Parties Without Purpose
By Stephen Tuttle | June 8, 2019
There was a time when political parties had a coherent philosophy. Or at least something we could describe in a sentence or two. And there were stark differences. Not so much anymore.
That philosophy is now identical for both the Republican and Democratic parties: Maintain self-protection above all else, and prioritize dollar signs instead of ideas or issues. Both parties are just special-interest fundraising machines.
We can occasionally get a glimpse of the ugly underbelly of both parties.
Republicans want to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms. It's to protect the sanctity of our elections, don’t you know. Except we now know they have a different objective altogether.
A hard drive of the late Thomas Hofeller, sometimes referred to by Republicans as the Michelangelo of gerrymandering, was recently discovered. It included a report from 2015 in which he outlined the real reason Republicans want the citizenship question. He said such a question would be “advantageous to Republicans and non-hispanic-whites” when redistricting. A census question specifically created to benefit a political party seems over the line, even by today's standards. (The Department of Justice denies Hofeller's report had anything to do with the census question, but it's quite a coincidence.)
Not to be outdone, the Democratic National Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCCC) recently announced they would blacklist any consultants or vendors who had worked to unseat an incumbent Democrat in a primary election. The majority of Democratic incumbents are older, white men; the majority of those trying to unseat them in primary elections are younger, minorities, and women.
So, the party that likes to call itself so inclusive and loves to show us how diverse it is … is apparently diverse enough, no new faces need apply.
Traditional conservative Republicanism began fading during the Reagan administration and vanished almost altogether with George W. Bush's adventuresome foreign and military policy, for which we are still paying with blood and treasure. That has now been replaced by what can only be called Trumpism, a philosophy that is yet to be accurately defined.
Democrats are even more splintered. The smallest of the splinters is the far left wing, but they're the loudest, which gives them the most attention and the biggest platform. New representatives who won in traditionally red districts in bright red states are left out of the mix. If you're a presidential candidate with the temerity to disagree with the new orthodoxy, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be happy to tell you to “sashay off.”
It's no wonder party registration keeps dwindling.
According to Pew Research, only 26 percent of registered voters are now Republicans, 33 percent are Democrats, and 37 percent are independent or unaffiliated.
Neither party has done anything to reverse those trends; they've simply circled the wagons and become ever more insular. How many times do we now read that congressional or legislative votes were made “along party lines?” It's party above country, party above constituents, party above everything.
What they have done is desperately beg for more money they can spend denigrating each other. That's pretty much the sum total of major party activity: raising money and attacking each other.
You'll be receiving the letters from the national campaign committees soon enough. The Republicans will want your money to ward of the evils of a Marxist takeover and ruination of the economy. The Democrats will want your money to protect us from a criminal president who's created a tariff economy at the expense of American consumers. Blah, blah, blah.
Since raising money is all they do, they're pretty good at it. In 2018, the Republican National Committee spent $326.6 million, and the Democratic National Committee spent a paltry $180 million. (Including spending from all sources, Democrats spent $2.5 billion and Republicans $2.2 billion.) The parties even have fundraising quotas — they call them goals — for incumbent members of Congress; and plum committee assignments can be dependent on how much you can raise for the beloved party.
Both parties try to appeal to the forgotten and ever-shrinking middle class, but neither have done anything much to help. The Republican party has done nothing to stop the president's trade wars though those wars will have the biggest negative impact on the brightest red states. The Democratic Party yammers away about the environment and poverty but has done little as both have worsened.
The reality is, neither political party has ever done a thing for any of us. Individuals from those parties, most often working together, can and have accomplished much. But the parties themselves have become an anachronistic impediment to any hope for progress.
The philosophy of today's Republican and Democratic Parties is simple (with apologies to JFK): Ask not what your party can do for you, ask how much you can donate to your party. The correct amount would be none.