The GOP is on a dangerous path: Part 2

The GOP is on a dangerous path: Part 2


John Feehery, who served House Speaker Hastert and several other Republicans on the Hill, had this to say about the GOP party today. Like Feehery, “I am a Republican and have been all of my life.” And, I agree that “for the Republican Party to prosper, it must appeal to the close to 40 percent who think of themselves as independent and who are personally centrist in their politics.”

In my first post here at Donklephant last night, I wrote about how the GOP has lost its way – effectively marginalizing these moderates Feehery believes are crucial to the party’s prosperity. While Michael Steele, the party chairman, has tried to bridge the gap to the more moderate members of the party, he does not have the support needed to do so effectively and isn’t, in my opinion, likely to last long as Chairman. At the same time, conservatives like former Vice President Cheney and Rush Limbaugh enjoy remarkably high approval ratings within the party and are playing critical roles in shaping the party’s agenda moving forward. In short, I’d expect Steele to become increasingly marginalized and the party to continue to move further to the right.

We may have already seen a major realignment of national partisanship with young moderate voters flocking into the Democratic Party to support the candidacy of President Obama. If the GOP is to prevent the Democrats from dominating national elections for the next decade, it must change its course quickly.

  • kranky kritter

    Well, there’s a school of thought that the GOP is placing its bet strongly against the success of Obama’s policies in response to these economic times.

    For the time being, Obama will get a mulligan based on the perception that conservative pro-business policies brought these times on. How long will that perception endure? I think it depends strongly on how deep and how long the recession and bad times last.

    For example, if by the spring of 2011 unemployment is back down to say 6.9% and the Dow is around 9300, people will stay on board with democrats. But if instead unemployment is 8.5+ and the dow is 7800? Different story. Especially if the GOP hammers on economic policy and de-emphasizes social policy. Which I think they certainly will to some extent.

  • Tully

    Don’t forget inflation, the nail in Carter’s coffin.

    When people start to miss W it’s a bad sign for Democrats. When they start to miss Jimmy….

  • kranky kritter

    Care to make any educated guesses, Tully? I respect your opinion greatly on such matters. I am a natural pessimist, and I tend to agree with Schiff these day in the senses that it seems like we MUST have inflation if we keep printing more and more money. But the question is really how much and how fast, who knows that?

    Presumedly, foreign investors aren’t just grumbling. They are looking for ways to act. Will they run past gold and run up a commodities bubble?

    Substantial inflation, if and when it occurs, will be a mechanism that ratchets down the American standard of living to more of a global equilibrium. Hard to say we don’t deserve it, at least collectively as a nation. But what do you think about whether foreign investors can find enough good alternatives elsewhere to really make us tailspin?

    Obviously other nations have run into serious inflation problems when they undertook practices like we’re undertaking. But wasn’t part of the problem in those other instances that investors could bail on a place like say Brazil? Is the US too big to fail in some substantive sense, or is that just bullshit?

    Answer however you can. I’m sure I’ve asked a few dumb unanswerables or taken the wrong perspective or left stuff out. Just curious what you think. Come on. It’s friday!

  • Simon

    Joey, will part 3 set out where the party ought to be going?

    You haven’t engaged with the problem (noted in my comment on your post yesterday) that the party is moving right after a period in which it was on many issues fairly centrist and made a complete hash of things. To be sure, the voters seem to have developed a perception that the party is too far to the right, but that simply isn’t sustainable in light of the policies advanced during the Bush administration. Even the examples of supposed sops to the “religious right” turn out to be far from an example of the party being “too conservative”: the Schiavo business, for example, violated other conservative principles in its attempted ad hoc federalization of a state law issue. Yes it may have been using liberal tools to effectuate socially conservative goals, but more importantly, it was using liberal tools; the goal is by-and-large immaterial. In view of this, it seems to me that it’s your burden to explain why the analysis that the party needs to return to first principles is not correct.

