Last week, to much fanfare, Glenn Beck declared that he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an independent. During a Tuesday night appearance on the O’Reilly Factor, Beck explained his decision thusly:
They surrendered on the abortion bill, surrendered on executive orders on illegal immigration, common core. They helped push through $3.5 trillion in deficits this last year. They won't fight Obamacare. They voted to confirm Katz Unstein (ph). They thwarted the bill on the NSA data collection. They're still not doing anything on Benghazi. They haven't done anything on the targeting of conservatives with the IRS. They haven't done anything on the VA. They also threw an election against Chris McDaniels to Thad Cochran. They actually went to the Democrats and played the race card. I mean, I can get that from Hillary Clinton's people….
We had to have the house. Then we had to the House. Then we had to have the House and the Senate. Now we have to have the White House. And then when they get the White House, the House, and the Senate then it becomes the Bush administration where it's just as bad on deficits and everything else. They don't have any intention of doing anything.
Beck has a point here. Granted, he’s overstating the case to some degree -- political constraints are such that the GOP can’t do a lot of what he demands. But there are indeed issues where the politics favor the Republicans -- the insurer bailout in Obamacare, farm subsidies, highway spending, and the Export-Import Bank -- where the party is not doing much of anything. Far too often, the GOP seems more inclined to go-along-to-get-along then do the hard work needed to reform government.
As I argued here, and in my new book, the Republican party has been aligned with big business for almost 150 years. In many respects, this is a good thing for conservatism. People who are employed by a business, after all, do not need the government to prosper. And big business employs a lot of people, so conservatives have common cause.
But businesses are profit-maximizing agents, and insofar as they believe the government can assist them, they will gorent seeking. Corporate and professional interests have many friends in the Republican party, who, always in the guise of promoting “economic growth,” pay off their patrons with corporate welfare, favorable regulations, conciliatory tax policy, and the like. Republicans have been doing this for big business since the 1870s, and they continue to do so to this day.
So Beck is right: a lot of what the Republicans do is not conservatism. It’s more akin to interest-group liberalism.
However, leaving the GOP is a bad idea, for two reasons.
First, the Republican party is not going to let conservatives go anywhere else. There has never been a viable third party in the country, at least not one that has persisted over the long run. This has to do with the nature of our elections. Political theorist Maurice Duverger demonstrated fifty years ago that winner-take-all contests centered around discrete geographical areas typically produce a two-party system. There are exceptions, but they’re rare.
Moreover, third parties that do thrive temporarily are co-opted by one of the two major parties -- usually to the detriment of the ideological movement that spawned the third party in the first place. For instance, the Populist party was captured by the Democrats in 1896, and did not see traction on any of its issues for nearly 20 more years. The Progressive party ended up getting split between the two major parties after 1916. Similarly, the Perot movement ended up fueling the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, but the deficit-cutting zeal of the GOP in the mid-1990s soon gave way to the gross profligacy of Congress during the George W. Bush years.
Charles Krauthammer articulated a major hurdle that Ted Cruz will face as he runs for the presidency:
First term Senators, we already tried a first-term Senator. … Cruz talks about you have to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. You have to have done something but that's not his record in the Senate. He's a good rhetorician, but when Walker says I ran the state, I took on the unions, I took on liberals and I won I think it is going to be a strong argument.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board greets the announcement of Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy by taking the Texas senator to task for, of all things, being too much like President Obama. The Journal notes that both men decided to launch a White House run as a 40-something first-term senator without executive experience and with some background in constitutional law (Cruz as a prominent constitutional lawyer who frequently won cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Obama as a part-time law school instructor). The larger point of the piece, however, is to question whether Cruz could win or could govern if he did, and the comparison with Obama doesn’t help make the Journal’s case.
President Obama uses his Nowruz statement to speak directly to the Iranian people. In doing so, he compares Iranian hardliners to those Americans who are skeptical the president's deal with Iran will prevent the rogue nation from getting nuclear weapons capability.
"The days and weeks ahead will be critical. Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you—the people of Iran—is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek," says the president.
The Republican National Committee has released this web video, hitting the White House, the State Department, and the Clinton campaign for avoiding questions related to Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of private email to conduct official business:
If you’re an establishment Republican, ripples of doubt are intruding on your normal placid contentment.
A special House committee to investigate Benghazi? Gee, is the public still interested in that? Isn’t it time to move on? And isn’t the chairman, Trey Gowdy, close to . . . shudder . . . the Tea Party?
An invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress? Isn’t he kind of a polarizing figure? Couldn’t he lose his own election next week? Then how will we look? And wasn’t the protocol of the invite sort of mismanaged?
A top defender of Hillary Clinton, former White House special counsel Lanny Davis, said on MSNBC that "everything" on Clinton's private email servers should be available to Republicans in Congress. Davis made the comments in response to a question about how Clinton can put the questions about her email practices behind her.