The Bankrupcy of the Republican Party

The Democrats are steamrolling over all opposition, putting bad idea after bad idea into practice. The Republican Party is in no position to stop them, and their impotence has everything to do with their ideological bankruptcy during the Bush years.

At its heart, the  Republican Party was dominated by mercantilists, people who believe in big business supported by big government.  This philosophy was at its heart, Henry Clay’s American System, which had the following elements:

  • High, protectionist, tarrifs to support American industry.
  • Infrastructure to support big business such as canals, railroads, and later an interstate highway system.
  • A central bank to bail out insolvent banks.
  • Federal bailouts of indebted states.
  • A strong army and navy to force open foreign markets via gun-boat diplomacy.
  • Federal control of state militias.

This philosophy has consistently been advocated for by the Republican Party.  Additionally, the Republican Party has attracted political factions that could support this philosophy while advocating for their own causes, namely:

  • Social Conservatives
  • Anti-Communists
  • ‘Christian’ Statists
  • Moderate Libertarians

For the most part, these factions tolerated each other; the Party needed the voters that supported these factions to win elections.  And these voters voted for the Party since staying home meant that Democrats would win the elections, and the Democratic Party was largely antithetical to each of these factions.

While Ronald Reagan was able to successfully create a coalition that had some ideological coherence, in the years since he left office, the Republican Party has completely abandoned any semblance of having a positive ideology. This decline started during the Clinton presidency, and reached its apotheosis during the Bush II era.

Bush II ran for office on a Reagan-like platform, promising to reform Clinton’s corruption, promising governance according to the following principles:

  • Humbler foreign-policy: “No Nation Building”
  • Fiscal Prudence
  • And end to corrupt collusion with rent-seekers

These promises were barely sufficient to keep the Republicans competitive in elections.  And, once in office, he proceeded to betray every one of them.  Once in office, the Republican Party’s ideology could be summarized with one sentence: focused on power – the getting of it; the keeping of it.

The Republicans sought to deny the Democrats access to funding by coopting their largest source of funding: rent seekers seeking to curry favor from government officials.  The Abramoff K Street project sought to ensure a permanent Republican majority in Congress by ensuring that people donated only to the Republican Party and not to the Democrats.  To do this, they had a carrot and stick approach.  The stick was a threat to have the legistlation desired by a special interest killed if the special interest made any attempt to work with Democrats.  The carrot was, in effect, a willingness to give almost any special interest whatever favor it desired.   In other words, the Republicans cared nothing for ideology.  They had become legistlative whores.   At this point they had abandoned any hint of principle except forsupport of  Cheney’s strategy for waging the war on a tactic known as terrorism when it is practiced by people who are not U.S.  government allies.

As a strategy, it seemed to work, initially.  The negatives; the balooning growth of big government, the betrayal of campaign promises for a few elections seemed not to be a problem.  Then the backlash started; the major players in the K Street Project were indicted.  The wars began going badly.  Then the most painful hit of all; the Federal Reserve slowed the printing presses, and the inflationary boom that had proped up the economy came to an end, and the financial system began a slow motion collapse.

In the most recent election, the Republican Party’s economic platform was incoherent.  They had no positive message on any front. Having abandoned any recognizable principle to differentiate themselves from the Democrats, they were reduced to hysterical jingoism: chanting “Country First” in rallies and ranting about gay marriage.

The Republicans have painted themselves into a corner.  The mercantile economic system they are championing is on the verge of collapse; either they back off on the state interventions on the economy, or they push their policies to their logical conclusion and embrace a variant of the economic fascism promoted by the Democrats.  Every bad thing the Democrats are doing – violating the principles of the rule of law, destructive economic interventionism, runaway deficit spending, crony capitalism – was blatantly done by the Republicans within the past few years.

If the Republicans want to be a significant political party again, they are going to have to be for something positive and not merely against gay marriage; rule of law; economic freedom. They won’t; the apparatchniks running the Republican Party  through combinations of  stupidity or corruption have at every turn chosen badly.

