If it’s not truly busted, why are you trying to fix it?
Republicans have been having an interesting debate over how their party should change — interesting, because even Republicans now recognize that Republicans need to change.
Like any discourse that threatens existing power, the conflict is primarily between the establishment — represented by Karl Rove — and various insurgencies — including one that’s hilariously led in part by Clarence Thomas’ wife.
The insurgency that’s being taken most seriously, perhaps because it’s framed by the biggest words, is “libertarian populism.”
Jonathan Chait points out that many of the key talking points were employed by Mitt Romney in the last campaign, admittedly a terrible messenger for anything with a world related to popular in it. Matt Yglesias suggests that libertarianism can’t be populism but populism can be libertarian.
Personally, I have a hard time seeing how any libertarianism, a philosophy that has had its own party and multiple book clubs for decades, could ever sweep this nation. I’d love to see this wing of the party weigh in on a decision to, say, invade Iraq, for instance, but I wonder if they would support Bush’s imperfect but noble effort to fight AIDS in Africa, which has saved millions of lives.
Matt Lewis doesn’t think the libertarian populism is going to save his party, either. He’s worried by the movement’s stated desire to take on everything big — big banks, big corporations, Chris Christie. To him this smacks of division, Elizabeth Warrenism and class warfare. Lewis would like to see a Compassionate Conservative redux. Meanwhile David Brooks is actually calling for a renewal of Neo-Conservatism, at least on a domestic level. These are establishment suggestions that should make anyone who remembers 2001-2008 at least slightly nauseous.
It is worth noting what Republicans do not want to change, given what they do want to change.
They don’t want to accept that man-made climate change is a scientific reality. They don’t care that there are ways we can and should be combating it, and the main reason we don’t do so is because “Our richest people don’t want to, because it would reduce their wealth somewhat,” as Bill McKibben noted.
They don’t want to stop (or even admit to) the obvious attempt to suppress the votes of groups who have historically prevented from voting.
They don’t want to admit that there are ways to make health care entitlements more affordable that don’t involve asking seniors to pay more, and these models are in place right now, all over the industrial world.
They don’t want to recognize that denying millions of Americans the basic ability to marry the person they love damns their party as hypocrites, at least, or bigots, at worst.
They don’t want to see that if they are intent on making abortion difficult to attain it’s a horrendously cynical to block sex education and family planning wherever possible.
They don’t want to recognize that their party’s reliance on propaganda via Fox News and AM radio is different than plain old media bias for a basic reason: implicit in these right-wing channels is the message that anyone who questions the right hate America and is a viscous communist, socialist, fascist, Maoist or Muslim, depending on the day.
They don’t want to see that their contempt for people outside their constituencies — especially when those people are historically those who suffered the most in this society: the poor, minorities, the LGBT community — makes it impossible for their party to grow.
In fact, I’d argue that’s why it’s shrinking.
If the Republican Party really wants to change, here is what it is that’s really holding you back: the things you won’t even admit you need to change.
[Image by Elvert Barnes | Flickr]