In the Arena

Grand Elderly Party

All this talk of rebranding and rethinking is more a marketing exercise than a soul-search. Still, there is some interesting and substantial thinking about policy going on within the GOP.

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The hand-wringing about the future of the Republican party proceeds apace. I tend to agree with Frank Rich, who argues that all this talk of rebranding and rethinking is more a marketing exercise than a soul-search, and that the party will be trapped by the Limbaugh minority until a critical mass of Republican leaders stand up to the wingnut horde. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting and substantial thinking about policy going on within the GOP.

The best thinking is being done by young conservatives like Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam–who, for example and for years, have been promoting the idea that Republicans should accept the need for universal health coverage and other heresies. They are joined this month by two members of the Republican intellectual establishment (and the Bush 43 White House), Mike Gerson and Pete Wehner, who’ve written a smart piece in this month’s Commentary about policy changes the party should make. I’ve had my differences with Wehner in the past, to say the least, especially when he’s in electoral henchman mode, and I’m sure I have plenty of policy differences with him and Gerson now. But they’ve taken some interesting and courageous steps here that are worth noting.

The most important suggestions, to my mind, are in the area of financial and tax reform. They favor ”the end of corporate welfare as we know it.” This is a wistful nod toward Bill Clinton‘s proposal to put work requirements and time limits on welfare–but it is a smart analogy: They propose that Republicans divorce themselves from the culture of corporatism, just as Clinton separated himself from the culture of dependency. They also favor breaking up the five largest banks, which control assets equal to 60% of GDP, a ”moral hazard” if ever one existed. (I continue to believe that if Mitt Romney–still clueless, from the look of his re-emergence this week–had gone with this form of financial reform, he might have won the election. And I continue to be disappointed by the hold Wall Street still has on President Obama.)

There is also a grudging acknowledgment that gay marriage is here to stay. And a valuable reminder: ”It is heterosexuals, not homosexuals, who have made a hash out of marriage.” And an insistence that intact families are far more congenial to child-rearing than single-parent homes, a fact that has been proven definitively by study after study over the past 30 years. This opens a door to an interesting conversation that Gerson and Wehner choose not to walk through: what sort of responsible behavior do we have a right to demand of our fellow citizens, rich and poor, who receive benefits from the government?

The rest of the piece is tantalizing. They acknowledge that climate change seems, well, sorta, seems to be real. They have nothing to say about Obamacare, and very little interesting to add to the general debate about health care. This is a significant black hole…But Wehner and Gerson have opened a valuable conversation–valuable not just for Republicans, but also for Democrats who absolutely need to understand that their current electoral prosperity is largely a result of the Republicans’ current idiocy, and not a consequence of liberal policy creativity (which, so far as I can tell, is a pretty dry hole right now).

There are huge structural issues–corroded federal, state and city bureaucracies, antique education and regulatory systems, a public loss of the habits of citizenship–that we need to face as the world spins on, ever faster and more competitive. The President talks about the middle class, but his proposals offer no creative path away from the current political impasse. By contrast, Jeb Bush had an interesting answer this morning when Joe Scarborough asked him about the most important question facing the country over the next 30 years: the absence of social mobility, he said. I’m not sure how Bush would address this dilemma, or whether I’d agree with his solutions, but it is a creative frame for the conversation we need to have right now about the fate of the middle class–and especially intriguing when it comes from a Republican with a track record of creative governance.

Indeed, the fact that Jeb Bush isn’t not running for President may be the most hopeful sign of a Republican intellectual resuscitation that we’ve seen so far.

61 comments
BillPearlman
BillPearlman

Big Wall St. lined up for Obama. He got more money from Goldman then any other candidate. NO ONE has gone to jail. And Benrnake continues his bank subsidies to this day. Why does Obama get a pass on this?

