05 April 2013

Does NYC need a Republican party?

The arrest of a Democratic state senator for allegedly trying to bribe his way onto the Republican primary ballot for the New York City mayoral election has exposed the Grand Old Party's hollowness in the financial capital of the world. As Errol Louis notes in an op-ed for the Daily News, Michael Bloomberg, a "RINO" if there ever was one, needed only 48,000 votes in the metropolis to win the Republican mayoral nomination back in 2001. After winning power, he eventually saw no more need to bother with the Republican label. It apparently requires so much less effort to win a major-party line that people like the disgraced senator are willing to play dirty to get on the ballot. Louis worries that the situation endangers the two-party system on which healthy, responsible government depends. His solution is to revitalize the Republican party. So long as the NYC GOP is little more than a shell, he argues, it creates a power vacuum for " rats, roaches, thieves and delinquents" to exploit. For New York to become a one-party city isn't an option for Louis; abuses of power would become inevitable. Obviously, the Democratic party should not rule unchallenged. Credible challengers should always be welcomed, but Louis shows a limited imagination when he assumes that opposition to Democrats must take a Republican form. He urges Ed Cox, the state GOP leader, to begin an intensive recruiting campaign to triple party membership in the Big Apple. This won't require Republicans to tailor their message to a populace that would seem to have repudiated Republicanism in its more familiar form. Louis believes that there are plenty of people in New York who "believe in the GOP message" but haven't been invited to participate or contribute before. He seems to believe that there's a natural or automatic constituency for Republicanism anywhere in America.

There are plenty such people, not only billionaires. Shop owners tired of taxes and regulations, parents sick of failing schools and concerned about public safety and constantly rising taxes and fees. Even on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, New York can only be better off with a healthy debate over policies and philosophies.

Louis's last point is the most dubious one, since the healthiness of the debates we hear on those "social issues" elsewhere is open to question. Overall, he seems to believe in an essential bipolarchy opposing advocates of an ever-expanding government against those always pushing back. His implicit argument is that any real opposition to Democrats must take an anti-"big government" form. This caricatures both the Democrats and the nature of American politics.

A big part of our problem nationwide is a tendency to reduce all questionable policies and programs to a generic "big government" essence, and to assume that to change or end any problematic policy you must oppose the entirety of "big government." Bipolarchy encourages such either/or thinking and blinds both sides to the particular merits or flaws of any given program. Just as Republicans tend to oppose everything that smacks of "big government," Democrats offer a blanket defense of the entire system on the assumption that any brick removed from the edifice will let the laissez-faire barbarians in to run amok. Wouldn't New York City be better off if an opposition party raised concerns about failing schools or public safety without automatically railing against every tax or regulation? Or if an opposition party did argue for a systematic review of taxes and regulations but took the liberal (or libertarian) side on social issues? The reflexive assumption that 21st century Republicanism is an essential and necessary element in American politics is a dangerous one, not because Republicanism itself is dangerous but because the assumption indicates a catastrophic conceptual bankruptcy. To believe that political debate in the U.S. must always take Republican-vs-Democrat or "big government"-vs-"limited government" form is to believe that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Whoever believes it has been brainwashed, not necessarily by a malevolent power but by an unregulated rush of messages and attitudes that threatens to drown out all alternative voices and ideas. There's still time for New York to take another path, and there may be no better time to do it than now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

tired of taxes and regulations

This is a right-wing meme that I am getting tired of. These people love to talk as if taxes were nothing more than a punishment, rather than what pays for our government's operation and the maintenance of our transportation system, sewer system, etc. They insist that regulations are bad when the alternative - allowing amoral, unethical "businessmen" do whatever they want in search of profit - no matter the consequences.

Every time I hear or read some low-brow, unintelligent moron spout this nonsense, I am tempted to punch them very hard in the teeth because they are not human beings and they don't deserve to even be expected to be treated like human beings.