Monthly Archives: October 2015

Why is the Republican Party so fragmented?

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These days, there’s like 30 different types of Republicans, and it’s confusing what a “Republican” actually is. There are religious fanatics, staunch economic types, social hawks, the less-prevalent moderates (known as “establishment”), and straight up conspiracy theorists. There are radical factions within the Democratic Party as well … but it isn’t as formalized as the Republican disjointedness.

The Republican Party is so schizophrenic that there are like 12 runners for the presidential race, and Trump (ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?) is one that seems to be leading — although I’m still pretty sure he won’t get the nomination. If he does, Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

WHAT IS GOING ON?

The truth is, the party is undergoing an intense debate about what Conservatism looks like moving into the 21st century.

What should Republicans emphasize? What does a conservative care about? How can conservatives market conservatism? These are some of the questions that face the Party, and, it seems, there is a battle underway over such ideas.


How many types of conservative can you have!?

First off, the Democratic Party is far more unified than the Republicans, and that’s very evident. I suggest that the everyday Republican acknowledge this, for the viability of their Party.

On the Democratic side, there is a general consensus on what the issues are, and only slight variances about how to fix those problems. While there are some minor policy discrepancies between individual candidates, the Democrats, as a whole, are pretty unified and coherent. This last debate was more of a conversation between colleagues than an all out verbal slugfest, which is what the Republican debates have been. The only real faction within the Democratic Party would be those Democrats who are more fiscally conscious than ideologically driven.

But, as a whole, Democrats find that there are structural problems in America, and the only way to correct those problems are to devise policies that protect marginalized groups (minorities, women and such). They also find that societies won’t change willfully, and mechanisms must be implemented to protect those at the bottom. Finally, inequality is the result of allowing wealthy classes to shrink American income (but the GOP would react by saying that Americans are increasingly becoming unskilled and less valued; hence it’s a problem of diminishing individual skills rather than powerful people alone). The only Democratic outlier is Bernie — but he’s a self-proclaimed Socialist, so he’s a bit different.

Officially, from the website, the GOP endorses a variety of talking points. These include the advocacy of social programs that “lift” people out of poverty, rather than reinforce such (as in providing opportunity rather than sustaining minimal levels of income); traditional marriage as a pillar of society (a frictional point); not wasting money on poorly run government programs; reinforcing that the US is “exceptional;” and Republicans emphasize that communities and, more importantly, families should be free from “government intrusion.”

It’s not difficult to see why the GOP is compatible with religiousness, considering the emphasis on sweeping “pillars” of society, moral conduct, harmony in society, and the laissez faire nature of social development (but not completely laissez faire, because the party officially only supports “traditional” family structures).

… And this is all well and good, and a valid value system, the same as any religious moral system.

However, there are divisions in this platform.

More radically, there are Libertarian and Tea Party movements. The Libertarians are primarily fiscal hawks, and regard government programs as providing little value. Similarly, the Tea Party is a reactionary movement aimed not only at fiscal responsibility, but also rally around the traditional moral “pillars” within society — the Tea Party movement harnesses both fiscal and religious hawks alike.

So, if you don’t like government funding of anything, you’re more likely to be Libertarian. If you’re socially strict AND against any government funding, you’re more than likely a Tea Partier, and these are the two reactions to traditional Republicanism (which emphasizes reactionary representatives).

Rather than a unified party, there are now three variants of conservatism to choose from, and the party is desperate to get the presidency, which is why there is a buffet of presidential options on the GOP side.


The FREEDOM CAUCUS!

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new group of conservatives in the House. They call themselves the Freedom Caucus, and there are about 40 known members.

Before the Republican Party got all splintered, and people formed separate camps, conservatives generally ran on conservative values platforms, but still pushed government forward in some fashion — mostly by compromising on boring budget issues. In return, government continued on the trajectory of developing progressive social programs (which have been funded for a LONG time now, like ever since WWII), and big business development was pretty much free to grow; it was a give and take relationship between parties, but a relationship that changed post 9/11.

Because of increased wartime spending, economic recession, and more severe racial and ethnic instability, conservatives began to ratchet down positions, and really examine how to prevent the US from collapse. While not as drastic now, I’m pretty sure from 2001-2009, politicians were seriously considering how to prevent economic and social instability; not to mention existential threats (terrorism and whatnot). What works and what doesn’t? Some people said that economic instability is because of “out of control” spending. Others said it’s because American’s have no shared “values” in society to unify them. People were pressed for answers. Why did 9/11 occur? Why did the US experience an economic collapse? What will prevent these massive events? Enter conspiracy theorists.

