I have long admired national political writer Taegan Goddard for his brevity and consistency. Below is a short piece he penned asking a question on the national level, that I have been mulling over at the state level: What does the Republican Party stand for?
As Goddard points out, support for limited government and free-market capitalism used to be defining characteristics of what it meant to be a Republican. For months now I’ve watched as Republicans and self-described conservatives contorted their minds into logic pretzels in order to justify their anger at not getting all the free money they are owed from the Alaska Permanent Fund.
No matter what Brad Keithley would have you believe, the PFD IS NOT a function of free-market capitalism or small government conservative ideals. For 40 years it has been based on two principles: state government ownership of a means of production (oil) and equal distribution of the wealth created from that oil, among the population. Are there any two more socialist, big government concepts than that?
Yet there they are, lined up by the busload at legislator town halls, Republican after Republican saying they don’t want big government bureaucrats or liberal politicians taking away their right to a PFD.
I’m not saying the Governor’s veto of PFD disbursements was the right way to go, but for Republicans to be the ones most ardently fighting to keep the government gravy train rolling on the grounds they oppose big government, is the most astonishing act of collective cognitive dissonance ever recorded.
It begs the question: What principles does the Republican Party stand for?
Perhaps that is too broad. Maybe it really points to whether or not Republicans would really stand up for any of those principles if it cost them a dime of free money from the government.
Here are Goddard’s thoughts on the same question at the national level:
Taegan Goddard –One of the more remarkable things about Donald Trump is how he is against the Republican party and it’s core policy beliefs, and yet still won the party’s nomination. It’s not that Trump was more moderate or conservative on these issues. He actually took completely opposite positions on everything from trade to Social Security to military deployments around the world.
That’s what makes the Republicans’ current embrace of Trump so striking.
For decades, the core tenet of Republican philosophy was free-market capitalism. The party stood for low taxes and minimal government interference so that companies were free to operate in the interests of their shareholders. But Trump’s approach is the opposite. He’s declared that he will use the tax code and other tools at his disposal to punish and threaten companies that do not adhere to his vision for the economy. It’s not free market capitalism at all, but Republicans have nonetheless enthusiastically embraced his approach.
Even more striking is Trump’s consistent defense of Russia. With the exception of a few years when George W. Bush was convinced he could look into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and see his soul, the GOP has always been the more hawkish party towards Russia. But Trump defends Russia even when faced with evidence from U.S. intelligence that they interfered in our elections. For the most part, Republicans have fallen in line behind Trump.
Republicans have even embraced Julian Assange of Wikileaks, a man Trump himself once said deserved the death penalty. Newt Gingrich, who once called Assange “an enemy combatant,” but now praises him. Sarah Palin even apologized to Assange for past criticisms. The only difference is that Assange is now seen to be working for Republican party interests.
When Trump said during the campaign that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose support — a stunning statement that sounded absurd at the time — he actually was not wrong.
Seth Masket suggests the GOP’s complete reversal on so many policy issues is a symptom of political polarization:
One of the more remarkable and unique features of modern party polarization is how enmeshed it is with ideological polarization. We’ve had polarized parties before, but they’re usually not so ideologically distinct. Yet, as the events of the past year have shown, ideology can be remarkably flexible in the service of a party. Republican leaders today are quickly casting aside things their party has believed for generations in order to remain unified around their new president.
Trump has shown that the Republican party doesn’t really have any consistent set of beliefs that drives their agenda — except power.