The New And Improved GOP

The New And Improved GOP. By the Z-Man.

The reason the parties sound like two metronomes is they think it is safer to focus on the established market. They eschew novelty because that runs the risk of catastrophic failure. Their donors could be offended, or some large segment of their voting base could oppose it. The downside of the tried and true is a modest election loss. The downside of embracing a novel set of ideas is turning the party into a fringe party of weirdos.

The GOP knows it has to change, as part of the great realignment:

This framing is what the Republicans now face. Most would like to go back to being the bland shadow of the Democrats. That was easy and fun. It required little risk, as all they had to do is wear little American flag lapel pins and be mean to Democrats. Until the 2016 debacle, being a Republican was simple. You waited for the Democrats to step on a rake, and then you talked about it on Fox News. Come the election you told your voters that they had to vote for you or the Democrats would win.

The one thing the Republicans seem to have figured out is the old approach is not going to work, even if the evil orange menace has been purged from their city. Maybe it is the threat of Trump running in 2024 or their own internal polling, but they seem to have figured out that the old product is not going to sell. They need a new product to take to their voters if they hope to win future elections. This is the gist of this memo circulated by the House GOP leadership last month.

The new GOP is emerging:

Given the timing and the ouster of Liz Cheney, the market testing of the new idea to win elections must have gone well. This summer the Republicans will have their regular meetings and strategy sessions to figure out how to take their new message to the market for the 2022 midterms. At least for now, they think sounding like a kinder gentler Donald Trump is the ticket to success. Look for them to stump in shirt sleeves or maybe blue jeans and flannel shirts this fall.

A pure economics play doesn’t cut it any more:

It is tempting to think they are going for the novel approach as outlined at the beginning, over the tried and true approach. In reality, they are not veering far from their standard approach to politics, which is a pure economic play. …

The trouble with this approach is the Trump phenomenon was not powered by economic anxiety. Immigration, for example, was never about money but about culture and demographics. Lots of people hate the changes they see in their communities and they were attracted to the TV carny-barker because he mentioned it. The same is true about trade policy. What people see is Walmart and Amazon obliterating small business and they associate it with global trade policy.

The other problem is there is an “own the libs” vibe to it. The people running the Republican Party are just as divorced from the dreaded private sector as the robots running the Democratic Party. Is anyone going to mistake Ben Sasse for a working class guy? Kevin McCarthy? Lyndsey Graham? There is a good chance they look like John Kerry dressed up as a hunter in the 1996 election. These Republicans talking like Huey Long will underscore their otherness to the voters.

On the other hand, homo economicus has always been a homunculus for white middle-class voters to crap into in order to avoid the culture war. In this regard, the Republican message, like the libertarianism on which it rests, has always been a form of political escapism for white people. Reducing everything to money means avoiding the debate about culture items, like race and sex. Reframing Trumpism to be nothing more than an economic play fit the conditioning of the typical white voter.

Western societies are no longer predominately white and Christian. The previous homogeneity prevented race, culture, and sex from arising as issues, leaving just economics. The cold war was fought between two white, western cultures, so economics was the main point of difference. Even libertarianism seems possible in a society that is white and Christian.

Now western societies are more diverse and going tribal. Indeed, they threaten to be not-so-western and much less cohesive societies. Demographics, sex, race, crime, and culture are the bigger issues, increasingly overshadowing economics.

The GOP needs to update itself to the new reality.

(Actually, it needed to do it a decade or two ago.)