Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Two Party Solution

The Democratic Party has found it’s effective voice, the Republican Party has lost it’s own.  There is joy and celebration among Democrats, there is angst und strum among Republicans.  For those who are truly non-partisan, however, there is at best transient satisfaction at this change in political climate.

While some among the Grand Old Party faithful call for more of the same (yes, we’re looking at you, Mr.s Cheney and Limbaugh) others like Republican Strategist Todd Harris and former Secretary of State Colin Powell are talking about the need for a new focus for their party.  I have some thoughts as to what a workable and respectable GOP would look like.

What is good about the GOP?

For many of the happier people in America today the answer is simply: “Nothing”.  I have a different take on this, so let me try to spell out what I have always found attractive about Republican ideology.

1/  Personal responsibility.

– This really is the core belief, that each of us is responsible for ourselves.  If you take a long step over a steep cliff then the consequences of that decision are something that you would have been well served to consider beforehand.  Conversely, if you choose to invest your time or your money in something that everyone else either doesn’t see or doesn’t believe in – and you turn out to be right – you get to benefit to the maximum from your choice.

2/  Personal freedoms

– This, like most other valuable Republican beliefs, follows from (1).  Since each is encouraged to be responsible for themselves each is consequently free to do as they see fit, within minimal possible limitations.

3/  Fiscal conservatism in government

– While both parties are to the right of the Controlled Economy ideology of the former East Bloc, and even to the right of the socialized systems of Scandinavia and parts of Europe, the Republican party has a valid argument in keeping as much of the economy as possible out of the hands of government.  Government is good at providing the same (education, defense, towels) to every citizen but does so at greater expense and lower innovation than the private sector.

4/  Effective entrepreneurial capitalism

– This is the other half of (3) but deserves it’s own plank.  The GOP has long stood on the side of business as the source of the resources required to build nations and this is a position that deserves to be argued loudly.  As a shameless capitalist myself I would suggest that capitalism flourishes best with proper rules (aka “regulations”) and advise the GOP to adopt a pro-business pro-regulation stance.

5/  Strong defense

– I’m not sure this is still a Republican point – the Democratic Party is no less enthusiastic on the topic – but there is at least a difference in approach.  The Republican Party has taken its position on the side of Force over Diplomacy, and while I don’t agree with the extent that the Bush administration went it could be argued that there is value in having a slightly-badder-cop to balance the Democrats’ slightly-nicer-cop.  This is not to say that the Bush Doctrine is correct, rather that should the Left wander too far into peacenikism that a healthy Right should be willing to make it abundantly clear that the US will still kill bad people very dead if provoked.

What has got to go from the GOP platform?

Again, there are those to my right who shout “nothing!” and those to my left who would say “everything!”, but for me it is all those things that make no sense against the backdrop of what I find good about the GOP.  For starters, get rid of everything rooted in religious extremism – that runs counter to the conservative fundamental of personal freedoms.

1/   “pro life”

– the debate about the beginning of life is a fascinating one, but it has nothing to do with Conservative values.  

2/  Anti-environmentalism.

– the “global warming is a lie”/”too many polar bears” mantra is not only a bad bet (the argument will be decided one day and you may just be wrong) the whole anti-environmentalist stance is counter to the interests of many intrinsically Republican voters.  Most of the outdoorsy, hunting and fishing community are natural Conservatives, provide the bulk of cash for parks and personal interest in woodlands and wetlands – and they know when things are changing.  More than a few would-be Republicans are Democrats particularly because of the anti-environment position of the GOP.

3/  Anti Gay

– The most fundamental Conservative belief is that it’s none of your business.  Whatever it is.  Choosing to set the government against what people do with their sex lives is as counter to that fundamental principle as it is possible to be.  And beer-drinking, denim wearing, duck-hunting Good Southern Christian men play hanky-pank with other beer-drinking, denim wearing, duck-hunting Good Southern Christian men, too.

