Remaking the GOP

The Republican Party has, for the first time in 40 years, an opportunity to remake itself.

In the 1960s, Nixon made a Faustian bargain, essentially exploiting racist frustration in the Deep South over the Civil Rights Act to lure southern Democrats to change sides. Thus began an uncomfortable but enduring coalition between laissez-faire businesspeople and relatively poor, uneducated, conservative magical-thinkers that might euphemistically be called “social issue populists.”

One could argue the Reagan Revolution was no revolution, but an incremental extensions of that same basic alliance to include one more group of social issue populists: Southern Baptists.  Again, it worked, in the short run.

This coalition won elections, but was essentially unholy, combining two completely different political philosophies into one party.  This could not last forever, so it didn’t. The laissez-faire business elite were increasingly outnumbered in their own party by populist ideologues with no interest in government, big or small.  

In the past several years, as Bush Jr.’s GOP turned shrill and spendy, it was itself abandoned by its centrist, non-ideological leaders, leaving behind mostly know-nothings.  Centrist, non-ideological Republican voters naturally followed them out the door, leaving the impotent, free-falling GOP we see today.

But there is an obvious strategic path to their salvation. One type of small government — specifically, high-ROI government, in which economical regulation enforces property rights, growth in median income per work hour, and a level competitive playing field — is still the right answer.  This position constitutes the under-represented center of American politics.  In coming years, there will probably come an opportunity to exploit frustration with a new status quo of high inflation and low ROI on spending.  The question is how long it will take for reason again to take root in GOP leadership, which is currently bush league (no pun intended), after the death or departure of most of the wiser heads.

I say this with all due respect, as a laissez-faire fiscal conservative currently without representation in either party.  Here’s hoping.

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