Monday, September 03, 2012

What do Republicans want?

During an e-mail exchange a few months ago, someone I know who doesn't consider himself either a partisan Democrat or a partisan Republican, but instead a centrist moderate and a supporter American traditions of constitutional government, raised the following question in genuine perplexity:
Much of the Republican rhetoric seems quite populist and unappealing to me. I wonder what they really want, and I see no way of finding out--except waiting for the campaign to proceed. The political aims seem to swallow the policy agenda. [....]
Well, there are long answers and short answers to that question.  For a cogent and illuminating short answer, it is hard to improve on this pithy formulation by Mark Kleiman (quoted here by Jonathan Zasloff, a fellow-blogger at "The Reality-Based Community"):
As Mark has noted, the current GOP is a coalition between those who want to repeal the New Deal and those who want to repeal the Enlightenment.  Both impulses seek to send this country back a long, long way.
Of course, that doesn't apply, or apply in full, to every individual Republican ( I happen to know a few Republicans myself who wouldn't fit this description); and one could even name some Republican political figures to whom it applies only with qualifications. American political parties are sprawling, complicated entities with lots of different tendencies and internal tensions.

However, Kleiman's formulation does cut to the heart of the matter, since it nicely captures the central driving agendas which, in combination, now overwhelmingly dominate the national Republican coalition. Other tendencies do exist in the Republican Party, and I wish them well, but at present they're marginalized or inconsequential (or cosmetic).

We have to hope that this situation, which represents the culmination of three decades of fairly steady right-wing radicalization in one of our two major parties, proves to be a transitory condition.

—Jeff Weintraub

P.S. For some elaboration, see here & here & here.