The Once-Grand Old Party

According to Nate Silvers’ 538.com,

Democrats have deep divides over policy. In contrast, Republicans, at both the state and federal levels, are largely unified around an agenda of cutting spending for programs such as Medicaid that are targeted at low-income people, defending Americans’ ability to own and purchase guns, limiting abortion, and reducing regulations and taxes on businesses.

If you analyze those GOP positions, they all come down to screwing over poor people–either by shrinking the social safety net, by refusing to respect their personal autonomy, or by allowing businesses to ride roughshod over laws that were originally passed to protect them (and the rest of us).

Oh, and of course, ensuring that “good Americans” have access to guns to protect themselves against the freeloaders.

If you do a deeper dive into these positions–especially if you consult research conducted in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election–you’ll notice that Republicans picture the poor people they disdain as overwhelmingly black and brown. Other. Them. Those people. Not like “us.” Not “real Americans.”

The GOP of my younger days has been replaced by a White Nationalist cult.

I can remember when the Republican Party–at least in Indianapolis–was the party of good government, when the party people with whom I worked genuinely cared about building a society that worked for everyone.

Were there always some venal people in the GOP? Was there a racist and anti-Semitic fringe? Sure. There were also plenty of unsavory characters among the Democrats. No political party, no movement, no government is free of all corrupt influences. No party supports policies that all turn out to be good ideas. Especially when a political party is in power, the climbers and hangers-on and self-interested will gravitate to it and if those in positions of authority aren’t careful, they’ll pollute the entire organization.

Purity, unfortunately, is inconsistent with humanity.

That said, in the GOP I knew, among the candidates I supported and the volunteers with whom I worked, most were genuinely good people, and they are almost all gone now from the party ranks. When I talk to them–party workers, former political appointees and officeholders–they are depressed and appalled at what the Republican party has become.

Nixon’s southern strategy has become the Republicans’ national identity.

The problem is, America desperately needs two adult, reasonable, non-racist parties. In the absence of Republicans of good will, intellectual honesty, and rational policy prescriptions, the Democrats will fracture into warring factions. (We’re already seeing that, as the quote from 538.com recognizes.) That’s because, in a two-party system, when people with respectable political philosophies can’t imagine affiliating with one of those parties (because it is no longer respectable), and thus join the other party, that other party loses coherence. Policymakers lose the benefit of competing, rational prescriptions for dealing with the nation’s issues.

The Whigs went the way of the buffalo. Today’s iteration of the GOP needs to go with them.

America needs a new center-right party that is genuinely conservative–as a philosophy, not as a cover for racism, theocracy and plutocracy.

17 thoughts on “The Once-Grand Old Party

  1. Having worked in the Division of Community Services, a division of the Mayor’s Office during Mayor Hudnut’s administration; I can say that this city had an excellent multi-service, senior and health care system which benefited those who needed assistance which, in turn, benefited this city. The Hispano-American Multi-Service Center downtown was responsible for all Immigration and Naturalization Services for people from all over the world who came to this city. The divide between the city of Indianapolis and the federal level came down on us the day Reagan was elected president. Both Republicans but with diametrically opposing agendas and the losers were and continue to the those who are most in need.

    “If you analyze those GOP positions, they all come down to screwing over poor people–either by shrinking the social safety net, by refusing to respect their personal autonomy, or by allowing businesses to ride roughshod over laws that were originally passed to protect them (and the rest of us).”

    The “rest of us” Sheila refers to are all victims of this divide; too often coming down to actual life-and-death situations; as an example, Indianapolis is in its third year in a row with historical numbers of murders. Almost every one by guns. This is due to the full support of the federal level Republicans with Indiana Republicans lax (almost non-existent) gun laws. Trump’s “tax cuts” have resulted in additional local taxes to basically fill pot holes in this city. A few blocks from my home, the pot holes on East 16th Street have recently been filled the 2nd time this year. The added gas tax and vehicle registration Transportation Infrastructure Improvement tax obviously isn’t enough. Mayor Hogsett recently received a few million to aid in continuing this practice after the City-County Council approved a $10 MILLION tax abatement to Eli Lily to improve their laboratory developing better insulin products which Eli Lily has priced out of reach for who knows how many diabetics. Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett is tilting at windmills as the stare Republicans trample over all of us with full federal approval. But he does keep on keepin’ on.

    “America needs a new center-right party that is genuinely conservative–as a philosophy, not as a cover for racism, theocracy and plutocracy.”

    Possibly; or do we need both parties to return to the humanitarian basis of the Constitution of the United States of America?

  2. I’m not absolutely convinced that America needs any parties at all. We might just need to follow California in establishing primaries that are non-partisan, in which the top two candidates face off in the general election. That being said, we won’t come to that overnight. We have to accept the winner of the primaries in 2020 and vote for the Democrat, no matter who that might be. So far, all of the candidates are reasonable choices.

