The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “THEY ONLY LOOK DEAD: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era” by E. J. Dionne Jr. from Chapter 6 “REINVENTING OLD ANSWERS: The Republicans’ Quiet Revolution” on page 173 and I quote: “The Republican success of 1994 should not be allowed to disguise the fact that these are not easy questions. In the immediate aftermath of 1992, many conservatives were deeply pessimistic about conservatism’s future. For example, David Frum’s brilliant analysis in Dead Right, published on the eve of the Republicans’ great triumph, concluded on a deeply gloomy note:
“When conservatism’s glittering generalities, “you are overtaxed,” turn into legislative specifics, “you must pay more to send your kid to the state university,” we run into as much trouble in midsession as liberals do at election time. Twelve years of twisting and struggling to escape this snare have just entangled us more deeply in it. . . . Is there a way out? Only one: conservative intellectuals should learn to care a little less about the electoral prospects of the Republican Party, indulge less in policy cleverness and ethnic demagoguery, and do what intellectuals of all descriptions are obliged to do: practice honesty, and pay the price.”
Frum, in other words, assumed that honesty on the part of conservatives about their goals would have high political costs. Frum, like Dick Armey, knew that small government sounded better in speeches than in practice.
Another pessimist was [Vin] Weber. Writing even before the 1992 results were in, he declared that in his fourteen years in national politics, “I have never been so concerned about the future of conservative ideas.” he went on: “What troubles me is that Republicans have failed to define a national agenda for leading the country. We have lost our emphasis on economic growth, such an important part of Ronald Reagan’s achievement. We have failed to adopt a reform strategy for the unfinished business from the Reagan years—the state of our families, our schools, our cities.” Weber, a compassionate conservative in the [Jack] Kemp mode, also worried about the conservative response to poverty and the inner city. He wrote:
“This country is never going to take a laissez-faire attitude toward the poorest people in our society. To do so would be contrary to our Judeo-Christian culture, and to all the values that America was built on. For conservatives simply to vacate the field on these issues, or to take a libertarian posture and say that the government has no responsibility here, is wrong and self-destructive.”
Weber added that for conservatives to abandon the poor would mean “that the only response available to the American people is going to be statist, collectivist, redistributionist and paternalistic, which is what we’ve had now for generation after generation.”
Finally, some Republicans, at least, saw that economic stagnation at the middle and bottom of the income structure had been a problem not just under [George H.W.] Bush but also during the Reagan years. Adam Meyerson of Policy Review, for example, recognized that “single-income families have been on a treadmill for the past two decades.” he continued: “The amazing growth in family income during the Reagan years came because more mothers and teenagers were working, not because wages were rising. The ‘seven fat years,’ as Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley has aptly described the Reagan boom, were lean ones for stay-at-home and single moms.” Meyerson argued that on a whole range of issues of concern to the restive [Ross] Perot voters—spending cuts, more efficient environmental regulation, litigation reform and job training–”conservatives, quite frankly, haven’t done their homework. . . .” Meyerson, like Frum, was concerned that the Republicans would not be willing to accept the deep spending cuts that were needed to rationalize the lower taxes they had enacted in the 1980s. And he worried, too, about the impact of the absolutism of some on the religious right. He noted that the basic American impulse, which was also a good conservative impulse, was to tell moral meddlers: “Don’t tell me how to live my life” and “Don’t impose your religion and morality on my children.”
The Republicans also faced deep divisions on foreign policy. It was easy enough to criticize [Bill] Clinton’s handling of events in Bosnia, Haiti or North Korea. Going beyond criticism was harder. As foreign policy analyst Alan Tonelson noted, “What most observers still call ‘American conservatism’ seems split into no less than three principal factions” on international issues, and even these factions “are only barely cohering.” Tonelson distinguished among conservative realists, who favored an expansive American world role but were without illusions about the instabilities of the global system or the need to deal with less than perfect regimes; democratic crusaders, who saw the United States as having an interest and obligation to spread democracy throughout the world; and conservative minimalists, such as [Pat] Buchanan, who mistrusted engagement and international organizations and hoped the Cold War would allow America to “come home.” Splits among these Republicans were visible on virtually every controversial issue Clinton confronted with the exception of Haiti, where almost all Republicans opposed American intervention. These divisions endured after the Republicans congressional takeover, when the party split over Clinton’s economic aid package to Mexico despite support for the plan among most of the congressional leadership.
If Republicans were wary on foreign affairs, few of them (with the exception of nationalists such as Buchanan) had any interest in highlighting the challenges posed by the global economy. The basic Republican premise was that free trade, free markets and low taxes were the key to prosperity. Even conceding, as Meyerson was honest enough to do, that stagnating wages posed a serious problem was to admit the limitations and imperfections of the market economy. This would undermine the whole Republican case.
