By Jessica Huseman
In Monday’s New York Times, moderate Republican columnist David Brooks called for a second GOP to form in order to repair the party that has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
Calling the mindset of the current GOP incompatible with reality, Brooks said:
“…if opposing government is your primary objective, it’s hard to have a positive governing program. … the G.O.P. fiercely opposed the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law but never offered an alternative. The party opposed Obamacare but never offered a replacement. John Podhoretz of Commentary added that as soon as Republicans start talking about what kind of regulations and programs government should promote, they get accused by colleagues of being Big Government conservatives.”
But the problem still stands: Entitlement programs need reform — badly. The “pay as you go” system is broken, but no one — not even the Republicans who continue to call for changes — has been able to propose a reasonable solution. Brooks says:
“… given all the anti-government rhetoric, [Americans] will never trust these Republicans to reform cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare. You can’t be for entitlement reform and today’s G.O.P., because politically the two will never go together.”
And therein lies the problem. The social issues our country faces today will likely need government intervention, and the Republican Party outright rejects anything of the kind. This mindset, as Brooks points out, makes it hard for Republicans to offer solutions to “social and economic problems that don’t flow directly from big government.”
Americans see the problems that flow from “globalization, the turmoil of technological change and social decay,” Brooks writes. But they see no solutions in the Republican party — a fact that is alienating an increasing amount of people.
The GOP likes to pretend that their problem lies in its messaging. That the party can switch their message on immigration to make it more kindhearted and massage their message on women to seem “smarter.” But what about the increasingly moderate public they are also alienating with their total rejection of all government — a moderate public that cares about more issues than just immigration or birth control?
So what should they do? Should Republicans try to change the party entirely to cool their own jets and actually stand a chance at winning over areas where the Democratic Party has consistently dominated? Brooks offers an alternative:
“It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast. It’s smarter to build a new division that is different the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton.”
This second GOP, Brooks says, “would be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power, but who don’t share the absolute antigovernment story of the current GOP.”
Moving forward, such a party may be necessary if the GOP hopes to survive. According to Gallup, a plurality of voters aged 18 to 29 classify themselves as “moderate” while the remaining percentage splits equally between liberal and conservative. The votes going forward will lie in the middle, and the Republican party needs to do a better job proving themselves to that group.
But who is going to create this new section of the GOP? In a climate where classifying yourself as a “moderate Republican” is tantamount to political suicide, how is anyone supposed to be a legitimate moderate voice in the Republican Party?
Rep. Steve LaTourette, a long-time Republican moderate from Ohio, chose not to run for a 10th term because you had to turn over “your wallet and your voting card” to extremes, he said. He didn’t want to play along.
“I have reached the conclusion that the atmosphere today and the reality that exists in the House of Representatives no longer encourages the finding of common ground,” he said. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) retired from the Senate citing the same reason.
So, who’s left? Pretty much no one of any real power. Is this a bad thing? If you look at history, yes.
From David Frum of The Daily Beast:
“But here’s an ironic truth: the Republicans of the rejected moderate era succeeded much better at undoing the excesses of the New Deal and Great Society than the immoderate Republicans of today. Between 1969 and 1983, they repealed New Deal regulation of civil aviation, trucking, shipping and railways; New Deal regulation of consumer banking and finance; and a vast swathe of controls of energy production and pricing. They stopped the construction of public housing, replacing it with Section 8 vouchers. They closed Great Society programs like the Office of Economic Opportunity and Model Cities. What have the immoderate Republicans of the Tea Party era accomplished? Bupkus.”
Today’s Republicans are literally terrifying the country, and not just with their language, with their action. It’s in the extreme ways they characterize social proposals and then squash them with excess force. Frum offers examples:
“‘Death panels’ and ‘Ground Zero mosques'; Michele Bachman, Herman Cain and Donald Trump taking turns as the Republican front-runner; speakers of state legislatures praying for the death of the president and a former speaker of the House denouncing the president as a Kenyan anti-colonial alien to the American experience.”
It’s getting absurd. The select few people who classify themselves as severely conservative cheered, while the rest (read: the majority) of the country wanted to stand on their chairs and yell, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”
That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for such heavy conservatism, because there are voters — especially in the South and the West — who want that kind of leader. But their numbers are shrinking, and there needs to be a moderate Republican option for voters in the Northwest and Midwest if the Republican Party is to survive. Two factions, while incompatible, may clear the muddy waters in which the GOP finds itself drowning.