    I don’t want to prejudge part 3 of this series, in which I assume you will tell us what the correct direction for the party is, in your judgment, but I will admit to suspecting you will urge we move towards the center. The irony is, of course, that is precisely where the party was, for the last eight years, which is a large part of what got us into such a mess. “Compassionate conservatism” was basically “let’s move to the middle.” We also nominated the most centrist Republican in the party – so much of the middle that he was constantly rumored to be about to follow Jeffords in the few years prior – to be our standard-bearer last year, and what happened? He flatlined, recovered briefly on picking Sarah Palin, and then committed campaign suicide in his erratic and incoherent response to the financial “crisis” and the debates. If your solution is to move to the center, Joey, I think you have to tell us why we would try something that the last eight years brands vividly as a failure.

    You also make Justin’s mistake of overreading the significance of young voters trending towards the Democrats. Young voters always trend towards the Democratic party; they’re young, it’s to be expected. They become more conservative as they get older and wiser.

  • theWord

    I’ll buy some do as they get older.

  • rachel

    “Young voters always trend towards the Democratic party…”

    What evidence do you have for that? It looks like a hasty generalization to me.

  • gerryf

    Inflation is the newest GOP boogey-man…it’s the equivalent of throwing spaghetti on the wall, something has got to stick, dang it!

    There’s absolutely not a shred of evidence to suggest inflation is occuring or will occur. Consumer prices are falling, not rising, and the high unemployment is a drag on real wages.

    Tully has been banging the inflation drum for months without a shred of evidence about why.

    Is the government printing too much money? No. The fed has extended a ton of credit to the banks, but rather than actually loaning that money out, which might be inflationary, the banks have been sitting on it–which is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen to get the economy going.

    The only other thing that might drive inflation up is budget deficits will compel the government to inflate the money supply to dishonestly wipe out the debt. There’s no evidence that will occur, though, either.

    Instead, what we have are conservatives raising the spector of inflation for political gain–make people fear the Obama policies as a way to give the fiscal conservatives traction in debates (never mind these fiscal conservatives never met a dollar they wouldn’t spend while the GOP was in power.)

    In short, I pooh-pooh the inflation boogey-man as nothing more than desperate politics by a desperate political party that has nothing going for it.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    It can’t be all bad. After all, the Democrat’s entire platform over the past 6 or 7 years has been simply opposing President Bush for whatever reason. Obama won because he was charismatic and wasn’t a Republican. That’s pretty much it. If Obama goes forward with a national sales tax, socialized medicine or the country starts to suffer from massive inflation, the republicans will win that ever-elusive 4% of the population that decides elections.

  • Simon

    Jimmy – and because once it became apparent that he was going to win, his margin yawned: a number of people, having concluded that he was going to win, didn’t want to have voted against the first black President. It will be interesting to see what happens to that margin in 2012 once the shine is off the apple.

    Rachel, if you want to argue that young people don’t by-and-large skew left, you’re arguing against a very deep strain of received wisdom.

  • fert
  • rachel

    Uh-huh. “Received wisdom” says I should have voted for Carter, Mondale and Dukakis because those were the Democrats running for president when I was a young voter. Guess what: I voted against all those guys, and so did most of my friends. Now that I’m almost 50, I vote against Republicans. IMHO, “received wisdom” on this topic is worth zip.

    This pollster”s analysis seems to be more realistic that your “received wisdom.”

  • John Burke

    The GOP is in the dumps because of (a) the Iraq war; and (b) the financial collapse of September 2008, which came on the heels of a rough battle for the nomination in which the right (e.g., Limbaugh) barely accepted McCain. To the extent that any historic analogy holds much water, this confluence of factors was very much like those that faced Jimmy Carter in 1980: an overseas crisis that Carter seemed incapable of managing; the dreadful “stagflation” at home; and a revolt against him within his own party, led by Ted Kennedy. The unsurprising result was a shift of voters in the center to the GOP.

    I continue to be at a loss to understand why people who accept that there are millions of “centrist” voters out there who are happy to swing one way or the other think that some force has suddenly welded these voters permanently to the Democratic Party in the space of the last
    nine months.

    The next election — in 2010 — will not be fought by some spooky right-wing force against unassailable Democrats, it will be flought by real life candidates against other real life candidates. At the moment, to name just a few, it seems entirely possible that more or less moderate GOP candidates can win statewide elections in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Florida.

    Of course, Democrats will do everything they can to associates these GOP candidates in voters’ minds with Rush Limbaugh, who is on the ballot no where. That’s politics. It escapes me, though, why so many centrist Republicans are helping them make that point.

