Sunday, April 12, 2015

GOP and the Union

Last week saw the 150th anniversary of the Union victory in the Civil War, and a bevy of thinkpieces about the war as a whole.  Perhaps one of the more incendiary pieces was this essay by Harold Meyerson, which argued that today's Republican party was the party of the Confederacy:
Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.
As a view of contemporary trends, this picture has numerous distortions.

It's hard to say that the ideological Left and the agenda of the Obama administration (and a would-be Clinton administration) have not benefited from the "mega-donations of the mega-rich."  President Obama's boardroom progressivism has relied upon alliances with connected Wall Street players and other corporate interests.

And Meyerson's portrayal of the aims of the contemporary GOP is also somewhat problematic.  To look at only a couple examples:  Many Republicans are not opposed to efforts to alleviate poverty, but they doubt that the Left's preferred efforts to deal with poverty will be helpful over the long-term.  The fact that Republicans propose alternative policies to deal with poverty does not mean that they don't want to help limit it.  On education policy, anxiety about a federal takeover is hardly confined to Republicans. Americans left, right, and center are worried about putting education policy in the hands of unelected federal bureaucrats.

This portrait of the GOP is also troubled on a historical level.  For instance, Rich Lowry's 2013 book about Lincoln, Lincoln Unbound, argues that, contrary to Meyerson, there are substantial continuities between an opportunity-driven conservatism and Lincoln's policies.  Lincoln's case for economic uplift, popular prosperity, and the dignity of the individual has many resonances with contemporary conservatism.

No comments:

Post a Comment