The Republican party as a whole has no policies to address many major issues:
- Gun safety
- Climate change
- Non-climate environmental issues
- Drug prices
- Democracy reform
- Immigration reform
- Labor rights
- Women’s rights
- Racial disparities
- Police reform
- Tax reform
I forgot some. Sorry. But the point is that there are all these major modern issues that the party is silent on (or denies exist in a meaningful way). For some Republican officials, for certain issues, they might support a policy, but the party as a whole does not. What does that do to a party?
In the case of Republicans, it does two things:
- It makes them seem less competitive with Democrats, who don’t always have the best policies, but they do have policies that attempt to address the problems.
- It makes the control of the party about things other than policy.
Most parties shift over time between more moderate and more extreme factions. This happens in terms of policy, but also in terms of tone choices. If your base is mad, policy aside, they want the fiercer voices up front. If they’re happier, they want more moderation, don’t want to upset the way things are.
But policy comes into play in those shifts. A madder base will still want the party to match their policy choices. If you remove policy from the discussion, all they have is tone, and on tone alone, the angry voices will whip them into anger, the angry voices will win.
When there are policy disagreements within a party, that can overcome tone disputes. But without policy, tone keeps building. The loudest voices win.
The party that lacks real policy (other than doing nothing and ignoring the problems) is a party whose days are numbered. There are too many important issues that will be addressed. This isn’t the bad old days when so many issues could be ignored due to lack of information, communication lag, and so on. The modern world limits how long a party can go without policy.
One major example is climate change. We’ve seen drought and bad storms increase. Temperatures have gotten worse. Bad weather will continue to happen with more frequency, particularly when you consider the time lag at play. Like COVID-19, where hospitalizations lag two weeks behind infections, and deaths another week or two depending on the strain, climate lags. We live today in the climate caused by ten, twenty years of the thickening carbon blanket in the atmosphere.
Ever go to bed cold, with the covers piled on, only to wake up sweating? That’s what the thickening blanket does. It takes time to trap the extra heat. It takes time for the seas to rise, the storms to worsen, the rain patterns to cause worse droughts.
But we live in the first wave of climate-changed weather. It will take but a few short years before enough of the country has been hit by at least one or two effects. That includes Republican strongholds, and enough people will not like to see the disasters and their costs. There are limits to denial.
Like it or not, the Republican party will either develop a set of climate policies (which will be debated within the party) or it will be completely irrelevant as people will want policy.
The rise of idiots like Donald John Trump can only happen when policy has been pushed aside. The Republican voters wanted the Democrats’ policies blocked, but they keep coming. At some point the other reason to have policy gets recognized by the voters: negotiation.
There are very few issues in politics that should be absolutist. Basic rights, including the right to vote, rank up there. But the rest are subject to negotiation. If the Republican party wanted to, it could shove Senator Manchin aside and negotiate a much better Build Back Better bill. They are stuck in the Nancy Reagan drug war response mode, but it’s their voters’ (and donors’) policy choices that suffer.
At some point, as with seeing climate disasters, the policy effects will push Republican voters to demand negotiators. They will learn they are missing all kinds of opportunities by saying no to everything. As it already stands, every Republican voter surely wants at least one of the policy areas I listed to be dealt with. Most probably wants several. They stick to the party because of some other anchor, plus fear of what the Democrats will do on the issue.
The Republican party lies about the Democrats’ true intentions being nefarious and far beyond whatever their opponents propose. They can always point to the far left, but even if they don’t, they can make up whatever slippery slope they want to scare their voters with.
Until they can’t. If any set of Republican electors find one of the policies above outweighs their anchor, they will switch to at least independent voting. And as issues get worse from neglect and inability of Democrats to pass solutions on their own, Republicans will move on from a party that fails to govern.
The alternative, as always, is the Republicans doing the right thing. They can only hide from the truth so long. I hear the truth calling out, “Ready or not, here I come!”