  • Tully

    Rachel–don’t mistake the general for the particular, and beware the “Pauline Kael Effect.”

    Tully has been banging the inflation drum for months without a shred of evidence about why.

    Another unsupported and false statement that shows your utter disregard for facts, gerryf. I said little about inflation until the the Obama admin started pumping out trillions of dollars in borrowed money and the Fed started creating billions more. That would be about three months ago, though the Bush admin made a down-payment last fall with the TARP.

    If you had a single shred of economic knowledge you’d know that boosting the money supply past the rate of GDP growth inevitably leads to inflation. M1 has increased just shy of 16% over the last six months. That’s not an annualized rate, but the actual six-month increase in M1.

    Yes, consumer prices have been generally falling over the last year, as they always do in a recession. But they have NOT fallen relative to GDP. See below. When the recovery gets rolling, guess what’s going to happen? Prices will rise much faster than they fell. Indeed, relative to GDP they are already doing so.

    There’s absolutely not a shred of evidence to suggest inflation is occuring or will occur.

    Hmmm, let’s check some specific industrial commodity prices that are intrinsically related to the monetary base. M1 up 15%+ in six months, price of gold up 15%+ for the same period. Silver up 40%. Platinum up 20%. Copper up 16.6%. Palladium up 23%. Rhodium up a mere 18%. Industrial imports were up over 5% last month. Petroleum prices (the fall of which last year were responsible for over 2/3rds of the decline in consumer spending, BTW) up 65% in those six months.

    And that CPI? CPI bottomed out in Dec08, and has been creeping slightly up ever since despite negative GDP growth. (Yes, even including spending on housing — housing spending bottomed in Jan09 and has been stable since.) One would expect in a static economy that the CPI would track GDP growth, even if GDP growth were negative, as it was in the first quarter this year. Instead it has risen slightly, and even more relative to GDP. No, gerryf, prices are NOT falling overall, and have not since January at least. Though I hear you can get some good government-subsidized prices on government-warrantied cars right now.

    The only other thing that might drive inflation up is budget deficits will compel the government to inflate the money supply to dishonestly wipe out the debt. There’s no evidence that will occur, though, either.

    Already happening. Is there some part of “M1 up 16% in six months” that you fail to comprehend? Is the interest rate on new gov’t-issue paper going down, or UP? What’s that good old yield curve look like right now, as compared to six months ago? Hmmm? And how does the nominal yield curve compare to the real yield curve of TIPS? Do you think that production of new goods and services has magically grown to cover that amount of new money? GDP growth figures say “not.” The yield curve says “not.” The Treasury’s own nominal/real yield curve says “not.” Inflation and rising future expected inflation we’ve got already, masked by the anemic demand of a slumped economy. It will be more obvious as the economy eventually gets rolling again. We will inevitably pay for all that new spending with the “hidden tax” of inflation and secondarily with sacrificed future growth.

    PS–I’m a registered Democrat. I’m just not a partisan propaganda-spewing reality-denying idiot Democrat.

  • wj

    Simon, the Republicans may have governed from the center on many points for the last 8 years. But they orated from the right. And most people pay more attention to the talk than to the actions, unless the actions are really glaring. Or someone actually points out the disconnect, loudly — which nobody was motivated to do.

    And the perception (correct, as you note) is that the GOP is moving to the right currently. Which, if you already think (however inaccurately) that the party was pretty far right when they got us into this mess, is going to be a pretty large barrier to overcome.

    How liberal/Democratic young people usually are is a bit of a question. Certainly the core of the Baby Boomers were pretty far left when young. And there were lots of us . . . most of whom devoutly believed that we were the be all and end all. Hence the “received wisdom” that young people are always liberal. But for contrast, consider the young people during the early 1950s or the 1980s. Anybody else remember the startled (and unhappy) comments from all the Boomer commentators about how conservative the young people were in the 1980s?

    You would probably get further with a thesis that young people, to the extent that they feel the need to rebel against their parents, will hold opposite political opinions as well. Until, a decade or two later, most of them revert to their parents’ overall opinions. But just characterizing them, all the time, as inclined to be liberal is going to guarantee surprises every generation or two.

  • gerryf

    Ahh, the last resort of someone who cannot make an argument is to call people names.

    Idiot, indeed.

