Posted by Richard Moore June 6, 2014
A funny thing happened on the way to the 2016 presidential election: After losing the 2012 contest, an enraged GOP establishment came out fighting.
From Karl Rove to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Republicans declared they wouldn’t be chumps again, and so they declared war .... on conservatives.
Yes, rather than take on liberal Democrats, the GOP brass and monied elites decided they would be better served by dismantling the grassroots conservative base of the party, in other words, the Tea Party.
It hasn’t worked, but that strategic decision is very revealing. That the establishment would prefer to cavort with liberals in Washington rather than govern with conservatives is a signal – no, a straightforward telegraph – that the GOP intends to do absolutely nothing about the status-quo big-government nature of Washington when and if it returns to power.
Not that any of this is surprising. The modern conservative movement reached its apex with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and it’s been all downhill ever since. The ascendency of the Bush regimes after Reagan doomed the conservative renaissance – at a time when even a majority of young people deemed themselves conservative – and returned the big-business establishment to power.
If Reagan had a fault, it’s that he didn’t smash that wing of the party to smithereens after he had defeated it. Remember, the GOP establishment had no use for Reagan and did not want him to win the nomination, not in 1976, not in 1980.
But smashing the other side was not Reagan’s way of doing things, so he married the establishment with George the Elder, paving the way for the establishment’s return when conservatives lacked a charismatic follow up to the Gipper.
In the years since, the GOP establishment learned a lot. After they were booted from power in the wake of the cronyism and corruption of the George W. Bush administration, which ushered in the Obama atrocities, the establishment lurked in the weeds, licking its wounds, waiting for a way back.
They found it when the Tea Party captured the nation’s angst and anger in 2010, sweeping conservatives to power in the various states and to a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
For a time, the establishment decided to go along for the ride.
That is to say, they held rallies and called them Tea Party rallies, when they were not. They draped themselves in the U.S. Constitution, though it is the charter of the Federal Reserve they really cherish. They loudly denounced big government and federal standards as a threat to states’ rights and individual liberty.
They learned to talk the talk, in other words. The problem is, they never walked the walk.
And therein lies the reason why the Republican establishment is so much more dangerous than the Democrats. The Democrats are at least honest about their liberalism; they tell you up front they are going to take your property, your guns, your money and your liberty from you. That’s easy to spot and ultimately reject at the ballot box, which happens on a regular basis when voters get fed up.
It’s different with the GOP establishment. Their liberalism is cloaked in conservative rhetoric and is harder to detect, at least until it’s too late. They deflect the conservatives’ direction, energy and focus with talk of repealing policies, but most often they only delay them to let the gas run out of the opposition.
This deflect-and-delay strategy is the GOP establishment’s winning formula.
And so some Republican governors expand Medicaid based on pie-in-the-sky federal funding. In other words, they undertake the core implementation of Obamacare, despite loud denouncements of a federal takeover of health care. The rhetoric is now; the reality of skyrocketing costs to state taxpayers will come later – deflect and delay at its finest.
In Indiana, we have Gov. Mike Pence (another one who took the Medicaid dollars and ran), who said his state will opt out of Common Core federal education standards but then endorsed a state scheme that is virtually the same thing, which he hopes the masses will only discover later. Deflect and delay.
This follows in the fashion of Republican establishment figures who have called for changing the name but not the substance of Common Core – a rebranding, they call it – simply to get it passed. Participating in this charade with Pence are Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Or what about the House GOP immigration plan earlier this year that was really an amnesty scheme, except they said it wasn’t – that would be discovered later to much shock and dismay – and which was supported by the likes of Paul Ryan.
Deflect and delay.
When it comes to talking the conservative talk without walking the walk, however, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker takes the cake.
To suggest such a thing seems absurd given the governor’s challenge to public-sector unions and his collective bargaining reforms, which have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yet, there the governor is, decrying structural deficits while creating his own $640-million structural deficit after wiping out the one he hated. There the governor is, calling for state education standards while proposing to fund Common Core and to let its strongest advocate, state superintendent Tony Evers, review it to see if it is OK.
There the governor is, funneling millions of dollars to his crony capitalist friends through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, distorting markets along the way, even as he publicly calls for leveling the competitive playing field for everybody.
