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29 January 2013
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USA > Politics > Republicans / G.O.P.
The New York Times
By CHARLES M. BLOW
to be a political truism: Democrats fall in love, while Republicans fall in
That’s no longer true. Not in this moment. Democrats have learned to fall in
love and fall in line. Republicans are just falling apart.
Last week, the opening salvos were launched in a very public and very nasty
civil war between establishment Republicans and Tea Party supporters when it was
reported that Karl Rove was backing a new group, the Conservative Victory
Project, to counter the Tea Party’s selection of loopy congressional candidates
who lose in general elections.
The Tea Party was having none of it. It sees Rove’s group as a brazen attack on
the Tea Party movement, which it is. Rove sees winning as a practical matter.
The Tea Party counts victory in layers of philosophical purity.
Politico reported this week that an unnamed “senior Republican operative” said
that one of the party’s biggest problems was “ ‘suicide conservatives, who would
rather lose elections than win seats with moderates.’ ”
Democrats could be the ultimate beneficiaries of this tiff. Of the 33 Senate
seats up for election in 2014, 20 are held by Democrats. Seven of those 20 are
in states that President Obama lost in the last presidential election.
Republicans would have to pick up only a handful of seats to take control of the
But some in the Tea Party are threatening that if their candidate is defeated in
the primaries by a candidate backed by Rove’s group, they might still run the
Tea Party candidate in the general election. That would virtually guarantee a
Sal Russo, a Tea Party strategist, told Politico: “We discourage our people from
supporting third-party candidates by saying ‘that’s a big mistake. We shouldn’t
do that.’ ” He added: “But if the position [Rove’s allies] take is rule or ruin
— well, two can play that game. And if we get pushed, we’re not going to be able
to keep the lid on that.”
The skirmish speaks to a broader problem: a party that has lost its way and
can’t rally around a unified, coherent vision of what it wants to be when it
The traditional Republican message doesn’t work. Rhetorically, the G.O.P. is the
party of calamity. The sky is always falling. Everything is broken. Freedoms are
eroding. Tomorrow is dimmer than today.
In Republicans’ world, we must tighten our belts until we crush our spines. We
must take a road to prosperity that runs through the desert of austerity. We
must cut to grow. Republicans are the last guardians against bad governance.
But how can they sell this message to a public that has rejected it in the last
two presidential elections?
Some say keep the terms but soften the tone.
A raft of Republicans, many of them possible contenders in 2016, have been
trying this approach.
Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, speaking at a Republican National Committee
meeting last month, chastised his party for being “the stupid party” that’s “in
love with zeros,” even as he insisted, “I am not one of those who believe we
should moderate, equivocate, or otherwise abandon our principles.”
Jindal’s plan, like that of many other Republicans, boils down to two words:
Other Republicans, like Marco Rubio, seem to want to go further. They understand
that the party must behave differently. He is among a group of senators who
recently put forward a comprehensive immigration proposal that would offer a
pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this
This is a position Democrats have advocated, and it’s a position that
Republicans have to accept if they want Hispanic support — and a chance of
winning a presidential election.
The Tea Party crowd did not seem pleased with that plan. Glenn Beck, the
self-described “rodeo clown” of the right, said:
“You’ve got John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and now Marco Rubio joining them
because Marco Rubio just has to win elections. I’m done. I’m done. Learn the
Constitution. Somebody has to keep a remnant of the Constitution alive.”
For Beck’s wing of the party, moderation is surrender, and surrender is death.
It seems to want to go further out on a limb that’s getting ever more narrow.
For that crowd, being a Tea Party supporter is more a religion than a political
philosophy. They believe so deeply and fervently in it that they see no need for
either message massage or actual compromise.
While most Democrats and Independents want politicians to compromise,
Republicans don’t, according to a January report by the Pew Research Center. The
zealots have a chokehold on that party, and they’re sucking the life — and
common sense — out of it.
For this brand of Republican, there is victory in self-righteous defeat.
Party of Work
The New York Times
By DAVID BROOKS
American colonies were first settled by Protestant dissenters. These were people
who refused to submit to the established religious authorities. They sought
personal relationships with God. They moved to the frontier when life got too
confining. They created an American creed, built, as the sociologist Seymour
Martin Lipset put it, around liberty, individualism, equal opportunity, populism
This creed shaped America and evolved with the decades. Starting in the mid-20th
century, there was a Southern and Western version of it, formed by ranching
Republicans like Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Their
version drew on the traditional tenets: ordinary people are capable of
greatness; individuals have the power to shape their destinies; they should be
given maximum freedom to do so.
This is not an Ayn Randian, radically individualistic belief system. Republicans
in this mold place tremendous importance on churches, charities and families —
on the sort of pastoral work Mitt Romney does and the sort of community groups
Representative Paul Ryan celebrated in a speech at Cleveland State University
But this worldview is innately suspicious of government. Its adherents generally
believe in the equation that more government equals less individual and civic
vitality. Growing beyond proper limits, government saps initiative, sucks
resources, breeds a sense of entitlement and imposes a stifling uniformity on
the diverse webs of local activity.
During the 2012 campaign, Republicans kept circling back to the spot where
government expansion threatens personal initiative: you didn’t build that;
makers versus takers; the supposed dependency of the 47 percent. Again and
again, Republicans argued that the vital essence of the country is threatened by
These economic values played well in places with a lot of Protestant dissenters
and their cultural heirs. They struck chords with people whose imaginations are
inspired by the frontier experience.
But, each year, there are more Americans whose cultural roots lie elsewhere.
Each year, there are more people from different cultures, with different
attitudes toward authority, different attitudes about individualism, different
ideas about what makes people enterprising.
More important, people in these groups are facing problems not captured by the
fundamental Republican equation: more government = less vitality.
The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic
values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome
commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value
industriousness more than whites.
Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after
survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard
work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.
Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and
threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern
economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t
rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil.
It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic
neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.
For these people, the Republican equation is irrelevant. When they hear Romney
talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He
doesn’t get me or people like me.
Let’s just look at one segment, Asian-Americans. Many of these people are
leading the lives Republicans celebrate. They are, disproportionately,
entrepreneurial, industrious and family-oriented. Yet, on Tuesday,
Asian-Americans rejected the Republican Party by 3 to 1. They don’t relate to
the Republican equation that more government = less work.
Over all, Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the six
post-cold-war elections because large parts of the country have moved on. The
basic Republican framing no longer resonates.
Some Republicans argue that they can win over these rising groups with a better
immigration policy. That’s necessary but insufficient. The real problem is
If I were given a few minutes with the Republican billionaires, I’d say: spend
less money on marketing and more on product development. Spend less on “super
PACs” and more on research. Find people who can shift the debate away from the
abstract frameworks — like Big Government vs. Small Government. Find people who
can go out with notebooks and study specific, grounded everyday problems: what
exactly does it take these days to rise? What exactly happens to the ambitious
kid in Akron at each stage of life in this new economy? What are the best ways
to rouse ambition and open fields of opportunity?
Don’t get hung up on whether the federal government is 20 percent or 22 percent
of G.D.P. Let Democrats be the party of security, defending the 20th-century
welfare state. Be the party that celebrates work and inflames enterprise. Use
any tool, public or private, to help people transform their lives.
The Party of Work,
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