Thursday, May 4, 2017, will go down as a watershed moment in political history. This day showed us the culmination of all of the vices of our 28-year addiction to the binary idolatry of politics. Under the false dichotomy of binary choices (“but you might get the Democrats”), we are left with a political system that looks like a bad unibrow. If we don’t engage in some serious introspection and forward-looking planning, there is essentially no purpose to continuing this red vs. blue game. We have reached the moment when, just like the Whigs in 1854, after they failed to stand for anything related to the issues of their time, a group of us will have to meet in a schoolhouse and chart a new course.
Speaking of binary choices, I began the day with the choice of watching C-Span 1, where House Republicans sounded like Democrats on health care and were makingObamacare popular again, or watching C-Span 2 and seeing Senate Republicans extol the virtues of a Democrat budget while having full control over government. For my own blood pressure, I opted for neither.
The events of Thursday – betraying the ultimate promise to save a sixth of our economy and pass a Democrat budget, all with control of all three branches – is the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act moment for the GOP. I am not comparing these issues to slavery, but the political dynamic is identical. At the time, the new Republicans recognized that the Whig Party was completely maladroit and failed to confront the consummate challenge of its time. That is the context from which the Republican Party was born. Yet we have now been keeping a comatose party afloat for 28 years – since the retirement of Reagan – longer than the entire shelf life of the Whig Party.
Too many people will get caught up in the minutiae of the politics, details, and process of the health care and budget bills. The reality is much broader. The party just doesn’t share our values. When a party has principles, it finds a way to win even when it has very little power. Thus the Democrats. When a party has no principles, it finds a way to lose, even with full control of government. Thus the Republicans.
On the health care bill, some important patriots felt compelled to vote for this excrement sandwich because the party leadership and the president were passing an even worse bill with them or without them. Either way, this bill heads to the Senate and will be made even more liberal by even worse Republicans who will extol the virtues of Obamacare “coverage” for the next few weeks and further drive up the polling numbers of Obamacare.
I don’t envy the conservatives who felt a need to vote for this muddled and incoherent bill. They were in an untenable position and tried to make the best of it. But the question they must ask themselves is: What’s next? The Senate will send back an even worse excrement sandwich. Then what will they do? The administration and congressional leaders will give them the same binary idolatry – take it or leave approach – next time.
The ultimate problem is that although we can sometimes succeed in tackling our own team members to stop them from tossing an interception and passing a bad bill, how do we place in their hearts the affirmatively right thing to do and the ability to properly message it when they don’t believe in our views, much less understand how to articulate them?
As for the budget deal, well, it speaks for itself. Every single Democrat in the Senate voted for it. Every one.
This is an act of political adultery nobody can un-see. Here we have a party with control of all of government unclothed before our very eyes as believing in the fundamental ideals of the other party, which they use as the bogey man to scare us into voting Republican. We have an administration that is stocked with liberal Democrats and establishment Republicans, while most of the patriots are boxed into irrelevant silos. We have a GOP chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, who is asking for more refugees. We have a president who refuses even to get rid of Obama’s executive amnesty and transgender mandate on contractors. The “religious liberty” executive order he issued Thursday was such a joke that even the truculent ACLU said it was dropping its lawsuit because the Trump show was just an “elaborate photo op with no discernible policy outcome.”
What we are doing is clearly not working. We are suffering from all the vices of this presidency and the responsibility of controlling Congress but failing to secure any of the benefits. What’s worse, the behavior from Republicans is making our issues unpopular and contaminating our agenda in the long-run by misrepresenting our policy direction.
Mark Levin, in a brilliant monologue Wednesday night, declared the time has come for “a more radical, but realistic, approach” to address the “progressive status quo” in American politics and culture. He noted that “too many conservatives have simply accepted as effective power the minor concession of the progressives” and that “we live within the construct of the progressive movement, not within the constitutional structure that was established.” And addressing the GOP’s toxic talking points on issues such as health care, Levin observed that “rather than confront the Left at the base of their arguments, Republican officials by and large live in fear of principles they proclaim at election time but reject at governing time.”
Whether it’s getting involved in important primary challenges, promoting primary reform, building the blocks for a new party, working for the Convention of the States movement, or praying and brainstorming with others for new ideas, it’s time we pursue innovative new tactics to restore timeless principles rather than watch every remaining principle die a slow death or pursue foreign beliefs because we are stuck on failed tactics.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a typographical error.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.