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Tilting at Windmills

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November 29, 2008

SANFORD WANTS A SMALLER GOP.... The latest "what do we do now?" piece for the Republican Party comes from South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), who outlines his approach in a piece for the Politico today.

There's some predictable prescriptions -- Republicans should, apparently, try sticking to their principles -- but this one jumped out at me.

There needs to be a high standard for our franchisees. In other words, I believe Republicans and conservatives must agree on our core principles. St. Augustine called for 'unity in the essentials, diversity in the nonessentials, and charity in all things,' and while I believe there should always be a big GOP tent, there must also be a shared agreement on the essentials — including expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives.

In this regard, the tent cannot be so big as to include political franchisees who don't act on the core tenets of conservatism -- and as a consequence harm the brand and undermine others' work on it.

Now, I think I know what Sanford means here, and his point is not, on its face, ridiculous. Political parties have to stand for at least some core tenets, and it makes sense for parties to worry about diluting a party brand to the point that the label becomes meaningless.

There is, however, a context that Sanford seems oblivious to. Right now, fewer Americans identify with the Republican Party than at any point in years. The party has lost the White House; it's a minority in both chambers in Congress by wide margins; and it's a minority among the nation's governorships. Voters say they agree with the Democratic Party on just about every issue under the sun.

Sanford considers this landscape and suggests what Republicans really need to do is make the party even smaller.

If, in context, that means purging, say, convicted felons from the party ranks, it would clearly be sensible. But I don't think that's what Sanford means. If I understand his piece correctly, Sanford wants to see a Republican Party that shed itself of factions that fall short of the "core tenets of conservatism" -- as defined, presumably, by Mark Sanford -- so as to let voters know exactly what they'd get by way of the party label. What the GOP needs now, in other words, is fewer people.

If you say so, gov.

Steve Benen 3:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Comments

Gee, I took what he said to mean that, for oneexample, Republicans should do something besides spending every day bashing gays. (And henceforth, so they're sure to stick to their core principles, do so only on days that end in "Y".)

Posted by: K on November 29, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

It's always the same thing with those guys, conservatism never fails, it is only failed.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the only times conservatism fails is when it's actually tried.

Posted by: jrw on November 29, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Is he saying he wants to get rid of the factions that are undermining republican's core principles?

Who would be left?

Posted by: joey on November 29, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Who would be left?"

It's his way of getting Sarah Palin alone.

Posted by: npr on November 29, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

A surfeit of faith is what ails the GOP. Creating pragmatic solutions to intractable social conditions requires a faith in one's self and fellow man which is quite different than the dogmatic faith espoused by conservative christianists. Unless/until they can reconcile the two it will be a long trek in the wilderness for the Republican faithful.

Posted by: PatD on November 29, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, Women, Educated, Urbanites, West-coasters, East-coasters, Vegetarians, Pacifists, Bloggers, Uninsured, Unemployed, Middle-Class, Poor, Union-Members, and Foreclosed can go Cheney themselves.

Posted by: Winkandanod on November 29, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

i suspect he means dumping those few "pesky moderates" still standing...

this is great news 'cause obviously what the gop NEEDS right now is MORE litmus tests...they really are hellbent on downsizing to the point that they could "drown themselves in a bathtub."

steve doesn't mention geography so i will...the entire northeast is GONE, most of the west coast too...the midwest, mid-atlantic and hispanic west are quickly slipping away....

we've got one national party and one regional one..i'll leave discussing if that's a good thing to brighter minds...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on November 29, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

"expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives"

doesn't the entire Republican Party fail this test? or is it about who counts as "people"?

Posted by: tatere on November 29, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

People like Sanford can philosophize all they want. Give me a call when they rewrite the party platform.

Posted by: Terry on November 29, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

I do like his decision to quote Augustine, though most of the religious zealots in the party hate Augustine because "he was Catholic". Now, the problem he has is that the Republican party doesn't believe in any of the three items he stated. Anyone looking at the last 8 or 28 years would conclude that Republicans believe in:

1. Massive deficit spending;

2. International military adventurism; and

3. Involving the government in private affairs.

Sorry, Sanford.