  3. American has a center-right party…it’s called the Democratic National Party. The GOP is a far right-wing enterprise.

    What we need is a leftist/progressive party but the Wall Street owned DNP works overtime to prevent progressive movements. Remember at Trump’s SOTU address when the majority of Democratic reps applauded Trump’s claim that, “The USA will never be a socialist country.”

    The real problem is the political spectrum doesn’t exist under an Oligarchy. It’s fun to talk about but it’s meaningless. As an Oligarchy, what we really have is a corporate hierarchy. The political class and media are about the same level in the chart.

    Or as Noam Chomsky would say, “The country has moved so far to the right that the modern day Democrats are the old GOP.”

    The political spectrum assumes democracy where candidates represent the people with political beliefs from liberal to conservative. Are conservatives responsible for cutting taxes on the wealthiest Hoosiers/Americans while ignoring our decaying infrastructure?

    Forty years of Neoliberalism has destroyed many of our institutions, including both political parties. Under this new form of capitalism, we extract dollars from households and communities while we create a lucrative environment for the wealthy Oligarchs.

    We can thank Uncle Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan/Maggie Thatcher for it.

    As for yesterday’s post, ML pointed out the loan given to Ecuador under the “International community.” Yes, it is quid pro quo. The Ecuadorian president also has a corruption scandal that will disappear as well since he is a USA appointed president. Just like we are trying to do in Venezuela. I wonder if Ecuador would have received that loan had a socialist presidential candidate won. LOL

  4. Peggy; California had 27 candidates for governor alone in the last primary. My political activist friend who lives in California said it took her all day to go through her Absentee Ballot to cast her votes due to the number of candidates for all positions.

    As for all of the current 2020 candidates being “reasonable choices”; they are qualified and doing exceptional jobs in their elected offices, but are they actually qualified for the job as president. Some appear to me to be highly popular politicians; but do they have the needed political experience to be elected by this country to run this country while undoing all the damage Trump will be leaving behind? We can’t afford to make any mistakes between now and November 2020; this gives Trump and his supporters over 18 months to delve into all Democratic candidate’s history, qualifications and experience to spread their lies, misconceptions and deceit. Can we expect help from DOJ with Trump against its departments and his ass-kissing buddy Barr as AG? As in 2016; I deeply fear Trump and his White Nationalist party and the 2% of the wealth of this country will GIVE him a 2nd term. Especially via the Electoral College system. Two weeks before the election, Rudy began grinning and warning us what was coming; he stated blatantly that the “Republicans have something up their sleeve and Trump will win the Electoral College vote”…and here we are.

    Yes; we do need to accept whoever wins the Democratic primary and vote for them; unlike what happened in 2016 due to Bernie Bots and Hillary’s baggage; unwarranted though it was and remains. President Obama has warned the party about developing a “circular firing squad”; a strong coming together within the Democratic party and voters is vital NOW.

  5. Copied from Sheila’s post:

    “That said, in the GOP I knew, among the candidates I supported and the volunteers with whom I worked, most were genuinely good people, and they are almost all gone now from the party ranks. When I talk to them–party workers, former political appointees and officeholders–they are depressed and appalled at what the Republican party has become.”

    My question about the above paragraph is – Do they all still vote for Republicans because they still can’t imagine the thought of voting for a Democrat candidate? That is what I find to be the case with unhappy Republicans where I reside. Even though they do not like what has happened within their party they will never vote Democrat. They are guilty of giving power to the rise of the extremism within their party by continuing to vote for their awful candidates.

  6. I do not doubt the authenticity of Ms. Kennedy’s experience with the Republican party in her “youth”.

    I must be a little younger, as my experience begins with Richard Nixon 50 years ago.

  7. The implication of one of the last paragraphs Sheila wrote is that the centrist Democrats today would have been Republicans when she was working in government. I wonder where they went.

  8. “The GOP of my younger days has been replaced by a White Nationalist cult.”

    It’s always been this cult. Ever since Lincoln was shot, Republicans have been trying to turn us into Lords v. Serfs. Without a strong Democratic party that VOTES, we will fulfill Marx’s predictions of an unregulated capitalist society destroying itself from within. The “white nationalist cult” is the engine of that de-regulation, thus our economic demise. Republicans don’t see that, of course, because it’s not in the quarterly reports to the stockholders. With them, it’s all about money and nothing about people.

  9. Todd, I would agree with this statement you posted: Or as Noam Chomsky would say, “The country has moved so far to the right that the modern day Democrats are the old GOP.”

    I do not care about a new Center Right Party, what ever that may mean. Bernie Sander’s policies in 2016 were attacked as too extreme. Now we have a host of Democrats trying to sell themselves as Progressive. There is one other Democratic Candidate that has demonstrated the same level of commitment over the years as Bernie and that is Elizabeth Warren.

