Kevin Drum is on a tear again. A couple weeks ago it was the Randian Republican geek patrol that had taken over Congress in 1994, and now we are treated to much wailing about the “toxic” “Texification” of the Republican Party. Using Michelle Goldberg-like chains of reasoning, Kevin Drum shows us that Bush is from Texas, then tells us that the Texas state party platform (which he quotes from at length here) from the time when Bush was governor in Texas is just super-crazy (I guess the fact that I could agree in good conscience with all but two of the provisions listed in his post would confirm in Kevin Drum’s mind that it is super-crazy), which somehow proves that the entire GOP has been Texified, and he then asserts (this is in his older post):
This is not a fringe group. It is the biggest, most active, most energetic, and most determined segment of the Republican party today.
How is the “biggest, most active, most energetic, and most determined segment” doing in terms of realising their super-crazy goals? Not very well. The reason for this is fairly straightforward. Like the national party, whose old, 1994 positions the Texas state platform of 2000 mimics, the supposedly energetic and determined Texified national Republicans have virtually no intention of attempting to carry out any of the controversial items on that platform. Gradually phasing out “the Social Security tax”? You don’t need me to tell you that this is not high on the list of the national party’s priorities! They are more likely to raise that tax to “save Social Security” than they are likely to dismantle the whole structure. This is why small-government conservatives are disillusioned with the GOP: the GOP does not follow the principles that things like the Texas state platform would lead you to believe it follows.
It follows very often an almost completely contrary set of principles, except when it comes to their common endorsement of a lunatic foreign policy. Bad foreign policy ideas seem to be the glue that holds the whole party together, even if they disagree about a lot of other things, which is not a result of Texification but is instead the product of the rise of interventionist ideas in the top levels of the party and the conservative movement.
Not only do the people who would support the things in the Texas state platform not have very much power in the national GOP, they have been progressively losing what little power they ever did have. The backlash against Big Government conservatism is coming, but it will probably be smaller than some of us expect, and we will not soon be hearing proposals to abolish HUD and HHS anytime soon or see legislation to return the country to the gold standard. Were the GOP actually committed to doing these things, it would become a bit easier to see my way to supporting them from time to time (provided they fixed their insane foreign policy ideas, didn’t shill for multinationals and started combating mass immigration–I’m hard to please, I know). Do I have any expectation that the party will pursue any of these goals in the future? Nope.
To read that platform and then see how George Bush campaigned for President and how he has governed in the last six years is to understand how completely divorced from the old positions and ideas of Republican conservatives Mr. Bush was then and has always been. To believe that this platform somehow represents the core of what today’s national GOP believes is to have not been paying attention for the past six years. To believe this, as Drum does, he would have to just keep recycling his own delusions about what his adversaries are interested in doing.
For a more up to date and accurate sense of what the national party claims to want (to say nothing of what they actually do, which obviously almost always falls well short of their platform claims), I invite you to look over the national 2004 platform, which stands out on domestic policy in its ho-hum, dull, me-too wonkery. (Obviously, its foreign policy section is full of looney ideas, but you already knew that.) It is precisely because that platform has almost nothing in common with the Texas platform Drum so loathes that I often find it impossible to support the GOP. In my eyes, the GOP has not only not become Texified (or whatever you’d like to call it), but has become progressively less “Texan” (and thus less conservative) in the last six years.
The Texas 2006 platform is interesting for how completely divorced it is from national Republican policies and the actual record of GOP governance. In addition to calling for revisions to the PATRIOT Act where it compromises constitutional rights (Kevin Drum must be horrified at the mad extremist proposal!) and an end to executive orders and the repeal of all previous executive orders (they didn’t get the “inherent powers” memo), which puts them completely out of step with the surveillance-state, autocracy-loving national party, the state party continues to support the phasing out of “the Social Security tax” while nothing could be farther from the minds of Republicans in Washington. The national platform of two years talks about how the program must be “stregthened and enhanced for our children and grandchildren”–why would we want that? For the “biggest” and “most determined segment” in the party, these people sure are lousy at getting their ideas accepted at the top levels. Maybe that’s because they’re not “the biggest” or “most determined” segment in the party, or at the very least they have nothing to show for it if they are all those things.
State party platforms that address national issues, such as Social Security, are typically unrepresentative of what the national party accepts and is willing to implement. Taking them as the true face and core of a national party is, well, silly and not worthy of a smart political observer, which is what Drum normally is.