The Grand Old Jurassic Party

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The Republican Party is a presidential election away from extinction. If it can’t win the 2016 contest, and unless it has bolstered its congressional presence beyond the benefits of gerrymandered redistricting—which is to say not only retaking the Senate but polling more votes than the opposition nationally—the party will die. It will die not for reasons of “branding” or marketing or electoral cosmetics but because the party is at odds with the inevitable American trajectory in the direction of liberty, and with its own nature; paradoxically the party of Abraham Lincoln, which once saved the Union and which gives such passionate lip service to constitutionality, has come to embody the values of the Confederacy in its hostility to constitutional federalism and the civil bonds that the founding document codifies. The Republican Party will vanish not because of what its says but because of what it believes, not because of how it presents itself but because of who it is when it thinks no one is looking.  

The contention by some that the GOP has an identity crisis is nonsense. It’s hard to remember any political organization in the last half century that had a clearer idea of itself. The party’s problem isn’t what it doesn’t know but what everyone else does know, which is that—as displayed in Congress on Tuesday night at the president’s State of the Union address, when Republicans could barely muster perfunctory support for the most benign positions favoring fair pay and opposing domestic violence—the party apparently despises women, gays, Latinos, African Americans, the poor, and the old. The more indelible this impression becomes, the more impossible it will be for even an estimable candidate, be it Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or the now famously desiccated Marco Rubio, to transcend the party that nominates him. This isn’t to say that the argument for limited government will die with the party. It has been part of the American conversation since James Madison and Alexander Hamilton squared off over the Constitution in 1789. The intent of the argument, however, has changed from an essential advocacy of freedom to retribution against the weak.  

The Republican Party was born of the most righteous of purposes, which was the containment and eventual elimination of slavery. Trumping the party’s love of the free market was the insistence that a human being should not be one of that market’s commodities: FREE LABOR, FREE LAND, FREE MEN was the party’s manifesto in the 1850s. Four decades after Lincoln, the party under Theodore Roosevelt believed that the captains, colonels, and generals of industry who most profited from the market had become the market’s biggest threat and needed to be constrained for the market’s sake. In the 1960s the candidacy of Barry Goldwater represented not the birth of modern corporate conservatism as later embodied by President Ronald Reagan and then Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, and Eric Cantor, but a libertarianism more practical and less unhinged than the present-day version. Sometime in the last 30 years, however, the party became a flack to corporate culture at the expense of either freedom or individualism, and as the country grows more economically oligarchic, the Republican Party that best reflects that oligarchy loses political credibility with the public.  

What the current party shares in its collective psychosis with the party of the ’60s is its yearning for martyrdom. If it’s true that what hold on power the GOP still has lies in congressional districts more and more resembling outliers—a power that will die off as figuratively as the constituents of those districts die off literally—it’s also true that many in the party are gripped by the death wish that thrills all martyrs and leaves them moist for self-annihilation. These Republicans have a different notion from other modern political parties of what a party is supposed to be. They don’t see a party as a coalition of disparate interests having just enough in common that together everyone gets what they need, if not what they want. Republicans believe that, definitionally, a party signifies principles so unyielding that any compromise of anything at all renders the party meaningless. Nothing better indicates the theocratic personality of the party than that the very notion of coalition is corrupt, even debased, like a congregation that allows infidels in its ranks. In the last couple of weeks a national poll reported that by three to two, Democrats are willing to compromise on certain things in order to achieve other, larger things. Among Republicans, the numbers are exactly the reverse. It’s not unreasonable that true believers conclude Karl Rove—as responsible as any single person for what the party has become—is now a hack, given that he is one and always has been, and given what for true believers is the rather belated revelation that Rove loves power for its own sake which, whatever else may be so, can’t be said of the party’s zealots.   