Given these fundamental problems, it is a near certainty that the 1994 Republican victories would have been impossible had the Democratic Congress and the Clinton administration not imploded. It was a sign of the conservatives’ difficulties in formulating responses to the problems raised by Frum, Weber and Meyerson that the movement’s intellectuals, politicians, talk show hosts and journalists spent far more time attacking Clinton and scandal-mongering on sex and Whitewater than in outlining what they would do in power. (The “Contract with America,” it should be noted, was Newt Gingrich’s attempt to respond to the wholly accurate perception that Republicans had done little to provide alternatives to Clintonism.) The American Spectator, a magazine that had offered serious conservative conversation and debate in the 1970s and 1980s, became the epicenter of tabloid-style assaults on both Bill and Hillary Clinton, publishing a running series of stories on the president’s sex life, Whitewater and other tales. It certainly caught the angry anti-Clinton mood among conservatives: The magazine’s circulation grew tenfold.
The right had a fundamental insight that proved correct: Clinton could not be allowed to succeed. Many conservatives believed privately that his program held great promise to legitimize government and the Democratic Party. It therefore had to be stopped. But there was a flip side to this insight: that conservatives should largely avoid the business of providing alternatives to the Clinton program that might become vehicles for compromise. In embracing some of the ideas offered by Kemp, Bennett, Bush Education Secretary Lamar Alexander and other Republicans, Clinton had proven himself adept at adapting the opposition’s suggestions to his own purposes.
If conservatives allowed that some new government programs might indeed be necessary to deal with the country’s economic uncertainties and the problems of the poor, they would only legitimize the Clinton project. It is significant that when a group of House Republicans led by Representative (later Senator) Rick Santorum proposed a welfare reform program that bore some similarities to Clinton’s, they were criticized by Bennett, William Kristol and others for being accomodationists who had failed to go “far enough.” That is when Bennett endorsed abolishing welfare altogether and Kristol suggested that the federal government’s welfare role be ended and the whole mess shipped off to the sates—views that proved decisive when the Republicans took over Congress.
Clinton was often criticized for his failure to approach the Republicans in search of “centrist” solutions, and there were grounds for this criticism, especially where health care was concerned. But many Republicans were determined to make sure there was no center ground by turning the center into a free-fire zone. In 1993 and 1994, at every point that Senator John Chafee and other Republican moderates seemed to be moving toward a compromise with the White House on health care, they came under fierce assaults from commentators and politicians of the Republican right.
As long as Clinton was president and the Republicans were in the congressional minority, government remained at the heart of the Republicans’ strategy. Democrats were so divided that they ended up complicit in this strategy. The Clinton administration did not understand until far too late how much it needed Republican moderates such as Chafee. This was a bonus the Republicans would not have dreamed of expecting.”
(THIS REMINDS ME OF A GIANT POKER GAME BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES AND IT ALL STARTED, ACCORDING TO PAGE 135 AND I QUOTE:
“[President] Clinton had pledged to add stricter environmental and labor standards to the agreement negotiated by President [George H.W.] Bush.”
SINCE THEN, THE REPUBLICAN PARTY PRETTY WELL REPRESENTS THE 1 PERCENT WHICH ARE THE WEALTHIEST CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS. THEIR GOAL IS TO KILL MOST ANY LEGISLATION THAT WILL MOVE THE COUNTRY FORWARD, PARTICULARLY BENEFITING THE 99 PERCENT. THE SAD PART IS, THE DEMOCRATS HAVEN’T DONE TOO MUCH TO BREAK THE DEADLOCK. THAT’S WHY THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK IS REALLY A GREAT TITLE: “THEY ONLY LOOK DEAD: WHY PROGRESSIVES WILL DOMINATE THE NEXT POLITICAL ERA.” LIKE THIS SEGMENT STATED, IT ALL STARTED WHEN RONALD REAGAN GOT VOTED IN AS PRESIDENT AND WENT AFTER THE LABOR UNIONS. WHEN THEY NEGOTIATED THESE TRADE AGREEMENTS UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH, AND WHILE PRESIDENT CLINTON TRIED TO GET STRONGER RULES, HE WASN’T ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THEM. UNTIL WE GET BIG MONEY OUT OF POLITICS, SUCH AS THE KOCH BROTHERS, BUSINESS WILL CONTINUE AS USUAL. NO REAL REGULATIONS ON THE BIG CORPORATIONS AND WALL STREET, LOWER INCOME TAXES FOR THE WEALTHY AND UNTIL THE PEOPLE REALIZE WHAT IS GOING ON, WHICH THEY SHOULD SOON UNDERSTAND BECAUSE WISCONSIN GOVERNOR, SCOTT WALKER, WHO IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, MADE A COMMENT AT THE C-PAC MEETING ON FEBRUARY 25, 2015, WHERE HE COMPARED ISIS TO THE RALLY IN MADISON, WISCONSIN, ON MARCH 12, 2011,WHERE 100,000 PEOPLE MARCHED AROUND THE SQUARE CHANTING “THIS IS WHAT A DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE” WHICH MY WIFE AND I ATTENDED AND IT WAS FUN PARTICIPATING IN IT AND IT WAS EDUCATIONAL. IT CERTAINLY WASN’T THAT WE WERE TERRORISTS AND SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN COMPARED TO THE TACTICS THAT ISIS USES AND WAS TOTALLY INSULTING. I’M GOING TO GET SOME BOOKS WRITTEN BY DAVID FRUM ON DIFFERENT PRESIDENTS, PARTICULARLY ON THE BUSH FAMILY SINCE THEY ARE IN THE NEWS LATELY.
LaVern Isely, Progressive Independent Overtaxed Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen and AARP Members