FasahaTraylor
FasahaTraylor

I was somewhat disappointed that you didn't follow up in your column your categorical statement on Morning Joe about the ineffectiveness of Head Start.  While there are certainly some Head Start programs that are more effective than others, the difficulty in getting Head Start cognitive gains to persist throughout elementary school has been the subject of much rigorous research.  Many scientists believe that this is the result of the low-quality elementary schools to which most Head Start students are relegated.  Some focus on the faulty research designs of most studies.  But despite this, there is virtual consensus that whatever might be happening to the cognitive gains, the social gains do persist.  There are fewer criminals and more folks with steady jobs and incomes among Head Start grads than among non-Head Start peers.  The person who has done the most credible research about the cost effectiveness and efficacy of early childhood education is likely James Heckman, the nobel Laureate at the University of Chicago.  I would advise you, if you are going to continue to comment on early childhood education, to take a look at his work.  See 

Cunha, Flavio, and James J. Heckman. (2010). "Investing in Our Young People," NBER Working Paper 16201.In Childhood Programs and Practices in the First Decade of Life, edited by Arthur J. Reynolds, Arthur J. Rolnick, Michelle M. Englund, Judy A. Temple. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Heckman, James J. (2012). "An Effective Strategy for Promoting Social Mobility," Boston Review, forthcoming.

sonsofaureus
sonsofaureus

Thank you Joe Klein, for calling out the Republican anti-intellectualism.  The recent and current Republican message has been the furthest thing from conservatism - a political approach that recognizes complexity and is suspicious of and cautious about big sweeping changes.  Conservatism is by default a moderate stance.  

At the core of the problems is that the crazies are vocal and the moderates are reasoned and calm.  What's called for here seems to be a moderate zealotry - we need reasonable Republicans to start telling people who start sentences with "All I know is..." to shut up, because their opinion is uninformed and useless.  

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

" I tend to agree with Frank Rich, who argues that all this talk of rebranding and rethinking is more a marketing exercise than a soul-search, and that the party will be trapped by the Limbaugh minority until a critical mass of Republican leaders stand up to the wingnut horde."

This is quite an ignorant comment (which is par for the course for Slow Joe) when you consider that it's the Democrat Party with the wingnut horde. More than 70 Democrat House members belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is affiliated with Democratic Socialists of America. Our Founders wrote the Constitution in such a way that it essentially outlaws socialism, yet here we have a significant portion of the Democrat Party working towards the establishment of additional socialism in this country. Slow Joe supports these un-American efforts.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Not until the religious right and ignorant baggers shut up and go home, which isn't going to happen.

roknsteve
roknsteve

Joke Line, I give this trash you posted a D for Dumb.  

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

"(W)hat sort of responsible behavior do we have a right to demand of our fellow citizens, rich and poor, who receive benefits from the government?"

That's not the first time JK has dipped his toe in that water. As all citizens receive benefits from the government it is a curious framing. Unless of course there is just a certain type of benefit (wink-wink rhymes with bellfare) that concerns him.

 That aside I would like to know exactly what he is proposing.

tommyudo
tommyudo

Does Klein really think that the crazy Right is going to pay attention to what Gerson, Wehner and David Frum say? The Right controls the current GOP. They are the election time foot soldiers and aren't going to face up to global warming , gay marriage and universal healthcare. They aren't changing their opinions and they aren't going anywhere, as long as the establishment GOP continues to use them . It's just best for the middle of the road GOP to rid themselves from the crazies, and join the Dems and let the far right create their own party, since many of them are old and will be surfing dirt soon enough.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

There's a lot of points I could debate, but none of it would be fresh but this one I want to bring up:

"a public loss of the habits of citizenship"

As a Canadian, I get annoyed by this one.  On the one hand, I think it's absolutely criminal how your polling places work.  I've voted several times, I have never taken more than 15 minutes from when I get to the polling place to when I'm done.  I've voted early, I've voted remotely, I've voted on election day, I've voted first thing in the morning and my elementary classes toured the polling booths during the day whenever they were running (in part because our gym was always being used as a polling location - both Elementary and Junior High and the only reason the high school wasn't is it was the least convenient of the four schools on that block to use.  The only thing I haven't done is vote in the evening.  The fact that lines are out the door is ridiculous.  The fact that people have to wait hours is criminal.  The constant cuts to locations and saving money and whatever else you're doing - of course you're losing the habits of citizenship: you aren't enabling citizenship.  And in the world of Twitter, the next generation is not as interested in waiting for slow, inefficient systems to not function.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Indeed, the fact that Jeb Bush isn’t not running for President may be the most hopeful sign of a Republican intellectual resuscitation that we’ve seen so far.

And yet Jeb is already walking back his previous stance on immigration and a pathway to citizenship. Jeb can afford to sound rational when he's on the sidelines. The minute he considers getting into the game, he's going to have to sart toeing the crazy line or he'll never make it to, much less through, the primaries.