While the Democrats essentially refined their policy points (embracing the social changes in America), conservatives came up with two distinct camps; the economically minded conservatives, and the social conservatives. And today, economic conservatives are organizing in the House — manifesting as the Freedom Caucus.

*** As some food for thought: If you look at total government spending from 1900 to now here, you’ll see that big government spending has remained relatively constant since the end of WWII. It may look like government is “out of hand,” but, as far as spending goes, levels have remained the same, and it’s doubtful that is going to change, unless (extreme) conservative voices begin to dominate all of federal governmental functions (social programs are too embedded into the budgetary process). ***

In the Freedom Caucus’ fiscally centric view, government spending is out of control, and the US is headed for complete calamity.

This last government shutdown was, in large party, because the House couldn’t decide on budget options, and the Freedom Caucus came up with 4 options (all of which were denied by other Republicans). In their eyes, they would rather halt government all together and default than spend more money, because the US is headed for economic collapse regardless of a shutdown. While I would say this opinion is a bit of an overreaction, it is in fact a view shared by quite a bit of people.

The fact is that there are economic philosophies that are reemerging, and they are anti-collective, pro-do-it-yourself mentalities. Because of this, a growing factional consensus is that the US needs to get their financials in order, otherwise a Recession may just become a Depression.

So, this reaction is a bit of a return to old-school, hard knocks budget balancing; only spend what you make, and even reduce the taxes collected so that individuals can clean their financial house as well, and a main priority of this group is to tame extravagant policy ideas, such as the healthcare thing. In large part, they are practical politicians, and are fervent followers of their respective ideological economic beliefs.


PROBLEMS!

Republicans are dealing with a few problems because of all this.

First off, they face an identity crisis. Are Republicans the moral advocates, or the economic hawks? Democrats have chosen to be the socially conscious party in the US, and I suggest the Republican Party choose an identity.

I would suggest Republicans back off of the social issues, and instead advocate religiousness as a source of salvation and moral guidance; after all aren’t churches the subject-matter experts? Stick to the economics, it’s what the Party is better at. The conservative identity overall is facing mounting pressure to redefine and modernize, which is similar to what the Catholic Church faced prior to the new pope.

Because the days of shared American values and moral purpose are dated concepts (and really gone with the ’50s), Republican social policies are too intertwined with religiousness to be politically relevant — there’s been too much social development.

Gay couples can marry, transgendered groups are gaining traction, and terrorism is giving traditional, fire-and-brimstone policy positions a bad name. Contemporary conservatives should learn to refer moral views to the church, and focus on their strength: economic life, which is far more salient these days, and the Democrats are more successful with harnessing and shaping social spheres.

This isn’t just a Republican problem, it’s a conservative problem. The Catholic Church successfully underemphasized social positions while preaching tolerance. By doing so, the Catholic Church’s position strengthened worldwide. The conservative faction in the United States is struggling to come to a consensus on social issues, however, they do seem to be developing a shared understanding of fiscal responsibility. Really the only thing uniting the party is the economic sphere.

… if the Party wants to survive in today’s rapidly changing world, then they should be studying what Pope Francis has done, because Francis is successfully modernizing Catholicism … which is something I wouldn’t have thought could be done. Conservatives need to market what individualism and responsible economics has to offer society, and how it’s positive change.


Finally!!!!

The Democrats are in far bigger trouble than they realize. If Conservatives can figure out how to convey the value of their political approach (and get rid of Trump), then a completely Republican federal government is a possibility.

I would say that while Democrats seem more obviously unified and put together, they still downplay the fact that they don’t have any power in Congress. So, there is quite a bit riding on this election.

Should the Republicans downplay social positions, they risk losing the religious section of society. But, should the Party preach tolerance and refer to religiousness (without stating absolutes), while marketing how important individuals and balancing a checkbook are …. then they would have a shot. But, as it stands, there is no Party consensus, there are radical splinters groups, and people like Trump are able to harness the conservative imagination.

… I would say that the Party is going through a transformative stage, and eventually it will come out as a more coherent party. The real question is, what kind of party will it be?