Robin Smith / October 2, 2017

GOP Identity Crisis in the Age of Trump

We know what they’ve been promising for a decade, but what exactly do Republicans stand for?

The Republican Party once entertained the notion of changing its name due to internal strife following the failed years led by Rockefeller Republicans — Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford — who embraced socially liberal policies and financially progressive views in the role of government. At that time, outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Mary Louise Smith suggested to her successor, former Congressman and Senator of Tennessee Bill Brock, that a rebranding of sorts was needed as he began his successful four years of service as chairman.

Brock’s response to the idea of changing the political party’s name or image was simple: “We don’t need to change our name; we just need to live up to it.”

We’re seeing days not too dissimilar — a president who’s a Washington outsider, laughed at by the swamp dwellers and obstructed by the 2017-version of Rockefeller Republicans. And the Grand Old Party is dealing with its beliefs and its principles, or should we say the lack of either.

The question, then, is: “What exactly do you stand for, Republicans?”

Let’s look at the answer to that question through the words and actions of Republicans painted on the canvass of events since 2008. From the 2008 elections through 2010, Democrats had control of the White House, the House and the Senate. During that time there was no effort of “comprehensive reform” of illegal immigration. There was no effort to make global trade fair for the American worker. There was no effort toward energy independence as fuel soared to some of its highest prices while U.S. consumers were beholden to the gas kingdoms of the Middle East. The only agenda item was to take more than one-fifth of the U.S. economy (health care) and place it under government control, while heavily regulating another fifth (the financial sector).

Then, in the 2010 election cycle, the GOP cry was to win majorities in the House and Senate so they could repeal ObamaCare, block Barack Obama’s tax-and-spend frenzy, slow the growth of the exploding the welfare rolls, and oppose Obama’s open-border, non-enforcement approach to immigration.

American voters delivered. The Republicans gained the House majority in 2010, which it’s maintained during four Congresses.

What did Republicans stand for in 2012 and 2014? The same things, but with the rallying cry being, “We need the Senate and the White House.” The stanza had changed but the chorus was the same.

Mitt Romney failed to close the deal in 2012, and Democrats rode Obama’s coattails to hang on to the Senate. But in 2014, voters delivered the Senate to the GOP, saying, “Let’s see you stand up to that imperial president and tell him to cut spending.” Well, our debt grew from Oct. 17, 2013 at $17 trillion to $18 trillion on Dec. 15, 2014 to $19 trillion on Jan. 29, 2016. Even with Republican majorities, malignant spending increased. That’s because the GOP successfully blocked new spending initiatives, but left the budget largely on autopilot growth.

Well, in 2015, when both the Senate and House were led by Republicans, surely, as the RNC platform consistently promises, there was tension to stop the open border and enforce current law to establish a value to legal immigration. Right? In Obama’s second term, with GOP congressional majorities, there was actually a surge of illegal border crossings. Not until after the November 2016 election did illegal crossings at the southern border plummet by 76%.

But the cry from the people’s house was, in 2014, we’ve got to win the White House to be able to pass legislation that will actually be signed.

Well, Americans heard an outsider say some of the same things they’d been thinking for years. While Donald J. Trump didn’t come complete with an RNC-certified resumé or a life spent preening himself for the Republican presidency, Trump was an action figure on the scene. He promised to drain the swamp that appears to be content with the mire of status quo and he sure wasn’t going to bow or scrape before our global enemies.

Finally, a Republican-led federal government was in place in January 2017. Now they could move on the RNC Platform that champions the U.S. Constitution, guarantees legal immigration and a southern border that’s secure, pledges to cut spending and protect the future of our children from the dangers of unbridled debt, offers to simplify and cut taxes, and promises to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Yet here we are in October. The House has passed hundreds more bills than the Senate, but it was painful and obstinate when viewed through the lens of campaign promises and America’s wishes. There is no ObamaCare repeal or replacement. There’s now only talk of bailing out insurance companies who spent millions lobbying for government-controlled insurance. The votes to defeat the repeal/replacement proposals of ObamaCare were cast or promised by today’s Rockefeller Republicans.

After the second round in the Senate of failed ObamaCare repeal/replace legislation to send block grants to the states to construct a health program to fit their population best, the lead sponsor, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said, “Nobody in our conference believes ObamaCare works. It must be replaced.” But he also made an embarrassing admission: After seven years, “We didn’t know how to do it.”

A major tax reform policy is now in the wings. Already the special interests of Big Business and Big Government are complaining — the constituents of those same establishment GOPers.

Former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), a renowned deficit and spending hawk, was a guest on the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Report Sunday. In support of the early draft of the Trump tax plan and the notion of keeping promises made by Republicans that reflect core principles, he posed a great question when challenged about Republican critics of the tax cuts: “Where in the h— were these people when Obama doubled the outstanding debt of the country in eight years?!”

Gramm’s point is clear. You either believe in something and consistently work in a principled manner toward outcomes applying those principles, or you don’t. The GOP’s identity crisis relates to having those in office who are principled in word and deed.

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