The Best Way For Paul Ryan to Fix Conservatism is Let the GOP Die
Remember the Whigs, Larry [O’Brien]? They went belly up, with no warning at all, when a handful of young politicians like Abe Lincoln decided to move out on their own, and fuck the Whigs … which worked out very nicely, and when it became almost instantly clear that the Whig hierarchy was just a gang of old impotent windbags with no real power at all, the Party just curled up and died … and any politician stupid enough to ‘stay loyal’ went down with the ship.” – Hunter S. Thompson, FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72
The Paul Ryan Campaign
There’s an old slogan you see on those Successories posters and activist coffee mugs: “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” Paul Ryan recently made a statement by running a shadow campaign and presenting challenges and agenda points, trying to show what the GOP stands for, hopefully creating a vision for rebuilding the party after this abortion of a Republican primary finally ends in the two worst Republicans ever getting beaten by either a woman or a socialist. But given the fact that he’s not one of the two men who made it through a packed field to be considered the top representatives for the party in the presidential run, it begs the question: DOES the Republican party actually stand for what the Paul Ryan campaign is claiming it does? Is it just a philosophy that informs its people or is it a living organism responsive to the human elements that make up its constituency?
Right now the Republican party has descended into a fetid pit of hatred and atavism. There are a few ways out but none will be easy, nor will any of them lead to an assured restoration of the Grand Old Party’s once-vaunted station. There is only one assurance any loyal conservative can bank on: the Republican party, as it currently exists, has no future in America.
Republican, tea partier, Libertarian
The remaining two Republican presidential candidates (no, Kasich isn’t a candidate, he’s simply a tool in the conspiracy to try and prevent a Trump candidacy) are a joke ripped out of a Mike Judge movie.
- A blowhard leading the populist vote not by presenting any real policy stances except for an institutionalized prejudice carefully-cultivated to elicit the strongest response from a racist, bigoted white trash constituency that, finally inspired to come out of hiding, is frightfully strong in the GOP.
- A creepy leftover from the “better America” of 1950s sitcoms who won establishment support only because he’s the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the GOP powers that be though it should be noted he’s almost as hated among the rank and file as Trump, having become the poster child for the most schismatic sect of the Republican party ever, a scorched-earth “my way or the highway” group of radicals that caused the ejection of the GOP’s two Congressional leaders and began the party’s mad descent to the do-nothing party. The only advantage he has is he’s not as embarrassing as El Trumpo.
It’s so bad that House Speaker Paul Ryan felt forced to run his third campaign, including overseas visits and a non-presidential video, basically saying “I know these are the two people who are representing us in the presidential race but they don’t actually represent us.”
But that’s what he doesn’t get. These are the two men the American citizens who make up the majority of Ryan’s party think best represent them as a group. It would seem, then, that it’s not Trump and Cruz who don’t represent the GOP; it’s Paul Ryan and his ilk. Trump and Cruz aren’t aberrations; they’re what the party has become. And the sooner the level-headed, the intelligent and the thinking conservatives — aka people I’ve come to see identify themselves increasingly as Libertarians — realize that, the sooner we can get back to the tough act of bipartisan governing.
But seriously, how did we get here?
Conservative vs. Conservative Round 1: Fiscal vs. Social
The Republican party wasn’t always the party of the rich. As Bernie pointed out, Eisenhower was much more socialist than him, what with 70-some percent taxes and huge union love. It wasn’t really until the lowering of taxes became the conservative war cry in the 70s that it started catering to the wealthy because, let’s face it, lowering taxes may help a lot of people but it mostly helps the wealthy, who have the most taxable income which could make its way into government coffers instead of being spent on vacation homes and expensive toys, and it mostly hurts the poor and lower-middle class, who often have to depend more on government-funded programs and facilities (from Medicare and Medicaid to education credits). Since there aren’t enough rich people to win an election, and there are lots of rich liberals who won’t vote Republican despite its fiscal benefits to them (thereby lowering the amount of rich people a GOP candidate could depend on), the Elephants in charge had to figure something out. Namely, how do you convince a large amount of Americans to vote against their own financial interests (or at least for policies that don’t really benefit them but allow the richest man in town to take that sailing trip around the Caribbean in his private yacht)? Bump up the social conservative angle. The problem is, fiscal and social conservatism are incompatible.
Fiscal conservatives believe in taking less money from private citizens and in turn funding less public programs. Social conservatives believe in enforcing laws that uphold traditional moral norms. Enforcement of possession of drugs and the continued classification of marijuana as a dangerous controlled substance has been a huge factor in overcrowded prisons; as of 2010 each U.S. prisoner costs $31,037 a year on average. And as of 2014 close to 100,000 people, or half the prison population, was in jail for drug offenses. The decriminalization (or straight up legalization and regulation) of maryjane and possibly a few others (psychedelics come to mind) would also cut down on law enforcement expenditures and let’s be real, potheads and acid freaks cause no threat to society except for maybe providing a market for too many talentless jam bands. In fact, if it weren’t for mind-enhancers, America would likely be without two of its most valuable companies, Apple and Facebook.
