Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

President Obama Hosts Congressional Leaders For Lunch Meeting

Far from marking the Republican Party’s rebirth, the elections of 2014 foretell the possibility that the law of supply and demand—which operates in politics as well as in economics—will kill it in 2016. That is because the Republican Establishment has no intention of meeting the American people’s pent-up demand, expressed so forcefully in the mid-term elections, to turn America away from the direction in which government, under both parties, has shoved it over the past generation.

The Republican Establishment, reading the results as a mandate to continue doing what it has been doing, will proceed as normal, and then be as challengeable as the Democrats in two years. The 2016 political marketplace will reward whoever promises to satisfy the voters’ continually unmet demands.

On election night, as the exit polls were showing that voters were rejecting President Obama and all his works, that they were dismissing politically correct accusations of a “war on women” as well as the use of the race card, that three-fourths of them wanted a change in the direction of the country, Karl Rove attributed the GOP wave to the efforts of Republican money men working through his political action committee to choose their kind of candidates.

The following day, David Brooks sharpened this point in the New York Times. The GOP secured victory, he said, because

serious parties eventually pull back from the fever swamps. . . . Groups like the Chamber of Commerce chased away or defeated renegade conservatives and opened the way for the triumph of this sort of institutional conservative. These candidates won in the general election because working-class voters will trust Republican corporate types so long as they are deeply embedded in their communities, so long as they have demonstrated loyalty to the whole society and not just the upper crust.

But attributing concern for “the whole society and not just the upper crust” to corporate plutocrats, for whom corporate welfare is a way of life, is a feat that only the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal can manage. The American people, for their part, expect that the new Republican Congress, the controlling elements thereof being “institutional conservatives,” will do more or less what they have been doing, which is in fact the contrary of what “the whole society and not just the upper crust” wants.

Rasmussen reported that 59 percent of likely voters “believe it is at least somewhat likely that most voters will be disappointed with Republicans in Congress before the 2016 elections.” Only 26 percent in that poll considered disappointment with this new crop of Republicans unlikely.

These figures give us a sense of the demand side of the political marketplace as we move toward the next presidential election.

The GOP cannot escape the consequences of failing to meet the demand. In the 50 states, Republicans hold 31 governorships and have majorities in 69 of the 99 legislative bodies. In Washington, Republicans will have the biggest majority in the House of Representatives since Herbert Hoover’s presidency as well as, almost certainly, 54 seats in the Senate.

Alas, the means available are far greater than the disposition to use them. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, incoming majority leader of the Senate, started by promising that “there will be no government shutdowns”—meaning that Senate Republicans, unlikely to be able to override Obama’s vetoes, will have to accede to his priorities, just as happened before the mid-term election. In practice, it means that enough Establishment Republicans will join the Democrats in funding the administration’s initiatives while casting aspersions on those “fever swamp” Republicans who take their campaign promises seriously—again, acting just as they did before.

Likely the largest casus foederis will concern the transfer to the taxpayers of the losses that Obamacare is inflicting on the health-insurance industry. Since Obama already has embedded that transfer (unlawfully) in a Health and Human Services Department regulation, Congress could stop it only by refusing to fund it. Obama would certainly veto any bill that contained that refusal. Any number of “institutional conservative” Republicans—read, enablers of corporate welfare—are as beholden to the insurance companies as any Democrat is. They will be content with a show vote.

There will no doubt be lesser instances of this, and the cumulative effect of all will be to bring the expected disappointment in the Republican Party that Rasmussen measured.

There is a way for the GOP to obviate most such instances: they would have to resume making appropriations in the traditional manner. Dropping the recent practice of funding the government by single votes on budgets or by “continuing resolutions,” they could pass appropriations for individual programs and send them to the President individually, specifying that the funds must be spent only on X, or that they may not be spent on Y. By considering programs individually, they could 
eliminate any program they wished, including Obamacare, simply by separating it from those being funded. They could legislate their own priorities, giving the President the choice of executing the law as passed, or “shutting down” that individual function of government.

