Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

The above quote, spoken of the restored Bourbon monarchy in France in 1815, aptly-describes the soi-disant brain trust of the GOP.

And it aptly-describes this piece by Bret Stephens at the NY Times, as he ponders a post-Trump future of the Republicans.

Both parties are grab-bags of ideologies that can't really be rationalized. The GOP's salad days of "fusionism"--putting together a more or less harmonious coalition of business technocrats, social conservatives, and foreign policy hawks--has gone the way of the Iraqi Christian community our second Bush Expedition destroyed in 2003.

But Stephens--an otherwise smart man--still thinks a GOP beatdown in November followed by the return of Romneyism is the way forward:
The What Were We Thinking? Republicans will want to hurry the party back to some version of what it was when Paul Ryan was its star. They’ll want to pretend that Trump never happened. They will organize a task force composed of former party worthies to write an election post-mortem, akin to what then-G.O.P. chair Reince Priebus did after 2012, emphasizing the need to repair relations with minorities, women and younger voters. They’ll talk up the virtues of Republicans as reformers and problem-solvers, not Know-Nothings and culture warriors.

The Didn’t Go Far Enough camp will make the opposite case. They’ll note that Trump never built the wall, never got U.S. troops out of the Middle East, never drained the swamp of Beltway corruption, ended NAFTA in name only, did Wall Street’s bidding at Main Street’s expense, and “owned the libs” on Twitter while losing the broader battle of ideas. This camp will seek a new champion: Trump plus a brain.

These are two deeply unattractive versions of the party of Lincoln, one feckless, the other fanatical. Even so, all who care about the health of American democracy should hold their noses and hope the feckless side prevails.

 Lord, where to begin?

Let's first start with the obvious: returning to 2012, when the party was naught but the political annex of the Chamber of Commerce and its standard-bearer was an ideological chameleon whose polestar was self-advancement, just shows that even bright people are clueless.

As my friend Christopher Johnson points out, Romney is how we got Trump.

The exiled courtiers think Trump is the problem, not the symptom. Yes, he has faults, to put it mildly. And a few of them are outlined in the article.

Yet, the one thing Trump did, mirabile dictu, was to actually try to deliver something to GOP or GOP-leaning voters who aren't technocrats. He used tariffs to try to level the playing field. He delivered on partial defunding of Sanger.org. He tried to defend the unskilled domestic labor pool by treating immigration laws as something to be enforced. And while he confuses "pick a fight" with "pick your battles," he at least punches back.

But Stephens thinks that the pre-Trump GOP was just "feckless."

Nonsense. It was malevolent. It gladly squandered American blood and treasure on nation-building endeavors. It energetically defended the hollowing out of American industry and communities through "free trade." It refused to do anything more than token outreach to non-white voters. And it absolutely refused to deliver on any domestic policy that wasn't approved by the businessmen.

I am tempted to say that all of this talk of a "big tent" is driven by boredom: the businessmen are tired of shivving the same old voters and would like some new ones to betray.

Yes, the odds are that Trump loses this fall.

But good luck with the idea that voters who stuck by him will take stage directions from aristocrats who sacrificed the former's interests in order to create a party more congenial to the latter's tastes.

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