Another huge money-saver for government programs? Provide as much access to abortions and other pregnancy-planning services as possible. This issue, of course, is anathema to every social conservative and therefore has to be on the lips of every national right-wing politico on the stump. Something about god, though nobody who speaks logically has ever been able to explain how flushing out a fertilized zygote is the same as killing a baby, just like nobody can explain why God is so strongly against men marrying other men though He’s cool with divorce. But and so, back to the abortion tick.
According to the CBPP in 2014 the US government spent $370B on safety net programs and another $511B on Medicare. These make up the bullseye for fiscal conservatives. According to a recent study, women making 200% or more below the poverty line make up 70% of the population getting abortions. However, social conservatives have done everything they can to shut down places that offer low-cost contraception and abortion options.
From this point, admittedly, there can be no way to quantify “what ifs.” But let’s say we had a society that unquestionably supported nonprofit women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood. Since poor women are almost twice-as-likely to seek abortions right now, the allowance of these orgs would no doubt lead to more low-income women having abortions. Why do they get abortions? Because they are either in bad situations from the father standpoint (they’re raped, molested, make a mistake with an untrustworthy man), they’re young (a lot of which overlaps with case 1) or they simply can’t afford a child with their current career prospects. So more abortions would lead to less unwanted/unaffordable children which would lead to less federal assistance programs since they’re often based around giving priority to families and larger families eat up more of the benefits (there’s also the theory that more abortions leads to a drop in crime, thus saving money on jails and cops). And more free education and resources for birth control would also likely lead to fewer children and smaller families. Now let’s add in the families where fathers are serving time in prison for dealing small amounts of drugs or in some cases simple possession which puts even more financial stress on the families and these two big discrepancies I’ve mentioned find a sickening nexus:
Social conservative policies against contraception and abortion, combined with a zero-tolerance policy for drugs that punishes small-time dealers and users with overly-harsh prison sentences have led to more families that need federal safety net programs to eat, live and go to the doctor as well as more spending on law enforcement and incarceration.
Conservative vs. Conservative, Round 2: Hypocrisy
According to fiscal conservative philosophy, what you get is what you get. There should be no government aid. You don’t make enough money at your job at the supermarket register? Get a second job. So it should follow that NOBODY gets supplementary government funding for their chosen industry. Yet a large swath of citizens in America live in this hodge-podge of plains called the “Midwest.” And these people are for the most part socially conservatives and thus vote Republican. Ironically, most of them would not be able to keep their farm running without government subsidies. So the lesson: If you grow the food, the government will help you; if you work for the people who grow the food, you’re on your own. Let me add, by the way, that I support farm subsidies. I also support daycare subsidies, health insurance subsidies, safety net programs, unemployment insurance, and various other subsidies that lead to the well-being of American citizens who otherwise could not afford to live safely and (somewhat) comfortably.
But let’s look at some other industries given subsidies for producing things that should not need subsidization:
- The 2005 Energy Act gives subsidies to oil, gas, coal and other industries that allow us to power our many gadgets by killing the world that our great-grandchildren will inherit
- Weapons makers like GE and Boeing that benefit from America’s endless entrenchment in Middle-eastern wars
(For a more in-depth list, check this out.)
And this doesn’t include all the tax breaks for things like corporate health insurance and workforce training. So the next time a giant company claims that raising the minimum wage is unfair government regulation, look into whether they get any tax breaks for the very job creation they are claiming as the reason why they should get preference over others. This becomes even more outrageous when said company claims that organizations are people.
Basically, when you stand for something but there are a bunch of loopholes and exceptions for the people who you’re friends with and who vote for you, you’re kind of a hypocrite. You need to redefine what you mean by laissez-faire economics and the free market, or at least not project an air of the world being black and white when your actions are so gray. Such things turn people off politics and put them on the path of consuming rhetoric while screaming that the system is screwing them over simply because nobody is honest with them about HOW the system works.
If You Stand for Nothing, You’ll Fall for Everything
This leads to the most-referenced dynamic that led to the current state of things, a party currently unified not by what it’s for but by what it’s against.
Take George Will, vaunted right wing voice who won a Pulitzer four decades ago but has spent the last few years writing either book reports of whatever he’s reading or slippery-slope rants in which he sneaks in an unfounded connection to Obama at the end to drive home his point that any and everything wrong in the world is BO’s fault. Now he’s changed his tune — in December the bespectacled geek went so far as to say a Trump nod will spell the end of the GOP. Ironic since his anti-Obamaism is exactly what fomented the wave of populist hatred for different ethnicities and beliefs that Trump has surfed to the top.
Ted Cruz was a nobody before he attached himself to a populist movement that misappropriated America’s most famous dockside act of rebellion and found a bunch of people left behind by modern society who were ready for somebody to topple the system. They didn’t know what they wanted; they only heard they used to be on top (a myth) and they wanted to be on top again (an impossibility). So other than passing a bill that denied terrorists representing nations in the UN from entering America, Cruz became best known for opposing the establishment. James Dean with the face of a televangelist crossed with the village geek in some bible belt “Our Town” revival, fighting not to revolutionize the system but to move it backwards. He opposed the establishment; opposed Obama; opposed gay marriage; opposed government funding for anybody; opposed reproductive health. Basically, he whipped up Congress to a fever pitch screaming “nay,” so much so that they literally accomplished nothing in the past 3 years except for close all federal offices (meaning office clerks and forest rangers and DOT workers were on unpaid furlough, though the solons kept getting paid) and yet the party STILL wasn’t anti-Democrat enough.
