This post is an attempt to respond to a statement that my old friend Faimon wrote in the comment section of my previous post: “I wonder Denny, if you are going to address the comment by Peggy Noonan that GWB destroyed the Republican Party.”
What Faimon is referring to is Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column titled, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” In this short essay, Noonan not only says that former President Bill Clinton is destroying the Democrat Party, she also charges President George W. Bush with destroying the Republican Party. She writes:
“George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.”
This is a provocative statement from Noonan, and Faimon’s question to me is a fair one. I’ll offer a few remarks in response.
First, I think it’s premature to say that the Republican Party has been destroyedâ€”especially if Noonan means to say that the Reagan coalition of social, fiscal, and national security conservatives has been permanently torn asunder. The disarray that we are seeing on the Republican side of the Presidential race exists because no single candidate embodies all three of those principles. If there had been such a candidate, I think we would already have seen the old coalition come together around him or her. The potential for the coalition is there. There’s just no candidate right now to bring it together.
Second, I don’t know why Noonan thinks President Bush has caused this fracturing of the Republicans. To be sure, he has offended every section of the Reagan coalition. For instance, his attempt to appoint Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court baffled social conservatives (including me). His support for the failed Rumsfeld strategy in Iraq put off some national security conservatives (see also the attempted Dubai ports deal and illegal immigration). His support for government spending offended the fiscal conservatives (think medicare and the single biggest entitlement program in American history). Most would agree that President Bush ran afoul of different conservatives in these areas, but I don’t see how that fact has destroyed the coalition that has elected 20 years worth of Republican presidents since 1980. If anything, it shows that there are conservatives who are willing to stick to their principles.
I suspect that the division in the party has resulted from the fact that it does not have a presidential candidate who embodies all of the traits of a Reagan conservative. There are only niche-candidates: Huckabee for the social conservatives, Romney for the fiscal conservatives, and McCain-Giuliani for the national security conservatives. If there were a Hucka-guili-romney-cain candidate, no one would be talking about division in the Republican Party.
Third, I don’t care about the Republican Party for the Republican Party’s sake. The Republican Party (and the Democrat Party for that matter) is merely a mechanism through which citizens can implement what they believe to be the right policies for our country. Political parties are not ends within themselves, as if all that matters is that one’s party stays in power. Parties are a means to an end (just government, however that may be defined), and if a party ever ceases to be useful toward that end, then it can and should be jettisoned. In this sense, I am no rank partisan. If the sum total of a party’s platform adds up to grave injustice, I’ll be the first in line to bolt. I have no allegiance to the Republican Party per se, even though at the moment it happens to be the only party for life. I hope that this “mechanism” would retain its pro-life platform, but if it doesn’t it can go the way of the Dodo for all I care.
Faimon, I hope that answers your question. If not, we’ll let it go in the comments.
P.S. to Faimon: I am so happy that we have some Dawgs up in here!