An article at VOX answers some questions many of us have been wondering:
- Why has the administration and the Republican Party in general – lower level leaders like Kim Reynolds and other governors – been so inept in response to the Covid-19 crisis?
- Why has the response become a political issue rather than something that unites the country in opposition to our mutual enemy from nature the Covid-19 virus?
The simple answer is that since Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has morphed into an attack machine capable only of attacking enemies of their ideology. For today’s Republican, ideology is the only thing. Their existence is dependent are “owning the libs.”
On the other hand, the Democratic Party has morphed little from its roots. Democrats are still the problem solvers, the pragmatists and the party open to those who a better life for all. If anything in recent years Democrats in elective office have become more dependent on data, on science and on creating a society open and accepting of everyone.
Zack Beauchamp in his article at Vox elaborates on this, using the response to the coronavirus for illustration:
“How did the coronavirus become folded into the culture war in such a harmful way? One of the best explanations I’ve seen comes from David Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College. The GOP, Hopkins writes on his personal blog, is failing on coronavirus not by accident — but because the party was built in a way that produced failure.
“The contemporary Republican Party has been built to wage ideological and partisan conflict more than to manage the government or solve specific social problems,” Hopkins writes. “So perhaps it shouldn’t be shocking that an array of subjects, from what medical treatment might help COVID patients to how important it is to take measures protecting the lives of the elderly, have been drawn into the perpetual political wars.”
This analysis draws on Hopkins’s book Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, coauthored with Michigan State’s Matt Grossmann. In the book, Hopkins and Grossman argue that there’s a fundamental structural difference between the Democratic and Republican parties: While the former is a coalition of social groups, the latter is primarily a vehicle for a single cohesive ideological movement.
This difference makes it much easier for conservative Republicans to push the party to the fringes on the right than it does for leftist Democrats to do the same. But it also means that the GOP is less able to shift its policy approach to adapt to specific policy problems: It is so consumed by ideology, so preoccupied with the war on Democrats and liberals, that it cannot countenance cooperating with them to address a shared national problem. The Republican party needs a perpetual liberal enemy.”
The lesson here is not just that today’s iteration of the Republican Party will fail in response in this case but will ultimately fail in the face of any crisis. A short mental trip back to the George W. Bush administration reminds us of their utter failure to do anything in response to the financial crisis they themselves created.
We can also look at the inappropriate response to 9/11. Rather than use data to determine the real enemy, the Bush administration attacked a third party country and got us stuck in an occupation that devoured our military and our treasury. In both cases the inadequate responses were driven by rigid ideology.
In both cases pragmatic Democratic leadership pulled us out of these crises using data driven responses even in the face of opposition from the same Republican Party that created the crises.
Similarly we saw Bill Clinton’s administration step in to staunch a looming repression brought on by the George HW Bush administration.
Republicans are long on attack rhetoric, but their responses are all driven by a rigid ideology that is dictated to them by the wealthy and the corporations. Thus their answers seldom fit the situation and almost always make a small problem into a large crisis.
In this year’s election remember that Republicans do not solve problems, Republicans create problems. Pragmatic Democrats solve problems.