Before this election, I said the only candidate who would scare me more than Trump if he became president is Cruz. Despite all his rhetoric, Trump is a businessman and any half-decent businessman knows it’s one thing to talk big but ACTUALLY discriminating based on race, religion or sexual preference is just bad business. You think Trump’s buildings were built without immigrant labor? You think Trump Hotels doesn’t hire gay concierges, that his entertainment empire wasn’t staffed by gay men somewhere in the development and production process? Trump owns a golf course in fucking Dubai; do you seriously think he has anything against Muslims? No sir, he’s interested in that cashish and this president thing is just an egocentrist trying to see how far his mojo can take him. Cruz, on the other hand, he can use God to justify whatever makes him uncomfortable. He’s never had to compromise for things like “profit” or “shareholders.” I’ll take business interests over religious interests any day of the week. You can rationalize at least somewhat with business interests; people have been using religion to justify the unreasonable since sacrifice was all the rage in Mesopotamia.
One has to take notice that Paul Ryan is essentially trying to rebuild the GOP by making proposals and showing what the party stands FOR, not what it stands AGAINST. Yet in the end, politicians are servants of the people; and in the GOP’s case, the people want either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Every Republican I talk to who has ideas and visions for the future of the country along their philosophical plane, who can espouse conservatism while also admitting similarities with and even adopting some aspects of liberalism, who truly believe in limited government not just when it comes to welfare but also when it comes to human rights (i.e. why waste money and time outlawing gay marriage that will simply pump more money into our economy and create more healthy families)(or why prevent women from having the education and the ability to keep children from being born into adverse situations); that is, every Republican who wants to see their party not as the enemy of the Democrats but as the weight balancing it on the other side of the spectrum, they are cringing at who is left to represent them.
The Republican party is a brand that’s become too diluted to be useful again. The old standard bearers have been reduced to ancillary roles either as the doddering “elitist problem with the system” (McCain, Bush) or hate-filled cranks who are now reaping what they sowed and still can’t admit they’re assholes (Krauthammer, Will); the current big names have embraced a populist angle that’s uniting the white people against the whittling down of their former favor in the eyes of authorities and employers at the hands of people different from them (and therefore scary). And then there are the Republicans of the future, like Paul Ryan (who at least is trying to create alternatives for Obamacare and the Democrat budget instead of just decrying them) and Ross Douthat (who may be disgustingly religiously conservative but not to the point that he denies others rights under American law; who may have predicted many Obama failures but has also admitted when he was wrong about those) or Kathleen Parker (who is fervently for fiscal conservatism but also is fervently for women’s rights and, again, can admit times when liberals might be right). In these people I don’t see the crowds of hate-filled white people who have been left behind by a better-educated society that values diversity. And I certainly don’t see some pasty creep who has built a career on screaming how bad things are without ever presenting a plan for how to improve the way this government works, who seemingly supports nothing but gas and oil companies, guns and anti-government-land militias and sees compromise and deal-making as a weakness.
The Republican party is broken. The Libertarian movement is the future for a conservative voice in America that is fueled by logic and compassion; that believes in governance instead of blank obstructionism; that hates both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The only real solution I can see for rebuilding conservatism is leaving the GOP to the aging haters and establishmentarians (who are dying and weakening more and more every year) and the poorly-educated bigots who prefer to complain that America has passed them by because of ethnics instead of because they refuse to go back to school and learn a trade that is useful in our nation’s current economy. Leave it to the atavistic blowhards who forget that our nation was founded on separation of church and state and open immigration as much as it was founded on the ideas of a national moral fabric and the dream of Horatio Alger individualist opportunity.
It’s time for the future of the conservative voice to create a new more powerful party filled with the passionate and the intelligent, the men and women who have convictions but are also open to debate and compromise, and who respect everybody’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, not just people who are exactly like them.
Because while I am, always have been, and likely always will be a hardcore bleeding heart liberal, borderline social anarchist and just left of every Democratic president we’ve had, I can also respect the fact that other people believe differently and understand that the key to a successful democracy is the give and take between opposing sides. There needs to be a conservative voice to keep us idealist left-wingers from turning America into Cuba light. While I will always oppose the ideas and ideals proffered by the other side, I at least would like to respect the logic that fuels them and the character of the man or woman across the aisle who believes in them.
It’s time for Paul Ryan and everybody who believes in Lincoln’s original vision of Republicanism to reasses what their party has devolved into and either fish or cut bait. And at this juncture, it’s looking more and more like the only real solution is to cut bait. Use Ryan’s shadow campaign as a new evolution of conservatism following in the footsteps of the great emancipator himself. And leave the blowhards, the oldies and the anti-ists to sink with the Elephant ship.