Remember back in the day oh so long ago—as little as in 2013—when people were prophesying the death of conservatism? Indeed, if you click on one of those links, the tradition of predicting the death of the right goes back a long time to the early 90s.
Presently, we have an equal litany of pundits and thinkers predicting a liberal crackup. This is not new. Even in the 1980s, Bill Buckley on his excellent Firing Line considered the “liberal crackup” after Reagan’s landslide elections:
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Auguries of the death of this or that party have plagued us since the Founding. Sometimes, parties actually do collapse. However, most of the time predictions about a party’s demise are incorrect. After 2008, the Republicans were not collapsing, they were in the middle of an internal battle. The Tea Party sprung up to the right of center, and was the bane of of the party leading it to defeat after defeat electorally. Fast forward a few years to 2014, and the latest shellacking of the Democrats were not largely due to the Tea Party. The Tea Party was seen as too extreme, and it did not benefit the governing coalition on the Hill. Presently, leading Tea Party politician, Ted Cruz, is a man isolated. Being politically savvy is not the strong suit of the Tea Party to be sure.
In similar fashion, the Democrats are about ready to make the same mistake (although they are doing it willingly!), and it is here the Republicans can capitalize greatly. Since the feckless presidency of Barrack Obama, the left wing of the party has began to flex it’s muscle. Indeed, Obama was seen as the great left hope, but he has been a crushing disappointment. So much so, Hillary Clinton is too far to the right of many of the rank and file Democrats, and Jim Webb, among others, will likely challenge her from the left–though it is safe to say that Webb could be seen as a more reliable middle of the road candidate similar to Sec. Clinton. So, it’s no surprise that certain factions of the Democrat Party are calling for a Tea Party of the Left, and doing so willingly. The problem is that these small movements only appeal to a tiny portion of the base, but usually that’s enough to keep electable candidates with which they disagree from winning.
The more recent problems for the Democrats is that they are losing white voters; Republicans conversely are increasingly losing minorities. We are facing the reality that if trends continue, the two parties will be very racially split. This is not a good things for the country or our politics for it will become increasingly divisive. Republicans can stave off this racial division presently, as even the Democrats alienate the rest of their white blue collar coalition.
The Republicans are standing in the midst of a great opportunity, if they can only see it. They are poised to adopt an electoral and governing majority by instituting a version of fusionism. We should call it New Fusion–in honor of Frank Meyer who thought that an alliance between anti-communists, social and traditional conservatives, and libertarians (free marketers) could be created and turned into a winning electoral coalition, as well as a robust intellectual society. What should this candidate look like?
Mitt Romney was an awful candidate in many ways: he did not appeal to the voters because he appeared to lack empathy, he seemed to be a ruthless businessman (Bain Capital), and he did not appeal to the base (not conservative enough). Much of Romney’s depressing candidacy is noted in the excellent books After Hope and Change and Barrack Obama and the New America. Let’s stake out a few areas the Republicans have an opportunity to make inroads into the Democrat coalition nationally. These are by no means meant to be exhaustive.
- Immigration: Republicans have a golden opportunity to bring a significant number, if not a majority, of Hispanics into the Republican camp. The party already has about 28% of them voting nationally, and in certain states the number is even greater. The stalling and complaining about illegals being here does the party no good nationally. There is a significant policy problem facing the country and there is no practical way to deport everyone even if the entire country wanted them deported (incidentally, I think it violates the idea of America to deport productive people who desire citizenship). As a practical matter, the country debated for years deporting the slaves and former slaves. It is costly, and further, there is a humane consideration of sending productive people into a land (or back to their country) where they will stagnate and not thrive as human beings. America is the best hope and a beacon of light in this world, and Republicans ought to emphasize that as the motivating factor why many people want to uproot their lives, live, work, and die here in this country. So, what should the policy be? First, they should pass legislation and appropriate funds to fast track illegals who are productive. Second, they should pass legislation to deport criminals (not house them in our legal system). Third, they should pass a robust border security bill aimed at security in relation to terror not to keep out people who want to immigrate here (and that means including the promotion of a status for those like they do in Baja where they can live in Mexico, but work daily in the U.S.) Obama has been the deporter-in-chief; Republicans can vow to be the opposite for the idea of America at the Statue of Liberty is to call all the tired and weak who want to succeed. There’s nothing more American than welcoming immigrants with open arms.
- Economy/Business: Republicans have been awful on these issues. To their right, they are insufficiently free-market and seem to assent to the criticisms from the left that there’s something evil with business and corporations. To their left, they praise business too much by talking about how businesses don’t harm the environment, are generally good by providing employment, etc. It times to split the difference. Republicans should adopt a rhetoric and the policy that supports business but does not avoid humanitarian responsibility. I have recently read a book by John Mackey of Whole Foods called Conscious Capitalism. Mackey–a free market libertarian–makes the case for markets without all the unsympathetic language and paralyzing theoretical boredom. Mackey makes it clear that some businesses are better than others. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and a whole host of others actually live by their mission. They treat employees well, pay them well, and in turn, give them a stake in the company. Certain companies also believe they are doing good for the whole by providing a service they need and can use, but these are not just words, they speak, live it, and act like it in their relations with the customer as well. Mackey makes it clear, business is here to do good not make a profit simply. In that he disagrees with the wonderful Milton Friedman who said the opposite. This ALL should be praised by Republicans as an example of how free markets work for the Good. Yet Mackey also notes the onerous taxation rates on businesses. Of the nearly $900 million Whole Foods made, the company only walked away with about $330 million because of taxation. Thus, it is time to go Ireland, lower the tax rate and allow businesses to thrive. Mackey makes it clear, that many businesses would donate more funds to charity if not for taxation. Republicans need to highlight these facts in a heartfelt and sympathetic way. Government needs to get out of the way for Good people to do Good things with their Good companies.
- Defense: Rand Paul makes a thoughtful case that we should retrench as a nation and allow many countries to fight among themselves. His position would definitely lose the American electorate and certainly the Republican base. While some of what he says may be compelling–and I do think we should pull back in some areas–we should most definitely not cut defense. Republicans should talk about real defense of the homeland technologically whether that is through a more robust defense shield, or a well thought out foreign policy. Obama has been feckless and child-like in his foreign policy–if he has even had one. It is time for the Republicans to be hawkish while not so interventionist. In this vein, why not allow the rearming of Japan? That would surely make Putin think a bit more about things, and let China know we are serious about politics in the pacific rim. But, that might be too radical a proposition. At the very least, we should arm the Ukraine vigorously.
I understand there will be much about this vignette open for debate. We could certainly add more to the list. But, it seems time for the Republicans to choose a New Fusion while the Democrats are taking time for their own small implosion.