Over there, there the governor is, apparently throwing conservative allies beneath the bus to save his own skin in the John Doe probe, and, yonder, there the governor is, saying he’s cautiously optimistic about the EPA’s plan to kill coal and drive up utility rates for Wisconsin residents, even as conservatives tell the truth about the carbon emission rule’s job-killing effects.
Last but certainly not least, the governor has helped to realize the biggest environmental dream of all – and one of the major goals of the previous Democratic governor, Jim Doyle – by shepherding a rule into place that will literally steal tens of thousands of acres from property owners through senseless and onerous impervious surface regulations. This unprecedented expansion of state authority over private property will do to homeowners and small businesses and to the tourism and real-estate industries what the EPA’s carbon rule will do to utilities and ratepayers and the energy sector: Devastate them.
This governor is simply not the same governor who brought us collective bargaining reform. Or perhaps he is, as his lack of action since then speaks volumes about his intentions.
That is to say, to truly reform state government as the governor said he wanted to do would require two things. First, the bureaucracies’ political cash machine, the public-sector unions, had to be taken apart, and, second, the state’s civil service system, which allows bureaucrats with radical agendas to run the state regardless of who wins elections, had to be dismantled.
Mr. Walker effectively did the first but not the second, which tells me he was interested in destroying his opponents’ political viability but without the inconvenience of fundamentally changing anything about the way state government is run.
But while the first requirement – the take down of the public unions – was a necessary condition for change, it was not a sufficient one. Civil service reform needed to follow political reform, but the governor made no attempt to do so.
By not doing so, he left Common Core in place. He left the state’s slavish devotion to the Doyle administration’s climate-change policies in place. He allowed the Doyle administration’s attack on private property to continue. The governor had no intention of changing the bureaucratic landscape; his one and only objective was to change the electoral landscape.
All of which tells us why the Republican establishment is more dangerous than the Democrats. Neither wants to dismantle big government. The difference is that the Republican establishment keeps telling us it wants to, and then delaying the enactment of its big-government policies just long enough to take the immediate sting out of their impact, and the steam out of the opposition.
The ‘deflect-and-delay’ tactic has proven successful time and again. When these politicians are elected, conservatives assume they will take care of the problems. They take them at their word – until it is too late.
The state’s new impervious surface shoreland rule is the quintessential example of how the GOP’s deflect-and-delay tactics dampen reform.
For eight years, the Democratic Doyle administration pushed the rule aggressively, and grassroots conservatives, small businesses, homeowners, and property-rights activists responded. Thousands of people of people attended hundreds of rallies to stop the rule, and the movement effectively did so for the duration of the Doyle administration.
Thus, the Doyle administration blocked the rule by supporting it.
Then along came Mr. Walker, who assured everyone the rule would be taken care of. No problem. Trust us. And so with his election everybody thought the rule was dead, and the opposition died down. The protests dwindled and withered.
Then the new rule was unveiled, and it turned out to be the same rule Doyle and the environmentalists proposed.
Only the same Republicans who said the world would end if such a rule was enacted changed their tune, coincidentally at the same time they returned to power. Now in control of the Legislature and governorship, they tell us not to worry about nonconformity. Don’t worry about your property rights. We were just joking before. This baby isn’t so bad.
But it is, and small businesses and homeowners – not to mention the tourism and real-estate industries on the macroeconomic level – won’t find out until they go to get a permit for a shoreland project. And because the GOP establishment masterfully delayed the rule’s required implementation until 2016, it will be way too late for anybody to do anything when the deadly consequences literally come home to roost.
Such is the world of governance when the GOP establishment is in control. Their deflect-and-delay tactics gut the reform movement and in so doing actually make the absurd, confiscatory and authoritarian agenda of big-government Democrats possible.
So liberals need the GOP establishment. In the end, it’s the only way they can get what they want.
When liberals get elected, they galvanize an effective opposition, but they can always count on the GOP establishment to relieve them in the late innings, and to close the deal with voters when they can’t.
As such, it seems the only way to stop the liberal agenda is to elect Democrats, and it makes one wonder just who should win the upcoming gubernatorial race.
That’s a facetious remark, of course, though conservatives might be forgiven if they hit the snooze button on Election Day. But it sure distills the sad state of affairs inside the Republican Party these days.
First published in The Lakeland Times