The Death of Moderation: Republicans Have Become a Party of Naysayers

An Analysis by

Mitt Romney has succeeded in securing the Republican nomination in Tampa this week. And while he may want to govern as a statesman, he won't be able to count on his party for support. For years, many US conservatives have given up political responsibility in favor of hardline ideology.

Mitt Romney wants to be a statesman, but will he have the support of his party? Zoom
AFP

Mitt Romney wants to be a statesman, but will he have the support of his party?

Candidate Romney showed a lot of heart: He wanted to support minorities, and he spoke out against new military deployments outside America's borders. And when voters expressed an interest in his finances, the contender was quick to present his tax return.

But does that sound like the Mitt Romney who was officially declared his party's presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week? Of course not. The "nice" Mr. Romney was Mitt's father George. In 1968, he campaigned to become the Republican Party presidential candidate -- without success. At the time, the Michigan governor was considered to be a run-of-the-mill Republican. "George Romney would be booed at this year's convention," wrote one New York Times author. That's because his political positions would no longer be considered radical enough.

For some time now -- at the very latest since their infiltration by the Tea Party movement -- America's conservatives have become suspicious of any form of compromise. According to US historian Geoffrey Kabaservice, who recently wrote a book on the death of moderation in the party, the words "moderate" and "Republican" no longer go together.

The softie style of George Romney has become passé. His son Mitt knows this and has adapted to the times. He wants to build a new fence along the border to Mexico that is twice as secure as the current one in order to keep out illegal immigrants. He also wants to increase defense spending and is as secretive about his own taxes as Coca-Cola is about the ingredients in its soft drink.

No Raising of Taxes -- Ever!

Most officials within the Republican Party have signed a kind of pact under which they will never raise taxes -- not even a cent -- regardless how urgently the government needs that money for new bridges or schools. In their current party platforms, they also call for a ban to be imposed on abortion that wouldn't even permit the procedure to be performed on women who had been raped or whose lives might be endangered by pregnancy and birth. Using the jargon of the Cold War, they refer to Russia as America's greatest political enemy and they disparage Europe as a socialist crisis region.

At the same time, they are also cheering vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a man who wants to take hedge trimmers and mercilessly cut the US federal budget until large parts of it have been pared down to the levels of the 1930s. The people who would suffer the most under this policy are America's poor. But that wouldn't stop the rich from rejoicing. Under Ryan's tax plan, Romney, whose fortune is estimated to be worth $250 million, would be taxed at a rate of only 0.82 percent a year -- and this in an era in which the family that owns supermarket giant Wal-Mart is worth more than the poorest 40 percent of Americans.

It is a Republican platform that would even alienate Republican icons such as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Jeb Bush, son of the former president and a former Florida governor himself, said there would be "no room left" for these political icons among today's conservatives. After all, Reagan himself once dramatically increased taxes and granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants. He had also been divorced and seldom went to church. And when George H.W. Bush led the US into war against Iraq in 1991, he stopped short of toppling the regime in Baghdad. Today, many within the party would consider that to be cowardice.

With the help of his campaign guru Karl Rove, Bush's other son George W. won the election by making overtures to the radical wing of the party in ways that helped pave the path for today's black-and-white thinking. But while Bush may have been a bit of a cowboy when it came to politics, he isn't the politician who invented the unwillingness to compromise that one sees in the Republican Party today.

Discrediting Congress

The trend began in the 1990s, US political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote in a recently published book. At the time, leading Republican Newt Gingrich developed a radical strategy in order to bring the right wing of the party back into power in Congress. Under Gingrich's plan, Republicans were to simply block any legislative effort in order to discredit Congress among voters. Frustrated, they would then vote out the governing Democrats.

Gingrich's trick worked -- and it worked again in 2010 for Republicans who had firmly resolved not to back any state-supported projects presented by the Obama administration, including such things as the president's stimulus package during the economic crisis. The calculus was clear: They knew that if American got back on its feet too quickly, it would mostly help Obama and not them. They didn't want to allow that to happen under any circumstances. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said in 2010, providing a maxim for the rest.

And they can count on support from members of the Tea Party faction who had no qualms whatsoever last year holding the federal budget hostage even as America's upper debt ceiling and credit rating was at stake. The enemies within the system actually managed to paralyze the system in Washington. Even if Obama has made his own mistakes, these Republican policies of blockading have also hindered any rapid upswing in the US.

In contrast to his father, Romney will now become the Republican Party's presidential candidate -- and this because he solicited the support of radicals in the most shameless of ways, most recently by cracking jokes about Obama's birth certificate. But the candidate for the White House should also be clear about what he is letting himself in for.

George W. Bush, for example, advanced toward the end of his presidency to become a statesman who was ready to compromise -- at least when the very survival of the US economy was at stake. Bush had to desperately seek the support of his fellow party members for bailout payments for banks and automobile companies. Many radical Republicans refused to even listen to him.

Romney, who was considered to be a very pragmatic politician when he served as governor of Massachusetts, will also have to accept many compromises if he wants to succeed in the Oval Office. When it comes to that, though, he won't be able to count on support from his own party.

Correction: Due to a translation error, Mitt Romney's estimated personal forture was incorrectly stated as $250 billion in an earlier version of this article. The correct figure is $250 million. We apologize for the error.

