It’s time for the Repub­li­can di­vorce

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Jon Cal­dara

Af­ter the “re­peal and re­place” de­ba­cle there is, yet again, a very pub­lic cri­sis for the soul of the Repub­li­can Party. (As if we Repub­li­cans ac­tu­ally have souls.)

This ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis for Repub­li­cans boils down to this one ques­tion: Is it the pri­mary goal of Repub­li­cans to limit the growth of gov­ern­ment, or should Repub­li­cans let gov­ern­ment grow, but at a slower speed than Democrats?

This seems like an over­sim­pli­fied and flip­pant ques­tion, but to un­der­stand this ques­tion is to un­der­stand why Repub­li­cans fail to gov­ern.

Democrats (who of course do have souls, as wit­nessed by how much they care for peo­ple, with other peo­ple’s money) have their is­sues of in­fight­ing, turf wars and con­flicts over strat­egy and tac­tics. But they don’t have a con­stant bat­tle over the over­rid­ing prin­ci­ple of their party.

All Democrats want to in­crease the size and scope of gov­ern­ment. Their in­ter­nal bat­tle is over the speed at which it should be done.

But al­most all Repub­li­cans say they are going to con­strain gov­ern­ment and reel in taxes, spend­ing and reg­u­la­tions. Yet when given the chance, many don’t. And it doesn’t take but a few de­fec­tions to make their at­tempt to gov­ern fail.

John Mccain, Lisa Murkowski and Su­san Collins re­fused to vote to re­peal even the tini­est parts of Oba­macare, even though all three cam­paigned on re­peal­ing all of Oba­macare.

The Colorado ver­sion of this was of course the re­cent Repub­li­can ca­pit­u­la­tion over the Hos­pi­tal Provider Tax (Fee). Be­cause Repub­li­can se­nate lead­er­ship crum­bled like a Dixie cup, we will now be pay­ing over half a bil­lion dol­lars more a year in taxes, and tak­ing on some $2 bil­lion in new debt without even be­ing asked first at the bal­lot box.

And some of those “grow gov­ern­ment but at a slower rate than Democrats” state sen­a­tors may have to an­swer for it in next year’s pri­maries. We will see how sen­a­tors like Polly Lawrence, who is run­ning for State Trea­surer, and Owen Hill, who is chal­leng­ing US Con­gress­man Doug Lam­born, fare as pro-tax Repub­li­cans.

So, af­ter fail­ures on Oba­macare na­tion­ally, and for­sak­ing the Tax­payer Bill of Rights lo­cally, the Repub­li­can party’s dys­func­tion is laid bare for the world to see. You’d think that would force a cathar­tic process to “fix” the party. But it won’t, be­cause there are two Repub­li­can par­ties.

The Repub­li­can Party func­tions more like a par­lia­men­tary sys­tem. It cob­bles to­gether two fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent groups to form a frag­ile coali­tion whose pri­mary pur­pose is to keep the other team out of power.

Think of these two par­ties as the Tax­payer Party, who wish to shrink the Le­viathan, and the Man­ager Party, who like a good le­gal cus­to­dian wishes to run the ma­chin­ery more ef­fec­tively.

The Tax­payer and Man­ager folks team up well in the mi­nor­ity. Both agree the Democrats are tax­ing, spend­ing and reg­u­lat­ing too much, too fast. But they have com­pletely dif­fer­ent op­er­at­ing sys­tems which make them in­com­pat­i­ble when they get in the ma­jor­ity.

You can’t si­mul­ta­ne­ously shrink and grow gov­ern­ment!

This rift isn’t new. Over fifty year ago Barry Gold­wa­ter wrote Con­science of a Con­ser­va­tive in hopes of pulling Man­agers to the Tax­payer wing of the party. Cur­rent Ari­zona Sen. Jeff Flake is mak­ing the same call in his dar­ing re-write of the same ti­tle.

But all this re­ally causes is de­cep­tion. It’s not re­ally about “mod­er­ate” ver­sus “con­ser­va­tive” Repub­li­cans as the me­dia la­bels it. They are Macs and PC’S — dif­fer­ent op­er­at­ing sys­tems.

In order to win, es­pe­cially in pri­maries, mem­bers of the Man­ager Party must ap­peal to vot­ers who pre­fer the Tax­payer Party, so they talk like them. And we fool­ishly be­lieve them. But they’re still Man­agers. But what if they didn’t have to cam­paign that way?

Will Repub­li­cans ever of­fi­cially split into these two par­ties rep­re­sent­ing their two very dif­fer­ent ide­olo­gies? Be­fore Trump, I would have said no.

But imag­ine how re­fresh­ing and free­ing it would be for folks like Mccain, Collins and Murkowski (and here folks like Son­nen­berg, Lawrence and Hill) to be able to cam­paign on their true be­liefs and val­ues to a group of pri­mary vot­ers who value their style of re­spon­si­bly grow­ing gov­ern­ment.

Time to call the di­vorce at­tor­neys?

Jon Cal­dara is pres­i­dent of the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute, a lib­er­tar­ian-con­ser­va­tive think tank in Den­ver, and host of “Devil’s Ad­vo­cate” on Colorado Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion.

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