2008 January 23 Wednesday
Mickey Kaus: Death Of Reagan Coalition Was Avoidable

Mickey Kaus argues George W. Bush destroyed a coalition that didn't have to fall apart. But Mickey, Reagan's choice of Bush Sr. as VP set up W. to win and wreck what Reagan had built. We are now in the final year of George W "Wrecking Ball" Bush.

The Reagan Coalition didn't die of natural causes: It's now steel-vault CW that the tripartite Reagan Coalition (national security conservatives, social conservatives, economic conservatives) has sundered. There's a tendency to portray this as some sort of inevitable process, a working-out of an ideological dialiectic. Hence Fred Thompson was just a fool to run on a Reaganite platform--the old coalition doesn't exist and can't exist.

There is at least one sense in which the coalition was a victim of its own success: by successfully pursuing elimination of the welfare (AFDC) entitlement, the Gingrich Republicans removed a major reason for public distrust of liberal "affirmative government." But that merely meant the R.C. was fighting an increasingly unfavorable battle against Democrats who wanted the non-welfare welfare state to expand (i.e., to provide health care). It didn't mean the Coalition had fractured.

It took President Bush to accomplish the latter, through two willful decisions: a) the decision to invade Iraq and b) the decision to pursue an ambitious immigration reform that included mass legalization. The former decision discredited Republicans and cost them the support of conservative realists. The latter split businessmen and libertarians from both social and law-and-order conservatives. Neither decision was in any way inevitable. To explain them, the internal dialectic of the Bush family (effectively described in Jacob Weisberg's new book) is more useful than any grander diagram of political or social tensions. [But the business wing of the GOP would have been mad if Bush had opposed the immigrant legalization "reform"--ed. Bush didn't have to make a big issue of immigration at all. And it wouldn't have been one if he hadn't. A few stronger border-security measures to placate the base and the whole dilemma would easily have been kicked past his term in office. The real demand for "comprehensive reform" came from intellectuals, ethnic interests and political strategists who saw a transformative potential in winning the Latino vote. Like Iraq, it was a war of choice. In the event, it turned out businesses didn't care nearly as much about it as Karl Rove, John McCain and Tamar Jacoby. Bush was reduced to urging businessmen to lobby for his plan.]

Bush is a large part of the problem. But he had a lot of help on Iraq and immigration from the neocons. At this point we need to get the neoconservatives out of power. A victory by a Republican aligned with the neocons would be a disaster.

On immigration and Iraq McCain looks like the worst choice. Hillary would probably be better on Iraq and probably won't be any worse than McCain on immigration and might even be better. Where does Romney stand vis a vis the neocons? I do not see any big neocons supporting him. But I'm not watching him closely enough to know for sure.

Update: McCain strongly supports the same positions which tore apart the Reagan Coalition when Bush supported those positions. If McCain wins the Republican nomination the lack of support for McCain from key elements of the Republican base could assure Hillary a victory in the general election. But while Romney won't alienate the Republican base on these issues his Mormon beliefs will keep many fundamenalist Christians home on election day. The Republicans might just manage to put Hillary in the White House.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 January 23 09:42 PM  Politics American Domestic

Ned said at January 24, 2008 5:48 AM:

Martin Luther once said something to the effect that the true enemies of Christianity were not the popes or the Muslims but bad Christians. Well, the true enemies of conservatism are not the Democrats or the liberals but bad conservatives. Bush II, the neocons and the GOP congressional porkers have caused immense damage to conservatism. The harm that they have done vastly exceeds anything that the Democrats, the lefties and their MSM allies could ever have achieved. Bush II has maintained a fig leaf of conservatism with his tax cuts and judicial appointments while he trashes conservative values with his pointless Wilsonian "make the world safe for democracy" crusade in the Middle East, his open borders amnesty program and his giant expansion of federal spending (the largest since the glory days of LBJ and the "Great Society"). Now it looks like we're going to have a nice recession to close out his reign. Who would have thought way back in 2000 that it would all come to this?

kurt9 said at January 24, 2008 1:17 PM:

Bush hasn't attempted to limit government spending at all. He has used presidential veto twice during his time in office and neither time was for the purpose of controlling spending on the part of congress. Reagan allowed the budget to grow enormously because he log-rolled with the democrats in order to get them to support his defense build-up. Until 2007, Bush had a republican congress and, therefor, lacked the excuse that he was log rolling with congress with the resultant growth of government spending.

I am also coming to the conclusion that many republicans do not believe in limited government and control of government spending at all. Huckabee is a good example of this. So is McCain and most of the other candidates as well.

We no longer have a major political party committed to the principles of limited government.

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