Posted by: freelunch on November 29, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the Republicans could win back the public trust in record time by prosecuting Bush and Cheney on war crimes?? Perhaps if we all urged them to try it?

Posted by: N.Wells on November 29, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

jrw is right; this is a setup for declaring Bush and Bushism not "truly" conservative, and therefore the failures of the past eight years not a failure of conservatism.

Of course it is also, as observed, a way for Mark Sanford to set himself up as keeper of the flame, defender of the one true faith, etc.

One certainly hopes that the puppet-masters at Kos-Soros headquarters have taken note of this and are duly funneling cash via appropriate blinds and cutouts to the most reactionary factions of Sanford's counter-reformation, the better to ensure a very long trek in the wilderness for the tribes of Republicanism.

Posted by: bleh on November 29, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

I particularly noticed when I first read the cited paragraphs one of things freelunch mentioned: "limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives". Wouldn't making that a litmus test pretty much essentially exclude a large chunk of evangelical Christians from the party? It's hard to imagine the Republican Party without most evangelicals. I wonder what Sanford was thinking when he said that.

Posted by: TK on November 29, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

"limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives" would also include forbidding the NSA/telecom companies from spying on American citizens any more, here or abroad.

Posted by: impeachcheneythenbush on November 29, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't read the quote the same way. I felt it meant that at the very least, Republicans should agree on those three core principles. If not, you're probably in the wrong party. As for everything else, the tent is big enough for there to be room to disagree. But it's not what determines if you're a "Republican."

Posted by: DD007 on November 29, 2008 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

In response to the posts at 4:49 and 5:00 PM -
No, no, no! There would be no limitations on applying "Christian" principles, ie, politically useful propaganda and failing in the true meaning of those principles. Neither would there be any limit on spying on citizens.
No, those core principles would remain; as would the principles that have brought us reduced environmental protection, reduced worker protection, enriched the top 1% and pauperized the rest of the population, reduced medical protection, attempts to gut Social Security and the reckless use of military forces to ease the psychological problems of the CiC and enrich the VP.
THOSE principles would be kept. The ones followed by TR, Lincoln and Eisenhower; not so much.

Posted by: Doug on November 29, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK
and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives

Some restrictions apply. This offer is not valid for people who are not straight male Caucasian Protestant Republicans because they aren't really people anyway.

In other words, Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, Women, Educated, Urbanites, West-coasters, East-coasters, Vegetarians, Pacifists, Bloggers, Uninsured, Unemployed, Middle-Class, Poor, Union-Members, and Foreclosed can go Cheney themselves.

After they vote Republican, of course.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on November 29, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with TK and others above. I don't know much about Sanford or what kind of Republican he is. But just looking at his core principles flat-footedly, without a lot of context, they sound like a recipe for a fiscally conservative, pro-business, somewhat libertarian Republican party. Which is to say, one that doesn't spend a lot of time on "social" or "values" issues.

I wouldn't agree with such a program; and I don't think it would be a winning model for the foreseeable future, given the current economic circumstances. But it strikes me as a relatively honest form of Republicanism and one that could attract a much broader coalition ultimately than the current Christianist/faux-populist model.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on November 29, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

"limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives."

There's also another quote in the full article about "personal liberty".

Sanford is the guy recently youtubed laughing when asked about Sarah Palin. He's hard to figure out, coming as he does from perhaps the most evangelical and socially conservative state. Does he really mean returning to the philosophy of staying out of peoples' lives - as in jetisoning the persecution of gays and women's right to abortion? Or is he just such a blind hypocrite that he doesn't realize how stupid it sounds for a 2008 Republican to lay claim to the mantle of personal freedom?

If the former, he's up against a much stronger and more vocal contingent which favors throwing out the non-social conservatives and that's the side that the Limbaugh noise machine seems to be coming down on.

Kos has a great article quoting a Feb. 2006 Peggy Noonan article where she guffaws at the democrats' chances of survival and another from 2004 where she gleefully "savors" the prospect of the dems being stuck with no better than Barack Obama.

What makes me nervous is how easy it currently is to have the same over-confident attitude towards the repubs today. They're writhing around in pathetic agony, but how do we pin them down and drive the silver stake home?

Posted by: obsessed on November 29, 2008 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

"there must also be a shared agreement on the essentials including expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives."