4/  Anti Drugs

– See (3).  Having the government regulating its citizens’ body chemistry is perhaps even more invasive than allowing it to monitor it’s citizens’ sexual combinations.  The Good Ole Boys of the South shot at Feds who came to take away their drug-labs (stills) and those same ole boys were and are growing pot in those same hills for the same reason (and they’ll still shoot trespassing Feds).  Fundamentally a Conservative doesn’t care what you were hopped up on when you wrecked your car/robbed the store – all that counts for is where on the dumbass scale you are measured in court (see “Personal Responsibility).

I see a future GOP that I could vote for, and given enough time in power I can imagine a future Democratic Party I could vote against.  I hope the former finds itself before the latter does.


  1. The politics of America is so bizarre though, with Republicans having been the radical force a hundred years ago, I’m not sure if I could ever translate this into British politics because the Tories were reactionary in the past, and though they moderate themselves, have always been conservative in the true sense: i.e. preserving the status quo.

    That’s why I’ll have to just take your word on Good 1. and Good 2.

    In the increasingly bitter debate leading up to our next general election, our Conservative Party has tried to steal the Republican mantle, and claim to be the party of personal responsibility and personal freedom.

    The unfortunate fact is, unlike American republicans, British conservatives have voted against every reform since American Independence, including universal suffrage and every mitigation of state power.

    I hope this analogy is useful. The Republican Party actually has a grand tradition of ‘liberalism’ (economic and social) while the democratic party has many reactionary elements.

    Just a perspective from the other side of the pond to what is otherwise a truly brave non-partisan diary.

  2. mme truffle

    You are correctly stating their hypocritical rhetoric, but I think a lot of the things you mention in the Republican platform have always been optional for them.  

    In the GOP certain concepts of personal responsibility are often put on the “other” guy/gal.  Concepts of personal responsibility have very little consequence or don’t exist in the business and political wing of the party.  I’m not just talking about in the present; it has been that way for a very long time.  It’s called Socialism for the rich Capitalism for the poor, the political theory known as cc-pp commonizing cost, privatizing profits. Trading favors with lobbyists, no bid contracts, subsidies that we don’t benefit from, using the government to shill for big business doesn’t fit in with my concept of personal responsibility.  

    It may not work in the negative as a personal ethos, but it certainly doesn’t work in the Republican party.  I highly doubt at this point that it would be in the business sectors best interest to have a smaller government, many industries are paying in less than they’re getting back in corporate welfare while again externalizing the cost of their tax fraud on to tax payers.

    You’re right Democrats haven’t overtly done enough to promote entrepeneurship, but an economic system that doesn’t launder money to the top tier sure helps people start their own businesses.  The main thing that has sparked advancement in this country is a large middle class that is economically sound.

    Every advancing civilization requires a larger government overtime.  If we followed the Republican way and became sovereign entities, without the interference of scary government we’ll find it pretty expensive and time-consuming building our own infrastructure, protecting our homes, firefighting…etc.  Since the government is taking in such little revenue we’ll be finding out more and more how much these things actually cost.  We’ll shift the burden from taxes to fees (Republicans should like that): Cities turn to fees to fill in budget gaps

    Oy, if you want to talk about the private sector providing service cheaply I guess you mean like the Pennsylvania turnpike.  I think minimally it’s $8 or $9 now, (charging per mile) along with making every business along it pay incredibly high rates to be there so that only corporations can afford to be there and they charge phenomenal rates.  But certainly we can trust business to charge us less just because their cost to provide service is lower.  Sorry, but that sounds like the belief in unicorns that has relegated the Republicans to obscurity.

    I agree that government doesn’t work, but only when you break it.

  3. and libertarianism. Two of your ‘got to go’ items – anti-drug and anti-gay – are not incompatible with conservatism at all. In fact, they fit very nicely with conservative philosophy. They do, however, go against libertarian views.

    The things mentioned as being the good parts of the GOP platform can be good or bad depending upon the degree they are followed.

