.

  2. eugene krasnow says:

    What other choice is there other than that of a single payer system for fixing the medical care situation? esk

    An interesting question indeed. We may well be headed toward a federal universal healthcare model. But then, again, maybe not. Seventy-eight percent of employees who earn above 400% of the federal poverty level are covered today by employer sponsored insurance, although coverage by employer sponsored plans has been declining for those employees earning less. They, however, have had the cost of insurance ameliorated by federal subsidies through the government exchanges. In effect, a significant portion of lower earning workers are participating, indirectly, in a single payer system. Costs (and deductibles), however, are expected to rise dramatically as the open enrollment period comes to an end next month. At a minimum, we suspect federal premium subsidies will substantially increase between now and 2020, suggesting a continued drift, one way or another, toward single payer.

  3. John Melk says:

    No matter how well written and thought out this blog is, I and many millions of Americans, can not see how in the world any thinking person can come to the conclusion that it is good for the Country to vote for a person that will result in:
    -totally open borders. (How’s that working for Europe?)
    -an administration which, at best, is ambivalent about Isreal’s future.
    -a substantially larger and mostly ineffective and costly government.
    -continualing the anemic economic growth of the past eight years at the expense of the poor and middle class.
    -installation of the most corrupt senior administration in the history of American Government (including Nixon).
    -installation of a absolutely proven pathological liar in the Oval Office.
    -a President that has accomplished nothing other than aiding political and horrifying disasters around the world during her career.
    -a President who will accomplish nothing during the next four years if the Congress hopefully continues to be a Republican majority as she is divisive and has NO ability to bring people together.
    -etc etc etc

    Until there is a viable third party, I and half of America will vote for the lesser of two evils (and Hillary and her crew have shown that they ARE truly the the most evil)
    THERE IS NO LOGICAL OR VIABLE CHOICE BUT TO VOTE FOR THE CHOSEN REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE ( WARTS AND ALL)!!

  4. Elaine levinson says:

    Dear Hal: thank you for writing a wonderful letter on what’s happening this election season. It came to my attention recently about the lack of knowledge concerning war and the president . Many of the people did not know the president could, on his own , without congress or any cabinet or military person, pick up the red phone and give an order for a devastating weapon to be used.. This reason is enough for me , not to vote for the loose canyon we have in Donald trump. Good luck to all of us and our families in this terrible time. Best to you and Diane. Elaine levinson

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