Monday Autosmackdown: Kevin Williamson and David French Leave Nothing for Anyone Else to Do...

The Rumpublicans’ Dilemma

As I have said before, I think the key to understanding the moral and—I hope—political bankruptcy of the Republican Party lies in its transformation from a party of those who think they will have wealth, and so have something to gain, into a party of those who think they have had wealth of some sort, and so have something to lose. The first party is very friendly to enterprise, progress, growth, change, and creative destruction. The second is quite hostile to them: it is friendly to established property alone.

Now the kind of established property it is friendly to—the kind that people feel they have had and risk losing—can take strange and rather pathetic forms: There comes to mind the Trumpist freedom to freely make demeaning jokes about African-Americans and women without fearing that “coastal elites” and the young will judge you a loser, for example. Or we can think of, somewhat earlier, the key piece of property that might be lost which was the ability to viciously discriminate against people of a different race, color, or creed. Or we can think of, today, the key piece of of property which is the right to make your employees follow the precepts of your religion in their private lives.

The first Republican Party was quite useful to the world and the nation. As Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote in his A Democrat Looks at His Party:

The base of all three opponents [Federalist, Whig, and Republican] has been the interest of the economically powerful, of those who manage affairs.... The economic base and the principal interest of the Republican Party is business.... This business base of the Republican Party is stressed not in any spirit of criticism. The importance of business is an outstanding fact of American life. Its achievements have been phenomenal. It is altogether appropriate that one of the major parties should represent its interests and its points of view…

It never struck Acheson that the Republican Party might just be beginning a very long term transformation from the party of those who wanted to carry on and grow the nation’s business to the party of those who wanted to protect really-existing property. And this second party is, I think, quite useless and detrimental to the world and the nation.

The change took a long time. But it started well before Trump or even Gingrich. What do you think Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, or Herbert Hoover would have thought of a William F. Buckley, Jr. and his demand that the Republican Party “stand athwart history, yelling Stop!”, even as a joke? They would have been bewildered at any claim of Buckley’s that he was, in any sense, a member of their party. Yet Buckley launched his career in Acheson’s day.

Now comes David Frum, trying to grapple with the dilemma of Rumpublicans who seek an alternative to Trumpublicanism:

David Frum: The Republican Party's Dilemma: “The next Republican calculus…

…Post Miami debate (and per RCP polls) Tuesday seems likely to see Trump win Florida (Cruz 3d), and finish 1 or 2 in Ohio (Cruz again 3d). If that result holds, it’s over, not only for Rubio and Cruz, but also almost certainly for plans to halt Trump at [the] convention. Anti-Trump GOPers will then have to consider:

  1. Finding some ballot line for a “true conservative” independent candidacy, rather as liberals repulsed by Jimmy Carter rallied around John Anderson in 1980.
  2. Rallying around Trump.

Such a decision presents an agonizing balance of risks to practical Republican politicians. Splitting the party can escalate what might otherwise by a 53-47 Hillary Clinton win into a 53-40-7 Hillary Clinton landslide. But rallying around Trump invites a turnout collapse among up-market Republicans, who will not vote Democratic, but cannot vote Trump. And such a turnout collapse will doom Republican down ballot candidates across the country. Goodbye, Senator Portman. That means that the Democratic turnout slide from 2008 to 2012 can continue into 2016—and still deliver a 1980 style sequence of wins in the Senate and in the states.

So the “true conservative” independent line it is. The trouble is… temporary party splits have a way of hardening. Many of the Roosevelt Democrats of 1932—Harold Ickes e.g.—were people who had bolted the GOP in 1912 and never returned. Democrats for Nixon in 1972 became Democrats for Reagan in 1980… and outright Republicans by 1984.

A “true conservative” exit will empower those Republican politicians who see the future as “Trumpism without Trump.” The wilderness years may fade into wilderness decades—and “true conservatism” into a purely intellectual movement of dissent.

The transformation of the Republican Party from a party of winners engaged in enterprise to a party of, well, as Trump would say, “losers” trying to protect their property has also been accompanied by another transformation: from a party that regards its opposition as a legitimate opposition, a loyal opposition, to a party that does not—that regards the Democratic Party as an existential threat to America. That rhetorical pose is shared by both Trumpublicans and Rumpublicans. And that is why few outside the Republican echo chamber-fever swamp are invested in preserving Rumpublican control of the Republican Party. And so we have someone else who sees a dime’s worth but little more difference between Trumpublicans and Rumpublicans: Barack Obama:

Katherine Krueger: Obama: Blaming Me For Trump’s Rise, GOP ‘Crackup’ Is ‘Novel’: "Obama responded while he’s done ‘soul searching’ about how he can unify the country...

...Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for Trump....

Republican political elites and many of the information outlets, social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed. That cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal.

The tone of that politics, I certainly have not contributed to. I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example. Those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine.

The President went on to credit the Republicans for:

creating an environment where someone like a Donald Trump can thrive. He’s just doing more of what has been done for the last seven-and-a-half years.... I’m not going to validate some notion that the Republican crackup that’s been taking place is the consequence of actions I’ve taken....

‘Thoughtful conservatives’ are troubled by Trump’s rise and what it means for the party, he said, suggesting those party members take time to reflect on ‘what it is about the politics they’ve engaged in’ that allowed ‘the circus we’ve been seeing to transpire.