He might as well say that he's for truth, justice, and the American way. Politicians like Sanford speak in such vague generalities that they don't actually say anything.

Posted by: AJB on November 29, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

I wholeheartedly agree -- the fewer Republicans, the better.

Posted by: dp on November 29, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

"expanding liberty" was the phrase that jumped out at me.

what is this supposed to mean?

because, as others noted above, republicans sure do love to push legislation which contracts liberty.

their biggest problem in re-establishing the GOP is that they cannot/will not admit where, how or why the party is in a state of collapse.

Posted by: karen marie on November 29, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you think it's reasonably clear that Sanford means, he wants a narrow field of officeholders and seekers, not "members" per se? If the latter, they might even be more likely to get elected but only if that "they weren't conservative enough" excuse turns out to be right (as in, correct.)

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on November 29, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sanford Wants a Smaller GOP

What do you know, for once I think a Republican is 100% correct. The smaller the GOP the better.

Posted by: the on November 29, 2008 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Sanford, the Imperial Wizard of the Republican Party.

Posted by: Ted76 on November 29, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

"expanding liberty" was the phrase that jumped out at me.

what is this supposed to mean? -- Karen Marie, @ 17:31


Anarchism for me and authoritarianism for thee?

The mention of St Augustine is interesting, since St Augustine was one of those fathers of the (Catholic) church, who claimed that the first trimester abortion was a sin but not murder, because "ensoulment" happened about the same time as quickening. That was against the earlier teachings -- to which our evangelicals subscribe -- that abortion is murder from the moment of conception. Could be another reason he's not so popular among talibangelicals (in addition to the simple "he's a Catholic", mentioned by freelunch, @16:22)

Posted by: exlibra on November 29, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

The lad's just not cut from the same bolt of cloth as his Daddy. -R. (If you do not understand that sentence, Goggle Terry Sanford)

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on November 29, 2008 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

As with many other posters it strikes me as very odd that he lists core Republican values as "expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives".

When have we ever seen a Republican party like that? Maybe Eisenhower?

But this is good. The Republicans do need to hash this out and come to an agreement as to the next direction they will take.

Posted by: JohnK on November 29, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

It looks to me like he wants to purge the religious fundamentalists and the Bush-Cheney people. After all, "expanding liberty" is reinstating the Constitution, "encouraging entrepreneurship" is stem cell research, and "limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives" is recognizing same-sex marriage and reproductive rights.

Posted by: Focus on November 29, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think he means kicking the fringe groups, the moonies and the scientologists out of the CNP.

Posted by: Jet on November 29, 2008 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

including expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives.

This means no "anti-abortion" litmus test, encouraging entrepreneurs of all ethnic and religious background, and respect for all serious religious tenets. It's a sort of "Schwarzenegger Republicanism". The fourth thing he should emphasize is honesty -- recent declines in House and Senate Republican numbers trace in part to some flagrant criminal activity.

Posted by: marketeer on November 29, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

The only core principles I can discern are "party first", "we are right, everyone else is wrong" and "you are either with us (Republicans) or with the terrorists."

The basic philosophy of the Republicans is that of a two year old child: every achievement, every success is totally the result of their own achievement, or that of their family or friends or fellow Republicans. For instance, some idiot wasted time inventing computers, but now I can make millions trading stocks in companies I don't care about via computer. I drive to work on roads and bridges that cost millions of dollars, feel enraged with "traffic" and the idea of spending money on mass transit or improved roads and bridges and hope and pray that the gas tax is reduced so I can stop worrying about inflating my tires and driving cautiously. Hopefully nobody will take my gun away so I can shoot at the idiots who get in my way. Above all I wish to listen to Rush on the radio, using air-waves that are hopelessly regulated by our government. But at least that regulation allows Rush to come through loud and clear without some local jerk broadcasting over my only contact with conservatism.

Posted by: tomj on November 29, 2008 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

The reason the conservative brand diluted itself in the first place was because it was destined to be a permanent minority, occasionally winning the WH but never the Congress. All those peripheral players were sought out only to win elections.

