The Republican Brain Drain

In 1980 Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination. He beat a future president, George H.W. Bush; two future Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker and Bob Dole; and two lesser-known congressmen. This year Mitt Romney won the GOP nomination. He beat a radio host, a disgraced former House speaker, a defeated Senate candidate, a former appointee of Obama administration, a tongue-tied Texas governor, a prevaricating religious zealot who happens to serve in the House of Representatives and a cranky libertarian doctor. Where did all the talent go? (source: Richard Cohen – The Washington Post – 25/09/2012)

Until the Republican Party can answer this question, it makes no sense to continue to carp about Romney and the startlingly incompetent presidential campaign he’s running. His faults as a politician are manifest. He is robotic, unknowable (his own wife asserted at national convention “he made me laugh” and then failed to cite a single humorous moment), ideologically incoherent and severely out of touch with the average American. He is his party’s nominee because, like the one-eyed man in the valley of the blind, he is just the best of the worst. Since Republicans are so focused on individual and not on the system that produced him, they miss the real problem. The system in this case is the series of incredibly damaging primaries and caucuses that, in the crucial early stages, produce a candidate who could sweep Bavaria. The Iowa caucuses alone take the GOP so far to the right that it all but dooms the winner. Romney had to vow to stop thinking. He had to virtually declare himself anti-Hispanic (criticizing Texas for providing tuition discounts to college-age children of illegal immigrants). While he has now moderated his approach, it is a bit late. Hispanic is not Spanish for Stupid. Across the board, Romney pandered to the right. He did so on guns, abortion and even Iran. A GOP candidate has to oppose same-sex marriage, deny global warming and insist, against all evidence, that local control of education is the best. The only way around these positions is to skip the Iowa caucuses entirely. It is no place for a moderate. It is, really, no place for a thinking person. It’s just preposterous that Iowa, 30th in population among the states, gets to be the gatekeeper for Republican Party and, in a sense, entire nation. The list of Republicans who looked at Iowa’s daunting demographics and did not run is more distinguished than those who did. At one time or another, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain (who was forced to drop out) were front-runners. Can you think of any 2 people less qualified for the presidency? How about Ron Paul, another front-runner, or Mad Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry, the cement-mouthed governor who would eliminate three Cabinet offices, if only he could remember them? How about Rick Santorum, a fun guy, who actually beat Romney in Iowa, or Jon Huntsman, a decent man with shallow political experience and, it seemed, aptitude?

None of these candidates were remotely qualified for the highest office in the land. Arguably, Romney was the exception and that’s whole point. He won just by showing up. He beat a bunch of nobodies. This is how GOP wound up with such a weak candidate, one who espouses extreme positions he does not for a moment believe. Open the window and listen. You will hear the moans and groans of Republican officials and their trained pundits. But where were these people when their field of oddballs was being assembled? Why were they so silent when Hispanics and women were being told to shove it and the long-dead Darwin was being debated? More to the point, maybe, how come they put up with a primary and caucus system, Iowa first, New Hampshire second, that seemingly was designed by a sly Democrat? The answer is that they do not have the courage nor the intellectual integrity to stand up to know-nothing (dominant) wing of Republican Party. They have designed a system where, politically speaking, the lowest common denominator wins. We are all the poorer for it. Contrast the candidates of yore with the collection that took the field this year. Republican Party has had a brain drain so that now its highest intellectual achievement is, like an infant in Terrible 2s, simply to say no to everything, especially taxes. To paraphrase Marx, rise up, GOP moderates. You have nothing to lose ….. but losing. 


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

10 Responses to The Republican Brain Drain

  1. When I joined the staff of National Review as a lowly associate in 1984, the magazine, and the conservative movement itself, was a fusion of two different mentalities. On the one side, there were the economic conservatives. These were people that anybody following contemporary Republican politics would be familiar with. They spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value. They admired risk-takers. They worried that excessive government would create a sclerotic nation with a dependent populace. But there was another sort of conservative, who would be less familiar now. This was the traditional conservative, intellectual heir to Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Clinton Rossiter and Catholic social teaching. This sort of conservative didn’t see society as a battleground between government and the private sector. Instead, the traditionalist wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government. Because they were conservative, they tended to believe that power should be devolved down to the lower levels of this chain. They believed that people should lead disciplined, orderly lives, but doubted that individuals have the ability to do this alone, unaided by social custom and by God. So they were intensely interested in creating the sort of social, economic and political order that would encourage people to work hard, finish school and postpone childbearing until marriage. Recently the blogger Rod Dreher linked to Kirk’s essay, “Ten Conservative Principles,” which gives the flavor of this brand of traditional conservatism. This kind of conservative cherishes custom, believing that the individual is foolish but the species is wise. It is usually best to be guided by precedent. This conservative believes in prudence on the grounds that society is complicated and it’s generally best to reform it steadily but cautiously. Providence moves slowly but the devil hurries

    (…..) Some people blame bad campaign managers for Romney’s underperforming campaign, but the problem is deeper. Conservatism has lost the balance between economic and traditional conservatism. The Republican Party has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition. It appeals to people as potential business owners, but not as parents, neighbors and citizens.