We libertarians have long recognized the slow convergence of the Democrats and the Republicans toward totalitarian policies.  There are many different roads to totalitarianism, they may meander in different directions at first, but ultimately they all converge on the same destination, a boot stamping on a face, forever.

So, I don’t mourn the fall of the Republican party.  The vast majority of Republican voters, politicians and party officers have chosen badly, and done so consistently.  It’s not sufficient to have a countervailing force in place  The Democrats will discredit themselves too. I predict that in eight years, Obama, Pelosi and Biden will be as loathed as George Bush; they will do to the U.S. economy what Bush did to the reputation of Americans overseas.

And once Americans begin loathing their government, then repairing the damage of the last century can really begin.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
  • Westmiller

    All true and an accurate history of the party’s deterioration. The only hope for any common sense or liberty agenda within that organization is the Republican Liberty Caucus.

  • southernjames

    What is your source or sources for your analysis of what the GOP has “historically” stood for?

    And are you also stating that it has remained STATIC over not only the decades but apparently also the centuries, (after all, you did cite Henry Clay). Keeping in mind of course that the GOP was originally founded as an Abolitionist party.

    In the interest of my very limited time, I’ll pick just one example: “A strong army and navy to force open foreign markets via gun-boat diplomacy.” If, for the sake of argument, the push for a large NAVY was to provide the ability “force open markets” via “gun boat diplomacy” back in the post-civil war 1870’s and 1880’s – and if the architects of that philosophy were members of the GOP and not the Dems – did that REMAIN the reason the GOP and its voters have supported a strong and large Navy ever since?

    Seems to me that winning WWII, then protecting existing commercial sea lanes for the West, serving as Japan’s (and most of Nato’s) de facto Navy post-WWII, counter-balancing the Soviet/ChicCom expanionist power push during the Cold War, etc., have been the primary roles for a large Navy for the last THREE FOURTHS of a century.

    Thus rendering at least ONE aspect of your analysis the sort of simplistic stuff taught in a college sophomore “intro to poly sci” class. But certainly reflective, I am sure, of the intructor’s OPINION, supported by the PolySci textbook author’s “analysis” taken from the text selected by the instructor.

    Also, I’d love to see your definition for some of your labels.

    What is a “Christian Statist.”

    And how is that different than a “Social Conservative,” and what do you define as a “social conservative.”

    And you say: “Additionally, the Republican Party has attracted political factions that could support this philosophy while advocating for their own causes.” “This philosophy” meaning things like “gun boat diplomacy” to “force open markets.”

    How have member of the group you classify as “social conservatives” (presumably(?) I am assuming you are classifying them as being people who disfavor gay marriage, don’t mind legal restrictions on porn, are pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, don’t favor legalization of drugs, etc.,), over the past 3/4 of a Century (75 years) manifested its support of having a large Navy for the PURPOSE of it having the ability to intimidate reluctant countries to sell us stuff or buy our stuff?

    Query: If the GOP is the party that has attracted the “Anti-Communists” then has the Democratic party, by default, attracted the “Pro-Communists?”

    The one thing I certainly agree with, is your framing of GWB’s pre-2000 election positions. For example, he certainly did run as a candidate opposed to “nation-building.” I do not believe he compromised his principles on that subject because he was a disingenous lying sack of shit, who had no intention of keeping his campaign promise in that regard – like certain other politicians I won’t name here – but that his outlook on that topic (nation-building) was altered by 9-11. Whether he should or should not have engaged in nation building in Iraq is of course a topic of great debate.

    “I predict that in eight years, Obama, Pelosi and Biden will be as loathed as George Bush; they will do to the U.S. economy what Bush did to the reputation of Americans overseas.”

    Maybe. Maybe not. One factor you fail to account for is the wildly different media coverage accorded to one Administration, versus the next.

