For a while now I’ve arrived at a way of understanding GOP politicians and their supporters–a way I expect many will consider proof of bias and/or irrationality. I want to describe the lens I use to understand the GOP, and lay out the reasons for this–including the reasons a more, seemingly reasonable approach doesn’t seem to work.
Let me begin by first discussing and describing the reasons people adopt specific political positions. Normally, they do so because they believe such a position is good for the country, and, relatedly, they oppose a position because they believe it is bad for the country. “Good/bad” in this sense generally refers to things like improving economic conditions, improving education, increasing the access and affordability to health care and housing, etc. To determine good or bad policies, most people rely on their values and and political principles. Of course, self-interest is also a key factor. That is, people support or oppose a policy to the degree to which it helps or hurts their personal interests. My guess is that personal interest is the biggest factor for most people.
While this may be true, political parties and politicians should rely more on what they believe is in the best interests of the country. Certainly, self-interest, in the form of power and wealth shouldn’t be the primary basis for their positions. Generally, if a party or politician supports a policy simply because it increases or protects power and wealth, that would undermine the argument for such a policy. Therefore, while self-interest is a legitimate reason for supporting a policy, it can’t be the only one–not if broad support is the goal.
For most of my adult life, I have assumed that Democrats and Republicans consistently chose their policy positions based on a genuine interest in the welfare of the country. Again, the quest for power always plays a role–and sometimes may supersede the country’s interests–but I didn’t doubt that the country’s interests were consistently a key driver.
Since Trump became President, I no longer feel that way about the GOP.
Normally, I would want to lay out a thorough argument for this position, but I’m impatient to describe the lens I use to understand the current GOP, so I’m only going to provide a brief explanation. In a nutshell, the GOP, in supporting Trump, have revealed that they don’t, or never did, value most of the political principles they’ve espoused–as Trump has violated, sometimes egregiously, them. At this point, I don’t know what Trump could have done that would have caused the GOP to oppose him. (Low taxes seems to be the one exception, although Trump never violated this principle.) Additionally, my sense is that the GOP really doesn’t seem serious or interested in solving major problems.
To keep and maintain power, they seem to have employed the following strategy. First, when Democrats are in power, obstruct and stonewall, so very little gets done. Doing so will deny any success that Democrats can use to win votes, without losing votes for the GOP. (Many voters seem to blame both parties when little is done in Congress–but they also don’t blame incumbents very often.) Second, go all in on the “culture wars.” I will have a lot to say about the culture wars–indeed, the political lens I use relates to my current understanding of this. I’ll go into that in the next post.