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1. Moderation??
lwjr 08/29/2012
Germans, how did Der Spiegel get infiltrated by a bunch of Ossies with leftists views? Republicans are the only moral voters left inthe USA. Everyone else is on the govt payroll.
2. Der Spiegel has become a mouthpiece of DNC?
roman_gregori@yahoo.com 08/29/2012
What on earth are you mumbling about??
3. The US presidential system has been eroded to oblivion
titus_norberto 08/30/2012
During my MBA at Macquarie University in Sydney I asked my lecturer of Strategic Management, a young Jewish American lad, about the triviality and simplicity of the topics for discussion during presidential campaigns, his answer was blunt: “USA is such a convoluted aggregation of conflictive interests forcing the candidates to talk no more than trivialities. Any serious discussion of policy wold meant losing the election straight away”. Well, that was a great startingpoint regarding the usefulness of the political campaigns in USA and elsewhere. In modern TV democracies (the famous American journalist Vance Packard warned US of the death of the American democracy at the hands of the entertainers as early as mid 1950’s during Nixon’s election as Governor of California exploiting the mass media apparatus, especially TV) the IMAGE is far more important than the speech. In the same way we watch sports on TV hearing the rumble of the commentators chatting non-stop in the background (a “Fraudian doctor” might link this phenomenon to the voices of our parents while we are in the womb) we do not REALLY listen to every single stupidity they proffer, we are surprised only if THEY STOP TALKING, thus, it is not important what they said really, they must talk about SOMETHING and we feel comfortable as we were inside our mother’s womb hearing the voices of our parents. With the presidential candidates in campaign is the same, they want to be VISUALLY RECOGNIZED at ballot-box time, they positively know that none vote someone they cannot recognize by his face and the pitch of his voice, once elected it is another story altogether. Since the choosen topic is not relevant to the election, the far best choice is to talk all the time about practically nothing or something catchy and lurid such as the theory that raped women cannot become pregnant and so forth. Therefore, a presidential campaign is about imprinting your face inside your victims’ heads, not to convince rationally. Another aspect of USA’s TV democracy is the fact that has been subjected for a while (probably after Kennedy AND brother murders) to an erosion I call “Parliamentarization” and I mean by this a systematic reduction of presidential power in benefit of the Prime Minister (Secretary of State). Presidential power means the power of a monarch (a monarch in Aristotle’s meaning, not European feudal monarch, which is a quite different system) for a limited time. This power has been drastically reduced, especially with the dynamic duo Kissinger-Nixon (in that very order), the Secretary of State (not elected by the people) is gaining power at the expense of the president, which is becoming a negotiator more than an executive, a CEO, much in the way power was stripped from the English kings especially after the Dutch invasion of England by William III Orange in 1688. After the last successful invasion of England, the monarch became a “head of state” and the political power resided in the Prime Minister, but the position of Prime Minister belonged to the PARTY, that is the trick… Take for instance Australia recently, a Prime Minister elected by the majority, Kevin Rudd, was removed in a secret meeting by the PARTY. The media is still speculating about the party member who instigated the coup d'etat, to no avail, and I know why, there is not a single person, spurious INTERESTS did it. In USA the same process is taking shape, “anonymizing decisions”, group of interests take control via the Secretary of State, specially the all-powerful Jewish lobby. Thus, it does NOT MATTER who WINS, the SAME GROUPS of INTERESTS will manage the nation Behind the Scenes regardless by imposing to the token president their true candidate, the Secretary of State, Hillary, or Kissinger and so on. The presidential system relies in the fact that decisions are taken timely and responsibly, I mean we all know who took them, in the parliamentarian system none knows who really take decisions, there is a mêle of people arguing under the mantle of an organization called “political party” (legal masonry I do call it) in order to disguise spurious INTERESTS. Obama was “bocatto di cardinale”, probably the man best suited for the strategy of converting the US president into a negotiator as William III Orange was as “joint monarch” with his wife…, a period in which was invented the United Kingdom (UK), the Bank of England, The South Sea Company with main Konzern was focusing on the black slave trade, a vast migration across the channel of financiers, money lenders, rogues, gamblers and entrepreneurs from Holland (perhaps even an ancestor of President Roosevelt as well, family of a Sephardi family called Rosa Campo while living in Spain) landed in the London SOHO, and with the continental innovation of a wonderful drink called “Geneva” or Gin in short for the punters, to keep the populace if not quiet at least happy and confused.
4. Republikaner-Parteitag
ahenobarbus 08/30/2012
Der Spiegel has great difficulty understanding today's Republican Party but it is really quite simple. Under no circumstances will Republicans accept that America (which is a historical reality older and deeper than the federal government called the United States) should become like Europe. Over the past 100 years we have made Germany what it is today and we will not take lessons in reverse because America has always existed as the place Europeans go to leave Europe. It is not possible to compromise on this any more than Germany today would compromise on the location of its borders. Obama's popularity in Berlin in 2008 is exactly why everything he does is anathema to Republicans. Seeing where Europe is today what is strange is that the wisdom of Republicans' intransigence about adopting the European social model should not be obvious to Der Spiegel.
5.
longknife 08/31/2012
I can easily be labeled an Independent - although I hate labels. I care more about a candidate's policies and character than what party s/he is registered as. I have beliefs that range from ultra-conservative [the absolute right of individual freedom] and liberal [the right of a woman to chose whether or not to have an abortion - AT HER EXPENSE, NOT MINE!] I am a political junkie and follow it closely, including daily feeds about what bills and meetings are held in the US Congress. For Der Spiegel to call the GOP "naysayers" is to completely mis-represent the members in Congress who continually submit legislation to help Americans - which are consistently blocked by the Democrat Majority Leader in the Senate - WITHOUT DEBATE OR DISCUSSION. Does der Spiegel call that naysaying? Clearly not! And, as you well know from your own political problems - SOCIALISM/MARXISM HAS NEVER WORKED!
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