    And even if the economy is in SUCH a complete shambles that not even the hopey-changitude ponies and rainbows spin the national MSM puts on it, can influence a majority of voters to continue to support the Dems, who pray tell is going to be the alternative for the voters?

    And I’m talking about an alternative who can actually WIN, and not someone like Ron Paul.

  • SC

    “Keeping in mind of course that the GOP was originally founded as an Abolitionist party.”

    Well, sort of. The original Republican Party was not just abolitionists, but former members of the defunct Whig party looking for a home; disaffected Democrats turned off by demands by the southern wing of the party regarding slavery (that did not necessarily make them abolitionist – abolitionist was a term applied to those actively seeking to end slavery in the near-term. A lot of disaffected Democrats just didn’t think slavery should be allowed to spread further or receive special treatment), and former members of the American Party (the Know-Nothings). The official Republican Party plank on slavery was relatively mild, largely limited to preventing further expansion of slavery to new territory, which was something a lot of northerners could get behind. That appealed to a lot of free-labor folks that didn’t want competition with slavery (“Free Soil, Free Men, Fremont” was the slogan in 1856 when John C. Fremont ran as the first Republican Presidential candidate). The Republican Party was successful in the 1850’s in part because they tried to appeal to all those various groups – limiting slavery, talk of the Homestead Act, expanding infrastructure like railroads, etc.

  • tarran


    You bring up some points that need to be addressed.

    1) Of course this is a simplistic history; a nuanced history would require a pretty good sized book. A summary, by its very nature must leave out a great deal of data.

    2) You ask:

    If, for the sake of argument, the push for a large NAVY was to provide the ability “force open markets” via “gun boat diplomacy” back in the post-civil war 1870’s and 1880’s – and if the architects of that philosophy were members of the GOP and not the Dems – did that REMAIN the reason the GOP and its voters have supported a strong and large Navy ever since?

    First of all, it’s not a weird fringe theory. Read Lincoln and his successors speeches on the subject. It’s the same attitude that had Commodore Perry sailing warships into Tokyo Bay threatening to shell the harbor. And yes, it motivated the Spanish American War, the betrayal of the Philipinos who fought as allies of the United States in the 1890’s, it motivated U.S. support for Indonesia, U.S. support to South Africa etc. Of course, the use of violence became much less overt with the passage of time; nowadays, the U.S. is far more likely to dump a bunch of money on a few local strongmen and hell them set up an ad campaign promoting “democracy” aimed at attracting young people to their banners than sending a few destroyers.

    Nor is it a Republican only thing. Historically, the Democrats have a far more bloodthirsty record than the Republicans are, having formented two world wars, and a bunch of smaller wars such as the Korean and Vietnam wars, and also the U.S. attack on Iran in 1954 (which while masterminded by the nephew of one of the biggest saints of the Democratic pantheon was motivated by purely mercantilist considerations).

    Now, as to why Republicans support having a huge military, I expect that for the leadership (as opposed to the rank and file who have bought into the bullshit that the military is needed for defense of the U.S.), there are a multiplicity of reasons: a) military spending is seen as a way to funnel money to big business from taxpayers, a popular Republican policy, b) a big military can be used to overthrow unpopular regimes a la “Confessions of an Economic Hit man”, again which is a popular mercantilist idea, c) a big military was seen as necessary to stand up to the communists.

    Given that without the U.S. attack on Japan in the 1850’s there would have been no Japanese Empire trying to conquer the pacific, without the U.S. government sending U.S. soldiers to die so that England could keep Germany from having allies, there would have been no Marxist revolution in Russia and a Nazi revolution in Germany, I think we as a whole would have been better off if the U.S. military had remained a small force built around the Swiss conception of a citizen militia that defends their lands.

    And no, the large Navy never safeguarded the sea-lanes.. what threats were there to the sealanes? The Russians? Their entire maritime philosophy was centered around sinking navies that might attack them . The Japanese? If left to their own devices, the Japanese would never have tried to build a huge Navy. The Chinese? to this day their Navy is focused on littoral defense and nuclear deterrence. The British? Their empire bankrupted them. The Germans? Their Navy was designed to fight the British Navy.

