It’s time for the Republican divorce
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.