We have seen De-Nazification, De-Ba'athification, and now... wait for it: De-Dutchification. Slowly but surely, Dumbos are renouncing St. Dutch for his taxation, immigration, and foreign policy heresies. If this is a (fair & balanced) demonstration that betrayal does not always involve 30 pieces of silver, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap 'Zine]
The De-Reaganization Of The Republican Party
By Jim Rutenberg
Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing
On October 9, 1986, Air Force One delivered President Ronald Reagan to Iceland, where he met with President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. The Reykjavik summit, as it was known, marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
The Boeing 707 that was the primary Reagan-era Air Force One is now a museum piece on display at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where Wednesday’s Republican debate was held. Carly Fiorina was standing directly in front of it when she declared that, as president, she would not meet with Russia’s present-day leader, Vladimir Putin.
In December 1982, Air Force One delivered President Reagan to Bogotá, where he confronted President Belisario Betancur of Colombia over that country’s role in the drug trade, an early shot in his administration’s ‘‘war on drugs.’’ At Wednesday night’s debate, the candidates standing in front of Reagan’s plane declared that the war on drugs had, in Gov. Chris Christie’s words, “been a failure,” leading to, in Senator Rand Paul’s words, an unfair “racial outcome” that punished more poor minorities than equally culpable, wealthy whites.
In October 1984, Air Force One delivered President Reagan to the general-election debate in Kansas City, MO, where he declared, “I believe in the idea of amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, even though “some time back they may have entered illegally.” On Wednesday, as they have all year, this election’s crop of Republican candidates took pains to explain why their immigration plans were “not amnesty,” as Dr. Ben Carson argued about his own proposal.
The dissonance between the Republican Party’s pious exaltation of Reagan the man and its break with much of his policy record is established enough that last year the Amazon show “Alpha House” built an episode around it, in which a Reagan impersonator shows up at a Republican retreat, recites the president’s actual quotations and gets booed. But the starkness of the disconnect is especially hard to ignore when the Republican hopefuls are arrayed in the literal shadow of his legacy, as they were on Wednesday. The debate was a reminder of not just the frayed state of Reaganism in the 21st-century party but also the lack of any big, new, unifying “ism” to take its place.
For decades, the components of the post-Reagan Republican ideology were fairly consistent: muscular foreign policy, social conservatism, tax cuts and a general aversion to “big government.” Until very recently, most of the party’s drift away from Reagan’s record involved pushing these general principles into absolutist positions: an increasingly unwavering insistence on tax cuts (about which Reagan was relatively flexible and George H. W. Bush was more so), for instance, or on shrinking government (spending rose under Reagan and both Bushes [PDF]). It was on account of this shift that Jeb Bush said in 2012 that Reagan would have “a hard time” fitting in with the modern G.O.P.
Now, however, it’s possible to see the party diverging from Reagan’s legacy in other directions, too, even as the candidates go to ever-greater lengths to one-up one another in their devotion to the man himself. In 2007, after the also-ran candidate Ron Paul established himself as opposed to the Iraq war, the Fox News host Chris Wallace asked him incredulously at an early primary debate, “Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party?” On Wednesday, Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul, was not alone in making the same argument against the war as his father did; the No. 1 and No. 2 candidates in national and state polls that preceded the debate, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, boasted they were early opponents of the Iraq war as well, even sharing a hearty handshake — and near high-five — over their mutual opposition. (Carson has said he would not have ordered the invasion of Afghanistan as president, either.)
At a Fox News debate four years ago, none of the eight Republican candidates onstage would say he or she would accept a budget deal that included only one dollar in “revenue increases” for every $10 in government spending cuts. On Wednesday, Trump unflinchingly promoted his in-the-works tax plan’s expected tax hikes for hedge-fund managers. The field was split on marijuana legalization, the right of the Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the future of birthright citizenship and the wisdom of tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran upon taking office.
The Democrats have certainly shown their rifts this primary season — just ask Senator Bernie Sanders about where his views on free trade, Wall Street and national security differ from Hillary Clinton’s. And a lot of the flux in the Republican policy platform can be attributed to the times: When a sense of economic inequity runs across the ideological spectrum, it makes sense that candidates like Carson and former Senator Rick Santorum would express support for raising the minimum wage. Pro-life views, small government and low taxes certainly remain core philosophical principles in general.
Much of the apparent recent policy confusion can also be attributed to the outsider candidacies of Trump and Carson. But even if their poll statuses change tomorrow, the fact that two candidates with such unorthodox Republican positions led the polls for any period of time is especially jarring for a party that not long ago was known for its rigid discipline.
Party strategists I’ve spoken to view this as a healthy thing. “We’ve got this amazing constellation of different views,” Mark McKinnon, a leading strategist for George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, told me. “People are just not marching in lock step with sort of a conventional approach,” he said. “We’ve got alphabet soup going on in policy.”
Many of the seemingly unconventional ideas coming to the surface now have actually been there all along, just stowed away, well out of the campaign spotlight. The party has long had its libertarians, who oppose interventionist foreign policies or, for that matter, strict drug laws. After eight years out of the White House, it seems, older, less popular ideas — along with some new ones — are receiving renewed consideration. “You spend enough time in the desert, you start to figure out where the water is,” McKinnon said. “We’ve been trying all the old stuff, and we’re coming up empty.”
It is almost a cliché to say that nothing unifies a party — or gives a party the illusion of unity — like having a nominee. But with 15 candidates still debating as of Wednesday, that could take awhile. Ω
[Jim Rutenberg is the chief political correspondent for the New York Times Magazine. He received a BA (journalism from New York University.]
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