    Bernie will be on FOX News tonight for a Town Hall.

  10. I agree with others here that we don’t need a center right party. What have conservatives ever conserved? Government should exist as a vehicle to meet the mutual needs of the people. Theoretically we pool our money to build roads, hire food inspectors, hire police and judges, hire politicians to protect us from predatory businesses, etc. To help the poor and disadvantaged, educate people. Now the sole focus is to help a few people make obscene amounts of money.

  11. While approaching my 70th birthday, I must be one helluva lot younger than Sheila (whose opinions I greatly respect) and other apologist-commenters for the local GOP during the supposed halcyon days of the Hudnut administration. Yes, Mayor Hudnut, compared to state-level and national Republican pols of today, was open-minded, relatively progressive and an empathetic people-person, as one would expect from a former clergyman. I enjoy imagining Donald Trump freezing his gold-plated ass riding a snow plow during a blizzard or acquiescing to the self-deprecation of wearing a leprechaun costume on St. Patrick’s day. While Hudnut was no saint, he also was not subject to the taint of national party policies that, although moving toward the ideological precipice, had yet to go over the edge.

    The old adage that all politics is local is dead and gone in the age of social media, 24/7 cable news, and the ascendency of far-right, identity politics. Local politics is so deeply tainted by the same money, propaganda and other influences that affect state and national party politics as to render them nearly indistinguishable, resulting in the nearly complete polarization of thinking from top to bottom. Try talking rationally with a Republican senator or representative to the General Assembly. (During a back-and-forth with my GOP state representative over the highly contentious debate over RFRA, he told me that while he agreed it might be discriminatory, the GOP counsel’s said it was okay. Further, given the predominance of rural, conservatives in the Assembly, the legislation was “as good as” could be attained – and that he would, therefore, vote in favor of what came to be seen as flawed legislation and a nationwide embarrassment.) The sickness at the top of the GOP infects and polarizes party loyalists in local precincts. All politics is national.

  12. While we immediately think Watergate when we hear the name Nixon, he, like Ike, was essentially a New Dealer of the FDR mold. It wasn’t all Watergate. He gave us the EPA and even once proposed a GAW (guaranteed annual wage), the dirty socialist! Can you imagine present day Republicans coming up with such “socialist” platform planks? I can’t.

    The Republican Party is headed back to Whigdom, from whose ashes it emerged in 1854 and elected a president only six year later, a guy named Lincoln. Perhaps the party that comes out of the demise of their party will be re-energized as was their party when it came out of the Whig Party. It could conceivably take on a liberal stance on the issues of the day and attract even a guy like me, a liberal Democrat who has voted exclusively for Democratic candidates for president since Truman. I am not in love with names and am not moved by propaganda in re sexual traits or cries of hammer and sickle; I’m in love with positions on the issues, and giving away the store to the rich and corporate class while treating the rest of us as plebes is not my idea of post-Enlightenment democracy.

    Trump is not the first guy to constantly appease his base; the Republican Party has been appeasing its base (the rich and corporate class) since Reagan in return for quid pro quos their base provides their campaigns for reelection. It’s a corrupt mess that we must correct in 2020, or else.

  13. A massive attempt at a 3rd Party of any kind will absolutely ensure “4 more years” of pain and shame and,perhaps, the death throes of American Democracy. Nothing lasts forever in history…

  14. We don’t like to brag, but here in South Carolina, where men are gun toters and women are robots programmed to meet the needs of men, we know a thing or two about making poor people suffer. Ignoring our education desert called the Corridor of Shame, think for a moment about our abortion policy. Since we are beginning to run short of techniques to make the indigent grovel, we decided to make it nearly impossible and mostly illegal for them to get abortions. That means, of course, that none of our middle class and higher income belles or their (sometimes political) beaus will be inconvenienced since the necessary facilities are always conveniently available to those with a little spending money. We aspire to be among the select states to help achieve the overturn of Roe v. Wade so that we can spread the misery as far and as wide as possible. We may not be compassionate, but we are consistent.

  15. Yes, our presidential politics took deep dives with Richard Nixon. He was long given to dirty tricks to win, starting with his runs for Congress in the 40s and earning him the moniker “Tricky Dick”. His ‘law and order’ campaigns were dog whistles to racism and gained more weight in the late 60s when young people demonstrated against the Vietnam War. Nixon spawned a downward spiral which continues to this day in the nakedly obvious racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and anti-semitism of Donald Trump (even though his daughter has converted to the Jewish faith).

    I SO hope the voters reject hate this next election.

  16. You mentioned the Whigs. Recently the GOP grew a branch called TEA PARTY. More recently the GOP grew a branch I call the KNOW NOTHINGS. Here’s a bit from WIKI: operated nationally in the mid-1850s. It was primarily anti-Catholic, xenophobic, and hostile to immigration, starting originally as a secret society

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