Posted by: beep52 on November 29, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Sanford considers this landscape and suggests what Republicans really need to do is make the party even smaller. "

Not the party. The party leadership. The failure of the republican party was that they lost the trust of the people. Conservative principles are still alive as evidenced by Prop 8 in California.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on November 29, 2008 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

"They're writhing around in pathetic agony, but how do we pin them down and drive the silver stake home?"

By delivering, by making government work, by making it part of the solution, not the problem, by listening and responding to people in trouble, by handling the inevitable problems that will arise, quickly and competently.

I don't think the Republicans got driven from office by their beliefs, necessarily, but because they were so totally and thoroughly incompetent and corrupt. And all it would take to bring them back into power again would be incompetence and corruption on the part of the Democratic majority.

Posted by: PaulB on November 29, 2008 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

"there must also be a shared agreement on the essentials -- including expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives"

The trouble with "essentials" like this is that you're going to find few people who disagree with them, in principle if not in specific practice. The statement is so vague as to be completely meaningless.

It would be interesting to look at his specific examples to see how they hold up. I know, for example, that his comment about Palin is pretty much bullshit. As for Health Savings Accounts as a solution to "health care affordability," that's just stupid. I haven't really kept up with what Jindal is doing, so I cannot comment on that, and he provides no specifics about Perry or Daniels.

As for his comments on fiscal conservatism and "borrowing from ... our grandkids," well, where the hell has he been for the past eight years when the Bush administration was doing precisely that?

Posted by: PaulB on November 29, 2008 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

"expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives. "

--
I wonder if the Republicans will ever acknowledge that in fact, they do none of these things, and many of their policies are actually against that. Part of their problem is simply that their supposed principles bear no relation to their practices, to the point that they are actually lying about what they believe. That level of cognitive dissonance is going to destroy them, or ought to. But they're trying their hardest not to acknowledge it.

Freedom. That would be amusing, if this wasn't the party whose president has made hash of the Bill of Rights.

Posted by: Petra on November 29, 2008 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have already agreed on their core tenets. They've completed the transfer of 90% of the nations' wealth into the hands of less than 10% of the population, they've looted the Treasury, abrogated the Bill of Rights and left two wars unwon. Their core tenets evaporated as soon as they muscled their way to first place at the trough. The Republicans should stick to their principles, Governor Sanford? First, they should have some, you idiotic tool.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on November 29, 2008 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

If Sanford wants to "limit the reach of government in people's everyday lives," then what does he intend to do about the abortion issue? The conservatives who he hopes to include in his new version of the GOP are fanatic on that subject, and have no qualms about government intrusion into the most intimate aspects of the lives of the citizenry, including our wombs.

Posted by: gizmo on November 30, 2008 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

It's wooden stake for vampires; silver bullet for werewolves. Silver stake for hairy vampires, maybe?

Posted by: Goose on November 30, 2008 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

i'm all for a smaller gop. get it down to one or two, and then fuhgeddabowdit.

Posted by: skippy on November 30, 2008 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

On topic: our country really does need two viable national parties. The Republican Party has made itself irrelevant, incoherent, and inconsistent far beyond the point of absurdity. Meanwhile, in only a few years, the Democrats will most likely devolve into the party of status quo and corporate interests, much as it was up through the debacle of 1994 when they lost both houses of Congress and the Speaker of the House lost his Congressional District.

The solution: a new party- from the left, not the right. A progressive party that combines the best of the Libertarians and left wing Democrats without albatrosses around their necks like the Steny Hoyers and Diane Feinsteins and Jay Rockefellers.

Posted by: Goose on November 30, 2008 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

...including expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives.

I'm inclined to think that this is standard GOP-speak for more international adventurism, more tax breaks for the wealthy, and continuing the elimination of regulations on industry. It's business as usual.

I doubt that he's thinking of breaking with the theocons. He's the Governor of South Carolina after all. I'm pretty sure that he didn't get elected by pissing off conservative Christians.

Posted by: AK Liberal on November 30, 2008 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Best laugh and truism by npr at 4:09.

If the party is constantly delineated from the right majority it will, by definition, contract as the minority is constantly proscribed from the "core beliefs" until it disappears up its own metaphorical arsehole.

As I've said so many times, there is no sense of irony in the Republican Party today.

