The New Republican Party
Over the last year and a half, many political commentators, pundits, and talk show hosts have explored extensively the clear departure from conventional Republicanism that is the Trump brand. To be a Republican, perhaps until the first few months of the Obama presidency, was to be a conservative. The classical liberal reimagined, Reagan personified the calls of conservative pioneers like William F. Buckley to fight the growth of government, push minimalist economic policy, and defend the Judeo-Christian moral order. His policy of devolution guided both of his Republican successors, and hawkish foreign policy became the nearly unquestioned standard due to the popularity and effectiveness of his anti-communist, anti-Soviet efforts. Many Republicans today fervently defend these policies as the continuing basis of their party ideology, but they are increasingly within the minority. The reality is that the modern Republican party has abandoned the values of conservatism and instead embraced anti-liberalism. The Republican party may be more aptly described as the anti-Democrats.
The evidence of this change is everywhere. The Republican National Convention last July seemed more of an anti-Hillary rally than anything else: "lock her up" was a far more popular chant than "no new taxes," no lip reading required. The American Health Care Act most recently passed by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives retains ACA restrictions on the free market healthcare system, while creating state-sponsored insurance pools. The fact that a bill in this form passed the House is a concrete indication of a political trend which has been developing since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famously declared "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President" in 2010. In light of the recently growing popularity of Government regulation in insurance markets, prominent Republicans like John Kasich have called for a "much bigger bill" to further protect consumers. The most recent budget passed by the Republican Congress contains a large increase in military spending, and is predicated on incredibly unlikely predictions for economic growth, meaning that government spending under a Republican government will likely lead to a first year deficit far larger than that of the average Obama-administation fiscal year. It seems that with every second policy proposed by the Trump administration or their counterparts in Congress, William F. Buckley turns in his grave. In other words, it is clear that conservatism is no longer the uniting principle of the Republican party.
Anti-leftism, it would appear, does still have this uniting power. If there was a departure from conservatism in the early Obama years, it was small, and easily diluted by the ultra-conservative tea-party wave. It is obvious, though, that Obama was vehemently despised by his opponents to a degree far beyond the conventional opposition of the past to Democratic Presidents. Many on the left have attributed this rejection to racism, but regardless of its cause it would be difficult to deny the particular spite of the right for Obama as a departure from normal. The anti-left, anti-Obama sentiment developed early in his presidency, but the departure from conservatism to pure anti-leftism has swept the Republican Party in the last two years specifically. The face of the Republican party is no longer William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan, its red-hat wearing people who have never heard of Buckley and know that they should like Reagan but don't know why. The face of the Republican party is #NeverHillary, its Alex Jones, and Rush Limbaugh, its the people who laughed at Rand Paul for opposing more military spending, and the people who hold their religious morality so dear that they would vote for a man who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women over a candidate who sent work emails from the wrong account.
Anything but a Democrat, it doesn't matter who, it doesn't matter what they think, if they can make fun of a Democrat, if they can provoke #liberaltears, they're good enough. In the North Caroline State Legislature this past week, as reported by the Washington Post, a late night budget measure passed by Republicans contained further funding for anti-opioid programs, but at the cost of educational dollars exclusively drawn from Democratic districts.
"The money to fund new pilot programs for this cause had to come from somewhere, and the Republicans decided to take it out of education programs in Democratic districts [...] with $316,646 cut from two early college high schools and the state banned from financially supporting a science, math and technology program that has helped many African American and low-income families."
Is that conservatism? Is that the new Republican party? How is it that compassionate, intellectual, logical conservatives have become so outnumbered by anti-intellectual, liberal-hating, moral relativists? They still exist, I know some of them, but almost all of them compromised their own morality to vote for a man who genuinely represents many things they despise, and farcically represents a pseudo-conservativism which is already far from what Reagan would accept. Was it really about the Supreme Court, or was it about winning? Was Hillary really so bad? It's a question Republicans, especially those who work on Capitol Hill, need to think about, because Trumpism and anti-leftism are running the Republican party into the ground. Are you a Republican or an American? Both? Okay, then in what order? Where do you draw the line between your conservatism and the current Republican brand? because we all know that the two concepts seem farther apart every day. In 1955, in the first ever issue of National Review, William F. Buckley wrote the following:
"Among our convictions: It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens' lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side. The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side."
Will Donald Trump "defend the moral order?" Is he a "disciple of truth?" No he won't, and no he is not, but he won the Republican nomination, won the Presidency as a Republican, and has already begun signing Republican legislation. There is a new Republican party, and he owns it.