This is part 1 of an extended essay on the rise of what I call the “New Wave” in the Republican party . We are a non-partisan organization at AgainstCronyCapitalism.org and this bit of analysis should not be construed as an endorsement of the GOP (or any other political party) in whatever form in any way.
However I feel that the emergence of the “New Wave” is the most important development in American domestic politics today. The “conservative” party of the United States is in the midst of an historic shift. I wanted to document my thoughts on this shift.
Probably the most important recent development in domestic American politics is the emergence of the “New Wave” within the Republican Party. Led by Rand Paul in the Senate but with numbers growing in both Houses of Congress, and most importantly in the Party outside of Washington DC, this new group of small government acolytes are engaging in a protracted battle for the Grand Old Party. They are very likely to win.
The neo-conservative guard, born in the Cold War, which embraced a large military and generally activist economic thinking is on the way out. This is the single most important element of the current battle within the GOP.
Embodied by Irving Kristol (the father of Bill Kristol the current editor of The Weekly Standard) the necoconservatives (neocons) embraced a powerful state. They, in contrast to the generation of “conservatives” before them believed that government could be and should be used as a force for good in the world. They advocated for a very strong military presence to counter the Soviet threat and on the home front an activist government which reinforced American “goodness” generally. Reducing government was never the goal of the neocons. Creating the “right kind” of government was and is.
Indeed the neocons were originally of the Left. Irving Kristol and his upstart school of political thinkers at the City College of New York have roots in Trotsky’s theories and were long associated with the Left. In the 1960s however the neocons found themselves marginalized by the “New Left” which it should be noted began to embrace racial coalitions, something the neocons found abhorrent. By the mid-1970s the neocons would find a new home within the GOP. By the 1990s they were solidly the establishment and were primed for the presidency when George W. Bush took the country’s reigns in 2000.
The GW Bush presidency was defined by neo-conservatism. Despite being characterized by many as some sort of small government adherent, George Bush was anything but this. He expanded the state at a much faster rate than Bill Clinton for instance. From our response to the attacks of September 11th, 2001 to the push for “No Child Left Behind” neo-conservative thought defined Bush II. When given the chance Bush II expanded government.
This Bushite activist government was anathema to what many rank and file conservatives thought “conservatism” meant. Wasn’t the GOP supposed to be “the party of small government?” Wasn’t that what the “Reagan Revolution” was all about? Though few said so in public, many in the conservative movement were concerned.
But we were a country at war, and the GOP drew in around leadership despite its embrace of “compassionate conservatism” and neo-conservatism and every type of “conservatism“ which didn‘t actually appear to be conservative.
In fact the neocons came to embrace a quazi-Keynesian economic approach to things which was nearly as activist as their foreign policy. It was Dick Cheney himself who boldly declared that “Deficits don’t matter.”
What could be less conservative than that? Yet the GOP held its tongue.
It would pay for this acquiescence.
What is rarely talked about is that George W Bush effectively moved the center of political gravity in the United States to the left. What had once been the territory of the Democrats soon became Bushite territory. Medicare Part D, a massive expansion of government into the lives of Americans was a great example of this. If this was conservatism now, thought many in both parties, what was liberalism?
But it was during the Crash of 2008 that the true colors of the Bush presidency where shown for the world to see.
After a financial panic created by government meddling in the economy, meddling the Bushites encouraged by and large, and in some cases encouraged explicitly, George Bush explained to the American people that he was “abandoning free market principals to save the free market system.”
And there it was, what many conservatives had felt in their hearts all along, Bush was no conservative, and when given the chance had “abandoned the free market” by letting Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke have their way with the American economy.
Many on the Right were disgusted and barely made it to the polls for John McCain. Obama won solidly.