“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all.” — Joni Mitchell
We very well could be witnessing the death of the Republican party. That by itself is a momentous event. We haven’t seen the death of a major political party since the Whigs before the Civil War. We’ve all obviously slept since then. However, witnessing the death of a political party is a lot like witnessing the death of a star. It takes a lot longer than you’d think and it has a much more dramatic impact than people might think.
Some of my progressive friends would rejoice at such an event. I’m not sure they really understand the implications. It doesn’t mean that the U.S. would become a one party system. The government isn’t set up that way and politically it logically couldn’t work that way.
Governing is about making choices and that means prioritizing some people’s needs over other people’s needs. A political party cannot be all things to all people. They certainly can claim to implement policies that benefit the majority, but the majority is not everyone. It can’t be.
In the movie “Bruce Almighty”, Bruce becomes God and manages to get all prayers sent to him by sending him emails. In a fit of frustration he sends “yes to all” to get it over and done with. Suddenly over a million people win the lottery, but their share is now about ten bucks a piece.
One of my political science professors described politics as deciphering who gets what, when, where, and how. You cannot give everyone something of considerable value. Politics requires choices to be made. Some people benefit and some people don’t. Political parties exist to represent those various groups. In some countries there is nearly a party for every group. In the United States, we see groups form coalitions because they perceive that they have shared interests.
Yet, there is no way that you can represent the rights of workers and the rights of business owners at the same time. You cannot represent the rights of consumers and the rights of corporations at the same time. You can forge agreements and policies that somehow benefit both groups, but you cannot represent both groups. That’s why we have two political parties.
So, when I say that the Republican party is effectively dying it does not mean that conservatism is dying. It can’t die. It is the yin to progressivism’s raging yang. The point is that the form of it will have to change. A new party will emerge. When new parties emerge there is always a jockeying for position. There are some groups Democrats can’t legitimately represent and still be Democrats. Yet, there are other groups that might be up for grabs. There might also be groups that Democrats currently dominate that a new party could appeal to.
Forming a new party gives conservatives a lot of freedom. Those that want to attach themselves to Trump will go down with the sinking ship. Those that don’t will cling to the life raft for awhile, but things will slowly get better. They will gain more traction. What do they call themselves? Are they Republicans or do they come up with a different name? Who or what is the soul of their party? Will they marry the religious right with business interests again or will they move in a different direction?
The progressives among us should root for this to happen sooner rather than later. While watching their political opponents die might be enjoyable to some, it creates all kinds of issues we shouldn’t want any part of. If there is no effective conservative party then who is representing the needs of those they typically represent? If no one is representing them then how will those groups react to having no one represent their interests? As you might imagine this is not a tenable situation.
In the past few days, some Republicans have been floating the idea of reacting violently to the current situation. Some protests have gotten out of control. These things happen when voices feel like they are not heard. Whether that’s the reality of the situation or not is neither here nor there. It’s become the new reality. That becomes more and more real when we see right wing media stir that pot.
Here is rooting for a responsible conservative party that will faithfully represent the interests of people that Democrats can’t realistically represent. While we might not like it all the time, they need to do so vigorously. However, they need to do within the system we’ve created. They need to do it with the wisdom that they can represent the interests of those groups while working with the other side. More importantly, they can recommit to serving those groups and not serving the desires of a single man or single woman.