Most who are or used to be considered Republicans believe in a degree of fiscal conservatism: that taxes should be exclusively used to raise money to run the government and not as tools of social change, that federal programs run from Washington D.C. are not the answer to every problem of our society, and that our involvement in foreign relations should be limited to matters of national interest.
They favor a free market economy, but not the unregulated pipe dream advocated by the extreme right. John Maynard Keynes correctly teaches that the government should influence monetary policy, especially in precarious times. Adam Smith warned that the middle classes had to have protection from the capitalists’ greed. The last 40 years has provided convincing evidence that “trickle down economics” does not trickle down. No qualified economist has ever accepted the premises of “supply-side” economics. A degree of governmental regulation is necessary.
The Republican party used to be a big tent with moderate views associated with the more conservative wing of the party. The conservative wing spoke of the same policies as the moderate voices, but in stronger tones and in terms of absolutes. The farthest right would totally eliminate federalism, do away with taxation, and isolate the country from international affairs completely.
The politicians elected to office used to be a practical group, recognizing that the country presented a broad spectrum of political thought extending from the outer left reaches of socialism, through the liberal to moderate wings of the Democratic Party, then the moderate to conservative wings of the Republicans, to the extreme nuts of anarchy on the far right. They recognized that the actual government of the country, regardless of which party was in power, should exist from the middle, and they were content that the compromises worked out between the parties would fall somewhere within the 40% of policies bracketing the middle, satisfied that such results truly represented the will of the majority.
These views are no longer sustained by the Republican party, which has shifted so far to the right that its origins can no longer be seen. Worse, the party has taken conscious steps to drive out the respected moderate or middle-of-the-road members. Right-leaning middle-of-the-roaders are derisively termed RINOs -- Republicans In Name Only – and are being driven out of participation in any party affairs – the most recent example being Liz Cheney ousted from leadership for daring to express a view most consider to be only slightly towards the center.
Today’s Republican must support the utterly nonsensical contention that any opposition to a hard-right Republican position is nothing short of treason; that Democrats are not just of a different political party but are anti-Americans and are intentionally planning on destroying America. To this inane hard line has recently been added the equally nonsensical and inane requirement – being unquestioned, demonstrable support and loyalty to Donald Trump.
The introduction of Trump into this fray has been disastrous. Through a series of circumstances that no one expected then or yet understands to this day, Trump became President in 2016. History has never witnessed a more divisive political leader. His demand of subservient personal loyalty is out of mediaeval times and is a degree of fealty seen today only in the most severe autocratic regimes. Through vicious personal attacks delivered without edit or oversight via social media and in demagogic rallies, and with a complete disregard for the truth, in his four short years of office Trump personally managed to tear down or significantly weaken essentially every historical institution and perceptions of freedom that have been considered pillars of our democracy.
Because of Trump, our once widely respected free press is no longer trusted, the integrity of the FBI has been compromised, the NIH, our world class behemoth of medical research, has been weakened by charges of malpractice and incompetence, results from our independent judiciary are thought to be consciously political, the notion that no man is above the law is now open to question, and the motives of our prosecutors are examined for political purity. His actions have dispelled the notion that a congressmen’s and senators’ primary duties is to the country and Constitution, insisting instead that they remain tribal to the cause of the party. And in a most amazing display of petulant narcissism, he has convinced a huge number of us that our national election process – managed independently by the 50 states, and further independently within each state by the thousands of separate precincts and voting districts - was silently and secretly corrupted by a massive conspiracy which deprived Trump of a win and thereby invalidated the 2020 election.
One result of all this is today’s completely dysfunctional Congress. Congressional Republicans are refusing to compromise and refusing to consider any proposal they have not originated. The stand prepared to bring the country to a halt if their goals cannot be met. Under the present rules of the senate, the Republican minority is able to maintain a complete gridlock on legislative process.
It should be abundantly obvious that this philosophy of governance is absolutely destined to fail. As divided as our country is, there is no way it can continue if every decision has to be exclusively within the parameters dictated by those on the extreme right edge of one party. The only way we can thrive is if decisions are within the brackets of a comfortable 40% of middle -- with the extreme wings of both sides accepting these results as the will of the majority and the only practical reality that can be achieved in a democratic society.
Until the massive insurrection at the nation’s capitol, instigated by Trump, most believed that no matter what the political machinations were, the country itself was safe. Now, as we listen to the baseless and reckless accusations coming from the right fringe and watch the streaming videos of the senseless beatings and physical destruction they administered in the halls of our capitol, the future of our country is no longer a certainty. There are already discussions underway in several major political regions about secession or alternatives.
The immediate question is how long will the country bumble along if the Republicans do not act quickly and awaken to the necessity of reorganizing themselves. This means there is a real question whether Republican party will succumb to reality in time and either disappear or reinvent itself. Under present Republican leadership, and given their unexplainable devotion to Trump, the future for the party does not look good. But the situation is dire and the consequences will be disastrous if change does not come soon.
The country may well come apart first.