Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Post-Obama, I Think I See the New GOP

President                           VP Haley                           Speaker Ryan
President Obama’s State of the Union address last night didn’t tell us where the nation really stands. But the event did offer hints of where his Republican opposition is going.

The President is a veteran campaigner accustomed to speaking to adoring crowds that include fan-filled bleachers behind him. Last night, the only people over his shoulders -- and both perched there the entire time -- were Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker Paul Ryan.

In a break with past precedent, Ryan almost never stood up or even applauded, even when Obama shouted out lines demanding approval. Ryan’s passive non-response was so strong it reduced Biden’s own standing and clapping.

With his actions, Ryan was telling watchers, “Our party has had it with you, Mr. President, and I stand firmly with my colleagues seated in front of you: good riddance!”

In fact, afterwords Ryan did say:
I wasn’t expecting much. As usual, the president tried to manage people’s perceptions instead of confronting reality: His policies aren’t working.
Ryan is the face of the new GOP--young, articulate, thoroughly conservative, and determined to turn the country away from Obama’s Big Government years.

Nikki Haley, even more than Ryan, is the face of where the GOP hopes to go. Haley gave the Republican response to Obama’s speech, remarks conservative guru Charles Krauthammer called, “the best written and best delivered answer to a State of the Union I have ever heard.”

Haley is a successful Southern governor (South Carolina), young, female, attractive, and from an Asian Indian immigrant family. And she’s a leading candidate for vice president on the GOP ticket.

Somewhat surprisingly, Haley was brave enough to reject Donald Trump’s effort to shock his way to the White House, telling her audience:
During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
So Haley’s “one and done” with Trump, right? Not so fast. What will Trump do if he captures the GOP nomination? Come on, you know the answer! Reach for a young, attractive, female of color who doesn’t share his views on Mexicans and Muslims! Haley is smarter than all of us.

Anyway, it remains far from certain Trump will win the nomination. The GOP is in the midst of a bloody battle over its future, but one about how to respond to a single undisputed fact--our national elite has failed us.

As Yuval Levin, one of the brightest conservative voices, puts it in a recent National Review article:
The post-war American consensus has been fragmenting for decades, and the public’s loss of trust seems to be reaching a crisis point. [Republican] candidates offer different diagnoses of the problem and distinctly different prescriptions, but they are arguing about the same crisis of confidence. That they’re having this debate is on the whole a sign of strength, even if the outcome might not redound to the immediate benefit of Republicans.
The Democrats are not really engaged in this argument yet: All of them are proposing various policies that would require an enormous amount of public trust in our governing institutions and the elites who run them.
Whoever the GOP nominee turns out to be, he will welcome having Haley and Ryan at his side.

No comments: