Why remain in the GOP?

trumpFor the past several months, polls indicate that a solid majority of Republican voters plan to support Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson. Congress under Republican leadership has devolved into a freak show of conspiracy hunters and religious eccentrics, utterly incapable of managing the nation’s affairs. Delusional rhetoric on immigrants and abortion providers is starting to get people killed.

At the national level, the Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Fox News. No Republican of any power or prominence is resisting the tide of crazy sweeping over the party. There is no sign of any relief on the way.

Even for a “Lifer” this is a tough environment. Under these circumstances how can any responsible person remain active in the Republican Party?

As conditions grow more extreme the usual explanations ring hollow. Working for change “from the inside” does, at some point, risk devolving into an excuse. Our collective need for healthy partisan competition does not justify supporting a party that cannot contribute to public discourse. We have reached a point at which any Republican with a conscience needs to be making contingency plans.

Along with those plans, we owe the rest of the country an answer to these two questions:

– Why do you still consider yourself a Republican?

– Under what circumstances would you abandon the party?

Those questions carry a moral urgency that cuts through old loyalties and outweighs the personal investment in political networks built up across a career. There is a point at which my individual distance from the moral character of an institution closes. Conditions can become so extreme that “Not all Republicans” ceases to offer absolution.

Why do I continue to participate in the Republican Party as a local precinct committeeman and advocate? Local factors play the largest role as described at length here, but they feed into the wider picture of what the Republican Party could and should be, described here.

More important than those local conditions and longer-term policy aspirations is the opportunity that may emerge from the party’s pending implosion. Absurd as these national candidates are, their extremism may finally break the party, creating an unprecedented space in which to rebuild.

Faced with an institutional breakdown, we may have a unique opportunity to build a modern organization, disconnected from historical baggage. There is a chance that a retooled Republican Party could emerge from this shitstorm far better positioned for the 21st century than the Democrats. Strange as it may sound, for the next year or two the GOP may offer the most exciting environment for a policy reformer in modern American politics.

Next year’s election is shaping up to be a historic train wreck for the GOP. With control of the White House and Senate beyond any reasonable grasp and with a raving extremist at the top of the ticket, even our House majority is in question. Good riddance. Our existing leadership has brought us nothing but lunacy and dysfunction.

Our greatest challenges come from managing the externalities of global capitalism. How do we cope with the costs that are not factored into free market transactions for energy, health care, finance, education and other critical assets and activities? Our current crop of Republicans responds to these issues by pretending they do not exist. Climate change is a hoax. Tax credits can deliver access to health care. Deregulation and government apathy will bring the best outcomes in banking, energy, trade, education and every other field of endeavor.

By contrast, Democrats would seek to keep pace with the rising complexity of all of these fields by building enormous new bureaucracies to track, manage and control them. It is an effort born of 19th century Weberian bureaucracy that worked fairly well under Industrial capitalism. Faced with the exponentially accelerating complexity of a 21st century knowledge economy, these tactics are doomed to crumble under their own weight.

Democrats cannot pivot to build a new generation of government because they are hopelessly tied to the entrenched interests of the last era. Building a leaner, smarter government that accomplishes more than governments have done in the past under a cheaper, faster framework is the challenge of our generation.

A bloated bureaucracy inextricably tied to the institutions it is meant to regulate. Elections financed almost entirely by secret money beyond accountability or review. Unions, especially public employee unions, so politically powerful in their own right that not even their members can restrain them. Urban political machines incapable of accomplishing the simplest public tasks without the expensive grease of patronage and corruption. Research and vision may spawn promising, popular policy solutions to complex problems, but unless we can address these broken institutions, none of these innovations will ever matter.

The only force that can break the smothering power of the 19th and 20th century institutions is either a reformed Republican Party, or a new political organization that emerges from its collapse. Today’s GOP is pursuing none of these goals. Yet, all of these objectives are embedded in the party’s DNA.

Look closely at polling and you discover that beneath the layer of crazy, these priorities remain the bedrock of the party’s identity. A Republican Party closer to the politics of Teddy Roosevelt, George Romney, or even Richard Nixon, would be a far more promising engine of reform than a Clintonian Democratic Party. And let’s be clear, Hilary Clinton’s victory next year virtually guarantees that the next generation of Democrats will be Clintonians, not Sanders or Warren-style social democrats.