Self cannibalization is the instinct of such movements. The more desperate the Republican Party becomes, the more voraciously it devours its Robespierres, Dantons, Héberts, if such comparisons don’t unduly flatter the romantic delusions of self-styled Republican Jacobins. Thus Senator Rubio’s superstardom is already on the descent, so blemished by his flirtations with reality not to mention with compassion on the matter of immigration reform that not only did he back away from the issue in his response to the president on Tuesday but it was necessary for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to offer another, purer response to Rubio’s tainted one. Thus the face of Hispanic Republicanism, however far beyond the oxymoronic such a concept lurches, isn’t Rubio on Tuesday night but Tuesday afternoon’s new hotshot Ted Cruz, senator from Texas for 43 days and attacking the character of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel so ruthlessly and without any facts that even fellow Hagel opponent John McCain objected. Thus the scowling response of congressional Republicans Tuesday night to the president’s clarion call on behalf of voting rights, which was last regarded as controversial 50 years ago by Southern segregationists and might have been considered in 2013 something of a gimme as far as applause lines go. Thus on further review the videotape reveals Speaker John Boehner—who initially stood with the rest of the country to applaud the victims of gun violence during the State of the Union’s concluding litany—looking out nervously at his seething and largely unmoved caucus (which leads him far more than he leads them) and, realizing the error of his heart, taking his seat again halfway through the honor roll of the dead, by the time the president got to Tucson. 

Comments

I do not think this party started with the noblest of purposes either. Lincoln may have wanted to free the slaves, but his disregard for Native Americans is something that is not talked about with his command to execute the Dakota 38 in Minnesota. Free land came at the expense of forced removals of Native Americans. The hold up of the Violence Against Women Act came because Republicans did not think Native women deserved the same protections as any other woman. Their disregard for minorities includes Native Americans, something that we should never forget as Native peoples have been forgotten throughout American history. Otherwise, fantastic article!

You don't like Lincoln now? Ever heard of Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears? I have no idea where you came up with the Violence Against Women Act nonsense.

I thought it was GAY partners that do not deserve protection from abusive partners! And UNMARRIED straight partners too, of course.

The white-vs-Native question is a matter of reservation vs state having jurisdiction, and tribal government allegedly not having jurisdiction over whites who move onto tribal land (to marry or live with Native women and abuse them). Tribal jurisdiction is confusing anyway: if someone is caught cheating in the Seminole casino in Tampa, FL, do the tribal police have authority to arrest them, even if (like 99 percent of the crowd) they are not Seminoles? Of course, you commit a crime in their territory, you are subject to their laws. For convenience sake, they will probably turn the suspect over to Florida authorities, since fraud is a crime under both tribal and state law, but they COULD try the suspect on the reservation and impose their sentence. Yet Republicans do not want that to apply to domestic violence by a non-Native against a Native, living together on tribal land.

As for Lincoln, in the 1850's and 1860's white politicians of all kinds were oblivious to Native American needs and rights. Today's Democratic party values the rights of minorities in general, so they added this protection to the bill; today's Republican party dismisses the HUMAN rights of everyone except affluent straight "Christian" people, except when talking TO other people (they try to appeal to African-Americans by using a rich African-American as their mouthpiece, to Latinos with a rich Latino, to women with a Stepford wife, etc.), so that just gives them one MORE excuse to oppose protection of women against violence (unless they are Christian Stepford wives, who of course would NEVER be abused).

It should be remembered that 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death. Of that group, and at great political risk, Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 264 of the condemned Sioux prisoners. I hardly think that reviewing the tribunal's decison and finding reasons to save the lives of 87% of the men condemned to death is "disregard." Yes, the history of the United States is filled with injustice to the Native American people, but Abraham Lincoln can hardly be blamed for that fact and his record regarding Native Americans is far better than most U.S. presidents.

These Scotchosauruses don't even realize they've already backed themselves so far into an ideological tar pit that there is no escape. It's too late for a makeover, and too late to all of the sudden start sounding human and pretending to care about anything other than their own pockets and their own agenda. No one is buying the bullshit anymore that would do nothing but send us back about 70 years. And sorry, but if they think that Marco Rubio will lock-up the Latino vote just because he speaks Spanish, then they lead a richer fantasy life than I do.

