You can hardly pick up a newspaper or magazine, or log onto a website these days without encountering an article that advises the Republicans party on ways to address the party’s current dilemma. Some are well-reasoned and thoughtful, many are nothing more than thinly-disguised apologetics. Commentary magazine has recently published one of the better analyses. Among their prescriptions: an admonition to be intellectually honest.
The article made clear that the author agreed with conservative economic approaches. But as it noted, the likelihood of anyone listening to the GOP on these issues “requires changing an image that the GOP is engaged in class warfare on behalf of the upper class. Republicans could begin by becoming visible and persistent critics of corporate welfare: the vast network of subsidies and tax breaks extended by Democratic and Republican administrations alike to wealthy and well-connected corporations. Such benefits undermine free markets and undercut the public’s confidence in American capitalism. They also increase federal spending. The conservative case against this high-level form of the dole is obvious, and so is the appropriate agenda: cutting off the patent cronyism that infects federal policy toward energy, health care, and the automobile and financial-services industries, resulting in a pernicious and corrupting system of interdependency. “Ending corporate welfare as we know it”: For a pro-market party, this should be a rich vein to mine.”
No kidding. The hypocrisy on this issue–defending corporatism while marginalizing the poor and opposing any effort to help them–has been widely mocked. This preference for corporate welfare has made the general public view all GOP economic prescriptions with suspicion.
Perhaps the most penetrating observation in the article, however, was this one:
Republicans need to express and demonstrate a commitment to the common good, a powerful and deeply conservative concept. There is an impression—exaggerated but not wholly without merit—that the GOP is hyper-individualistic. During the Republican convention, for example, we repeatedly heard about the virtues of individual liberty but almost nothing about the importance of community or social solidarity, and of the obligations and attachments we have to each other. Even Republican figures who espouse relatively moderate policy prescriptions often sound like libertarians run amok.
This may be the area where current Republican rhetoric is most out of sync with the culture. America is experiencing a still-nascent but growing return to balance, to a renewed recognition of the importance of community and the common good. “I’ve got mine” is an unattractive motto for a political party at any time, but it is extremely off-putting to people looking for ways to forge a caring polity.
The article makes several other points worth pondering, not the least of which is that the country desperately needs two mature, responsible political parties. And right now, we don’t have them.