    The U.S. Navy has numerous weapons platforms designed to attack other nations’ territory and military assets. It has almost nothing that is designed to protect merchant ships. In fact, most merchant sailors view the U.S. being supremely indifferent to their problems.

    3) As to your question as to why social conservatives et all who don’t really care for mercantilism support a big military, the answer was implied but not stated explicitly enough in my post; they support the mercantilists because it is a road to political power. Remember, the Republicans were originally a coalition of small political parties opposed to the Democrats, who coalesced around a cadre of ex-Whigs. Pat Robertson does not care a whit about mercantilism (aside from his interests in Charles Taylor’s gold-mines) . But he’ll support the Republicans because they get him a seat at the table. Again, I am not speaking of rank-and-file Republicans. They, like all voters in the U.S. have been fed so much propaganda that even Republicans who support small government cheer things like the F-22 program.

    4) The idea that Bush changed course after 9-11 is laughable.
    Remember the P-3 that was struck by that Chinese F-8 in the summer of 2001? Remember the war planning on Iraq that started in January of 2001? George Bush was a lying sack of shit from the first time someone got him an interview on national TV. He suckered the people who voted for him from day 1. In fact, his sudden rise to front runner status out of obscurity in the 2000 primaries alone should have warned people that Bush the candidate was a front for people with a interventionist agenda rather than people supporting liberalizing the U.S. economy and shrinking government.

    5) I don’t think that there will be any meaningful change through elections; just as the Soviet government collapsed without opposition, the U.S. government will only change via collapse. I expect that in my lifetime, the United States will cease to exist because the citizenry will become fed up with them and simply stop obeying them. certainly, at this point, the Republicans and Democrats have converged to the point that the differences between the two political parties are essentially public relations.

    I don’t expect anybody to change the system from within; winning elections requires the support of too many people who benefit from the continuation of the status quo to its awful conclusion. The nomenklatura are the last to turn against the state.

  • southernjames

    First, you missed my point entirely about the Navy and what the philosophy was in prior centuries, with respect to manifest destiny, gunboat diplomacy etc. I wasn’t calling it a fringe theory or denying it – I was asking – what does gunboat diplomacy of the 1870’s have to do with the GOP of the past 75 years.

    And if we didn’t do this, Japan wouldn’t have done that, and if we didn’t do this, Germany would have won WWI, and then such and so wouldn’t have happened, blah blah blah. Gee you should write a book – “The Butterfly Effect According to Tarran.” Nice to know history is so rock-solid predictable that if you change ONE variable here or there, THAT outcome will then occur or not occur. Ever think that if one variable here changes, an unanticipated brand new one may pop up that you never expected? Maybe, just maybe, something else would have happened – even if a few years later, that would have served to trigger Japan’s leap into industrialization and then its push to build its own empire. But that wouldn’t fit your world view, now would it.

    I get your point of view though. We should essentially disarm ourselves and except for a few gunboats cruising off shore, and maintain a 100,000 man continental army (or no standing army at all), and model ourselves after the post-WWII Japanese and/or Switzerland. And then it will be all sunshine and roses; free trade and prosperity for everyone. But for those greedy mercantilists and the brainwashed stupid rubes who vote for them. Got it.

    (This reminds me of the atheist poster who simply could not reconcile the “illogic” of how as much as 40% of the scientific community could not only believe in a spiritual being existing on “the other side” which would defy all known laws of physics, but way more incredibly a being who actually listens to prayers!! How to prevent his brain from literally exploding? Chalk it up to a combination of mental illness (“emotionally invested in lies”) and brainwashing. There, that solves the conundrum).