When he says he doesn't want government reaching into people'e everyday lives it never crosses his mind, because of the moral certainty of his view, that laws covering sexual preferences, birth control, the choice of abortion, in vitro fertilization and the moral hazard of spare embryos, embryonic stem-cell research, or, even, religious freedom have anything to do with that.

What he means is no laws reaching into controlling poisonous or dangerous pollution, work practices or products; working hours, conditions and contracts; corporate irresponsibility, malfeasance and mismanagement. Certainly no laws pertaining to social responsibility, progressive taxation or upward mobility and education.

Yeah. A Party out of touch. Just egg them on. More power to 'em. Let's see who's got the balls to start a third party. Condemn these lunatics to the fringe of political life they've earned and deserve.

Posted by: notthere on November 30, 2008 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

Sanford says:

"In this regard, the tent cannot be so big as to include political franchisees who don't act on the core tenets of conservatism -- and as a consequence harm the brand and undermine others' work on it."

I am struck by the use of the terms "franchisees" and "harm the brand". So what he seems to be advocating is a corporate advertising model. If a mcrepublican group somewhere does not want to include animal fat in the salad, get rid of it.


Posted by: Marc on November 30, 2008 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

why does "getting gov out of people's lives" always include being involved with my reproductive rights and the civil rights of my gay friends?

Posted by: lilybart on November 30, 2008 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of certain Catholic Conservatives who are convinced the Catholism would be a better religion if they excluded people like, ..

... well, me.

Posted by: Lance on November 30, 2008 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

"In other words, Blacks, Hispanics, Gays, Women, Educated, Urbanites, West-coasters, East-coasters, Vegetarians, Pacifists, Bloggers, Uninsured, Unemployed, Middle-Class, Poor, Union-Members, and Foreclosed can go Cheney themselves."

"After they vote Republican, of course." Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1

Voting Republican is Cheney'ing themselves.

Posted by: Lance on November 30, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Unity in the essentials:
"expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people's everyday lives."

Diversity in the non-essentials"
Such as...reproductive rights?

What "diversity" can there be? Unless the expanding liberty part is loosely define as "freedom to live". Then again, diversity has always been a struggle for Republicans. Maybe Governor Sanford is confused as to the definition.

Even if he's welcoming baby-killers now....

Expanding Liberty... (no more drug war?)

Encouraging entrepreneurship... (public health care so people won't need to work for someone else to secure health insurance?)

Limiting the reach of government into people's lives... (wiretapping?)

Uh, Governor, your party had 8 years to try those nifty ideas. "Failure" doesn't begin to describe your party's record.

If you want those things, it is MUCH easier to change your party registration and I would welcome you with open arms given your newfound faith in the essential principles of good government.


Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 30, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

In regards to:

"...including expanding liberty, encouraging entrepreneurship and limiting the reach of government in people’s everyday lives"

and mentioned earlier by a commenter:
The trouble with "essentials" like this is that you're going to find few people who disagree with them, in principle if not in specific practice. The statement is so vague as to be completely meaningless.

..And that is exactly the point. I agree with all the comments on how the GOP has not lived up to these ideals, etc...

However, when you look at it from the Republican Party faithfuls' perspective, it makes total sense, just like progressives can make total sense of that statement from their perspective...

expanding liberty
Converting the rest of the world into Democracy (Bush brand of Democracy), Christianity (Evangelical brand) and Capitalism (GOP brand of capitalism). Those are the only valid belief systems (according to the Republicans)

encouraging entrepreneurship
Lower Taxes, Less Regulation, Tariffs on competition, subsidies for large exporters, favoritism in awarding no-bid contracts to the 'faithful', etc...

limiting the reach of government in people’s everyday lives
No government interference when it comes to allowing Christians to do pretty much what they feel like whether other people like it or not; no gun control, no limits on development of any kind, no rules or regulations that may interfere with their agenda, etc...

I'm sure there are a lot more topics that will come to mind that would make total sense from a GOP standpoint to fit in those categories.

Here on Steve's blog, we have pretty much expressed what it means to 'us', it would be interesting if an investigative reporter to ask Sanford what he actually has in mind, and to elaborate a little more on his 'essentials'.

Anybody up to that task?

Posted by: bruno on November 30, 2008 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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