Charles Pierce gave his take on this a week or so ago. It does not matter what people outside the party power structure say. They can grin and bear same-sex marriage, give grudging and mealy-mouthed attention to climate change and talk about "changing" the party all they want, but it will have absolutely no effect because they are outside the power structure. The baggers run this show now, and theirs are the only voices that matter. The tree-year-olds have taken over the party, and they're not going to listen to any damn adults.

And if Jeb does run and does make it through the primaries, it will not mean that the GOP has hewed left. It will mean that Jeb has been forced to abandon sanity set his course through the Straits of Insanity.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

<I> And an insistence that intact families are far more congenial to child-rearing than single-parent homes, a fact that has been proven definitively by study after study over the past 30 years. This opens a door to an interesting conversation that Gerson and Wehner choose not to walk through: what sort of responsible behavior do we have a right to demand of our fellow citizens, rich and poor, who receive benefits from the government?</I>

Notice the hoops Joe has to go through to sanitize his contempt for poor people. 

grape_crush
grape_crush

> But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting and substantial thinking about policy going on within the GOP.

There isn't 'interesting and substantial thinking' going on, Joe. There's some mouth noises being made about how the Republican Party - in order to stay viable as a political party, not in order to do what's good and necessary for the country - needs to adopt some long-standing center-left positions. If a voter wants a political party to take climate change, gay marriage, universal healthcare, reduction of corporate handouts, and heavy-duty bank regulation seriously, then there's already political parties that cover those positions. The existence of a GOP would be redundant at that point and any attachment would be due to whichever brand a voter identifies with more.

Hell, the GOP is almost redundant as it is now, with the Libertarian and Constitution parties sharing some of the same platform.

> ...liberal policy creativity ( which, so far as I can tell, is a pretty dry hole right now)...

I'm sure that you have neither the time nor journalistic background to locate any creative policy proposals coming from the left, Joe.

> The President talks about the middle class, but his proposals offer no creative path away from the current political impasse.

This is dumb, even for you, Joe. Given the current environment in the GOP-led House, the only proposal the President has that can resolve the 'current political impasse' is to capitulate to the Republicans' demands. Obama would have to abandon the good, sensible, and reasonable portions of the policy he was elected to try and fulfill. 

Why there is this idea out there that Obama is failing to lead when the Republicans obstinately refuse to consider following or even negotiating in good faith, I don't know. It's like some members of the political media are paid not to think very much.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Watching the GOP on life support is like watching a rich, hated uncle in intensive care. Your hand keeps moving toward the plug, but it's better to let nature take it's course.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Re the "Grand Elderly Party" : Nobody lives forever, we all die eventually.

sonsofaureus
sonsofaureus

@KevinGroenhagen The quote says nothing about Democrats and is unrelated to your point.  The Constitution says nothing about socialism either, and it can not have been written to outlaw/discourage socialism because Karl Marx wasn't even born when it was written.  The Constitution did recognize, right or wrong, that the masses can be stupid and reactionary and thus built safeguards to shield the workings of government from the tyranny of the masses - the electoral college, representative democracy,  life-time appointment of Supreme Court justices, etc.

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@HollywooddeedIt has been my observation that hose who use the term "baggers" are either effeminate men or unattractive women. I have seen few, if any, exceptions to this observation. As far as ignorance:

In 2012, the Pew Research Center quizzed Americans and found that Republicans were more knowledgeable about Campaign 2012 than their Democrat counterparts. "Democratic voters struggle to identify the Republican Party as the majority in the House of Representatives (29% correct) and John Roberts as the U.S. Chief Justice (31%)," the center reported. Republicans outscored Democrats on eleven of twelve questions.In 2011, the Pew Research Center quizzed Americans on what they know in "words and pictures." "Republicans generally outperformed Democrats on the current quiz," the center noted. "On 13 out of the 19 questions, Republicans score significantly higher than Democrats and there are no questions on which Democrats did better than Republicans."

TyPollard
TyPollard

@roknsteve 

I'm just happy Joe Klein has only slightly more influence than I do. Every day these over paid pundits become more and more irrelevant. 

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@curt3rd

He said he was discouraged by officials in Washington, who gave him this reply: “We have gone on record with a notification toCongressand whoever else that ‘APHISwould eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they providefundingto cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

“This email confirms what many Americans have suspected: The Obama administration is doing everything they can to make sure their worst predictions come true and to maximize the pain of the Sequester cuts for political gain,” said Rep. Tim GriffinArkansas Republican.

