Monday, July 26, 2021

The Five Faces of the Republican Party

It's understandable but not useful to look at the Republican party as just Trump, Trump, Trump and nothing else. In reality, the GOP is a big sprawling mess with many factions. The shifting balance of power between these factions will have a great deal to do with the Republican party the Democrats will have to deal with in 2022, 2024 and beyond.
Henry Olsen is one of the sharpest conservative analysts around and in a recent column he delineates five current factions of the GOP underneath the surface of current ties to Trump:
Old Guard: change nothing in the GOP's loyalty to free market fundamentalism. Example: Pat Toomey
Adapters: keep the basic GOP approach to economics but nod in the direction of some of the Trump deviations on economics. Example: Niki Haley
Searchers: change the GOP to recognize its increasingly working class character, including modestly moving away from big business. Example: Jim Banks
And here is where it gets interesting.
Reformers: "[They] ave vocally been calling for such a comprehensive rethink for many years. Led by a trio of young senators — Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — they have blazed the trail with speeches and ideas to recast U.S. capitalism. Rubio’s 2019 speech on restoring “common good capitalism” provided a theoretical justification for this stance. It was epitomized by his leadership in crafting the Paycheck Protection Program and his support for the failed effort to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama. Cotton has drafted bills calling for an increase in the minimum wage, government subsidization for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and returning money collected from tariffs on Chinese goods to working and middle-class taxpayers. Hawley has blasted Big Tech, calling to remove their Section 230 protection, and spoken widely about how the economy has failed too many Americans in recent decades. Together, they are pushing Republicans to reposition themselves quickly and comprehensively."
Prophets: "The final group is currently the smallest, the Prophets. Led by Ohio senatorial candidate and author J.D. Vance, the Prophets call for even more change than the Reformers. Vance goes where others have feared to tread, calling for tax hikes on companies that move jobs out of the United States. His 2019 speech at the National Conservatism Conference, “Beyond Libertarianism,” was a thorough and searing critique of how the worship of market forces has led to far too many impoverished Americans. If Vance wins his primary next year, the power of his critiques will surely increase the Prophets’ ranks."
Interesting. Most Democrats make the mistake of dismissing the latter two groups because of their currently professed loyalty to Trump. But in doing so they miss the extent to which these politicians could, over time, move the GOP toward a brand that would be competitive with the Democrats on more than cultural grounds.
I have noticed this particularly with Vance, who is a very interesting figure. Now that he's recanted his criticisms of Trump people dismiss him as just another unhinged Trumpy Republican. Not so. HIs shift on Trump is a cynical transparent ploy to aid his political fortunes which makes him a....politician. But the rest of his politics could make him a formidable force which Democrats discount at their peril.

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