Monday, May 9, 2016

Contrary to Rumors, the GOP is Not Dead, or Even Dying

Saturday’s lead in the New York Times was “Rift Grows Wide as Republicans Abandon Trump,” followed by Sunday’s lead “G.O.P. Unravels as Party Faces Trump Takeover.” Conservative columnists, such as Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Max Boot of the Los Angeles Times denounced Donald Trump. Max Boot’s column “The Republican Party is Dead,” called Trump an “ignorant demagogue.” Bill Kristol, co-founder of the Weekly Standard and prominent neo-con, has been steadfast against Trump. He was rumored a few days ago to have approached Governor Romney about a third party candidacy. The Governor said no, but also made it clear he will not vote for the nominee. Neither will Senator Lindsay Graham nor Governor Jeb Bush, who said his victorious rival “lacked the temperament or strength of character” to be President. The conservative Republican establishment is apoplectic about Donald Trump for two reasons First, he hammered them and their preferred candidates in the campaign. Second, he is not a Reagan conservative, the current orthodoxy of the Republican Party. Donald Trump can be described either as a traditional moderate Northeast Republican or by the opprobrium “Rhino.’ Donald Trump is a fiscal conservative and social libertarian. The mainstream media is fanning the flames of Republican discontent. They want Donald Trump and the Republican Party to implode. Yet, to paraphrase Mark Twain: “The reports of the GOP’s death are greatly exaggerated.” The Republican Party has survived existential threats before. The Great Depression weakened it for decades. The 1932 and 1934 elections were devastating to the G.O.P. The 1933 Congress had 59 Democratic Senators compared to 36 Republicans and the House of Representatives was 313 Democrats and 117 Republicans. 1935 was even more Democratic: 69 Senators and 322 Representatives. 1937 was up to 75 Democratic Senators and only 17 Republicans and 323 Democratic Representatives versus 89 Republicans. The Republicans rebuilt their strength over time. Then came the 1964 nomination of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a revolt against the eastern establishment. The LBJ landslide and Goldwater debacle saw the Democrats reap a 68-32 majority in the Senate and 295-140 in the House. Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation was another blowout. The Democratic majorities in 1975 were 61-37 in the Senate and 291-144 in the House. The G.O.P. survived, as it will survive this year’s election. The nation needs two political parties as a balance. Donald Trump’s election victories are not a voter’s rejection of conservatism, as assumed by commentators, but a rejection of the conservative leadership in Washington. They elected a Republican House of Representatives in 2010 and a Republican Congress in 2014. Yet, the Republicans did little to stop the Obama agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner were opposed to vigorously using the power of the purse to rein in the President. They remembered the shellacking they got from the media in the 1995-96 shutdowns during the Clinton Administration. The Republicans essentially lost the battle and were blamed by the public for the shutdowns. The same result occurred in the 15 day shutdown in October 2013 during the Obama Administration. The Congressional leaders signaled they would not shut the government down again. Nor would they use the debt ceiling authorizations to crimp the Administration’s actions. Government spending escalated, government employment increased, taxes went up, but the middle class and blue collar workers suffered. The enactment of ObamaCare was the catalyst for the creation of the Tea Party. Former Senator Robert Bennett of Utah passed away last week. He served 18 years in the Senate. The distinguished senator was denied reelection in 2010 by the Tea Party, being replaced by Mike Lee. Senator Bennett’s main sin was to vote for TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Plan of 2008, reviled by conservatives. Virginia’s Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, was defeated for reelection in the Republican primary in June 2014 by a Tea Party candidate. The Congressional leaders did not heed the lessons from these momentous defeats. They viewed the Tea Party as kooks, who cost the Republicans Several Senate seats and forced Congress into the unsuccessful government shutdown in 2013. The base of the GOP saw the Republican Congress do nothing to rein in ObamaCare, stop the Iran deal, reduce government spending, block the fast track trade bill, check the decline of the United States military, enforce the immigration laws and close the border, and contain Obama’s feckless foreign policy. They saw the Obama Administration and the Supreme Court trashing traditional values while harassing the nation’s police. The Republicans couldn’t even stop the Obama Administration’s relentless War on Coal, which has cost hundreds of thousands coal miners and coal industry associated workers workers their jobs while bankrupting the major coal companies. They see Wall Street prosper while Main Street, themselves, suffers. They see and feel themselves and the United States in decline. No wonder they rejected the insiders. They want leadership. Donald Trump spoke for them. They needed a non-conservative billionaire from New York to speak for them. They knew who they voted for and why. As I blogged on February 19, 2016, it’s Howard Beale in the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take this anymore.” Donald Trump may not win in November. It may be a blowout on the scales of 1964. (Remember though that Richard Nixon was elected President in 1968 and Ronald Reagan, an actor, rose out of the Goldwater Campaign.) The Party’s base has spoken. Many of the conservative leaders are going through the four stages of grief, albeit at different speeds: Denial, Depression, Anger, and Acceptance. Senator Cruz’ people are still in denial, blaming his defeat on Senator Rubio not agreeing before the Florida Primary to be Senator Cruz’ running mate as VEEP and Governor Kasich for not providing more help in Indiana. Several are depressed while others are angry. The cry is for unity. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he is not yet ready to endorse Donald Trump for President. The two are scheduled to meet next week. Several commentators and politicians are saying Trump will have to give in on a lot of issues to unify the party. They forget that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the biggest unifier of the Republican Party. Give in to the pressure. Donald Trump’s response is the same as Barack Obama’s: “I won.” Donald Trump has probably dusted off a song from the singer from Hoboken, New Jersey, across the river from New York: “I did it my way” by Frank Sinatra. The Party will unify behind Donald Trump. The naysayers have no alternative.

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