  2. In a few days, as you may have heard, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will go head-to-head in their first presidential debate. What I most want from it isn’t fireworks, though I’m as big a fan of political theater as the next hack. It’s a word, one that has gone sadly out of vogue over recent decades and been mostly absent from this campaign. Sacrifice. And I’m not holding my breath. Romney, in his convention speech, never uttered it, and Obama, in his, said those three syllables just once, in a telling context. He thanked servicemen and -women who were fighting or had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for what they’d risked and endured, a sacrifice limited to them and their families and not shared by the rest of us, who enjoyed tax cuts even as the wars’ costs drove the federal debt ever higher. It’s odd. We revere the Americans who lived through World War II and call them the “greatest generation” precisely because of the sacrifices they made. But we seem more than content to let that brand of greatness pass us by. Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the end of his presidency, warned Americans about “plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.” “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow,” he said, as the writer Evan Thomas recalls in a new biography, “Ike’s Bluff.” But the last president to make a truly robust call for sacrifice was ridiculed for it. That president, Jimmy Carter, suggested only that we turn down our thermostats a tad and guzzle a bit less gas, and in July 1979 observed, “Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.” Then came Ronald Reagan, whose many great contributions to America were coupled with less great ones, including the idea, which has dominated our political discourse ever since, that we should speak only of morning in America and that optimism, like virtue, is its own reward. It isn’t, not if it crowds out realism, which we need more of these days. The size of the federal debt and the pace of its growth can’t be ignored. Economists disagree on how soon and aggressively to tackle them, but not about the eventual need to (…..)

  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: In retrospective, the 2008 Wall Street debacle was more than a financial crisis. It created a conundrum i.e., the economy can no longer be fixed easily as in the past. The public debt reached unsustainable levels of 100% plus of GDP that requires a combination of tax increase and cuts in government spending be welfare or military. Romney and Obama’s economic teams know quite well that AUSTERITY is inevitable whoever wins the election. Here is how the game is played at the Main street. Every household in America knows quite well the macro economic situation described above. They are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. At the collective level, households and individuals are postponing consumption and increasing savings. It doesn’t matter whether the FED continues printing money and artificially lowers down interest rates. The only effect is to prop up the stock market and benefit the very rich, the 1% posse, while depressing savings of the middle class with negative interest rates.

    At the end of the day, the FED of Ben Bernanke is practicing a TRICKLE DOWN monetary policy or income redistribution in reverse. It is making the rich even richer while making the middle class poorer. Or to put in another way, taking money from retired baby boomers and giving to Romney’s friends. Not an ideal receipt to induce a buying spree by the middle class if Obama is reelected in November.

  4. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth.” President Obama at Democratic National Convention, Sept. 6;

    Is anyone in America gullible enough to believe this? What defines this campaign, in part, is a yawning gap between the political rhetoric and the country’s budget problems. And it’s not just Obama. Mitt Romney is also playing. The consequences are that the victor will either sidestep those problems or, by attacking them forcefully, shock an unprepared public. Perhaps the first presidential debate, on Wednesday, will unmask and discredit the consensus against candor, though this seems doubtful. It is said of war that truth is the first casualty; that also applies to this campaign. Let’s imagine what Obama would have to say to merit his claim of ruthless truth-telling (…..) The chasm between stump rhetoric and governing realities will haunt whoever wins. It also defines a dilemma of democracy. People want their leaders to tell the truth, but they often don’t want to hear the truth. Genuine leaders escape this trap by persuading public opinion to acknowledge distasteful problems.

    But these leaders are rare. Most pursue immediate popularity over truth even if this deepens long-term public mistrust.

  5. Frustrated over the inability of political leaders to find common ground on even the most pressing national issues, Americans have developed a long list of people or political practices to blame for the fact that government doesn’t seem to work anymore. But the real problem is something that’s not high on most such lists, something that’s far more crucial. We’re electing the wrong people, they complain. There are no leaders any more. There’s too much money in politics. Too many corporations, labor unions, special interests and billionaires. Too many right-wingers, or left-wingers, in Congress, on television, on the Internet — and they’re all zealous and nasty. Too many Americans only talk to people who already agree with them. And so forth. Every observer has his or her own pet reason for the failure of the federal government to function. If any attempt is made to assess the problem as a whole, each side complains about “false equivalence” and doubles down on blaming the opposition. It’s not that the villains they’ve identified don’t share in the blame, because they’ve all played a part in the unraveling of government.

    The problem, however, is much deeper than any of these individual elements: it’s the political system itself that is at fault. The problems with governance will never be solved until we turn that system upside down and start over.