That really isn't what it said at all.  God forbid the White House enforces the law both they and Congress agreed to.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Paul,nnto You don't think that he was saying that if you didn't follow a code of responsible behavior you wouldn't be entitled to the carried interest deduction or deducting mortgage interest on your yacht?

I'm curious about who gets to establish what is responsible behavior and what isn't.

Do you think that taking an 80 million buyout when you have led your company into bankruptcy and such things would count? Or will the code only include working mothers who can't afford to feed their families? Perhaps Joe would like to check his cable provider to see if he can find A Place at the Table.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/03/01/172040074/documentary-a-place-at-the-table-is-a-call-to-action-on-hunger

grape_crush
grape_crush

@Paul,nnto > That aside I would like to know exactly what he is proposing.

Some variation on this, I suppose.

"Rep. Stephen Fincher's (R-Tenn.) bill would require states to randomly test 20 percent of people receiving benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which spends roughly 16 billion per year supporting poverty-stricken parents with monthly checks averaging 392 [dollars].

[...]

The Republican congressman realizes his idea, if implemented, would be legally problematic, so he intends to remedy these concerns by requiring welfare beneficiaries to sign 'a waiver of constitutional rights' with respect to drug testing. "

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@tommyudo A CBS News poll several months ago found that just 34% of Americans support Obamacare. Why should the GOP embrace something that a large majority of Americans does not want? And why would middle-of-the-road Republicans join the Dems when that party is dominated by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is aligned with Democratic Socialists of America?

Sue_N
Sue_N

@PaulDirks Well, they wouldn't be poor if they just listened to Joe. Duh.

I mean, it's not like the majority of people receiving government assistance are white working people, right?

retiredvet
retiredvet

I've been trying to figure out why the media is so damned determined to treat the right and left fairly when the right is clearly not thinking about this country's future beyond Bengazi! That said I think too many politicians (right and left) only care about getting reelected. They should do their jobs first.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@grape_crush I heard Jeb Bush on Morning Edition nattering on about the fact that the President needed to lead - needed to put forth his plan on the deficit. I'll say this for the Repubs, they certainly march with their talking points.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@grape_crush This. Unless there is some clause in the Constitution that I am missing, the president cannot impose his will upon one-third of our elected government and "lead" simply by fiat. The Republicans control the House, and you could make an argument that they even control the Senate through their mania to obstruct and filibuster. Because of them, everything now requires a 60-vote majority in a chamber where the Dems are the majority, but not 60 votes.

How, exactly, is Obama supposed to "lead" when every proposal he puts forth, even those that began life as Republican ideas, gets shot down? How can he "lead" when they absolutely refuse to compromise?

It's ridiculous. They've settled on this meme, and nothing, not facts of the rules set up in the Constitution, are going to move them from it.

AfGuy
AfGuy

@sacredh 

But, all the while, your mind IS calculating the odds of getting caught....

notsacredh
notsacredh

S_Deemer, the average age in the republican party is dead.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@S_Deemer Adapt or die. It's one of the chief tenets of evolution.

But then we know how the GOPers feel about evolution …

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@sonsofaureus@KevinGroenhagenSocialism existed before Marx, moron. 

"The Utopian schemes of levelling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional." - Samuel Adams

http://archive.org/stream/cu31924092885932/cu31924092885932_djvu.txt

 And you have things completely backward regarding tyranny. The Constitution was designed to discourage tyranny from the GOVERNMENT.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Remember that this Tim Griffin was the cager responsible for dropping registered voters in large quantities from mostly Democratic Florida districts in Bush2's first election.  He is a stooge of Karl Rove.  Take anything he says with a very large grain of salt as he has been to known to lie (like most of the time). He actually should be in jail, not Congress.

curt3rd
curt3rd

you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

Im pretty sure that says it all

curt3rd
curt3rd

Ive taken drug test on more than one occasion for a job which inturn pays for their wellfare.  Sounds fair if they take one too.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

g_c- that is what I suspect but was honestly asking if JK could flesh it out.

notsacredh
notsacredh

No rich uncles in my family. As a matter of fact, all of my uncles are long dead.

notsacredh
notsacredh

I'm not saying I'm egotistical, but when I die, everyone else does too. You're all just figments of my imagination.