I would not prepare the headstone for the GOP just yet,,,most of what's said here could have been said about the Democratic Party after the election of Bush Sr...there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal and I predict the Republicans will be back with a vengence,,in spite of the attempts to "talk up the economy", the truth is the economic situation here and abroad do not favor the Democrats. Absent SIGNIFICANT economic recovery this year it will be difficult to continue to blame the Republicans for the malaise. The Democrats need a better game plan than "McGovern on Steroids" if their going to continue to be successful. As a registered Independent I guess it's obvious that I'm not impressed with either party right now,,sadly not much substance coming from either side, in which case i will sit back and wait for true signs of leadership,,,,,,

I think the Republican party is in bad shape but the sad part is that the Democrats are in bad shape as well. Politically the Democrats are winning but that is because they are more consistent in the arguments for expanded government and destroying individual freedom. The Republicans say they want small govenrment, but they expand the size, typically more than the Democrats.

However, Obama has taken the Democrats far beyond what the more recent 'liberals' (inaccurate term as liberal means free and the Democrats are more about enslaving the population in statism... Statist is the proper term for the Democrats) have done. Understand that if the Republican party falls into oblivion, there won't be an opposition party to blame. Then the Democrats will begin the viscious self destructive cycle of blaming the various factions and leaders for the results of their time proven failed policies. This will be similar to how it went in the USSR. Lenin started the revolution but his socialist policies (NEP) left the economy a disaster. So after the violent behind the scenes revolution by Stalin the USSR got a new economic plan and blammed his predesessor for all of the countries woes (sound familiar?). Let's not forget some blame to the capitalists that were always intruding in the USSRs affairs. Plenty of blame will come from the Democratic dictators all the while the lives of millions of Americans are destroyed.

So the Republican party may be on deaths door (I hope not but they are there by their own contradictions) but America is also on death's door by following the ideologies of two parties that promote statism over individualism. So if you read this you should ask yourself, what kind of a country was produced by charismatic statists? History is full of them... Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Mao... need to think more about it? Keep thinking because you won't find a 'good' one if you value your life as worth living. They were all terrible as will be the American version. The small government Tea Party has but a few good ideas in the strive toward limited government. If you have an iota of self respect you will work to support the Tea Party and keep it on a broad coalition of small government citizens. Just people who want to be free... period. If not, then sit back and watch the end of America, because it isn't far away. The odds are that it will parish with the party that is currently 'winning'! Forward America and don't forget 'yes YOU did'.

Lenin started the NEP because his policies from the revolution were failing, he understood this, and he tried to inject a measure of capitalism into the economy to get it going. It didn't work very well but Lenin died before it had much of a chance. Stalin then reversed the NEP and instituted measures such as forced collectivization. Say of them what you will, but the NEP was the exact opposite of what you say it was. Also Stalin never blamed Lenin for anything. He blamed the ravages of the Civil War of 1918-19 but never Lenin.

As for the rest of your post, the Tea Party will be judged as you have judged Lenin here -- on the basis of what was the outcome of their efforts. In 2012, if Romney had won, we would have seen an ENORMOUS expansion of the military budget (Romney promised it) with far deeper deficits than Obama has rung up., accompanied by further tax cuts which would have made the situation even worse. And since I hardly think one can say that the Tea Party wanted Obama to win, one must conclude that they were trying to elect somebody who would have done exactly the opposite of what they said they stood for.

If the Tea Party would cease acting as a Trojan Horse for rich people whose only interest in life is paying lower taxes, it might get some traction. Of course, once it does that, it's funding will dry up.

Unless you, too, are a Trojan Horse for rich people, you have no viable political options at this time.

If the GOP dies, it will be because our nation died from debt overload.