    For instance, “1/  Personal responsibility” can very easily be twisted to lead to dog-eat-dog policies. Or to put it as someone on the top of the heap once said, “Let them eat cake.” What need do we have for a society at all if everyone is going to take full responsibility for their own actions and life situations and not worry about anyone else?

    “2/  Personal freedoms” Really? The GOP believes in personal freedoms? Sure they do, as long as you aren’t gay or a member of some other group they don’t like.

    “3/  Fiscal conservatism in government” The GOP hasn’t believed in fiscal conservatism since Ronald Reagan introduced them to ‘borrow and spend’ capitalism.

    “3/  Fiscal conservatism in government

    …the Republican party has a valid argument in keeping as much of the economy as possible out of the hands of government.  Government is good at providing the same (education, defense, towels) to every citizen but does so at greater expense and lower innovation than the private sector.”

    This is a myth that has been tolerated by liberals for far too long. The push to privatize government functions has more to do with enriching select individuals than it does with efficiency. Privatization introduces conflicts of interest because of the pursuit of profit. Prisons should never have been privatized. A perfect example of the failure of this belief can be seen in Iraq. If the Army Corp of Engineers had been in charge of building facilities in Iraq we wouldn’t have soldiers being electrocuted while taking a shower. The private sector performed shoddy sub-standard work in order to maximize their profit.

    There is a place for government involvment in large scale projects. In fact, I would argue there are many areas that should not have private enterprise involvement at all. One of those is the Armed Forces. Law enforcement and incarceration facilities are another. As far as I’m concerned, health insurance is one more.

    “5/  Strong defense” And here we come to the real ball-breaker. Just what is a strong defense? Is it spending as much on defense as the rest of the world combined? Or is it spending 20% less than that? Or half as much? There are solid estimates that put the cost of defense at over 50% of the real budget. How much of this money is wasted to enrich private individuals? How much of it is wasted on redundant capabilities, because of inter-service rivalries?

    I’ll believe the GOP is for fiscal responsibility when they start talking seriously about reducing the defense budget.

  4. psychodrew

    …I’m not sure about the drug laws.

    I’m really torn on the issue of drugs.  On the one hand, I believe in individual responsibility and the right to have control over one’s body.  On the other hand, if we legalize drugs, consumption will increase.  That means more addicts, more intoxicated drivers, higher medical costs, and lower productivity.  And if we advocate a greater role for the government in ensuring equal access to health care, is this a wise move.

    On the other hand, legalizing drugs would probably end the drug violence in the US and Mexico and put the Taliban out of business.

    I don’t know.  I’m really torn on this.  I am liberal and open-minded and a big believer in the right to privacy, but I also believe that government should be pragmatic.  This isn’t an easy one for me.

  5. Jjc2008

    where an “innovative” school exists????

    Most of them push the strong discipline, wear uniforms, get kicked out if you do not conform, meme.  

    Private schools filled with rich kids from well educated families are extremely innovative.  So are public schools in those same neighborhood.

    Our district privatized the “food system” in our schools in the early 1990s.   In this conservative district, everyone hailed turning over that part of the “public schools” to private business because we all “know” private is more innovative than public.  Mariott took over.  Result: the fired 1/3 of the kitchen staff of the district; centralized where all the food was cooked and then trucked it out to be “warmed” and served.  Because the government provided surplus items (cheese etc) to schools, Mariott got to use the same basics.

    END RESULT…….same food (warmed instead of cooked on site, same price for consumers (teachers and kids); less jobs in the community as the kitchen workers loss jobs and big profit for Mariott.  

    As for personal responsibility, I agree and when we get to Utopia let me know.  What about the kids whose parents are not personally responsible?  What then?  Punish the babies and children along with their irresponsible parents?

    Conservatism rarely looks at the practical side.  If abstience education is taught, who suffers when the kids are not personally responsible?  A young girl, her baby…that’s who.  So then what.  We have babies with babies and according to conservatives they are just a bunch of welfare queens.   They should be punished…..the government should NOT be responsible for them or their kids!  That was Reagan’s meme.  

