GOP Autopsy: 2.0
by Nick Paleologos
It's Thanksgiving 2016.
A beaten and bitter Donald Trump - blaming his humiliating defeat on a "corrupt and disgusting media coupled with a rigged election system" - has just acquired the faltering Fox News Network and renamed it TNN (after guess who) so that his devoted followers on the rabid fringe will continue to have a steady stream of nonsense – complete with a healthy dose of Trump-branded products (made abroad, of course).
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton – stepping over the scattered shards of a shattered glass ceiling - is preparing for America’s next historic presidency, while trying to strike that pitch-perfect balance between legitimate expectations on the left and groundless fears on the right. As grandma passes the sausage stuffing (my favorite), I can hear bewildered cousins – up from South Carolina – asking the question of the year, "What the heck just happened?"
That’s how it will start – at Thanksgiving tables across America - as the remnants of the rational right finally face up to the demands of their country – made first in 2008, then in 2012, and yet again in 2016 - only this time with a force, fury, and finality the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades. Only then will the lessons sink in at long last.
In her own way, Hillary’s frustratingly bi-polar campaign – embracing Bernie Sanders style economic populism while simultaneously winking at Wall Street – is actually a pretty good metaphor for exactly the kind of mixed economy that Americans yearn for. A time – well chronicled in Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker’s recent (and excellent) book “American Amnesia” – when both government and business grew symbiotically. The government existed to make sure the game was played fairly on a well-maintained field, while business delivered great products and services – courtesy of workers who earned good wages and then spent their increasing incomes on those same products and services. Everybody wins.
At least that’s how it worked until organized business decided to viciously turn on their government – which is when everything (and I mean everything) went kerflooey. Shared prosperity wasn’t enough for these modern day Robber Barons who longed for a return to the low tax/no regulation Roaring Twenties - as if the Great Depression never happened.
Gone were Republicans like President Eisenhower, who built the interstate highway system with taxpayer dollars and famously declared: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws, you would not hear of that party again. There is a tiny splinter group that believes you can do these things - among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman (but) their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
Banished were Republicans like President Nixon, who opened up relations between the US and Communist China, increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and created the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ostracized were Republicans like President Bush (The Elder), who gave us the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Clean Air Act.
For heaven’s sake, even the famously government-hating Republican President Reagan said: “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have…made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while a bus driver was paying 10% of his salary – that’s crazy.” Today, Ted Cruz would dismiss him as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
It took thirty years of living with policies imposed by these uncompromising, anti-government nihilists to finally realize that Ike was right, “their number is negligible and they are stupid.” Let’s face it. When government screws up, it means that – in trying to help as many citizens as possible - a bunch of people get benefits they don’t deserve. That’s wrong to be sure, and must be condemned and corrected by business leaders and liberals alike. But when business screws up – while trying to enrich a greedy few at the expense of everyone else – the consequences are much, much worse. Millions of people lose their jobs, homes, pensions, health, and healthcare. The time has now come for decent conservatives to join do-gooders in calling out this atrocious behavior.
Professors Hacker and Pierson said it best when they concluded that we’ll never fully enjoy the enormous benefits of the “mixed economy” again, until the rational right realizes that “What’s good for America is good for business,” and not the other way around.