Plus Ezra Klein: Obamacare didn’t pave the way for Donald Trump. The GOP’s response to it did: "The Republican Party could have reacted to Obamacare the way it...

...reacted to Medicare—and Medicare actually was a single-payer health care plan. But in that case, Republicans negotiated... 70 House Republicans and 13 Senate Republicans voted for the final bill. Obamacare was... much more modest, moderate.... A number of Republicans... Grassley... Snowe... Enzi... were deeply involved in crafting the law, and could have had virtually anything they wanted if they had been willing to vote for it.

Moreover, it's not as if Republicans are always and everywhere opposed to government-driven health reforms.... Obamacare [was] based off of Romneycare.... Donald Trump... has said he's going 'to take care of everybody' who doesn't have health insurance, and that 'the government's going to pay for it.' That promise... goes quite a bit further than even Obamacare does, and it makes it hard to credit the idea that base Republicans are so implacably opposed to universal health care that the only possible response to Obamacare on the right was mass panic....

Republicans could have hated Obamacare in the way the Democrats hated the Bush tax cuts—it could've been legislation they opposed rather than legislation they feared. But that wasn't the strategy.... Republicans executed a coordinated and successful strategy to make sure the country saw Obama as a hardcore partisan and Obamacare as an unconstitutional takeover of the American health care system (despite the fact that the hypothetically unconstitutional part, the individual mandate, was actually a Republican idea that many Senate Republicans were supporting at the same time they were opposing Obamacare). They did everything in their power to whip their base into a frenzy over the law. And they succeeded....

Grassroots conservatives... were told to panic over Obamacare.... Republicans persuaded their base that something terrible was happening to the country and promised that if they won the 2010 election they could undo the damage.... Republicans told their voters to freak out. So their voters freaked out....

Trump is a strongman who promises a new level of political confrontation... Cruz is a hardcore ideologue who literally shut down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare. If you believe American politics is truly broken and something precious about this country is on the verge of being lost forever, these are the kinds of men you turn to.... Republican voters have good reason believe American politics is truly broken and something precious about this country is on the verge of being lost forever. They have been told that, again and again, by every leader and pundit in their party, for years... by Mitt Romney, who said we are 'inches away from no longer being a free economy'... by John Boehner, who won a House majority based on the promise that he could repeal Obamacare even though he knew nothing of the sort was true... by writers like Kraushaar, who even now argue that Obamacare was an epochal abuse of the political system.... And those are the sober, establishment-oriented figures I'm quoting. What GOP voters have heard on talk radio has been much, much worse...

As I said in commenting on Ezra: Barack Obama promised his supporters that he would run a government not for Blue States or Red States but for the United States. And to that end Obama has attempted to adopt: (1) John McCain's global-warming policy, (2) Mitt Romney's healthcare policy, (3) George H.W. Bush's foreign policy, (4) Bill Clinton's tax policy, (5) Ben Bernanke's preferred fiscal policy--and (6) kept Ben Bernanke on at the Fed to run monetary policy--while (7) continuing the George W. Bush/Henry Paulson banking- and housing-crisis policy. Thoroughly centrist governance. Thoroughly technocratic governance.

Yet the barons of the Republican Party have spent the last 7 1/2 years telling their base that these incremental, technocratic, centrist policies are an existential threat to the soul of the United States. The major difference between the barons on the one hand and Trump and Cruz on the other is that the barons know that they are bullshit artists. To quote Ted Cruz: The Real Story: "There is a reason the American people are fed up with Washington...

...There are... show votes... to placate the voters where the outcome is fore–ordained, where most Republicans will vote one way, Democrats will vote the other, Republicans will lose, and the conservatives who elected Republican majorities in both houses are supposed to be thrilled that they have been patted on the head and given their show vote....

Is Republican leadership just not very capable? Are they not that competent or are they unwilling to fight?... They're actually quite competent, and they're willing to fight. The question is what they're fighting for.... A very large percentage of the Republican donors actively despise our base, actively despise the men and women who showed up and voted you and me into office... look down on those voters as a bunch of ignorant hicks and rubes. That's why leadership likes show votes....

You noticed how much energy Leader McConnell devotes to attacking conservatives? You notice how much energy Speaker Boehner devotes to attacking conservatives? Just yesterday the Speaker... directed an obscene epithet at me personally.... When has leadership ever showed that level of venom, that level of animosity, to President Obama and the Democrats who are bankrupting this country, who are destroying the Constitution, who are endangering the future of our children and grandchildren, who are retreating from leadership in the world and have created an environment that has led to the rise of radical Islamic terrorism?.... 

I ask unanimous consent that my time be extended….

The Democrats are objecting to my speaking further....

Both the Democrats and Republican leadership are objecting to the American people speaking further...

In the short run, the adoption by even the Rumpublicans of this extremist rhetoric has been a serious and destructive curse that America has had to bear since at least 1992.

In the long run, however, there may be a silver lining of some sort.

I look at this situation, and I think that the Rumpublicans’ embrace of their own extremist rhetoric has created a situation in which they have little chance of regaining control of their own party. What they should do, I think, is join the Democrats and try to make technocratic arguments to shift Democratic policy positions away from stupid leftist shibboleths, and perhaps to add some right-wing ideas that make actual technocratic win-win sense to the Democratic policy mix.

But they are not going to do that.

And I have no idea what they will do…

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