Monday, April 18, 2022


Megan McArdle recognizes that Republicans are likely to do very well in this year's midterms, and probably in 2024 as well. But what will they do once they have all that power? It would be awful, she says, if they don't have an agenda!
Many analysts fret that Democrats are sleepwalking into disaster. They’re not wrong to worry, but at this point I’m more worried that Republicans are sleepwalking into success....

Currently, the entire Republican agenda seems to consist of complaining about moderation policies at Twitter and Facebook and trying to curb perceived radicalism on race and gender in the nation’s schools.

... it doesn’t add up to a workable party agenda. Nitpicking outrages makes for a great Tucker Carlson segment but offers no guide for what Republicans should do in office.... This kind of campaigning also leaves Republicans dependent on progressives to constantly provide new excesses against which they can rail. And it offers no answers to other concerns of voters. You know, the ones that have made them so unhappy with President Biden, such as inflation....

The GOP needs a positive program for reducing inflation, fighting crime, reforming health care, keeping entitlements solvent and boosting employment. The party also desperately needs the administrative capacity to get a recalcitrant civil service to carry out its plans. Without those things, the GOP will fail voters and quickly lose power again.
Imagine thinking Republicans care about any of this.

Why would they care? For more than forty years, they've either been in power in Washington or out of power but gumming up the works for Democrats while making loud, aggressive noises and persuading everyone in the Beltway that soon they'll be in power again (which they invariably are, very quickly). Wealthy donors write them checks, network news outlets put them on TV, and they're seen as the party that's normative, as opposed to the weak, struggling, oddball Democrats, who are seen as hapless losers even when they control the White House and Congress.

When was the last time Republicans truly had a governing agenda, apart from tax cuts for the rich, loosening gun laws, tightening abortion laws, and cracking down on immigrants? In the Bush I and Bush II years, Republicans liked war. That was basically it. They haven't had "a positive program" in living memory, and they haven't needed one. Their program is "We're not the evil Democrat Party."

At the state level, they've finagled their way to permanent legislative majorities in purple states as well as red ones, and that's probably what they intend to do at the national level the next time they have complete control of the federal government. They don't want to use power responsibly. They want it for its own sake, and they want to find ways to keep it that don't require being answerable to the voters. Maybe they can't rewrite elections to make themselves into a permanent majority in D.C., but just being aggressive loudmouths seems to be sufficient to get them reelected even in purple states, as polls of the Texas and Florida governors' races suggest, because Democrats are seen as mealy-mouthed, and even swing voters who don't agree with Republican positions on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights are impressed by the GOP's willingness to fight.

So more of the same will do just fine for Republicans.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat looks at David Shor's prediction that Republicans might have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate after the 2024 elections, even if Democrats win nearly half the congressional vote, and wonders whether the GOP might think that's just not sporting.
... a scenario where one party has sustained governing power while lacking majoritarian support is a recipe for delegitimization and reasonable disillusionment....

From the Republican Party’s perspective, the best way to avoid this future — where the nature of conservative victories undercuts the perceived legitimacy of conservative governance — is to stop being content with the advantages granted by the system and try harder to win majorities outright.

... That means rejecting the politics of voter-fraud paranoia....

It means rejecting the attempts to return to the libertarian “makers versus takers” politics of Tea Party era, currently manifested in Florida Senator Rick Scott’s recent manifesto suggesting tax increases for the working class....

And it means — and I fear this is beyond the G.O.P.’s capacities — nominating someone other than Donald Trump in 2024.
Why would Republicans reject these things when they're embracing all of them and they're on the verge of big victories? Should they reject them out of fear of appearing illegitimate? This is the party that, in recent years, proudly sent two presidents to the White House who had lost the popular vote. Both governed as if they'd won landslides. (One claimed he actually had won a landslide.) Douthat's concerns about legitimacy in a democratic system are touching, and I think they're sincere, but he doesn't understand that his party doesn't care. His party dares anyone who doesn't like how it operates to feel "reasonable disillusionment"; it will simply pick up all the votes of those who aren't disillusioned. Nothing matters except winning.

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