    While the United States is actually a Republic, with the attendant constitutional constraints on the powers of the majority, its political system is also based on a fundamental underlying democratic principle: that the people themselves will choose their leaders and thus indirectly determine the policies of their government. Because the federal government’s most important powers – to declare war, to establish tax policies, to create programs, to decide how much to spend on them, to approve treaties, to make the final decisions about who will head federal agencies or sit on the Supreme Court — are all Congressional powers, it is only by being able to select members of the Senate and the House of Representatives that the people are able to manage the levers of government. Yet despite the repeated and urgent warnings of the Republic’s founders, we have created a system that seriously undermines that democratic principle and gives us instead a government that is unable to deal with even the most urgent problems because the people have been shoved aside in the pursuit of partisan advantage. In some ways our system has come to resemble those multi-party parliamentary systems in which the tail (relatively small groups of hard-liners) is able to wag the dog. What Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison all agreed on was the danger of creating political parties like the ones we have today, permanent factions that are engaged in a constant battle for advantage even if that means skewing election results, keeping candidates off the ballot, denying voters the right to true representation and “fixing” the outcome of legislative deliberations (…..)

  6. (…..) “Romneys are, by nature, an adventurous breed,” Mitt Romney proclaimed with no apparent irony in his 2004 book “Turnaround.” Today that assertion is hard to square with the author’s stiff persona and his risk-averse path to the presidency.

    But Romney’s appetite for boldness marks his governorship, as does his sudden loss of that appetite; and even when policy risk-taking gave way to presidential ambition, perhaps it could be said that Romney was ahead of his time: years before the emergence of the Tea Party, he could see where the Republican Party was headed, and with an audacious turn to the right the Massachusetts governor was there waiting for it.

    Should a president-elect Mitt Romney arrive in Washington with the apolitical C.E.O. orientation that he brought to the Massachusetts Statehouse in 2003 — and with nothing in his record to suggest that he, any more than Obama, can change a political culture “from the inside” — he will almost certainly encounter the same headwinds from the conservative flank of his party that seemed to blow him off course during his term as governor. After four years of Obama, the G.O.P. natives on Capitol Hill are restless. Their dutiful but fidgety optimism was bluntly expressed in a conversation I had with Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho, a freshman, an outspoken Tea Party star and, like Romney, a Mormon. “Everything in Romney’s background tells me he knows how to go into an organization that’s not working and make it work,” Labrador told me. But to Labrador, a Romney presidency could “make it work” only by pursuing a resolutely rightward course. He warned: “If Romney comes in here and feels like he has to capitulate and govern from the middle of the road, not only will it be disheartening: I predict that you will see the conservatives in the House rise up. We’ve been pretty quiet — everybody claims we’ve been rambunctious, but we’ve been pretty quiet. I think you’ll see something different.”

  7. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Reading the comments below, one conclusion. The election is over. Mitt Romney has lost his bid for the presidency of the US. Fox TV will have a though time raising audience in the next four years.

  8. AAC: Always remember the particular audience of the publication you are reading. This one is almost entirely pro-Obama.

  9. Daily Reader: Fox will always have an audience. There are always angry people looking for someone to hate and scapegoat.

  10. If in four weeks a president-elect Mitt Romney is seeking a Treasury secretary, he should look here, to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Candidate Romney can enhance his chance of having this choice to make by embracing a simple proposition from Fisher: Systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs), meaning too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks, are “too dangerous to permit.” Romney almost did this in the first debate when he said the Dodd-Frank Act makes TBTF banks “effectively guaranteed by the federal government” and constitutes “the biggest kiss that’s been given to — to New York banks I’ve ever seen.” Fisher, who has a flair for rhetorical pungency, is more crisp: There are 6,000 American banks, but “half of the entire banking industry’s assets” are concentrated in five institutions whose combined assets amount to almost 60 percent of the gross domestic product. And “the top 10 banks now account for 61 percent of commercial banking assets, substantially more than the 26 percent of only 20 years ago.” The problems posed by “supersized and hypercomplex banks” may, Fisher says, require anti-obesity policies equivalent to “irreversible lap-band or gastric bypass surgery.” The land of TBTFs is “a perverse financial Lake Wobegon” where all crises are “exceptional,” justifying “unique” solutions that are the same — meaning bailouts. This incurs “the wrath of ordinary citizens and smaller entities that resent this favorable treatment, and we plant the seeds of social unrest.”

    Fisher cites Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England who calculates this: The assumption that certain banks have implicit TBTF status gives them preferential access to investment capital. In 2009, these silent subsidies enjoyed by TBTFs worldwide approached $2.3 trillion in value. Haldane notes a parallel between financial systems and epidemiological networks: Normal epidemiology involves “focusing preventive action on ‘super-spreaders’ within the network to limit the potential for systemwide spread.”

    Endorsing the axiom (attributed to Napoleon) that one should “never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence,” Fisher says that TBTF banks “are sprawling and complex — so vast that their own management teams may not fully understand their own risk exposures, providing fertile ground for unintended ‘incompetence.’ ” Fisher’s rejoinder to those who impute “economies of scale” to such banks is that there also are “diseconomies of scale.” Fisher, among many others, believes the component parts of the biggest banks would be “worth more broken up than as a whole” (…..)


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