Politics Matters:

Republicans can’t govern because they hate government

Wouldn’t it be nice if “moderate” Republicans still existed?

When they’re not responsible for governing, Republicans do everything they can to undermine and discredit government. And when they are responsible for governing, their approach to solving problems is to defund or eliminate government programs and regulations (which, it turns out, is not easy).

The current generation of Republican politicians grew up wedded to this anti-government conservative orthodoxy. It’s not just the Tea Partiers-cum- Freedom Caucusers, either. That bunch has somehow managed to become so extreme that regular government-hating conservatives have been getting referred to as moderates. But remember, not a single Republican member of the House opposed repealing Obamacare, at least until the odoriferous Trumpryancare came along and a few of them heard, apparently for the first time in many cases, from real-people-they-represent that this big government program is actually thought of as a good thing in much of America, even in their own gerrymandered districts!

This is a party that has no real interest in or capacity for governing, because that involves running the government efficiently and making public policy that may involve increased government spending, new programs or new regulations.

U.S. conservatism used to be about smaller government and fiscal conservatism. Conservatives argued for less-costly, smaller government solutions and an emphasis on efficiency. Today, it’s just an all-out government hate-fest among conservatives, with income redistribution from the bottom to the top taking precedence over fiscal conservatism or making government work better.

(My view is that the end of the Cold War led to the conservative slide into its government-hating abyss. Because conservatives were rabidly anti-communist, they had to defend the merits of representative democracy during the Cold War. They could argue for less government, more efficient government, but to be the out-and-out haters of government that they are today would have undermined the argument for political superiority over communism. It would have been downright un-American to hate government.)

With all the talk about the so-called moderate Republicans who opposed Trumpryancare, and given Trump’s own lack of principles, some are hoping that the failure of “repeal and replace” will now lead to some kind of bipartisan, centrist coalition to improve Obamacare. That would be a good, but unlikely, policy outcome.

The more-likely and better long-term outcome would be for the so-called Republican moderates, many of whom are from districts that voted for Hillary or where Trump is unpopular, to be replaced in 2018 by real-life Democratic centrists — the type of Democrat most likely to flip those districts. This, in turn, could spur the emergence of real-life moderate Republicans in later election cycles, who, if elected, would govern based on the more-traditional conservative view of government: a preference for smaller scale solutions, an emphasis on efficiency, and on fiscal conservatism. And perhaps these new Republican moderates would rediscover the pragmatism that’s necessary to legislate and make good policy decisions in our system of government.