Give American voters a real choice between an ownership society and a European-style social democracy and they will choose the ownership society. It simply fits better with the prevailing values of the American public. Republicans have not offered Americans a vision for a 21st century society because we haven’t been able to shed our delusions. Tax cuts are not always the solution. Less government does not always produce more freedom. Environmental protection matters. Justice for those who have suffered discrimination matters. Providing opportunity for poor families matters. Black lives matter.

Offer Republican voters a sound, credible template of solutions for climate change, gun regulation, universal health insurance, tax reform and other tough subjects – without apologies and hedging – and they will not only back it, they will power it into national dominance. Don’t say it can’t work. There is no proof. No one in leadership has attempted such an effort in my lifetime. Republican voters have come to accept that the only alternative to Republican white nationalism is a smothering blanket of Democratic socialist mediocrity. Someone has to muster the courage to give Americans a real choice.

We do not really know what the Republican Party could be if it stopped pandering to racists. It is worth sticking around to try to force us to find the answer. A blueprint for this process is described at this link.

Perhaps these goals sounds unrealistic, but they are worthy of effort…up to a point. Vision is only as good as its relationship to reality. Continuing to press this vision in a GOP infrastructure committed to a different, darker course can become irresponsible. Right now, the Republican Party at the national level is committed to a very dark course.

What conditions would make it necessary to leave? There are a lot of potential answers, but one stands out as particularly relevant and perhaps imminent. If Donald Trump won the nomination and the party actually lined up behind him, then it would be time to leave. Republicans here locally are doing great work, but there are no “good Nazis.” A Trump victory still seems unlikely, but the possibility is too real to be discounted.

Next year’s nominating process should produce fractures large enough for new voices to emerge. Those openings may not materialize. Perhaps instead the party nominates Cruz, lines up solidly behind him, and goosesteps even farther to the right.

The epic failure of a Cruz campaign in 2016 might open yet another window of opportunity. If that opening fails to produce hopeful new developments prior to the next midterm elections than it is probably time to cut bait.

Barring that or a similar result, it still makes sense to remain active in the GOP, fighting to build a 21st century template for the party. In short, I remain convinced that at least for another year or two, there are better prospects for reform and modernization in the GOP than in the Democratic Party. At least the Republicans are close to a major disruption likely to open their infrastructure to new ideas. Conditions are pretty bad, but there is a twinkling of hope that the party of Lincoln can again be worthy of its heritage.

Blueprint for Republican Reform

The Politics of Crazy: How America Lost Its Mind and What We Can Do About It

Four Inescapable Realities

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Blueprint for Republican Reform, Election 2016, Uncategorized
366 comments on “Why remain in the GOP?
  1. Peter Gray says:

    While following your posts avidly for the past year or so, Chris, I’ve often wanted to ask exactly those two questions, particularly the second one, since you’ve more or less answered the first one, however defensively.
    Thanks for such a clear, thoughtful answer. Good comment about “no good Nazis.”
    For several years, I’ve had a sense of the GOP running a positive feedback loop, accelerating into highly unstable parameter space – and with no plausible counterforces in sight. Part of the death spiral is that with each iteration toward the center of Looneyville, the only thin hope is based on party “moderates” (by remaining standards on that particular date): precisely the members who just fled yesterday. And they weren’t as rational as the ones who bailed out the day before.
    If you were on a ship taken by pirates, or a plane hijacked by terrorists, would you comfort yourself by saying “You know, this isn’t so bad as it looks. Remember our original captain – what a nice guy he was when he was at the wheel!”

  2. Ryan Ashfyre says:

    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/12/donald-trump-general-election-primary-216477

    Some are arguing that The Donald is pivoting to the general election, and part of me is tempted to believe them. After his comments about our Muslim brothers and sisters, his numbers are on the rise in Iowa and New Hampshire yet again and we’ll soon be in the political winter of Christmas (political winter, you see what I did there-hahahahahaha… okay, I’ll stop now) and soon it’s going to be time for primary voting.

    Others are putting the theory out that Trump is tired of all this and he’s putting out these comments in the hopes that Republicans will disown him and he can have an out without losing any face; not that I particularly understand that, but hey, who am I to judge?