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

It won't be long before those affected by our debt problems wake up to the fact that what's going on is not in their best interests, especially young people & people with aspirations of upward mobility.

But Democrats will always be able to count on the votes of those on the bottom & top rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. The folks on the bottom rungs aren't going anywhere under Democrat policies. And those at the top understand how to benefit from government largesse (a.k.a., cronyism)

http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2013/02/14/the_dangerous_partnership_between_business_and_government_100148.html

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Debt overload. When did that occur. Oh year the Bush years. 10 trillion added to the debt and counting.

Far as those at the bottom of the rung and the people who depend the most on government. Most of those people live in Red states.

That 47% Romney was talking about. A majority of those are white Republicans.

Far as the middle class doing better under Democrat policies. You would hate to know the entire country does better under the Democrats.

The economy. The stock market. You name it. The entire country does better under Democrats.

How do you guys forget that you voted for Bush. He came in with a surplus and left us with 10 trillion of debt and 15 million people losing their jobs.

That sure helped the Middle class. You people are insane and devoid of facts.

If your really worried about the debt let everyone who voted for a certain president pay off the debt he leaves.

Bush's bill is at 10 trillion. 60 million of you idiots voted for him. your bill for voting for Bush wold be 160,000 for every idiot that voted for him.

If your really worried about the debt I'm sure you and your fellow Republicans would submit the certified check to pay off Bush's 10 trillion dollar bill.

We won't hold our breath.

The Republican Party is going to eventually split in two, and none too soon. The best single thing that can happen to the GOP is for its Sarah Palin/Sean Hannity fringe to split off and form their own ultra right-wing fringe party. Then what remains of the the GOP can then move back to the center and start winning elections again. They'll pick up two moderate voters in the center for every far right-wing nutjob that they lose.

Most voters agree in principle with Republicans on most issues, but the hatefullness and spite of the far right scares many people away from voting for them. If the "Tea Party" purists hadn't succeeded in nominating totally unelectable candidates in states like Delaware and Nevada, it's quite possible that the GOP would control the Senate today.

American's seem pretty comfortable with the GOP compared to the tax and spend Democratsif you look at the facts.
53% of Americans, 165 million, chose to give total control of their state to the GOP by electing a Republican governor and giving both chambers of their state legislatures Red majorities.
Only 37% of Americans, 103 million, voted to give total control tax and spend Democrats in their states.
The Republicans just won their largest back-to-back majorities in the House of Representatives since the 1940's.
President Obama is the first incumbent in 75 years to win reelection with fewer votes than he won in his first election.

The facts just don't support Steve's argument, but something tells me Mr. Erickson never lets facts get in the way of a good fantasy.

First you have to start with facts. Your 53% is only 53% of those who voted. Not 53% of the total population.

If 165 million people voted Republican Romney would be president.

How stupid are you.

Gee.

Since the Republican party is populated by troglodytes maybe we should just outlaw it. Then we could have a Utopian One Party State. There could even be a Nomenklatura with GUM stores for the Hoi Polloia. Or at least those in Red States.

In the context of SOTU, I think the thoughts in your article are really interesting. Obama's speech was filled with pragmatic ideas for solving problems, shorn of ideology. Even if you believe that his solutions reflect an ideology, the arguments he made for them did not base itself on such things. Instead he put all his arguments in terms of what is practical and makes common sense. The contrast with Rubio could not have been more vivid. He simply gave a philosophical argument against government and taxes and ignored the detailed proposals and their rationale. Then having given his argument against Obama, he tried to take it back by talking about how he believes in Medicare and government loans for education, sensing that his arguments could put his party in deep trouble with ordinary Americans. The Republicans are boxing themselves into an ideological corner from which it will be difficult to avoid decline and some of them sort of know it. However, I think the Democrats need a good recovery for the economy in order to make the most of these possibilities. If it comes by 2016, then perhaps that election can be decisive. However, I don't see the Republicans zealots walking out unless the power of more moderate elements in the party grows and starts to push them aside. If the zealots keep the power they have, the moderates are more likely to want to walk out. But walk out to what? A moderate 3rd party? Such a party would not be very far from the position Obama has already staked out, so why not join the Democrats, like some (Christie, for example) already have. If the Republican party does diminish and the Democratic party becomes a home for moderates, then the more moderate splits in the country will show themselves as battles within the Democratic party. Of course, such battles already exist, but they will likely grow more pronounced. Perhaps eventually it will be the Democratic party that splits as the Republican party withers away - a possible alternative to your scenario.

