The time has come to take the stump and expound upon a systematic (albeit brief) examination of why fiscal, not social, conservatism will be the de-facto direction of the (real) Republican party, and I'll even throw in a provocative conclusion to boot, joy!

Firstly, the economic slump we are experiencing currently is undoubtedly not nearing an end any time soon, and likely will continue to spread before it gets better. This, of course, is the clearest argument for the Republicans redefining themselves, at least on the short-term, around economic - not social - issues. While the Dems will retain the ability to play the racial and socioeconomic cards that they have nurtured since FDR, any serious Republican candidate for higher office will have to make concessions on welfare, medic-are/aid, healthcare, and all the other nanny-state programs that warm our hearts at the expense of our dignity. What this means is that Republicans will have to define themselves as providing similar solutions in ways that are budget-minded and economically friendly. While this is not a new game, it will no longer be acceptable to talk about low taxes and restrained spending, then turn around and blow the nest egg on loony social programs (see: GWB). Candidates will be held accountable to a greater degree for their actions, and over the next four to six years, most issues will be painted in terms of the net economic effect on the "average American". This is not to say that there is not ample room for lies and deceits (Obama's claim that his deferred tax hikes actually 'lower' taxes four times more than McCain – fuzzy math if it ever existed). The point being that the focus will shift to the pocket of the average American in a way we have not seen in the past thirty years.

Secondly, I believe that among all Americans, and by that I mean the preciously small percentage who actually vote, read real news, and breathe through their noses, that there will be a greater scrutiny of where money is coming from, and where it is going. This will mean louder calls for a smarter tax system on both the business and domestic fronts, as well as swifter and fiercer retribution against candidates that are pork-hungry. This will be a primarily Republican phenomenon, as the Dems are unlikely to retreat from their voodoo claims that, like a money-draped phoenix rising from the ashes of our spent economy, high taxes and social handouts can stimulate the economy back into a boom-cycle.

Finally, (here's the provocation), I think we may see, nay, already are seeing the slow emergence of a three-party system. While it may not ever take hold in presidential elections where the stakes are perceived by both parties as being too high, I would admonish all readers to be on the lookout for a schism in the Republicans that significantly reshapes voting habits. While one clan moves towards a more libertarian, economically conservative stance, the other will adopt a hybrid of moral authoritarianism, compassionate (read: expensive) domestic policies, and hawkish Zionist foreign policy. This camp will steal a good number of more hawkish Democrats, forging the remaining Dems as a party defined more by foreign policy than social mores, particularly in terms of big domestic spending, eliminating unilateral engagement rights, and formalization of NAFTA into a more robust political umbrella to counter the EU. What will we be left with? Why, Socialists, Fascists, and Libertarians – much like the political system that existed in America prior to the Great Depression, and like we see in many European countries today (though with their own odd local flair, of course). I know which line I'm signing on, what has yet to be told is to what extent the schism will spread, and how the details of the party platforms will fall into place.

1 comment:

Ben Wheat said...

I think we're all anxious to see an end to the "compassionate conservatism" of George W Bush and get back to our roots. True conservatism should never be annotated with an emotional adjective; down that path lies liberalism, which is an emotion-centric philosophy that sets no store by reason or logic.

What has baffled me about the Republican Party during the last decade is its tendency to cave to liberal pressure while holding a firm majority in federal government. Republicans in government suffer, as I said, from an image problem and are typically self-conscious about how they are perceived, which is how this whole ridiculous "compassionate conservatism" movement got its start.

However, the fruits of true conservatism (of the more libertarian sort) speak for themselves, as long as Republicans are able to effectively teach their constituencies about their principles and counteract the inevitable opposing spin machine. The only problem is that those fruits can take a few years to manifest, and the Republicans have irresponsibly squandered those years by straying from fiscal responsibility and confusing the public as to what they stood for.