    If social conservatives (which by the way, include millions of Catholics) all blindly follow whatever evangelist big mouth Pat Robertson says they should do, as you clearly imply, and Robertson just wants a “seat at the table,” (whatever that means – last time I checked he was nowhere to be found at GOP Conventions, GOP White House dinner parties, etc.) why wouldn’t he just sell himself to the highest bidder – and if he can rope in millions of brainwashed rube votes – he should be the most popular guy in DC – among both parties. Right?

    Bush was planning the Iraq war in January of 2001? What, in the breaks during inauguration ceremonies? Source please. That one I’ve got to see.

    “I expect that in my lifetime, the United States will cease to exist because the citizenry will become fed up with them and simply stop obeying them.” And how, exactly, will that “stop obeying them” thing manifest itself, in your view? What does that actually mean — “stop obeying?” I’m curious. I too am pessimistic about our future, but in contrast, it is the exact opposite – Totalitarinism – that I will not be surprised to see occur in my lifetime – (suspended elections – replaced by “sham” eastern bloc/middle east style elections, martial law, government seizure of all media outlets which means that sites like this will cease to exist, etc.) coming. Whole lotta obedience, rather than lack of obedience.

    “Certainly, at this point, the Republicans and Democrats have converged to the point that the differences between the two political parties are essentially public relations.” That’s been both true and obvious for some time now. Whether it is reversible will, in my opinion, depend upon smaller government advocates from diverse subgroups such as the Libertarian and Social Cons being able to set aside their differences on social issues and unite under that one issue. That does not seem likely to me, unfortunately.

    “I don’t expect anybody to change the system from within; winning elections requires the support of too many people who benefit from the continuation of the status quo to its awful conclusion.”

    That is why it needs to be changed from without. That is why the National GOP needs an enema. Things like getting rid of Arlen Spector (who the National GOP and Bush LOVED) represent at least baby steps in the right direction.

    And that is why we to need to support candidates who may not be “Ideal” but who are at least a LITTLE closer to smaller/less controlling and centralized government than any Rino the National GOP endorses as an alternative – people like McCain, Bush, Spector, who are vitually indistinguishable from Democrats and who may as well just BE Democrats.

    Specific example: Florida’s Gov Charlie Crist – who is now running for Senate – yet another hypocrite who turns into big govt, big spender (poses for pictures with Obama to support the Spendulus debacle) AFTER he gets elected, but who the National GOP loves and endorses anyway. (He’s replacing another total hypocrite whose campaign promises turned out to be lies – Mel Martinez). For the first time, the “rank and file” is finally starting to rebel. The alternative who I think is starting to gain a little traction is Marco Rubio. From Wikipedia:

    “A Republican, Marco Rubio has championed a conservative, smaller-government approach to government in the Florida state Capitol, in contrast with other elements of the Republican-controlled state government led by Governor Charlie Crist, which are more moderate or centrist. Marco Rubio is seen as a politician in the mold of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who advocated more conservative approaches when he was governor of Florida for eight years, ending in 2007.”

    I am pessimistic over Rubio’s chances. The party “machine” (and of course the “centrist” MSM) And the odds suggest that even if he did win, the power woudl go to his head and he’d become a “RINO” just like Crist and Martinez.

    But there is at least some “rumbling” starting to get louder and gaining traction from brainwashed, rube, party base. Too little, too late? Probably.

  • John222


    I think tarran has made some good points. You have to admit the US has been the bully on the playground since the training wheels came off. Maybe there is a bit of “Butterfly effect” going on, but I can’t just dismiss it out of hand, it makes too much sense. I’m a big believer in cause and effect, and even the smallest actions can have very far reaching effects.

    It’s obvious we don’t have sham elections here in the US, anyone can run for President. If you look good on TV and spend $150 million you might actually win too. When it comes down to this one is not as bad as that one, remember they are both bad — it’s a matter of degree, not principle.

