“In television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue.” — Billy Jo Armstrong
I’ve spent a great deal of time in these spaces talking about the death of the Republican party. In reality, they are essentially a zombie political party. They have been brain dead for going on three decades. If you doubt this then consider what new ideas they have collectively produced since the 1980s. The answer is essentially none.
Tax cuts for the wealthy have been around since Reagan. Every other policy idea is based on removing personal freedoms that have already been in place. That includes making abortion illegal, stopping same sex marriage, and the widespread use of contraceptives. Add in the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and even Medicare and social security and you see their “ideas” are nothing but the removal (or canceling) of ideas previously installed.
What do we replace these with? Remember when they were going to repeal the ACA and replace it with something better? Those suggestions went the way of infrastructure week. So, we essentially see right wing politicians get put into two boxes. The first would be the Mitch McConnels of the world. They become experts in bogging down the legislative process. They block judges, block legislation, and get their own judges put in, but they really don’t have any ideas.
The second group would be the performance artists. They often get confused with firebrands on the left like the “Squad” and Bernie Sanders. The difference? There is a distinct lack of ideas. Things like the Green New Deal, free tuition for all, and Medicare for all might be politically far-fetched but they are in fact ideas. Those ideas challenge us to consider something. Maybe we push the American car industry to up their standards. Maybe we make community college tuition free. Maybe we expand the ACA. In other words, these ideas lead to something worthwhile.
I hate giving oxygen to any of these provocateurs, but let’s consider one of the latest from Marjorie Taylor Green. Remember, these were the folks that were up in arms about Black Lives Matter and their protesting of bad treatment from the police. They were up in arms about the calls for defunding the police. Of course, no one considered the finer points and it ended up being terrible branding by the progressives.
The above photo has also been added to a collection of t-shirts she is selling to raise money for her campaign. Now, I could go on and on about this and expose the obvious hypocrisy. I could go into why this is coming up right now and the obvious double standard involved. However, that would be acknowledging a tantrum. This isn’t really an idea. It’s just something to trigger conservatives into giving her more attention.
I won’t say there are zero Republicans that are serious about governing, but there are fewer and fewer with every year. You don’t get ahead doing that. Republicans used to be in favor of intellectual ideals. For instance, conservative economists like Milton Friedman actually championed a program called Universal Basic Income. Essentially, it is very similar to the program Andrew Yang keeps championing. Like free tuition, universal health care, and the Green New Deal, it is a challenging idea that likely won’t fly. Yet, it could lead to something worthwhile and sustainable.
William F. Buckley founded the National Review in 1955. It obviously is still around, but is hardly recognizable compared to the one Buckley started. He was a noted intellectual and attacked the social welfare state on philosophical bounds. He led a group of intelligent conservatives who offered ideas. Like the ideas of the left, they weren’t necessarily politically viable. However, they sometimes led to pragmatic ideas that were viable.
There are two great failures in American politics. That one is the first one. Conservatism is where intelligence and serious people go to die. It’s not that conservatives are stupid people. That would be grossly oversimplifying and insulting. In short, intelligence is often ridiculed and belittled.
The second failure exists on the left. In a similar way, being a person of faith is seen as a negative. I’ve seen it too many times in left wing echo chambers. It’s one thing to criticize the American church for going conservative when Jesus’ mandate would be consistent with the progressive agenda. Everyone must feed their own soul. It’s another to actively shun those that choose to engage with the American church on their own merits.
There are still conservative thinkers out there that have ideas to offer. They just aren’t welcome in the Republican party. There haven’t been any of those folks in quite some time. As a lifelong progressive I likely will never fully support any of those ideas, but America is a better place when there is a full buffet of ideas available to chew on.