    Let’s start with the obvious. I say you havebeen banging the inflation drum for months; you say that is an unsupported and false statements, and you then say you have only been doing it for three months. When exactly did three months become NOT MONTHS? You say my statement is unsupported and false, and then you support it, and verify it?!?!?


    Then you try to suggest that the CPI is rising at an inflationary rate, and cherry pick a few areas as if it proves your point. OK….I will concede that the CPI in total is going up, but overall it is rising very slowly/modestly; no one would argue what we’ve seen thus far is inflationary.

    But, let’s get to the crus of your argument: you seem to think that the risk of inflation is inevitable as the economy recovers and the government needs ot inflate away the debt. While this has occured at times in the past (US after the Great Depression, France after WWI), it has been in no way universal. The US after WWII and Japan in the 1990s both saw debt in excess of 100 percent of GDP. In neither case did these scenarios lead to government inflation

    Is inflation a risk? Of course, there is always a risk.

    Is it inevitable? No.

  • Tully

    You certainly didn’t support your statement, gerryf, and my “pounding the drum for months” as you call it was limited to one blog post in one month (February, not a plural) on a blog no one reads wherein I correctly and accurately predicted the immediate market reaction to the passage of the $800 billion ARRA (stimulus) bill. Namely, a roughly 2% immediate devaluation of the dollar versus market equities and non-seasonal commodities. The admin has upped the ante a wee bit since then, and inflationary expectations have kept pace.

    The US after WWII and Japan in the 1990s both saw debt in excess of 100 percent of GDP. In neither case did these scenarios lead to government inflation

    You just don’t grasp the difference between inflation, money supply, and debt, do you? Not the same things, you know. Inflation is a monetary phenomena, and that was not Japan’s problem. They got caught in a classic Hicksian liquidity trap, where injecting additional money into the economy merely increases bond holdings without stimulating demand. I could write a paper on that, but that notorious Rethuglican Paul Krugman already beat me to it, a decade ago. Look it up. Research is your friend. In any case, a liquidity trap is not a GOOD thing. Liquidity traps lead to ongoing recessions/depressions rather than cyclical ones.

    So let’s take your other example, post-WW2 America. Average inflation rate for the immediate postwar period of 1946-1948 was over 10%, peaking out at about 15% in 1947. Nope, no inflation there! (Did I mention that research is your friend? Really, you should hook up.)

    In any case, government debt is not what drives inflation. Money in actual circulation increasing faster than available goods and services is what drives inflation. Different things.

    Now, I didn’t actually call YOU specifically an idiot, but if you wish to demonstrate the fit of the shoe, do keep pontificating on economics. Like how listing the prices of the top five industrial commodity metals, the ones that have historically best tracked inflation and inflationary expectations, is “cherry-picking.” Ditto with petroleum, which due to inelastic demand tends to overrespond to stimuli.

    I picked accepted benchmarks. Were I cherry-picking I would have brought up the Baltic Commodities Index (320% increase in six months) or some such. I didn’t because it’s not representative of general domestic inflationary expectations, whereas key commodities metals and petroleum are. I could have done the same with ag commodities (with the same results) but the picture there is a bit more complicated due to the seasonality of crops and Congress’s apparently unquenchable urge to subsidize the ethanol-fueling of the universe.

  • rachel

    Rachel–don’t mistake the general for the particular, and beware the “Pauline Kael Effect.”

    Tully-The fact is when my generation came of age, the Democrats were a worn-out lot with no fresh ideas and we didn’t vote for them. Remember Alex Keaton? He was a cliche for a reason. The young generation of that age gave conservatives a chance, and they blew it and lost us as we got older and more realistic. IOW, your “recieved wisdom” bears a remarkable resemblance to “whistling in the dark.”

  • gerryf

    Well, Tully, I guess that Paul, Krugman who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics is an idiot, since he agrees with me.

    How many novel prizes have you won?

  • Chris

    “moving right after a period in which it was on many issues fairly centrist ”

    What were they centrist on? Medicare? Is spending a crapload of money being centrist? I don’t get it.