    I break quite a few laws every day. It always amazes me how easy it is to be a criminal (one who breaks laws). I don’t think I’m a bad person, I just don’t think some things should be against the law. Aside from traffic, I think tax laws are the easiest to break. I wouldn’t say there is a whole lotta obedience, our prisons are overflowing and many complain of a lack of enforcement. In at least a couple of cities, it’s against the law to park in your own driveway. Many laws are passed and enforced as a means of generating revenue

    If the US is going to collapse in my lifetime, I almost want to hurry it along. “Better now than a moment later” as Akston said (referring to junkies quitting) The longer it takes, the worse it will be for those who have to pick up the pieces. To me it is not a question of if, but when. Hopefully not too soon, I have a few more things I’d like to learn about before it happens.

    I still hear stories about Martinez and various other governorsat family events. We’ll see about Rubio, I don’t see him sticking his neck out for the ultimate minority — the individual.

    As far as Obama, Pelosi and Reid being loathed in the future, I really doubt it. At least not by those who don’t already loathe them. If the next election was Bush v. Gore, Bush would probably win again as would Bill Clinton if he ran again. Most of the people could care less about policy or taxes as long as they have the freedom to choose between McDonald’s or Burger King. Imagine the outcry if one were forced to close and all their franchises given to the other. What am I saying, that could never happen in America!

  • southernjames

    I don’t deny at all that the US has acted very heavy handed and ham-handed, and blundering and clumsy, throughout its history. The Founders themselves were far from perfect. Guys like Teddy Roosevelt were far from perfect and arguably even extremely misguided – with the benefit of course of our sometimes sanctimonious, holier than thou, and owl-like wise 20-20 hindsight – and also of course based on our 21st century mores and value systems.

    Nevertheless, for good or for evil, Rome being an empire for hundreds of years helped to usher in Western Civilization – which some people may view as “good thing” in the course of human history.

    And England creating an empire and being the most powerful nation in the Western world from the mid 1700’s to the early 20th century enormously impacted the development of western civilization past the bounds of Europe – for example, the very concept of an idealized “rule of law” as opposed to the “rule according the local tribal chieftain” existing from places ranging from India to Australia to Belize (fka British Honduras) sure as hell ain’t due to anything the Russians, Chinese, or Arabs have done in the past 300 years. (Oh and the British empire was “bankrupted” by a combination of: its colonies becoming educated, prosperous, and therefore unwilling to continue to be “subjects” and two devastating world wars).

    The “empire” – the world’s most dominant and influential nation – which supplanted the British empire, was the USA. Much of what we have done wrong (and yes, I’ve read “Confessions of and Economic Hit Man”) in exploiting and manipulating populations and economic systems elsewhere has enabled Americans to enjoy lives of ease, wealth, opportunity, and properity unparalleled in the history of the human race, these past 100 or so years. And I’d like to think that our existence as the world’s dominant power has at least done SOME good for SOME people, in SOME places beyond our shores.

    We tear out our hair in shame over the heavy-handed imperialist exploitations conducted over the decades, by those shameless mercantilist bastards — as we then calm ourselves down, and put on our incredibly affordable and stylish track shoes made by a ten year old Asian child in sweat shop far away; and hop into our 16 mpg SUV to go have a $6.00 Latte, after leaving our 2000, 3000 or 4000 square foot home with the a/c blasting away in every room to keep the entire place at a comfortable 74 degrees while we’re away…

    But we do feel guilty at least. So that’s a good thing, right?

    “America as the essential root source of the world’s ills” — a core philosophical belief of the hard left (and apparently also Tarran) is on its way to becoming corrected, however. So no worries. The initiatives being enacted by our current ruling class will, in time, put us into our rightful place as just one of many “groupings” of equalized world citizens. As one example, why should we arrogant residents of the Northern American continent (so-called “Americans”) pay $2.75 for a gallon of gas, when it is $7.50+ for Euros and also oppressed persons of color everywhere else. No sweat, no worries – that particular playing field will be leveled within the next couple of years. One problem solved – more solutions on their way!