By Dustin Siggins and Ben Johnson
“Star Wars” character Wedge Antilles once declared that “the New Republic is dead. An oversized hulk with a decentralized nervous system; the extremities don’t realize that the heart isn’t beating anymore.”
That statement, made by a fictional character about a non-existent government during a futuristic war, pretty well captured the state of both major political parties as they hosted their national conventions last week.
According to many pundits, the GOP is dead, thanks to the rise of Donald Trump. But its death spiral began decades ago, with the Bush family’s ascent to the national stage. Its brand of elitist, business-centered politics alienated the party’s grassroots for nearly three decades.
George H.W. Bush raised taxes, while his son expanded Medicare and signed the No Child Left Behind law. The second Iraq war was approved with little congressional oversight and accountability, the GOP halted Bush’s efforts to reform Social Security, and the party apparatus tried to repeat Reagan’s immigration mistake multiple times.
But the kicker was TARP – a bailout worth more than $800 billion that redistributed money from Main Street to well-connected banks, without holding a single executive accountable for pushing the country into a years-long recession.
The tea party proved to be a brief defibrillator for the GOP, but once again the party bosses preferred power over principle, over-promising and vastly under-delivering on Obamacare, spending, immigration, abortion, and conscience rights – and prioritizing the enrichment of military contractors over holding the Pentagon responsible for how it spends.
For all his boorish and self-aggrandizing behavior, and his virtually infinite flexibility on specifics, Trump isn’t pushing the Republican Party into oblivion. He’s simply stomping on its twitching corpse.
In typical tone-deaf fashion, Beltway opposition to Trump is based more on discomfort with his rhetoric than his policy, even though many of his policy positions are standard Republican orthodoxy streaked with populism.
On paper, the GOP not only believes in building a border wall; it’s already legislated it – in the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
Trump’s health care and tax plans, aside from his idiosyncratic hedge fund tax, are modest but significant steps in the right direction.
His judicial nominees are excellent, and even his trade policies were favored by Republicans until the Cold War, with a small recurrence during the Reagan administration.
Further, Trump is the candidate most in line with the American people on abortion – the only one who doesn’t believe taxpayers should be subsidizing it for all nine months of pregnancy.
The Trump phenomenon and the attention it has received has hidden the more advanced rigor mortis of the Democratic Party.
Whatever his deficiencies, Trump’s candidacy is a search for new ideas and a new direction for the GOP. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is an admission that the Democratic Party’s brain shriveled from disuse years ago.
Mrs. Clinton holds no position she would not jettison. Her hoovering up of corporate and foreign money through her charity almost undermined the best attempts of the Democratic National Committee Chair to fix the nomination in her favor. All the Democrats’ “new” ideas are coming from a man whose philosophy is socialism, an ideology that’s killed more people than Roe v. Wade.
So ultimately, Clinton will face tougher structural challenges if she’s to bring her electoral coalition to life this fall. If she believes Trump’s economic misfortune – four bankruptcies out of countless business ventures – are fair game, then so too is her economic fortune as the world’s greatest land and cattle futures speculator, an investment record unsurpassed by anyone not surnamed Madoff.
If she calls Trump out for his caddish behavior toward women, she’ll also make issue of her overseeing a team of investigators that suppressed her husband’s “bimbo eruptions,” labeled Monica Lewinsky a stalker, and savagely attacked a woman who has credibly claimed Bill Clinton raped her.
When all is said and done, Trump has employed people – albeit often in industries not beneficial for the nation – and built things that have made their lives better. In pursuing his business, he has sometimes improved the lives of others. The Clintons have aggrandized themselves under the guise of charity without one discernible benefit to anyone else, and often to the detriment of those not protected under the Clinton umbrella.
The 2016 election may make it impossible to deny that both major parties are dead. With Clinton and Trump, America is paying the price for decades of electing and re-electing out-of-touch politicians who decided holding office, not empowering the American people, were their top priorities.
Dustin Siggins is the weekend editor and an associate editor for The Stream, and a public relations consultant. Ben Johnson is U.S. bureau chief of LifeSiteNews, a 2016 CPAC panelist, and a guest host on the AFR Talk Radio Network.