The United States is coming into 2009 having established one of the largest moves to socialization in the world. The prospects for the future do not provide any encouragement for this move to slow down!
The United States has moved into a new era…and who would have thought that it would be the Conservatives in America that created the environment for this to happen.
The Conservatives were always the people who believed in discipline…of not living beyond ones means and capabilities. Yet, it became the Conservatives that led the way to uncontrolled and irresponsible behavior…on the part of the government…and on the part of the private sector.
When did it start?
When Nixon claimed that “We are all Keynesians now!”?
Did this lead to the policies of Ronald Reagan who promoted Supply-Side tax cuts that led to large deficits that went on and on?
And this led to Bush 41 and Bush 43 and their undisciplined fiscal behavior?
The Republican Party…like most parties…is a conglomerate of groups with disparate or even conflicting positions. But, Nixon drew up the new boundaries of the party and created the new culture at the top. And, what were these new boundaries?
I would like to concentrate on three: making the Republican Party the party of the South and the religious conservative; the move to fiscal and monetary irresponsibility; and the emphasis upon loyalty to creed as the primary criteria for membership.
There is no question that the Nixon “Southern Strategy” became the foundation of the ‘new’ Republican Party. Lyndon Johnson basically disenfranchised the South with his policies on civil rights and welfare. These programs completed upset the social stratification of the South and caused many citizens of that part of the country to look for a new home.
Richard Nixon provided them with that new home. But, in doing so the Republican Party had to be open to two things…even if they were sublimated in all discussions concerning the party. These two things were, first, that the party had to accept the racist leanings of the Southerners that were brought in under the ‘big tent’, and, second, the party had to openly support a religious leaning that was more fundamentally orientated. Up until the late sixties, the Republican Party had been the home of the mainline Protestant denominations. That was to be no more…they were ‘too liberal’.
These two themes brought in the South and also appealed to more rural areas of the United States. This provided a background for ascending to the Presidency, but also to provide a strong bloc of support in both the Congress in Washington, D. C., and in state houses throughout the country. It also provided a funnel for future leaders of the Party.
The second boundary had to do with the economic policies of the Federal Government. Nixon was so paranoid about getting re-elected as President that he did whatever was necessary…the rest-of-the-world be damned. Consequently, the conservative policies of ‘hands off’, constraint, and discipline did not appeal to him. This made him susceptible to advisors around him…especially John Connolly…that led him in a totally different direction. That direction included ideas about ‘big government’, deficits in the budget, wage and price controls, and an easy monetary policy. And, the last item there was connected to the withdrawal of the United States from the gold standard that served as the basis for stable economic policies. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt did not dare get rid of this peg during the Great Depression.
Richard Nixon became a “Big Government” President opening the door for a succession of ‘Conservative’ big government presidents…like Ronald Reagan (a former Democrat), Bush 41, and Bush 43. And, “Big Government” for the Republicans included building up the military…for this was the patriotic thing to do. American was the leader of the free world and therefore it needed more and more resources for the military.
The problem with “Big Government” is that taxpayers in the United States will generally not support the taxes needed to run a big government so that the big government will have to be financed by selling bonds…or monetizing the debt. Nixon did both…but, to combat the possibility that inflation could get worse he also froze wages and prices in the economy.
Whoa ! ! !
The third boundary had to do with loyalty. Since the things discussed above became the ‘religious’ beliefs of the Republican leadership, adherence to the ‘religion’ became paramount…no matter how ridiculous the stance one had to take. Loyalty to the line became the most important criteria for membership in the leadership.
And, this loyalty transcended talent, ability, or experience. If you did not believe the way the Party did…you had no chance to help the Party regardless of how good or how successful you were. How else can we explain the incompetence of the Bush 43 administration? How else can we understand the ignoring of facts and of reality? How else can we explain the lies and the cover-ups?
In the past, the Conservatives were always the Party of reality, the Party of discipline, the Party of incremental movement.
I think that these Conservatives can now say…”We told you so!”
I think that these Conservatives can now say…”If you lose your discipline, you will eventually crash!”
I think that these Conservatives can now say…”Once you crash because you have lost your discipline, there are no good choices!”
I think that these Conservatives can now say…”There is only one way to ‘right the ship’ and that is by re-establishing your discipline!”
I think that these Conservatives can now say…”Re-establishing your discipline is VERY, VERY painful!”