If the Republican Party does not work with both haste and determination to both heal and define itself, the Trump era might well be described as epoch of squandered opportunity.
It’s not that the Republican Party hasn’t changed since its inception in 1856 and the failed presidential candidate of John C. Fremont. Four years later it was back with an lllionois lawyer who combined crackerbarel charm with incisive political instinct and Abraham Lincoln captured the presidency.
People easily forget that the Repubicans were the “liberal” party in those days. And not just because they opposed the extension of slavery. They were also liberal in ways that we would so define today, such as supporting public works and a protective tariff. The Republicans were closer to the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton than the “that government is best which governs least” party of Jefferson.
It wasn’t until well into the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant that the Republicans began to be the party of unfettered free enterprise in the lasses-faire economic climate of the Gilded Age.
After being the dominant political party for decades and esssentially representing the Roaring Twenties, Republicans went through considerable soul-searching during the Great Depression and the Second World as the Democrats became the dominant political force in America and the party that brought the welfare state to Washington.
Perhaps one of the greatest political achievements of the twentieth century was the ability of the Democrats to somehow keep liberals in the North and conservatives in the South electing Democrats to the the presidency and Congress. It was an act that only fell apart in the mid-1960s as Dixie Dems like South Carolina Senator Storm Thurmond defected to the GOP.
By that time, the Republicans were a house divided. In the mushy middle you had liberals like Nelson Rockefeller who represented the same establishment that President Donald Trump defied in 2016; on the right you had Senator Barry Goldwater, who lost his bid for the presidency but handed the conservative mantle to Ronald Reagan who did great things not only for the party but for the conservative movement around the world.
But even Reagan was fond of saying that the Eleventh Commandment was “thou shalt not speak evil of a fellow Republican.” Reagan could say that in 1976 when he narrowly lost the Republican presidential nomination to Gerald Ford, an Ivy League Republican if ever there was one.
I wonder if Republicans remember that saying today; there is a preponderance of even being spoken. The party remains a big tent organization where you can be pro-abortion, pro-LGBT and even pro-gun control and still run as a Republican. The party is as divided as it ever has been in history: there are populists, hard-core conservatives, libertarians and RINOs (liberals) in our midst and all are struggling to wrest control of the organization from each other and ultimately President Trump.
And that is the problem. You can disagree on policy issues all you like but ultimately you have to come up with something that all of you can embrace and promote. Otherwise, you’re just taking up space in Washington. The health care bill fiasco is a shared debacle but it is not enough to simply shake our heads and look askance at the these failed legislators; they are looking like fools who can’t remember the American voter has given them the keys to the presidency and Congress — a phenomenon that is extremely rare in the last century.
Of course the Russian nonsense is not helping but I am so sick of hearing of it that I will comment no further.
President Trump was elected to lead a revolution in Washington. The time for tinkering, the days of delay, the years of useless diversion are over.
Republicans: it is time to govern like the majority party. Stop the all too public in-fighting and get on with the job and draining this swamp and making American great again!