Events in Washington this New Year have finally made clear what many of us suspected but didn’t dare to admit. The Republican Party as we’ve known it–or more precisely as we’ve all imagined it to be–the party of lower taxes, smaller government, and bastion of free enterprise, is dead. Toe tagged. In the vault, waiting for burial.
The moment that proved it wasn’t the extraordinarily awful deal Mitch McConnell reached offering $40 in tax increases for every dollar in spending cuts. It wasn’t even the complete moral and political collapse of House Republicans in agreeing to the same deal.
It was watching President Obama in his weekend press conference all but taunting the GOP for agreeing to raise taxes. And the GOP leadership furiously responded to this insult to their honor, not to mention their manhood, by — agreeing to raise taxes.
It was like watching the French army in May 1940, with whole regiments throwing away their rifles and marching away into captivity with their officers at their head, at the first sign of a German tank.
Of course, not every Republican caved. Many voted against the biggest tax increase in 20 years. Yes, there are still stalwarts out there in the House and Senate — not to mention in governors’ mansions and state houses.
But right now they’re like pebbles in a shoebox,with no cohesion or unifying message. All that’s been lost; first in Romney’s defeat and now in the Fiscal Cliff Dunkirk.
What do Republicans stand for? No one knows. Who’s their core constituency? Who can say any more?
There’s only one conclusion to reach. As presently constituted, the GOP is no longer an effective vehicle for national governance. And the sooner that truth is realized, the faster a turnaround can begin.
So even as the post-mortems pile up (including this one), serious people need to think about what replaces it, as the living carrier of conservative and constitutional principles.
Does the GOP disappear like the old Whig Party, to be replaced by a new entity, a Tea Party-libertarian fusion that, like the Republican Party in 1860, can agree on a single issue that will propel it onto the national scene? Right now that seems unlikely.
Or can it reconstitute itself on an entirely new basis, from the bottom up and from outside the Beltway in, with governors like Mitch Daniels and Scott Walker and John Kasich redirecting a Republican agenda back to what matters, i.e. shrinking the size and reach of the federal government and kickstarting real economic growth?
After all, out in the states conservative ideas are winning — witness Michigan’s new right to work law. Cutting taxes, reining in the power of public unions, escaping from the death grip of ObamaCare — they win working majorities. It’s only in Washington, where you can’t cross a street without bumping into a think tank like Heritage or AEI or Cato, that conservative ideas and principles seem to disappear into a Republican black hole.
And now the black hole has killed off the Grand Old Party.
Fortunately, there’s no time to mourn, 2014 looms.
The GOP is dead. Long live the GOP – the new one to come.