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What Is Liberalism and Where Did It Come From? | Main | Sure Why Not
February 03, 2014

Why doesn't the GOP have someone like Nigel Farage?

This relates in a way to the post Ace put up just below.

A fellow co-blogger wondered why the GOP House doesn't have someone like the UKIP's Nigel Farage in its ranks, a fearless firebrand who'll denounce the Democrat agenda in ringing tones.

You can thank the two-party system for some of that. Farage can be a firebreather because he's operating in a parliamentary system and only has to represent the UKIP, which has a fairly narrow and well-defined platform. The GOP and the Democratic party don't have that luxury -- they have to represent broad swathes of voters, many of whose points of view not only differ but are in fact sometimes in direct opposition. Even in "conservative" districts, a Representative is bound to some extent by his Party. The Tea Party is about as fractious as the GOP gets, and we've all seen how the rest of the GOP likes those people.

The Democrats benefit more from this kind of situation than the GOP does, for the simple reason that the Democrat platform has always depended on buying votes with broad-brush populism (the "party of the poor", the "party of the common man", all that rot). Democrats are perfectly comfortable using coalition-building to govern because they really have no core, animating philosophy. The latter-20th century Democrat party was explicitly tied to Marxism (whether they admit it or not), but when the USSR imploded Marxism took on a bad odor and the Democrats had to cast about for something else, and that something else turned out to be "gender/class/race" and "social justice". It's the same old wine in a new bottle, really, but it helps that most Democrats don't even believe their own bullshit for the most part. They are a coalition of interest groups, and always have been. Their power lies in giving each interest group a big-enough slice of the pie to keep them from bolting: women, minorities, unions, eco-nuts, "intellectuals", etc.

Republicans have always had a tougher sell. The party was born simply as an oppositional force: the Not-Democrats. The GOP was created because the Whigs failed, and the two-party system needed two parties. The GOP's "animating philosophy", to the extent that it even has one, has changed several times over the decades. During the Cvil War, it was maintaining the Union and preventing the secession of the South (The GOP was born as a big-central-government, anti-Federalist party. How's that for irony?) Then it became the party of plutocrats and robber barons during the Gilded Age. Then Calvin Coolidge made the GOP what it still is in some respects: a pro-defense, pro-business, low-tax, minimal-federal-bureaucracy party (at least in theory). But the GOP has never really learned how to govern by coalition, not even during the Reagan years. The Tea Party focus on federalism, small government, and government restraint is actually a fairly new development in GOP thinking. Ronald Reagan shared this vision to some extent, but it's never been widely held by the Party as a whole.

Then there's the fact that "collegiality" trumps principle in Washington, D.C. Most Congresscritters dream of being Senators or Governors some day, and you don't move up the ladder (or raise campaign funds) by pissing people off.


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posted by Monty at 08:05 PM

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