WASHINGTON, April 13, 2017 — In 1994, author Samuel Francis predicted the downward spiral of conservatism in the Republican Party in his book, “Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism.”
The disastrous 1992 electoral defeat of President George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton provided the context for Francis’s essays, which warned against novel variations of conservatism that were separate and distinct from the movement’s old guard.
These paleo-conservatives believed in a far more limited role for the national government that was in keeping with that envisioned by the republic’s founders.
Of the new conservative variants—whether they were “opportunity conservatives,” “neo-conservatives” or “compassionate conservatives”—Francis observed:
“Envision a far larger and more active central state … that makes it its business to envision a particular arrangement of institutions and beliefs and to design governmental machinery to create them … Such goals are not conceptionally distinct from those of the progressivism and the liberalism athwart which the American Right at one time promised to stand.”
He went on to predict:
“Eventually, having silently and unconsciously accepted the premises and goals [of the big-government left], it [conservatism] will also come to accept even the means by which the left has secured its dominance, and the very distinction between Right and Left will disappear.”
Last Tuesday, the Gallup organization found that Congress’s approval rating among Americans had fallen to 20 percent. According to Gallup, “The drop was driven mainly by a loss of support among Republicans, whose approval fell from 50% two months ago to 31% in April.”
Gallup observed, “The current drop in support among Republicans could be tied to failure by party leaders to fulfill campaign pledges on major pieces of legislation such as tax reform” and “replacing the landmark Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.”
As President Trump has noted many times, his electoral triumph in November rested on his ability to bring new voters into the ranks of the GOP and to energize the party’s conservative base.
The failure of Republican leaders in Congress to make good on their pledge to repeal dictatorial Obamacare, offering instead legislation preserving the law’s more draconian and toxic aspects, proves, as Francis predicted, the collapse of any “distinction between Right and Left.”
This will bring about one of two scenarios in the 2018 midterm elections: 1) the GOP confronts a re-energized Tea Party, which successfully challenges Republican leaders in the primaries, as was the case for Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014; 2) an angry and disheartened GOP base stays home in droves, as they did in the midterm election of 2007, ending Republican Party control of Congress that began in 1994.
“Beautiful losers” indeed.
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