How Republicans Can Become the National Majority Party

Michael Lind has one of the best analyses of the origins of Trumpism I have seen to date. Back when Trump was elected, I wrote a somewhat similar piece to the Lind article. Like Lind, I don’t see Trump as pushing the Republicans further to the right as much as bringing back the Nixon-Rockefeller liberal-populism of the 70s and moving the GOP away from “movement conservatism,” with the only caveat being that Trump governed more like a neoliberal than anyone from the 70s because neoliberalism has become the dominant ruling class consensus since then.

Interestingly, Lind’s advice to the Democrats is more or less the same advice I have been offering to the left for years: Stick to a libertarian populism that is grounded in the cultural center and you’ve got something. But keep pushing from the cultural fringes and you’re shooting yourself in the ass.
“Given bipartisan acceptance of New Deal entitlement programs and laws forbidding discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation, Democrats could claim to be the party of the American center. Unfortunately, the “woke” left wing of the Democratic Party, based in the universities, the NGO world, media, tech platforms, and corporate HR departments, insists on dragging the Democratic Party ever leftward into new and doomed crusades, including defunding the police, open borders, the warmed-over 1960s Black Power rhetoric of “critical race theory,” the replacement of standard English with the weird totalitarian newspeak of intersectional terminology (like “birthing parents” for “mothers”). While it might be defended in a campus seminar, this kind of cultural progressivism is politically toxic.”

By Michael Lind, Tablet

A memo to current and aspiring Republican Party leaders.

This is the second of a two-part series. Click here to read Part I: How Democrats Can Become the National Majority Party.

Dear Republicans:

At the moment, things are looking good for you. President Joe Biden’s approval rating has been hit by the bungled exit from Afghanistan, rising murder rates, the border crisis, mixed signals about the COVID pandemic, and Democratic infighting about not one but two massive and controversial spending bills. There is a good chance the GOP will take back control of the House and Senate in 2022 and the White House in 2024, though if Donald Trump, disgraced by his attempt to manipulate the last election results, is the nominee again, all bets are off.

Unfortunately for you, my pachydermic friends, a return to power in Washington is unlikely to be lasting. The most likely sequel to a new Republican trifecta is that the GOP will blow its chance to be the dominant governing party in the United States for the fourth time since Ronald Reagan left office in 1988.

The GOP had a great opportunity to consolidate a lasting national majority following Reagan’s two terms in the White House and the end of the Cold War. But George Herbert Walker Bush threw it away by doubling down on fiscal conservatism—“Read my lips: no new taxes!”—which played well with libertarian Republican donors but not the public. Although it was enacted under Bill Clinton, the first Bush administration negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement that helped corporations transfer production from well-paid workers in the United States to low-wage workers in Mexico.

A decade after sacrificing electoral success to donor priorities under the elder Bush, the Republican Party had another chance to become a popular, dominant national party when it controlled both houses of Congress in the 2000s under the younger Bush. Instead, convinced that post-9/11 war fever would work in their favor, Republicans threw away their opportunity by supporting George W. Bush’s unnecessary war in Iraq and his commitment of the United States in his Second Inaugural to the messianic project of “ending tyranny in our world.”


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