But they won’t.

Nowadays, when Americans speak to one another about our bipartisan rulers, they express sentiments that boil down to, “Who the hell do they think they are?” And so, by 2016, the political marketplace will beckon. Who will lead the American people in saying collectively what they say privately? Who will satisfy the electorate’s disgust with our bipartisan government-corporate ruling class?

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on November 10, 2014 at 12:35:56 pm

Prof. Codevilla, your basic, recurrent position seems to be that the ruling class (the elected members, and absolutely the appointed ones) are foolish, knavish, and incorrigible (I agree). So...what is to be done, or what will be? Are you calling for (or predicting the rise of) a new political party? A new kind of citizen-public official? New institutions?

read full comment
Image of JQA
on November 10, 2014 at 13:12:53 pm

I hope that our institutions can be saved. But that will take the rise of a new party - not a third party, but a second one. Today we have a single ruling class party, one faction of which, the Republicans, are pregnant with persons who are eager to represent ordinary people against the ruling class. This embryo is struggling to be born, just as the Sewards and the Lincolns, who were Wigs in 1850, realized that they could represent their constituencies only by gathering under another roof.

read full comment
Image of Angelo Codevilla
Angelo Codevilla
on November 10, 2014 at 15:35:00 pm

Bravo!!!! Bravo!!! A point well made and well received.

Of course, such a party would need to have a different set of operating principles than the duopoly. The duopoly operates on money, and the money so often comes in the form of bribery and extortion from and of large financial organizations. A new party would have to set itself up to not only publicly reject the traditional American political financing, but it would probably have to make that rejection part of its new platform.

The first issue of such a new party I would think would be the problem of proposing meaningful political financial reform, while at the same time permitting the new party to better the campaign support of the existing parties. No small task there.

I think such an agenda would appeal to the disenfranchised on the left and the right. I think that we Americans have a well founded sense that our elected representatives need to represent their electorate, not their funders, and that today the funders dominate the political scene, and that the parties are the primary brokers and orchestrators of political funding.

The proposed reform would probably require a substantive amendment to curb the source of the problem. Of course, the making of such an amendment would have to be kept as far removed from the existing parties as possible, otherwise the parties would tweak it so they could continue operating with business as usual. And having party members involved in drafting would destroy the credibility of such an effort, thereby destroying its base of support. It would be like making a draft of government reform of the Chinese communist government in which half the drafting committee members were Communist party loyalists. How credible would that be?

That's food for thought anyway.

read full comment
Image of Scott Amorian
Scott Amorian
on November 10, 2014 at 18:53:46 pm

Unfortunately we have 2 governments in America. The first is the duopoly bird of prey with 2 wings. The conservative fascist Republicans and the progressive socialist Democrats,both one and the same. Both wings,for the most part,are corrupt,bought and paid for and accept the welfare/warfare state as is. The second government is the "deep state." That is the special interests,the bureaucracy,the military,the spy agencies,the money interests and the real power behind the throne the elitists and globalists. The Middle Class and affluent in the Economic Class are being ground between taxes and inflation. And the "poor" are being bought off with welfare programs and have been turned into the Dependency Class. The Constitution and the rule of law has been,by and large,cast aside,and we now live under the law of a few powerful men. With that said,the only hope for America is a 1776 type liberty revolution which would be crushed by the powers that be. And,as stated,possibly a 3rd.(or really 2nd)political party. The only political party on the national scene that would bring meaningful change would be the Libertarian Party. Like them or not,the Libertarians are the only party on the national scene that respects the original Constitution,property rights and the rule of objective law. Right now,as far as political parties are concerned the Libertarian Party is America's only hope for restoring the Republic.

read full comment
Image of libertarian jerry
libertarian jerry
on November 10, 2014 at 19:48:13 pm


good thoughts (as are your comments on the Forum re: wilson, etc).

