As I’m sure we’re all aware, Arlen Specter jumped ship on April 29th, and has now handed the Democrats their 60-seat majority on a silver platter. That is, of course, when Coleman finally gives up in Minnesota. Why did Specter switch, you ask? Easy – he likes his job better than he likes his party, and he knows that there was a spot on the Dem’s 2010 scalp wall with Specter stenciled above it.
I don’t expect the party to make up seats in the mid-term election. It’d be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. The Obama campaign has kept chugging along, and his personal popularity ought to be enough to see his party squeak through with a handful of gains. Is this the end of the world? No, but it does mean that the Republicans need to take this time in the wilderness to improve. They’ve got to do a Rocky IV montage of pulling logs in the Siberian wilderness, because quite frankly, that’s what’s needed. Not to win the fight, no, but to avoid a new ‘era of good feelings’ and effective one-party rule for the next 20-40 years.
During the last Republican ascendancy, the party was aided by a brilliant pundit who chased the crazies out of the tent and turned what was an odd mish-mash of whigs, tories, libertarians, southern old-boys, the military, and yes, even crypto-fascists into the party that would usher in a revolution. William F. Buckley, Jr., we will miss you.
With our watchman retired, the crazies have snuck back in. The idea that we can roll back the last 17 years (21 for many) is stupid. The idea that we can allow unmitigated self-regulation across the board is also stupid. Do we need a 90% tax rate? Of course not, but locking down all meaningful traffic in Congress over a stupid 34/39% rate only leads to more of the political tribalism that’s sent this country into a downward spiral. The tea parties were a stupid idea, rightfully mocked by the left AND middle. Open discussion about where a big chunk of this spending is going is legitimate and necessary. Allowing all of the anti-government cranks to rant about “teabagging the president” is hilarious to watch, shameful when affiliated with one’s party. The ONLY redeeming thing I can think that these events could have accomplished is to fill the party’s coffers, and not merely inflate Lipton’s quarterly revenue.
Reagan’s “three-legged stool” of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and defense hawks, has been shattered by the fusing of the latter two groups into the NeoCons, a group whose name is an oxymoron: having abandoned the textbook realism of its conservative forebears, this group preaches the exporting of our values (textbook liberalism) and by force, if necessary (imperialism). Picking up our slack, the Democrats’ 50-state policy actively recruited moderate Republicans to run against their more right-wing Republican opponents. They succeeded, and wildly. I’m not even talking about Rockefeller Republicans, as even the moderates have been chased out of the party in favor of rabid populism.
It is a simple truth of politics that the biggest tent wins elections. By setting up a bigger tent, the Democrats have collected the votes needed to push their agendas. Are some of them wrong for the country? Yes. By chasing off potential allies and drawing a strict red line around a little circle of ideas will the Republican Party regain even a competitive balance? No.
Here is Luscus’ New Republican platform, by which the GOP has a chance to not be relegated to a third party of cranks when the Democratic wings eventually split:
1. Tough on Crime, Punishment reform – Luscus’ new criminal platform is toughest on white-collar crime, with two tracks of punishment for violent and non-violent offenders of other crime. Punishment reform would see the elimination of the three-strike rule for drug use offenders, and a 2nd track of addiction treatment and education (not incarceration) for all users, with all street-dealers’ punishment commuted upon conviction of their suppliers (higher up the chain, more time commuted).
2. War on Drugs now War on Organized Crime – new approach would buy drug supplies from growing countries (Columbia, Afghanistan, Myanmar) and eliminate the income source of middle-man cartels in a drive to break the cycle of drugs – guns – human trafficking/political intimidation. This would see a massive hike in the level of cooperation with Mexico, even to the point of using the US military against the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels.
3. Immigration Reform – all of the rabid anti-immigrant border Nazis must leave the party. Yes, it gets votes, but forcing millions of GDP-boosting workers off of the grid fuels crime, and reduces the government’s rightful take of their wages. The sad truth of this is that a contracting economy makes this a significantly smaller problem than when times were good. Luscus would enact a ‘guest-worker’ program similar to Germany’s gastarbeiters, and give blanket amnesty to all undocumented workers that signed up for these 1-2 year work permits. This would also allow unlimited H-1B visas (for specialty occupation) so long as the holder had guaranteed employment.
4. Foreign Policy – adoption of Wilsonian Realism (or Pragmatic Wilsonianism) as foreign policy, which combines textbook Realism in dealing with diminishing sovereignty at irregular levels with international treaties and fora with the goal of a single world order that includes all participants. This means pumping up the NPT and IAEA, reigning in China’s egocentrism (and currency manipulation), and working more closely with Russia and Europe to establish order (not necessarily democracy) as the preeminent goal of world cooperation.
5. Political Financial Reform – Two giant planks of this: 1) every member of congress, and all non-career civil servants (especially cabinet rank) would undergo annual auditing by the IRS. 2) Campaign donations would be limited to residents of one’s constituency, so if you’re running for house, it’s your district. If you’re running for Senate, within the state. If you’re running for President, you can only spend the money you raise within each state. No term limits, but no more California Real Estate moguls deciding who wins in Kentucky.
I’m leaving off Domestic Policy, because the next 3-7 years will change the system so radically it won’t matter. If I were to have one, it would be Infrastructure investment – this would eliminate stupid subsidies (Corn-based ethanol, farms over 1000 acres) and invest in infrastructure the way the Eisenhower Interstate System did – more high speed rail (private competition) for certain industrial corridors, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) along the rust belt (Buffalo, Cleveland, entire state of Michigan), roll-on container ships for coastal transit of trailer trucks to relieve stress on coastal interstates, smart water and electrical grids (with huge investment in security to keep the Chinese and Russians out) and expanded broadband and wifi for urban centers. This would be a pro-growth, pro-job policy that would set out national goals instead of constituency-projects (which is how it’s being handled now). All numbers would be run by the GAO and the Congressional Research Service, and published as such. Education reform would see more charter schools, and a reversal of the No Child Left Behind standards – instead of the federal government mandating training and states setting benchmarks, we’d see national standardized tests and the states would determine qualifications (ideally minimal).
Otherwise, here are Luscus’ predictions for short to medium term Domestic policy:
1. Increasing scope of Medicare/Medicaid will price out private insurance, leading to a nationalized health care system by attrition and not enactment
2. Letting Wall Street gamble with pension plans will see nationalization of retirement, as the last two years has shown that we can’t trust either the retirees or their financial managers to handle their retirement accounts
3. Bastardized nationalization of banks will see more and more bankers become millionaires, while limiting entry to this Midas caste to family members of executives
4. Gay marriage legalized, but not the right way (must give civil benefits evenly and respect religion’s beliefs and give them a right to choose who to serve).
Am I angry? Yes. Am I cranky? Yes. What makes me different is that I am anti-populist, seethingly anti-corruption, and can sum up my feelings towards our elected officials in four words: Grow The F*** Up. You’re elected to make the tough decisions, not to entrench yourself in a high-paying high-profile fundraising job with all sorts of perks. By manipulating the easily-swayed boobs of the population, you’ve balkanized the country into crazy tribes who can’t talk to each other, don’t know what they’re talking about, and are getting louder and louder.
What Republicans have to do to regain their relevance is to become as seethingly anti-corruption as I am, strike out against globalized crime, domestic corruption (on Wall Street and on K street), and adopt an economic pragmatism that may stray from strict ideology from time to time. In short: don’t drink the Kool Aid, drive off the crazies, and get back to doing the heavy lifting and number crunching.