    Couple of problems with that though. If that were the case, then why did Trump go out and make such a big fuss about running a potential third party candidacy if he wasn’t “treated well” by the GOP? If he were really looking for an out, it makes no sense that he would tweet about the overwhelming majority of his supporters sticking with him if he decided to go that route.

    Of course we all know by now that it doesn’t matter if Trump wins every single primary if Republicans don’t commit to giving him the delegates he needs at the convention, though how such a scenario plays out without the party tearing itself apart is beyond me. Trump can easily threaten at that point to derail the party’s presidential hopes in their entirety by running as an Independent, so they may as well stick with him, in which case they’re equally screwed, will get absolutely throttled at the Senate level and may even put the House in play.

    When all’s said and done though, I just have an exceptionally hard time believing that Trump’s pride would allow him to bow out at this point, even if he wants to.

    • 1mime says:

      There was a time when I thought Trump was simply in it for the ego-thrill. Then, I believe his competitive spirit kicked in and he started enjoying being the center of attention, “The Art of the Deal”, as it were. Then he realized that even if he didn’t want to win, he also didn’t want to lose….being “the Trump” and all….which brings us to now. He’s invested a lot of time (less of his own money, note that) and he’s ridden the wave of success. The big test will come if he starts losing first place in the early primary states….will he hang in there, or , will he say “screw it”, I’ve had my fun and I’m ready to go back to doing what I reeely enjoy…whatever that is…Then, we have Cruz and Rubio duking it out for the the GOP nomination. Would he mount an independent run? I really don’t think so, but, I picked 4/1/16 for the Don to bow out and he’s still hanging in there. We’ll see. He doesn’t interest me as a candidate but the other two appall me….

    • piranha says:

      I can’t figure out Trump’s long-term motivation either, though I think one can rarely go wrong with “ego”. He pretty much has to threaten an independent campaign if the establishment Republicans push him out, because otherwise he loses alpha male status. I’m with those who think he’s getting more outrageous to ensure he isn’t electable because I still don’t believe he actually wants the job; he just wants to get attention for being the fearless leader. He wields an enormous amount of power right now; threatening he’ll not only take his ball, but also all his fans with him is striking fear into the heart of the party. It would lose them the election for sure. Look at all the attention he’s getting; he’s on top in every news cycle.

      And what does it cost him to run as an independent? He’s still not spending much of his own money, and he has loads to spend. It’d continue the greatest reality show for a while longer, with an added thrill bonus, and hey, I’m sure he’s not bored. He can pretty much say what he wants, I don’t know whether even a dead hooker or pictures of Trump making out with rentboys would make his fans turn away. Those things would sink a normal politician, but this guy? Did anyone read this piece with letters from Trump supporters? http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/donald-trump-voters/401408/– I found that quite instructive.

      I think the party’s best bet right now is to let the primaries start to play themselves out. All these polls now don’t have much predictive value. It was probably a mistake of Priebus to have that dinner; I’d play my cards much closer to my vest. I don’t think Trump’s chances are all that great.

      Oh, and while I agree that are no good Nazis, I don’t consider Trump a Nazi. He makes some proto-fascist noises, but he’s lacking all the really defining aspects of a true fascist. I admit, I sometimes wonder what kind of a president he’d make, if he could actually manage to work with others. I find him less scary than Cruz because he isn’t an ideologue. Cruz is the one whose nomination I fear, but I think the blue wall would hold against him (it definitely would hold against Trump; GOTV would be easy). IMO Christie could actually win the general against Clinton, but I think the party is too far gone to nominate a moderate.

      I’m kinda glad I don’t live in the US anymore. It’d drive me up the wall, because I agree, reforming the Dems is also unlikely, and I am completely fed up with the Clintons and their machine. I could at least throw my support behind Sanders and Warren, but I doubt that’s a viable option for goplifer. Maybe it all needs to fail abysmally before there is any rebuilding by sane and decent people possible.

      • 1mime says:

        The Weekly Sift is a blog written from the Democratic side of the aisle. Today’s is a good one on the current state of affairs in (primarily) Republican politics.