I meant Charlie Crist, not Christie, of course.

This article is valuable, but I don't agree that the present GOP understands it own identity, or that it's really an ideological movement. I do credit Erickson for at least mentioning the plutocrats who fund the party. But that should be the main line, not the French Revolution comparisons which he belabors.

The real story is that the GOP is hardly a political party at all now. It's nothing but a front organization for those plutocrats. They collect barely enough votes to get their operatives into elected office, then enact policies which have little or nothing to do with the interests of their voters. Hedrick Smith and Bill Moyers have each documented the problem, and traced it to the Lewis Powell memo of the 1970s.

All of us who want to see the end of this style of politics must remember that all the money is still out there, ready to buy a new crop of politicians. What will matter when the GOP dies is, will we have a window of opportunity to get money out of politics?

The thesis of this article is stupid. During the FDR-Truman era, the GOP lost 5 elections in a row. The Democrats lost three in a row during the Reagan-Bush years. Both parties are still around. The regionalization of a party doesn't equal its demise. As a matter of fact, it tends to portend an eventual willingness to compromise. After such a silly misreading of the GOPs situation, its hard to take the rest of the article as anything more than the cries of Cassandra.

I think the idea that a loss in 2016 probably spells extinction is correct, because the Democrat will surrender power in 2024 in a nation that has evolved even further away from the GOP. In a Darwinian struggle for survival, the inability to adapt to a changing environment spells extinction, by definition. For 2016 we have jejune lightweights like Rubio, Paul, Ryan, and a vulgar loudmouth, Christie going against a heavyweight, Clinton.

The window of opportunity to get money out of politics - is begin now or it will be forever too late. The Republican party (currently a solid front for the plutocrats) is still very flush with funds and plutocrats currently have control of the major portion of the media. "Faux News" is a major contributor to misinformation in its most egregious form and our current Supreme Court is NOT going to help us. We must engage this fight and keep on it until we have a more sensible and democratic way of funding elections - and I do mean ALL elections. We have to build an opposition to the plutocrats locally as well as nationally, because the Democratic Party is as vulnerable to their incursions as the Republican Party is, and we cannot regain control of government institutions like the FDA and USDA without getting control of election funding For The People.

The GOP will never die so long as it supports the interests of very large wealth concentrations. Americans are so poorly equipped with economic facts and correct impressions that, if the GOP was willing to take a real political risk, setting off megabankers against the rest of the corporate world, it could revive the Civil War REPUBLICAN idea of creating money without debt, greenbacks, and having a large program of government grants to subsidize PRIVATE individual entrepreneurs and PRIVATE small businesses for NEW HIRES in the PRIVATE SECTOR. They'd have to overcome banker screaming "hyperinflation," but that's just a TABOO. American voters are passive and malleable. They accepted Nixon going to China, they'd accept this as well and republicans would steal victory from the jaws of defeat.

The Republican party will last, in some form, as long as the wealthy who ACTUALLY benefit from its ideology (and do not realize that it will eventually hurt them too, when air, water and food become too poisoned for the best medical care in the world to overcome) can continue to brainwash the millions who DO NOT benefit into ideological purity by misappropriating religion and capitalist theory which is NOT borne out by the facts.

They oppose public policies that would help more people get better medical care and education, but mainly MENTAL HEALTH care and CRITICAL THINKING EDUCATION, since that would make their base voters harder to brainwash.

