Posted by: Bruce Allen | May 10, 2019

Republican Orthodoxy in the Trump Era

© Bruce Allen

My wife gets mad at me all the time for taking shots at Republicans for a host of alleged character flaws, and she is, of course, right. Upon some reflection it occurred to me that a healthy number of my Indiana friends are Republicans, so it’s clear my problem is not with Republicans in persona. My problem is, and has always been, with Republican orthodoxy.

This orthodoxy, the guiding principles behind the party’s policy and legislative agenda, has changed radically during my adult life; I graduated from high school in 1969. It has, somehow, gone from bad to worse during this period, its adherents heading the same way, to the point today where discussing politics with one’s in-laws has the potential to disrupt family relationships 50 and 60 years old.

Who Has Represented Republican Orthodoxy Recently?

Dwight Eisenhower—50’s and 60’s

Republicans during this period were generally strong on defense, weak on domestic issues, strong on fiscal responsibility, and against government spending in general on the grounds that it displaces normal corporate capitalist behaviors whereby the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Steely-eyed fiscal hawks, spend it all on defense, not a penny for scenery, etc. Ghetto-ize blacks in concentrated urban areas.

Richard Nixon—70’s

Nixon opened up the relationship with China and brought disgrace to his party; he was busy getting us out of Viet Nam “with honor” while busy covering up an election theft in a race that was already won. But many Republicans stood up when it was time to dispose of Nixon. His subsequent pardon by Gerald Ford produced Jimmy Carter, who immediately confronted a hostile, wounded Congress and hostages in Iran. It was ugly. Lucky for the Republicans that George McGovern was such an inept candidate in 1972, albeit a generally quality guy. As President, Nixon came perilously close to beating the rap in what should have been an opened-and-closed case,

Ronald Reagan—80’s, 90’s

Along comes Ronald Reagan to save the day in 1980. He drives the Soviet Union into the dirt and puts it all on the big U.S. Mastercard, driving the national debt to unheard-of levels. A chicken in every pot, too. So much for fiscal responsibility. He is for free trade, generous immigration laws, but is tough on labor and crime. Big military budgets. Republicans during this period were pretty smug, as the Democrats had trouble getting out of their own way. Paging Michael Dukakis. Riding his long coattails were Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., interrupted by eight tumultuous and otherwise successful years under Bill Clinton. It was the Bushes who transformed Republican orthodoxy into a worldview in which the US is constantly involved in numerous conflicts and that annual spending on defense equals the total defense spending of the next six countries on the list. Oh, and global warming was a myth.

The Bushes—00’s – 2016

Wearing the mantle of Reaganism and adding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan kept father and son busy for twelve years. And that was pretty much it. A strong preference for adding to deficits rather than raising taxes. Unconcerned with social programs. Bush Jr. inherited an annual budget surplus of $384 billion and turned it into a $500 billion deficit in two years, courtesy, in part, of 9/11. It continued to grow from there. Bushism, if there is such a thing, is based upon stumbling into interminable foreign military adventures with no end game in mind. It is an expensive failure, one to which orthodox Republicans are married. It produces a strong economy. Oh, and global warming was a myth.

Donald Trump—2017 – ???

2017 is where Republican orthodoxy got turned on its shoulder and neck area, causing adherents to risk cervical damage explaining The New Orthodoxy. Under Trump, this includes:

  • Everything the President does is good, legal and smart. Same for the Attorney General.
  • Stealing Supreme Court nominations is good, legal and smart.
  • Immigration is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • North Korea is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • China is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • Russia is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • Obamacare is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • Mitch McConnell is a patriot.
  • Global warming is a myth. Historical cycles, y’know.
  • Tariffs produce revenues paid by China. Utterly, obviously, demonstrably wrong. So wrong as to be stupid to promote the notion. And he doesn’t even remotely understand the concept of “balance of trade,” which I know for a fact they teach at The Wharton School. Must’ve skipped that class.
  • His language is sometimes unfortunate.

There’s plenty more, depending upon the day and time. This is a President who does not hold policy positions, but instead has policy moods. This is a President who, since day one, had no intention of ensuring that laws of the United States were executed and obeyed without favor or fraud. This is a President who, after decades of egregious behavior dating back to the 60’s, has never had to deal with any form of consequences. The money he’s lost over the years was always OPM—other people’s money. And now, despite the documented fact that he has attempted to obstruct justice numerous times while in office, he is getting away with it all again.

Senate Republicans, the personification of Republican orthodoxy, are good with this. They are his primary facilitators. They’ve bought into the ethical lapses, the general boorishness, the thousands of outright lies, and come to his defense, committing their own obstructions, whenever Democrats attempt to invoke their Constitutional powers. Trump’s game plan—run out the clock, avoiding disclosing proof of anything big enough to sway the 2020 election until after the election. It appears to be working, as everything the Democrats are doing is headed for a courtroom near you. With Republicans having been beavering away for two years to stuff Federal district and appeals courts with obeisant Republican tools, the likelihood of at least one of them instituting a Constitutional crisis—ordering Congress, for example, to withdraw a properly-issued subpoena—is pretty high. But for orthodox Republicans, it’s all good. Hate the sin, love the sinner.

We Democrats certainly have our own issues. But we haven’t sold our political souls in order to placate this would-be despot. There’s that. As for our orthodox friends, all we can do is pray for them. And us.



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