        On Trump and voter irrationality: “Unreality, along with the irrational fears and passions it commands, is a powerful weapon in politics. The problem is that no one can own it. If you use it, you have no safe refuge when someone turns it against you.”

        http://weeklysift.com/2015/12/14/how-republicans-trumped-themselves/

  3. Anse says:

    I only wish to comment on one thing, which is Chris’s argument that we need a “leaner”, less bureaucratic government that does more. I don’t know any Democrat or liberal who would disagree with this. But I don’t think we’ve done enough to acknowledge why bureaucracy exists and why it gets so complicated. In some countries you have a corruption so rampant that completing anything resembling cohesive teamwork is impossible. So you have a patchwork of government agencies and competing interests that, rather than work toward a common good, like fostering small businesses, become impossible to navigate. But the other problem, and the one more common here, I think, is the all-important fixation on Accountability. We demand accountability and more accountability! We want every penny accounted for and justified, every expenditure explained, every last thing any agency does to be held up to scrutiny. Which sounds reasonable, except that’s how you get paperwork piled on top of paperwork, applications 40 pages long and legal codes that go into the thousands of pages. And the result, ironically, is not better accountability, but worse, and terrible inefficiency to top it off.

    I await Chris’s observation of Finland’s move toward a national minimum income, a topic he has spoken of often here. (I haven’t read through all 350-odd comments, so I don’t know if this has come up.) That’s exactly the kind of idea that sends bureaucrats and accountability-obsessed welfare-bashers into fits. But it also radically eliminates a whole host of welfare state bureaucracies. I’m intrigued by it and I look forward to seeing if the Finnish experiment works.

    • duncancairncross says:

      Hi Anse
      Good reasoning – a very good reason for inefficiency

      There is another reason that some of your US bureaucracies don’t work as well as they should
      You guys have too many elective or political offices

      When Churchill lost the election after WW2 Stalin and Truman were surprised that his successor (Atlee) had the same group of advisors

      The British experts on a subject had not changed just because the government had changed

      In a successful bureaucracy you elect the leaders – the experts who implement the policies don’t change

      In the US you elect the people who actually do the jobs!
      And then they appoint a bunch of political hacks

      No wonder the jobs don’t get done effectively

      • Anse says:

        My theory about the problem with America on this topic is that too many of our obligations are farmed out to private interests, like prisons, and now healthcare. We have this bad habit of creating messy associations of private and public entities because we have an antipathy toward the government in general, and we have elected officials with friends in the private sector. Our elected officials too often seem to be interested primarily in forging relationships with the private sector in the hope of landing some cushy lobbying job down the road. So what we end up with are agencies that are less focused on doing the task they were created to do and more interested in subsidizing the interests of private sector entities who, in turn, privatize their profits. I don’t know if that jives directly with your comment, but it’s something I see in America all the time and it gives us government programs that are very wasteful and don’t perform as well as they could.

      • 1mime says:

        Anse, very good thinking on reducing government through privatization. It’s pretty obvious now that you have presented the situation. It certainly presumes that private entities can perform government functions more effectively in whole or in part. That certainly may be true in specific situations, but it is becoming more prevalent due to conservative belief in less government. Good contribution.

    • 1mime says:

      Anse, I agree that “smaller government for the sake of smaller government” is not the answer. When greater efficiency is possible and complexity and staffing needs are commensurate with the tasks required, certainly smaller, more effective government is desirable. There will always be agencies which will be more people-intensive, due to the purpose they serve. Smarter government, better trained people who are productive and execute their jobs well, are key. Guess what that requires – a well educated populace. Technology and education are a powerful duo to increase work output and to streamline/adapt to a changing world. Who could possibly argue against this?

    • Ryan Ashfyre says:

      Anse, you’re absolutely correct in that we all want accountability in our government. The question is how do we get there? I have a few ideas that I think would go a fair ways towards making that happen:

      1.) Have our elected officials participate in public forums, perhaps every month or so after they’re elected and have them explain to their constituents what they’ve been doing in office, what they’re planning to do and whether they think they can get it done.

      Now, of course, people don’t trust politicians and rightfully so. Therefore the question will inevitably come up: “Well, any politician worth their salt can spin a forum, dragging it out and avoid answering questions, so what’s the point?”

      Good point, which is why I would also advocate an online record keeping site, detailing in simple and streamlined fashion the official’s positions, what they ran on, what they’ve voted on and other pertinent information. Keep it updated after each forum – with each individual forum recorded and uploaded for viewing if so desired – and hold the official accountable to his/her constituents.

      Furthermore, another question is who would be responsible for said record keeping? I would recommend cooperation with local newspapers as well as, perhaps, students and young adults from colleges and the like. For an effort such as this, it could be a good opportunity to get our children involved in the public process and make them feel like they can do something to make a difference.