    Conservatives, at least the ones I know, don’t care much for those other kids (and in the case of the right to life conservatives) they are mostly pro birth, not pro life because once the kids are born they do not want their taxes feeding those welfare babies.

    I believe in the commons……..and yea, I believe this wholeheartedly: it takes a village.   I have a hard time understanding the conservative view at all.  Most come off as self serving to me.  Health care and education should be a basic right for all…..healthy, educated citizens are good for the whole community.  If my kids go to a well financed, well run school, I also want the kids on the south side of town to have the same because some day my kids will have to live with those kids in this community.  I don’t want them to live with angry, resentful neighbors who feel cheated…..but conservative don’t want “THEIR” money spent on THOSE people.

    To me the real honest judgment of a society is how we treat our children, our elderly, the sick and the afflicted (whether with physical or mental illness). Nothing in my lifetime of 63 years has shown me that the GOP as a group gives a damn about those “other” people……they give lip service to “what you do to the least of me, you do to me”.

    That is not to say that there are not individuals who call themselves conservative do not.  But as a group, not so much.   These people refer to the good old days (1950s) as the times when white men had it great but the rest of us consistently had to fight for even an fair start.

    I really do not buy into the notion that the GOP, as a group, cares about anything except themselves and how much they have.  Since my childhood in the 1950s they have come off as elitist, bigoted, and anti labor…..and in my view they are way worse now than they were then.

  6. creamer

     I would also think that if the Republican party dropped its pro-life, anti- non white, anti-science planks it would virtualy cease to exist.

    I’m all for personal responsibility and freedom, but I also think collective responsibility is at least equal to personal responsibility on a state or national level. Their is nothing wrong with being a country with compassion for those with less, and I see no evidence that boot-strap economics work. The evidence would seem to suggest that republican concepts and policy has been driven by the desire to more money into the pockets of those at the top. And while it’s true that a link between capitalism and democracy has always existed, it hasn’t proved to always be a benificial link.

     Other post have noted some of the fallacies of the “government is the problem” line. I think health care is a prime example. We have the most expensive health care in the world without the results. Even now the medicine for profit crew is trying to slow down and derail national healthcare. The level of our healthcare is being determined by how much profit can be made in dispensing it.This might be the greatest accomplishment of the link between capitalism and American democracy, getting rich on illness and desease.

     I’m sorry Chris, I applaud your courage (and pragmatism) in this diary, I’m still find the retorhic and policys of the GOP in my liftime as being mostly appalling and somthing to oppose.


  7. i think you are talking about a three-party system.  the current GOP is defined by these race, class, gender and religious wars which caused the core to rot from within.

    honestly – i believe that one of the greatest legacies that both obama (and bush inadvertently) will leave is the creation of a third and viable centrist party.  not only do i think this is a good thing for choice, it will let the left be the left and will help progress in the US.

  8. anna shane

    but change the program. Brooks thinks Barack’s centrist ideas and empathy for those who’ll never agree with him spells the end of the pugs as competent and practical, to him that should have been the pug position and the democrats should be liberal and willing to take a stand for working people and for free excellent education and for access to heath, our issues, and leave the centrist and practical stuff to the pugs.  To David Barack is a pug, sort of. A pug with a practical philosophy, sort of.  

    I think we need a second party, but perhaps a liberal one?  The dems are enjoying an influx of old pugs who are now influential, for sure.  I mean, we have two parties, but their both contained within the dem’s for now.  So, if the pugs became liberal, I’d probably join.  


    However, I will not vote for a Republican under any circumstances ever.  In my lifetime we’ve had Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II.  All of them talked a good game during the campaign and none of them even attempted to fulfill their campaign promises.  They all had problems with secrecy, lying and overspending (never on anything that would improve people’s standard of living).  The party appears to be just a front for organized crime.

    As far as I’m concerned the Republican Party should die a slow and painful death.  The Democratic Party has expanded enough that we are a two-party system on our own.

    I do have respect for the Libertarians, the Socialists and the Green Party which at least believe in the ideology they espouse.

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