The wheel is spinning for the Republicans

By Steve Martinovich
web posted July 19, 1999

About a decade ago or so liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote a book which purported that history and economies move in grand cycles measured in decades. As a revelation it was hardly new. Several ancient Greek and Roman historians believed that human history could be best explained by imagining a big wheel.

The top of this wheel, says the theory, represents the high point of a civilization. Unfortunately for us the wheel of history turns and things begin to get worse, slow at first, but then picking up speed until a civilization reaches the bottom. Inevitably, however, the wheel keeps turning and slowly things get better again and a society is once again at its pinnacle. Rinse and repeat.

Depending on the speed of the wheel, those ancient historians thought, cycles of history could move quickly -- mere decades -- or slowly -- making those high points and corresponding low points stretch out longer.

Depending on how much stock you put into this theory, it might remind of you of today's Republican Party. The wheel is turning much faster for our friends in Washington, D.C., but it is turning nonetheless and the Republicans are approaching the bottom of that wheel mighty quickly after peaking just a few years ago.

A signpost in that decline was Senator Bob Smith's recent announcement that he would leave the Republicans because of a lack of principle in the party, and mount a new challenge for the presidency in a new yet-to-be formed third party, one much more conservative than today's supposed representative of the right wing in America.

As David Limbaugh pointed out in a WorldNetDaily piece last week, Smith's departure from the Republican Party is no great loss. His candidacy could charitably be described as a dark horse in the midst of several other long shots and his leaving will likely see few followers. But while Smith may not be a Moses -- to use Limbaugh's term -- it does underline the morass his now former party has gotten itself into.

It reminds me a lot of what happened in Canada nearly eleven years ago. Back then Canada was largely a two party state with the Liberal Party and Progressive Conservatives taking control of the big chair every few years with the socialist New Democrat Party perennially playing the role of Chicken Little in opposition.

Unlike today, back then the Progressive Conservatives were a force to be reckoned with. Two straight majority governments under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney ended nearly two decades of largely uninterrupted Liberal rule under Pierre Trudeau. The problem was, as it is with the Republicans today, the Progressive Conservatives had no real discernable ideology other than to do their best to make sure the Liberals didn't recapture the government.

Right about the same time a fledging party was launched thanks to the hard work of Preston Manning and later Deborah Grey, leader and deputy leader respectively of the Reform Party, a grass roots and populist right wing party which has since become the Official Opposition in Canada and displaced the Progressive Conservatives as an alternative choice in many parts of the country. Will this happen to the Republicans? It is incredibly unlikely, but the problem of ideology, as with Canada's conservatives, is not going to go away.

Canada's Reform Party managed to do it because they have a largely consistent ideology. Smaller government, and end to the punishing levels of taxation Canadians still face, individual choice...all pillars the Republican Party used to promote seriously with words and action. It's an ideology which has not been actively promoted by the party, with the exception of 1994's Contract with America, since the days of Reagan.

The problem with the Republican Party isn't George Bush, Bob Dole or George W. Bush -- the latter who Limbaugh holds will turn out to be more conservative than people expect -- it's the fact that the party simply stands for nothing. For a conservative party, the Republicans aren't trying to conserve anything. They are as guilty as President Bill Clinton and the Democrats in reducing the freedom of the average American (as an example, of the 160 or so bills currently being considered in Congress on the future of the Internet, a good number came out at the behest of the Republicans), building the welfare state and engaging in regular Beltway politics.

Regardless of whether Bush wins the GOP nomination and later the White House, the Republicans and Americans in general are in a jam. Without a clear and cogent platform built on a rational philosophy, much as the Contract with America was, it is a doomed force unable to offer a proper answer to the Democrats. That means that Americans will have no reasonable choice to statist politics.

The bottom of that wheel is looking closer.

Steve Martinovich is the Editor in Chief of Enter Stage Right. Write him at

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