  • Simon

    Chris, much of their domestic and foreign policy was far to the left of the party’s beliefs, ergo towards the center. I gave examples in the previous thread, and hadn’t seen the need to reiterate, but the ones that most readily suggest themselves are the Iraq war (whatever its merits, it’s a page torn straight from the Woodrow Wilson playbook), Medicare Part D, NCLB, BCRA, sarbox, bailouts, etc. Other failings resist partisan categorization: incompetence, inablity to communicate, torture, and so forth, none of which are peculiarly liberal or conservative. Indeed, one is hard-pressed to think of an unambiguously conservative policy of the last administration: even the tax cuts, for example, were not paired with spending cuts. The closest that administration came was the abortive attempt to reform entitlements, but we can see how that turned out.

  • Tully

    No gerryf, he doesn’t. Unless Krugman has reversed himself. Which he has been known to do on political matters, even contradicting the textbook he wrote when his politics required it. I’ve had endless fun catching him at that over the years. When I taught econ, we used to have a department pool for how many times PK would ditch accepted standards to go off on contradictory rants. He averaged three a month.

    Your inability to grasp the subject matter and apparent complete lack of specific knowledge or education thereof and therein disqualifies your opinions on same. Should you ever acquire such an ability or knowledge or education, do bring actual evidence with you instead of the blatherations of wingbots. Not that I don’t enjoy mocking blatant ignorance, but educated discussion is more fun.

    Rachel, I think you’re mixing up my one-line caution with someone else’s reply.

  • rachel

    Tully-No, I’m not. I’m explaining that the “Pauline Kael Effect” does not apply.

  • rachel

    Tully-Oops, now I see where I mixed up you and Simon. Sorry about that.

  • Reality

    Winston Churchill once said “Healtless is the man who has never been liberal; stupid is the man who has never been conservative.” Wise words. The truth is that the major ity of Americans have always been somewhat centrist. The branding of Democrat = liberal and Republican = conservative has always been somewhat misleading. It is true that liberals lean to the Democrats and conservatives to the GOP, but there have always been conservatives in the Democratic Party. Until the Republican “revolution,” there were plenty of moderates and liberals in the GOP. However, unlike the Democrats, who accept diversity of opinion almost to the point of disability (remember Will Rogers said that he wasn’t a member of any organized political patry. He was a Democrat), the GOP hounded most of the moderates and all the liberals from the party. Those in the GOP, who now call themselves moderates, were staunchly conservative during the Reagan years. Their politics haven’t changed; rather their party swung so far to the right that it more resembles national socialism than the steel-rimmed, pragmatic GOP of Eisenhower’s day. Perhaps what we’re seeing is that Americans are tired of being led by the nose by party ideologues from both sides. Perhaps we want to get back to core ideas, like the Republicans inisting that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and the Democrats “fair enough, but we have a whole lot that’s broke.” One thing is certain. Just as the Democrats swung too far to the left in the 1970s, the GOP has swung too far to the right. Either they fix this quickly, or they will cease to be a power in American politics. This country is now ripe for a new political party. Botht eh Democrats and the Republicans are in danger of losing their centrist to one.

  • Simon

    # Reality Says:

    Those in the GOP, who now call themselves moderates, were staunchly conservative during the Reagan years.

    I don’t think Olympia Snowe, for example, ever thought of herself as being staunchly conservative. But let’s stipulate that you’re right and move on:

    Their politics haven’t changed

    Says who? Them?

    their party swung so far to the right that it more resembles national socialism

    Except that national socialism, assessed fairly, was exactly what its name implies: a philosophy of the left. So your thesis is incoherent. The party would have to swing radically to the left – where one usually finds support for massive government intervention in people’s lives and the mass slaughter of a class of people deemed not to be people – to “more resemble[] national socialism.”

    Perhaps what we’re seeing is that Americans are tired of being led by the nose by party ideologues from both sides

    What we’re seeing is that Americans are tired of incompetence and corruption. My party’s elected leaders became corrupt, indolent, and incompetent; the voters punished us for it. Your turn.

    Just as the Democrats swung too far to the left in the 1970s, the GOP has swung too far to the right.

    Except that, as I noted above, they have done no such thing. The GOP swung to the center, where it proved incompetent and ineffective. Now it is swinging back to the position whence it conquered the Democratic Congress in 1994 (that’s not to say that it will again, of course, merely to refute the fictitious claim that the GOP is, or has swung, too far to the right).