The GOP’s great curse: Progressivism

Wisconsinite James Hulsey told Paul Ryan, “We [Republicans] have a majority in the House and Senate and it feels like nothing’s getting done." Lots of people are getting frustrated.

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Sen. John McCain, Teddy Roosevelt and Paul Ryan.

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2017 — GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is back home in Wisconsin with nothing to crow about. And his disappointed constituents are letting him know.

GOP Speaker Paul Ryan at a Wisconsin town hall meeting.

According to the Associated Press, Wisconsinite James Hulsey told Ryan, “We [Republicans] have a majority in the House and Senate and it feels like nothing’s getting done.”

The AP noted that polling in Ryan’s home district “show the speaker is less popular among Republicans in Wisconsin than President Donald Trump. Trump won Wisconsin by less than a percentage point, but he carried Ryan’s district by 10 points.”

The GOP-controlled Congress’s failure to repeal Obamacare is coming back to haunt them. That’s because Republican voters have long memories.


“The president [Barack Obama] has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.”

The GOP’s 2012 presidential and vice presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

So said Paul Ryan when accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for vice president in 2012.

The irony of his statement is that Romney’s Massachusetts-run health care scheme provided the template on which Obama based his signature insurance monstrosity. Had Romney been elected president, it’s unlikely he would have repealed Obamacare. Would a father kill his own child?

It’s equally unrealistic to assume Romney’s running mate, now Speaker of the House, would break a sweat pushing his members to make good their promise to repeal Obamacare.

The single vote defeating the GOP’s halfhearted repeal efforts in the U.S. Senate was cast by Arizona Senator John McCain. In 2000, having lost his party’s presidential nomination to George W. Bush, McCain contemplated leaving the GOP, forming a third party and running an insurgency campaign against Bush and Al Gore.

Sen. John McCain.

As a 2000 Washington Post article noted, McCain sought “to build a centrist faction within the GOP to mirror the moderate ‘New Democrats’ … in the same way reformist Teddy Roosevelt, McCain’s hero, battled conservative Republican, William Howard Taft, in 1912.”

The progressive Rough Rider was angry conservative Republicans in Congress were pushing his protégé, incumbent GOP President Taft, away from TR’s progressive, big-government agenda.

In his book “1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs—The Election that Changed the Country,” author James Chace wrote:

“If Taft could have approached his former mentor [TR] directly, confessed his anxieties about dealing with a Congress so dominated by right-wing Republicans that he was finding it impossible to fulfill the reformist policies of TR, he might then have urged Roosevelt to run for a third term. This would have prevented Roosevelt from challenging him for the presidency that Taft had so often loathed.”

For TR, the political equation was simple: If he ran a third-party insurgency for the presidency, he would strip votes away from Taft, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson would win.

Had Roosevelt defeated Taft, he believed the sheer power of his personality was enough to bend conservative GOP lawmakers to abandon the constitutional principle of limited government for the expansive and authoritarian reach of progressivism.

Either way, progressivism was the winner.

Wilson, the victor, would use the crisis of America’s entry into the First World War as the pretext to bundle all federal liabilities incurred during the conflict under a single “debt ceiling.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt used the Great Depression as a pretext to expand the federal government’s control over labor and the economy.

President Obama expanded the reach of government by confiscating one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the takeover of American medicine. His chief of staff, today’s mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, famously said the financial crisis of 2008 provided the perfect pretext to expand federal power even further.

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Sen. John McCain’s vote to preserve Obamacare was a tribute to the early 20th century progressive traditions established by his hero TR.

But Republican voters have the chance to undo more than a century of GOP progressivism by ending the careers of big-government Republicans in the primaries of 2018.

Like the incumbent GOP Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

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