The ‘New’ Republican Party: Kinder, Gentler, but Still Trumpian.
That’s what it sounds like according to many of the political experts cited by Mike Bebernes, an editor at Yahoo News, in his recent article “Republicans in disarray: Where does the GOP go from here?” The mixed assortment of experts weren’t in general agreement, but at least a narrow majority seemed to be leaning in the direction of my title. One expert recommended the GOP change its image, but not its essence. Another called for “a less divisive image” which sounds pretty much like the same thing. Still another of the political seers saw a “less aggressive” form of Trumpism as the cure for the party’s ills.
“Less aggressive” racism? A more genteel version of nativism? How much pancake makeup will it take to cover the ugly “essence” of the GOP? An occasional dash of truth to leaven the Party’s standard loaf of lies? A soft-pedaled version of chest-thumping nationalism? How about “Make America a Tad Bit Better Again”? Not very inspiring to Trump’s, or the GOP’s hard-core base of bigots and Bible-thumpers. And not at all attractive to the growing number of Blacks, women, gays, Hispanics, immigrants, and the well-educated who the GOP needs to expand its shrinking base. The Republican Party might want to change its direction before its core base of grumpy old white men and women die off. To be fair, there are several far-right and followers of QAnon who are members of Congress.
And some of the experts don’t think anything even that mild is needed. A truce between the Mitch McConnell wing of the Republican Party and Trump loyalists and a thick sugar-coating for Trump-style “populism” will do the trick. That and the traditional gut-level hatred of Democrats and their “extremism” will set the Republican Party back on the road to recovery. Just give it time. Something like “take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” or better yet, “don’t call me at all.” The Party of No (except for tax breaks for mega-corporations and the richest of the rich) restored to glowing health without any painful doctoring. Lay low for a while, then trot out the old reliable “Kill Obamacare” pitch. Is it too late for another jolly round of “Birtherism”? How about Kamala Harris this time?
And speaking of extremes, there are even a few who favor pretending that Trump never happened. A convenient solution as it would mean also pretending that the angry outspoken “Conservative” faction of seditionist members and elected officials of the Republican Party never really existed. That Lindsay Graham is a wise and revered elder statesman. That Ted Cruz is a pure and innocent Queen of the May. Maybe he should start dressing all in white.
What I find sadly missing in the opinions of all but one of the experts is that they are so narrowly tactical. There’s nothing positive in them, and nothing approaching the scale of grand strategy or any strategy at all. But for a party that devotes its time and effort to looking backward and playing defense, I guess that is to be expected. A Party that calls itself Conservative but has been Reactionary for years; and now muddies the water further by calling itself Populist as well. A Party that no longer has a vision for the future of America. A Party that is no longer interested in the real problems facing Americans; is interested only in fighting old imaginary wars…and keeping itself in power.
The only expert opinion that contained any positive vision was that of Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review, the venerable mouthpiece of William F. Buckley from the days when men and women who called themselves Conservatives were not all either poseurs or unaware of what Conservatism stands for. He said that the Republican Party should “Do something constructive, and perhaps repair their reputation a little and earn back some of the public trust they have rightly forfeited.” Not exactly a clarion call to action. Especially as he makes no mention of what that “something constructive” might be.
Bill Buckley would have been much bolder than that. But his “public trust they have rightly forfeited” is spot on. A vague fuzzy feeble vision, but at least a vision. Enough to meet the bare minimum qualifications for a strategy.
Will the GOP summon the spirits of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower from the great days of its past, or will it rely on smoke and mirrors and 55-gallon drums of political Botox to spruce up the hideous face it has shown to the world for the last four years? And even if summoned will those spirits come to a Party devastated by Trump and his still ardent, though temporarily toned down, supporters?