As Stephen Colbert once said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Great article, I do realize that you were being allegorical and realize that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were not at the Constitutional Convention (at the time they were in Great Britain and France as ambassadors, respectively).

However, it must be pointed out that while Hamilton and Adams were both eventually members of the Federalist party, Adams despised Hamilton and in no way could Hamilton be described as Adam's protégé.

Otherwise it was an excellent article.

The "principles" of the GIP are supposedly linked to the founders of the Constitution. This is pure bunk. The Founders of the Constitution were agents of change. They would want the nation to change by the time the 21st Century rolled around - and adapt to the type of world the 21st Century presented itself ... multiculturally oriented, where the basis of equality includes, at least, by this time, equality of the sexes, races, true religious freedom (not necessarily "Christian" based), and in all other manners that people choose to express the freedom that this time in history offers. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and others were anything but "saintly" people in their private lives - it is even rumored that they partook of substances that in the 21st century are classified as "controlled substances." Yet the Grand Old Wasp Partee hasn't got a clue. Clinging to the 2nd Amendment is a major bane on society, and everyone knows it. To restate a line from Jon Stewart, in his book "America": "Why do you think they're called AMENDMENTS." They are expected to be changed as time sees fit. They certainly are not divine rights, as so many gun-slingers seem to refer to them. Jesus didn't come down and say: "Thou shalt own guns and as many as you want to defend your homes and hunt for deer." Actually, I think he said to "Love one another." Don't you feel the love coming out of Washington?

This article left out the elephant in the room--a discussion of how the Conservative Entertainment Complex (right-wing talk radio and Faux News) are responsible for the state of the GOP. Rush Limbaugh Sean Hannity, and their ilk, are only concerned with making money, so they keep the Republican base in a constant state of boiling rage. The don't care about the damage this does to the party or the country--they're laughing all the way to the bank.

The demise of the Republican Party comes not from its ideals or goals, but from its method of organization of faction. This party has failed three times before, as Federalists, as National Republicans, and as Whigs. The difference between the two parties was apparent in the election of 1800. Federalists thought they could succeed by promotion of political and financial philosophies borrowed from the Whig Party of England. Jefferson and Madison used direct organization of faction called caucuses, the use of elected officials in the extra-legal capacity of party organization, upon which to base their party. Once in power, the Republican Democrats nullified the power of Congress with judicial review in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, enabling them to impose slavery upon the United States through Supreme Court decisions. Judicial review was turned on its head by Abraham Lincoln when he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and succeeded in getting the thirteenth amendment passed shortly before his assassination. This once again re-asserted the power of the Executive and Legislative branches until 1973 when the Supreme Court once again declared itself the most powerful branch of government with Roe v. Wade.
That Supreme Court decision signaled the demise of the Republicans, although they appeared to still have political power for a time. They are now in about the same position the Federalists were in after the election of 1800. The Federalists hung around for another sixteen years, but were not really there. Then the question of slavery divided the Republican-Democrats into what are now the Republican and Democratic Parties.
In all of this party contention there is one group of voters studiously avoided in any political conversation, independent voters. When the nation started, all voters were independent voters because there were no organized political parties. The election of 1800 made the United States a one-party government with a lot of independent voters until Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren re-organized the Republican-Democrats into the modern Democratic Party, a pro-slavery party which started the Civil War. The success of the Democrats in convincing Americans that political parties were necessary in American government reduced the number of independent voters to a single digit percentage until as recently as the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, after which independent voters began to increase to their present level of 40% of the voters, the largest block of voters today, but without representation in government because federal courts have declared them to be the only Americans not protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This, of course, will not continue forever. My prediction is that now that the Republicans are finished as a party, they will go in the direction of independent voters because that is the only direction available to them. That means the Democratic Party is done also. It is just a matter of time.

Great insight! Long on truth.

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