sonsofaureus
sonsofaureus

@KevinGroenhagen @sonsofaureus I simply do know what I'm talking about, and you simply do not.  Socialists have redistributed wealth, but that's not because Socialism demanded it.  For that matter, list of figures who redistributed wealth include Robin Hood, FDR, Eisenhower, both Bushes and even George Washington, who passed the first Federal Tax to pay the national debt - to have people who didn't borrow the money pay for it.  He also passed the Whiskey tax and militarily suppressed a revolt against it, because the masses obviously wouldn't have voted for that but the statesmen who represented them did.  That  should tell you where this founding father was about who should be making decisions and how he felt about taxes with representation.  It didn't matter that the voters were unhappy with how they were represented.

Socialism is neither American nor un-American.  It is just a set of ideas.  If they apply usefully to a situation, we can use it, and not if they do not.  That's true for any ideology, and tolerance of that, and adoption of any good ideas regardless of where it came from, is most distinctly American.

Tyrannical government = government resistant to tyranny, by one despot, and also by the masses.  US Government was set up as a Republic to disallow direct vote of the masses, to let statesmen make decisions, as I illustrated above.  They felt this was the best way to ensure that people continue to have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The Bill of Rights, the most basic level of protection for the masses against government tyranny, was added later.  What they worried about first is reflected in the order they wrote things.

Have whatever opinions you want, as the founding fathers intended you to.  But if you want to post it and have people agree with you, you should make sure the opinions are logical and correctly informed.

KevinGroenhagen
KevinGroenhagen

@sonsofaureus @KevinGroenhagen You simply do not know what you're talking about. Anyone who does not think socialism entails redistributing the wealth (or "leveling" as Samuel Adams put it) is an ignoramus.

Anyone who has read the Declaration of Independence, which you obviously have not, knows that the Founders opposed a tyrannical government.

sonsofaureus
sonsofaureus

@KevinGroenhagen @sonsofaureus  Socialism is a movement that rose in conjunction with industrialization, which the Constitution predates.  Socialism did not exist as an ideology, either to be promoted or discouraged by the Constitution at the time of its writing.  

Socialism's goal is not the redistribution of wealth, but about collective ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy. 

All modern economies employ some elements of socialism, including our own.  It is not because of some left-wing conspiracy but because these are modern economies.  

Examples would be the government controlling the production and ownership of nuclear weapons, building, owning and maintaining roads and airports, acting as a medical insurer, etc.  These are all instances where government controls the means of production or manages the free market in some way, because purely free market would not serve society. 

The founding fathers' goal was to come up with a sustainable system of good governance, not to create the opposite of socialism that didn't exist at the time.  Make no mistake that they were all educated elites and most thought the masses unfit to make decisions regarding governance.  

The founding fathers worried about the tyranny of the masses before the tyranny of the government that they set up.  That's why the Bill of Rights are Amendments, not part of the original document.  

Below are some of their quotes about the masses and why they argued for a representative, not direct democracy.  

"It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this."  Alexander Hamilton

"And it is long since I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value."  Alexander Hamilton

“Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” 
― John Adams

http://www.whyguides.com/why-was-the-electoral-college-established.html

Preventing government tyranny and the tyranny of the masses are not mutually exclusive.  The same document can try to do both and the Constitution did.

curt3rd
curt3rd

(Alleged) Why would I lie about taking a drug test for a job. It has become common practice for employers to require drug test before hiring. So youre saying that it is unfair for me to expect someone  to take a drug test for government assistance when it is perfectly okay for me to be expected to be tested for a chance to even get a job which inturn pays for that assistance?

notsacredh
notsacredh

Pnnto, I get random tests at work too. If your name pops up, you get tested. There is no warning. I've been tested twice in two months and have gone 17-18 months without a test.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@curt3rd  Processing every issue though one's own (alleged) experience is so very rightist. 

Empathy-feh! Constitucional issues-feh! If it "feels" fair then it is fair. 

I am curious-you say you have taken more than one drug test for a job. Did you take them for cause? 

notsacredh
notsacredh

Like grandma used to tell us when we were little, "Take two. They're small".

notsacredh
notsacredh

Reality is for people that can't handle drugs.

retiredvet
retiredvet

So says the latest theory in quantum physics. What you see isn't reality. Just an illusion.