Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

WTF??? Day Two: Republicanism Implodes

Another day of WTF as everyone tries to figure out what this complete financial and political debacle means for their homes, their jobs, and their pensions.

A bit of historical insight from Howard Fineman which some of you might have missed in yesterday’s welter of bad economic news: Bailout Ushers in the Era of Obama

Fineman has articulated clearly something I’ve been suspecting all along since the amazing bailout debacle of the last few days: this is the death knell of Modern Republicanism.

Even if Sen. Barack Obama loses the presidential election – and of course he may – the playing field of our politics now has shifted seismically in his philosophical direction.

The era of cowboy capitalism has died, largely of self-inflicted wounds. Who knows what’s coming now? I do: A new era of tight business regulation and government intervention in the markets.

For now, and perhaps for many years, there will be no going back.

Fineman then traces back the beginnings of Modern Conservatism to Reagan, Hayek and the contention that Government intervention only made things worse.

These laissez faire chickens are now coming home to roost. It is Wall Street, which has cashed in on a tide of deregulation, that is now coming cap and hand to the government. The hypocrisy is stunning. As Nouriel Roubini, who foresaw this whole crisis, writes:

This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street

This has many echoes to me – though writ on a much larger scale – of the crisis of British Conservatism after the downfall of Thatcher. The Conservative Party was then a coalition of two forces: social authoritarians who opposed all the liberal expressions of what they called the ‘permissive society’, and economic libertarians who preached a Hayekian view of small government and minimal intervention.

For a while they stuck together, but as soon as their interests diverged (especially in the sovereignty crisis of how to to pursue Britain’s role in the European Union) the coalition fell apart catastrophically. The Conservatives went on to lose the next three elections

I see a different but parallel version of that in the ideological and fiscal bankruptcy of the Republican Party today. The bizarre shotgun marriage of McCain and Palin is one expression of it. The tumultuous and unprecedented revolt of House Republicans against the plan of their President is another.

I see a long term collapse and near civil war among these divergent forces: but I’m a Brit watching from afar – though subject to the same credit crunch and potential depression as you all. Do you see the same thing as I do?


  1. My interpretation is that for all the media’s “hyping” of a divided Democratic party (Clinton/Obama,) that there was a much more fundamental rift in the GOP.  This was evidenced in the primaries by the overt lack of enthusiasm for John McCain and the protest support of Huckabee, even after he mathematically was eliminated.  

    I think there are two types of conservatism: neoconservatism, which is mostly social conservatism (evangelicals) and the fiscal conservatives (pure capitalists.)  I really don’t see a huge difference between what’s happening in the U.S. and what happened in Britian.  I mean, look at McCain swooping in and “saving” the economy – he was stuck between Bush and the House Republicans, and ne’er the twain shall meet.  Hence, he failed.  

    A personal ancedote: my brother, 6 years my junior, was been a registered Republican until 2004, at which time he (a) realized he was tired of trying to defend the Bush administration from bad decisions and outright offenses to civil liberties (he was even more tired of the professional apologists who had no apparent sense of irony in this matter.) (b) He also realized that in no way was Bush close to a fiscal conservative.  Those two things, coupled with his social liberalism (he lives near/works in D.C.,) led him to realize that he could no longer bear the name “Republican.”

    He has an “Independents for Obama” bumper sticker on his car.  🙂


  2. rfahey22

    but they’ve surprised me before.  The thing is, each of the divergent elements of the Republican Party realizes that it is a political minority and that it needs the other elements if it is to have any power whatsoever.  It’s a marriage of desperation and convenience, but what are their options?


    a party consisting of a bunch of single issue voting blocks.  They have made it work because each of these blocks cared so little about the issues of the other blocks.  As long as the party conceded to them on their single issue they didn’t care about the rest.

    I see those groups as:

    Laissez-fair, free market capitalists

    Gun fanatics

    Fundamentalist Christians

    Small government libertarian types

    There’s some crossover between these groups, partly because of skillful marketing of by the capitalists.  

    It’s the free market capitalists who have caused the current crisis.  And the libertarian types are causing the uprising.  The Fundies were already grumbling that the Republicans only paid lip service to their issues and looking around for a third party (that’s why McCain had to pick Palin).  Looks to me like the groups are all retreating to their own corners.

  4. as Neo-conservatives, social conservatives, and fiscal conservatives. I’m not sure where the pro-business, corporatists fit in there.

    The social and fiscal conservatives had the most say until the ascendancy of G. W. Bush. That’s when the neo-conservatives took control of the party. They threw a few bones to the social conservatives, but shut the fiscal conservatives out in the cold. That is what drove so many of them to Ron Paul this year. It was a revolt against the neo-cons.

    At the core of the neo-con movement is a concern for Israel’s security. This is what led us into a disastrous war in the Middle-East. The fundamentalist Christians in the party went along with this, because they too are concerned with Israel.

    Unfortunately, for the neo-cons, their philosophy has proven bankrupt, just like their fiscal policies. The fiscal conservatives are ready to revolt, witness yesterday’s congressional fiasco, and the social conservatives are wandering around in a daze. The only thing that perked them up was the choice of Sarah Palin.

    The Palin pick also encouraged the fiscal conservatives, because they believed, falsely as it turned out, that she was one of them. The party is returning to its fractured state as the luster wears off Palin. The worst is yet to come for the Republican party.

    There will be a lot of doctoral papers written about the last few years and its affect on the party.  

  5. GrassrootsOrganizer

    The entire Bush Coalition is falling apart without a clear sense of where the pieces will land.  If you ask me, the GOP will soon become the Christian Conservative Party as the neo-cons and fiscal conservatives/small government Republicans without a “moral” attachment to the party declare war on each other.  

    The bailout has turned them into the Hatfield and McCoys.  I can’t see any of them self identifying as “Obamites” or Democrats anytime soon, but this could be a huge shot in the arm for the Libertarians.  At the end of the day, they’re going to be fighting for the soul (well, if it had a soul) of the Republican Party.  

    This mess is pitting small businesspersons, Wall Street and the Chambers of Commerce against the ideological Republicans in a battle to the death.  And in the middle of the mess sits John “who am I?” McCain, the bastard child of a shotgun marraige.  He’s a maverick alright, but, um,against who? And, um, for what?  smaller government?  less regulation and government interference?  fiscal responsibility? um…really?  sucks to be him.

    As best I can tell, Sheriff McCain has declared war on Congress, special interests, greed, corruption, the old boys network, tax and spend Democrats, the bloated federal bureaucracy and, oh yeah, Iran, Russia, Spain France and North Korea. And conservative talk radio, the liberal media and Joe Lunchpail have declared war on him.  Wow.  He’s sorta running out of friends who aren’t Evangelical hockey moms.  

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