Short-Term Thinking: The Problem With Republicans

Long- and Short-Term ThinkingThe spectacle of Republicans coming up with a new reason for not allowing the late Justice Scalia’s seat to be filled is funny in its way. Greg Sargent summed it up in an article yesterday, Republicans: The Next President Should Fill Scalia’s Seat. Correction: The Next Republican President Should. As he noted, “What’s really striking here is how effortlessly the rationale that Senate Republicans themselves offered — for months and months on end — for not acting on Garland this year has been tossed out the window.” It does show that they lack any kind of base ideology other than the gaining of power so that they can give more money to their rich backers. But more important is that it shows how focused they are on short-term thinking.

This is nothing new. Remember the last debt ceiling rise? John Boehner sacrificed his political career (not much of a sacrifice, but still) in order to get the debt ceiling raised. Paul Ryan just became Speaker of the House. So the Republicans used that as cover for doing this. But in 2017, what will the Republicans do? It’s always short-term thinking with them. They just want to get through the next term — and sometimes just the next day or two. It’s really amazing to watch.

Long History of Republican Short-Term Thinking

But we can go back much further to see the short-term thinking of the Republicans. Their entire strategy to gain power is based on white Christian resentment. And this made sense during the years of Reagan and the elder Bush. But even at that time, they should have known that they needed to start pivoting. They haven’t. It took them until after losing the 2012 election to even think about serious outreach to Latinos. But there are two important things about that. First, that was all about immigration reform — something their rich donors want. Second, they did nothing about it.

The truth is that they are unwilling to risk upsetting their rabid but declining base. Again: it’s short-term thinking. If ever they had an opportunity to sacrifice the short-term for the long-term, it was this election. But instead, they clung on to the hope that they could win the presidency. They really seem as though they think that if they can just get control of Washington for 4 years, they can enact everything they want and the future will be saved. Just four years and they can roll back all that horrible (Popular!) legislation from the last 80-odd years and finally America will be its True Self.

Do Republicans Even Have a Long-Term Plan?

It really isn’t clear what the Republicans want to do beyond rolling back the New Deal and Great Society — allowing ever more money to be funneled to the rich. I suspect that they don’t actually have any other ideas. Even conservative intellectuals seem focused on what’s supposedly wrong with liberal policy rather than what is right with conservative policy. (There might be a reason for that!)

There is something infantile about Republicans. You probably know about the Marshmallow Challenge. It’s a test given to children to see how long they are willing to put off immediate reward to get a greater one. (See Alfie Kohn on the problems with the test.) Something similar is going on with the Republicans. They aren’t willing to accept even the smallest amount of pain to look out for the long-term health of their party. It’s short-term thinking — always.

It’s an America Problem

But maybe the real fools are the Democrats. The truth is, the American people don’t seem to notice. Imagine if Donald Trump became president and tanked the economy. In 2020, the Democrats would likely regain power (assuming things hadn’t stabilized). But we would be at another (worse) normal. And if the economy went into recession in 2024, the thoughtful American voter would put the Republicans back in power. It isn’t just the Republican Party that suffers from short-term thinking.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

7 thoughts on “Short-Term Thinking: The Problem With Republicans

  1. That’s the problem with mobilizing a political party’s base. The base doesn’t think strategically. Any Republican who put strategy over pandering would lose their next primary.

    The party elites did seem to have a strategy. It hinged on Rubio or Cruz becoming the Hispanic Obama, targeting the fastest-growing demographic in the country. The base didn’t play along.

    • At the same time, the liberal base doesn’t seem to be ossified in the same way that the conservative base is. But that may be a fundamental difference between liberalism and conservatism.

      But I wrote an article a lot time ago noting that both Rubio and Cruz were whiter than I am. So I think the establishment’s plans were always kind of lame.

      • I think the establishment’s plans were always kind of lame

        Everybody thought that, which is why they didn’t work.

        I think the biggest difference is in the uniformity of the two parties’ bases. The Democratic base includes blacks, labor unions, Hollywood types, committed environmentalists, and a bunch of other groups. None of those groups is big enough to have a serious shot at taking control of the party; blacks are probably the most numerous at ~12% of the population. The result is a party that, for better and for worse, doesn’t really have a coherent vision.

        • It certainly allows things like Obama’s disregard of labor organizing for him. As Democratic operatives like to say, “Where else do they have to go?” But I do think that if the Democratic base would vote more consistently, the party would move faster to the left.

  2. This is true-the Democrats constantly come in and fix all of the problems caused by Republicans and have been since 1932 (although that wasn’t Hoover’s fault, it WAS the fault of his predecessors.)

    Yet who gets blamed when the Republican ideas (like your favorite thing NAFTA) happen when a Democrat can be considered to be vaguely around to blame? A worse example is the utter nonsense blaming a member of a minority party in a part of Congress where the minority party has zero power. Yet voters didn’t have a problem until the economy was in such a mess that they might as well try a new guy.

    And people wonder why I don’t want to get back into that nightmare. I am moving to Antarctica.

    In more silly news-I found out that Julian Assange’s cat has a twitter page. Of course since he has been banned from the internet for being a naughty boy, it hasn’t been updated but that kitten sure is adorable. https://twitter.com/EmbassyCat

    • Before you move to Antarctica, you must watch John Carpenter’s The Thing — a truly great film that you should watch anyway.

      What you are talking about there is exactly the thesis of Thomas Frank’s book The Wrecking Crew. It’s well worth reading. It still haunts me because I don’t really see what we can do to fix it. We do need to clean up the messes of the Republicans, even if they are doing it on purpose.

      But I remember the debate about NAFTA. And Bill Clinton and Al Gore were not being pushed. They were both totally behind it. I don’t especially blame them, just as I don’t especially blame Reagan for supply side economics. At the time, it was an open debate. It isn’t anymore. This is one of the big reasons I hate the Republican Party. Despite the overwhelming evidence, they still push this nonsense. The Democrats are not as bad on these kinds of trade deals. But there is still a lot of support for it. And I will be watching Hillary Clinton very closely on it.

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