While you are correct concerning the corrupting effect of money on politics, there is another dimension to be considered. In fact, it goes hand-in-glove (or money in glove, perhaps) with the issue of campaign contributions. If i may reduce some of your comments from the forum into the following, it may help make my point.

Constitutionally elected representatives MUST do constitutional things!
Currently, we have so expanded the role of the central (and state governments) that the opportunity to promise favorable legislation in exchange for contributions is well near overwhelming. This presents the legislators, to borrow a term from the catechism of the Catholic Church, with the *occasions of sin* - and there is a veritable cornucopia of occasions that are thus presented to the legislator. I am not here asserting that they are helpless victims in this endeavor - rather, they actively seek it and it is consistent with their inflated notion of their own role in the constitutional structure.

This may be a chicken-and-egg problem - I do not know. I do observe, however, that the one feeds off the other. Eliminating the ability to *grant* favors via special legislation, riders on bills, etc may be helpful - yet, the larger issue is that legislators / executives have assumed (or arrogated to themselves) responsibility over vast swaths of the economy, culture, etc that were never intended to be so administered by the Founders.

So yes, let's attack campaign monies w/o destroying 1st Amendment protections but let us also work to re-instill in the minds of the people that their elected representatives must constrain themselves or we shall do so for them. Is that another party - could be? As for the 1st Amendment, I would have no problem eliminating for 1st Amendment purposes only, the notion that corporations (and unions, NGO's etc) are *persons* - if I could only figure out how to handle the "in-kind" contributions of the media such as favorable editorials, movies, etc.
Any thoughts on that?

take care

read full comment
Image of gabe
on November 10, 2014 at 22:41:02 pm

[…] Republican victories in the midterm elections will actually change anything in Washington, D.C., Angelo Codevilla will disabuse you of that notion: “Far from marking the Republican Party’s rebirth, the elections of 2014 foretell the […]

read full comment
Image of Links for 11-10-2014 | Karl Heubaum
Links for 11-10-2014 | Karl Heubaum
on November 11, 2014 at 00:56:51 am

Yes, the first amendment is the lovely baby in the stinking bath water. I am familiar with the problem of the in-kind contributions. They are a problem but not un unresolvable one.

Rather than inhibit rights of free speech I would propose separating money from speech. Money when given to a politician is a bribe when the politician knows who gave them the money. If a candidate does not know who gave them money, and cannot figure out who gave them money, the communication that is the foundation of the bribe is removed. When the knowledge of who gave funds and how much is taken out of the equation, money becomes less of an issue. If all campaign contributions go through a clearinghouse designed to separate the knowledge of who gave funds, and if the communication of contributions is policed, the bribery and extortion factor is reduced. It cannot be completely eliminated of course, but the issue can be reduced substantially.

There are still issues of financing, such as contribution from foreigners, and in-kind First Amendment contributions, but I think I described a useful first step. For in-kind contributions funded contributions would have to be monitored by a party who is separate from the subjects being policed. There is a difference between commentary paid for by vested financial interested, and earnest commentary. Again, the problem is the knowledge of who gave money to support a politician, since that is the basis of criminal government, and the solution lies in having a neutral and controlled authority to police the .goings ons, and a clear, credible and meaningful job description. If no one is responsible for doing the job, the job won't get done. If no credible authority is tasked with oversight, substantive oversight will not get done.

The democracy will not work for policing the government. The politicians are organized and well backed. The democratic public is distributed and lacks the focus and specialized knowledge of a well organized political party. To police politicians, specialists with a clear agenda and firm controls are needed.

So coming back to the original article ... A centralized and focused organization with specialists is necessary for addressing the causes of problems which are found in the design of government,

read full comment
Image of Scott Amorian
Scott Amorian
on November 19, 2014 at 00:00:47 am

[…] won’t criticize the House GOP leadership, at least not publicly. About a week ago I linked to this Angelo Codevilla essay that says you shouldn’t expect any changes from the Republican Establishment after the […]

read full comment
Image of Links for 11-18-2014 | Karl Heubaum
Links for 11-18-2014 | Karl Heubaum

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.