Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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An Emerging Republican Majority?

An essay in the latest issue of Commentary by Daniel Casse is a two coffee read. It is entitled "An Emerging Republican Majority?" Although Casse’s discussion is worth reading I think he doesn’t really get the idea of a Republican majority (or realignment) right. He seems to argue that Bush has to stand closer to the center and garner bipartisan support for his policies and this will help make the GOP into the majority party. He also says that whether or not the GOP established a majority will depend on what the Demos will do. He thinks this in part because he sees the election results of last year to be "unexpected." I take issue with this, and think that the GOP victory was not unexpected and it had to do with presenting a real choice to the voters and thereby forcing the Democrats into addressing issues on Republican terms, unless they want to continue to lose elections. The Demos must be forced to recast themselves into a mold that looks more Republican; this is what happens in a true realigment, and, arguably, has been happening since the 1980’s. (The less the Democrats become like the GOP, the more irrelevant they will become.) Clinton ran as a new Democrat in 1992 (once "liberal" became a term of dissaprobation) and was forced to at least appear to govern under the GOP created political universe; and then note both the GOP victory in 1994 and the Demos response to that. The minority party has to begin looking like the majority party, not vice versa. Steve Hayward argues that the 2002 election confirms that the election of 1994 was the biginning of a realignment. That the Demos are in denial over this is a good sign for the GOP; they’ll become less relevant. I highly recommend his thoughtful piece. You might also want to see a talk I gave to the Ashland County Republicans in December of 1994. In this talk I tried to clarify the meaning of realignment and whether or not we were then in the middle of one, and/or what we must do in order to form such a realigning majority. Although there is nothing original in my talk (worth only one coffee), it being entirely derived from Lubell, Jaffa, Kesler, et al, it has the virtue of making clear what realignment means, I hope.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I liked your take on realignment and the ’94 election... alas, in the year of our Lord, 2003, David Frum enlightens us on just where we are on the long march: It’s His Party


No details as yet -- I don’t listen to Drudge on radio -- but gosh, I wondering how Frum ended up in the NYT. I shoulda known. :)

I think Daniel Casse is correct about the nature of the realignment and I think your speech in 1994 demonstrates why. My short answer is that there is a theoretical breach between democracy and Classical Liberalism. My longer answer would deal with the following quote as well as your comments on Lincoln and FDR.

"If the Republican Party does things right in the immediate future, the House can never again ignore national public opinion. And this means that the "Nanny State" is finished. This is the beginning of the end."

I strongly dispute the conclusion drawn from your premise. National public opinion doesn’t mean an end to the Nanny State.

I think the Republicans have already moderated themselves, i.e "Compassionate Conservatism"= The Minimalist Nanny State. Republicans are winning a popularity game in terms of National Public Opinion. The public opinion is more aware due to Web Logs the internet in general and Fox News. A more vibrant self-adjusting democracy is emmerging, but it is a democracy and not a republic.

My prediction is that soon we will see the full extent of the nanny state in terms of the debate over health care. It will be a hard fight. The democrats will hope to use it as an issue, but they will not be able to win. Why? Because Republicans will agree on principle, but haggle over the cost. This is the turn of events I expect to see... Republicans swallowing up the middle by co-opting Democrats who articulate social policies that are implemented tommorow, albeit in diluted form. If a realignment occurs where Democrats become more like Republicans this will actually be an affirmation of the dictum "all politics is local". A partial realignment of Democrats will simply mean that these retake the middle that some of them previously occupied, before they created the vaccum the republicans so judiciously filled.

To Hegel: Thanks for your serious comments. You are right that, as given in my talk, my thoughts are too optimistic (if not naive). Your point about the theoretical breach between classical liberalism and democracy is really the crux of the matter, I think. Yet, I think those terms are too vague. Such ideas should be talked about in an American way (in an American context). What I mean is that progressivism is the culprit and what it means for changing the purpose of government, and therefore increasing its size; the Constitution becomes--because it limits democracy--the enemy, as does the idea of nature (replaced by history). And the practical question for now is to what extent can you go along with the practice of the progressive state (health care, etc) out of necessity and yet not fall into the progressive ideology. And this is hard and, I often think, probably impossible. (Taft and Coolidge were the only non-progressive presidents we have had in the century that started with progressive presidents). Hard fact.

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