      This would, IMO, allow the public to hold a degree of confidence in who is keeping track of what.

      With all that said, I believe this proposal could encourage public participation in our politics, cut down on any unnecessary bureaucracy that could be dragged out for goodness knows how long and be done with comparatively little money.

      2.) It really should go without saying, but we need campaign finance reform, or as I prefer to call it, anti-corruption reform.

      Ultimately, I think the road we need to go down is something that Bernie Sanders has strongly advocated for and that’s public financing of elections. So long as millionaires and billionaires can have an outspoken influence on our politics, any attempt to curb that influence within the current system will merely be trying to treat the symptoms and not the actual problem.

      3.) Term limits. If a president can only serve two terms, it seems grossly unfair that House and Senate members can be there indefinitely.

      Now, of course, there can be a vigorous debate as to just how many terms one should be allowed to serve, but there should be a limit.

      4.) Independent commissions to draw districts around this country in every single state to end the scourge of gerrymandering once and for all. It is absolutely obscene that elected officials in BOTH parties can tweak their state’s lines to favor the incumbent party. This is nothing but an incentive for corruption and taking power away from the people for whom these officials are supposed to represent.

      Progress is already being made on this front (the Supreme Court of my own state of Florida just recently adopted new maps that are much cleaner than the ones that the Republican-controlled legislature had adopted before), but there is still much to be done.

      With all of that said, if these measures were all taken and adopted, I think they would go a long ways towards restoring public confidence in our politics and helping to give the people a real and honest voice in how things are done in this country.

      • 1mime says:

        Several good ideas, Ryan. Most elected officials at the federal level do hold regular forums. I’d like them to be more broadly advertised than to the easy and supportive base, but, in all fairness, this is being done. I like your idea of a public forum….maybe public commentary that is readily accessible would serve as a goad for action and document concerns.

        Term limits…this is highly debatable, but after years of watching the process, I’d have to say I agree. Ostensibly, elections are supposed to term limit officials, but gerrymandered districts, well-funded campaigns, etc, make it harder for new people to run and win. At the very least, the members of the House should serve 4-year terms instead of 2-year terms for obvious reasons.

        Public campaign accountability and funding of campaigns. I hope you read the NYT link to the story of FEC Chair, Ann Ravel that I posted below. The process is broken. I agree with public financing. It is already being done on a voluntary basis (checking off box on income tax return), but I would like it implemented at least for the office of President.

        Non-partisan election district commissions are functioning in a few states, but I assume you are aware that the SCOTUS is hearing two cases which will impact this and how the census is used to influence district makeup. I personally favor the non-partisan idea myself but that is probably driven my my intense dislike of gerrymandered districts.

  4. Justin says:

    I almost completely agree with everything you say in this piece as an ex-liberal democrat. The part that gets me is that I do not believe more deregulation of the banking and financial industry’s is anything but a recipe for disaster for the vast majority of Americans. Maybe that is a byproduct of my liberal past or maybe history has already shown us what happens. Either way I agree with your assessment of the Democratic Party for the most part. I find it very troubling that it’s very likely that Clinton will win this next election although I do hold out hope that she will be beaten in the primary if only because I would prefer Sanders over her given an choice between the two but still have my doubts about much of his agenda. I was very much against Romney in the previous election but now seeing how things have played out under Obama and our complete lack of legitimate options for a successful republican ticket I wish so many on the right were not so unwilling to allow Romney to try to run again in 2016. He really puts all these candidates to shame on both sides. Good piece.

    • Justin says:

      What I would add to my comment is that much the crazy that we see on the national level has much to do with the conservative media pushing it that way. We definitely need more conservative alternative media to push a more reasoned republican candidates.

  5. 1mime says:

    This is how hard it is to bring about change in the money flowing into politics. She tried. Hard.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/03/us/politics/fec-cant-curb-2016-election-abuse-commission-chief-says.html?_r=1

  6. 1mime says:

    Here’s another perspective on the ’16 race from The Weekly Sift. There’s more in here about Repubs than Dems, and most of the news on the right parallels Lifer’s commentary thus far….great minds and all that stuff….

    http://weeklysift.com/2015/12/07/the-2016-campaign-a-mid-course-assessment/

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