I noticed many more Democrats than I ever had before at our July 4 parade. It seemed a good indicator of citizen concern with our great democracy. It’s a healthy sign when elections are contested. It’s also a sign of growing apprehension over the future of the Republican Party and how it continues to govern.
If there was not much applause as the Democrats passed, it may be because of the raw partisanship that a “new” Republican party has created in the past two years. This fall will once again reflect the country’s mood after two years of the “new” Republican Party, a newer different party, certainly than anything we have seen before under the Republican brand name. As of June this year, 25 Republican U.S. House members and three Republican U.S.Senate members have announced they will not be running again. Eight other Republicans have opted to pursue other offices. What might dedicated public servants like our own Paul Ryan be trying to tell us? That the swamp is now too deep to drain and abdication is the only noble response?
In addition to the now-daily divisive rhetoric, this new Republican Party has abdicated its traditional concern and support for local control. Wisconsin cities, villages and municipalities cannot prohibit the use of plastic bags, issue I.D.s or enact moratoriums on sand mining. Further, according to draft state bills, local governments must cooperate with ICE officials on the federal issue of immigration while also opening the door to the filling in of up-to 1 million acres of Wisconsin wetlands. When did that happen? Apparently with this new Republican Party, one more akin to a grand overlord, much like the big-government bogeyman they have usually railed against.
And if Republicans are uncomfortable with a contrary position, labeling it as “fake news” is an acceptable reaction. What would the Republican Party’s hero, William F. Buckley, have said about that? Perhaps something like, “words matter.”
Since the elections of 2016, the Republican Party has morphed into a bleak vestige of its former self, and appears to be set to become institutionalized as the party of negative reaction and resentment. This is not the party of Reagan, and has not been since the rise of the Tea Party in 2010. It is hardly the party that once talked assuredly about the “City on the Hill.”
The party I remember was defined by a minimalist, studied approach to governance, but now seeks to go further and squeeze the life out of public regulatory institutions, while ignoring the difficult job of crafting legislation to resolve the immigration crisis or refine a plan for health care, or even budget for public infrastructure. It’s easier to abrogate than it is to build; easier perhaps for the party of family values to separate families, inspired by a man with no family values, than to craft coherent policy.
The party of the free market approach to the economy and fiscal responsibility has imposed tariffs and then offered temporary relief to farmers in states crucial to the next election, like Wisconsin, with a $12 billion bailout that does nothing but increase the deficit. Where is the party of free trade, established in the Eisenhower administration as one encouraging “trade, not aid?” And where is the party that overcame its isolationist wing to support the establishment of the international liberal order after World War II, which kept us safe for 70 years, and supported the institutions making us the hope of the world? The current version has opted for a sneering, arrogant, me-first approach to international affairs, reflecting an embarrassing deference to Russia’s thuggish regime.
Republicans set up the EPA, passed the Clean Water Act and OSHA under Nixon, engaged with the Russians on tough arms control negotiations under Reagan and formed the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute, pushed for NAFTA under George H.W. Bush and worked in a bipartisan manner on public policy. What have we gotten in terms of positive, new approaches to governance with the current group of Republicans; a proposed space defense force? That’s a far cry from the “old” Republican Party of careful and steady approaches to safe navigation of the ship of state.
Let’s hope it does not presage a permanent change in the Party of Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.
Peter Kranstover is a town of Cedarburg resident who has spent nearly 30 years as a U.S. Foreign Service officer with USAID. He currently serves as an adjunct instructor in international economic issues in Marquette University’s Economics Department.
This article provided by NewsEdge.