It's a provocative title: The Republican Party Is Not Your Friend.
The Tea Party phenomenon popped up shortly after President Obama launched into his first year of transforming the country. They took to the parks with their ultra clean rallies, and advocated for small government. Democrats didn't like them. The liberal media didn't like them. And many Republicans didn't like them. In most respects, the feelings were mutual.
Now that the Republican Party is in an ascendancy it's always nice to see an honest assessment. Jay Cost provided a little history. The Republican Party started as the party opposed to slavery. After the Civil War, they focused on ending the patronage system and implementing the civil service system. Following that, the party became the party of business.
As I argue in my new book, “A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption,” Republican Party leaders came to view the interests of the country and the interests of its largest businesses as one and the same. For advocating this position so effectively (often winning elections despite public opposition to their policies), party leaders were showered with campaign cash, and many acquired vast personal fortunes.
Hardly anybody remembers Gilded Age Republican leaders like Nelson Aldrich, James Blaine, and Matthew Quay, but the choices they made at the end of the nineteenth century remain hugely consequential to today’s GOP. Their view that business interest and the national interest are one and the same is an ideal that many in the party, particularly its upper quarters, still hold dear.
It is not hard to see why small government conservatives would align themselves with pro-business Republicans. There is a lot of overlap in the worldviews. Conservatives believe in the free market as society’s real progressive force, and have always opposed the Democratic Party’s expansive regulatory ambitions. Meanwhile, businesses do not want regulation, at least of themselves. Similarly, conservatives want to reduce the overall tax burden on society, and businesses want their taxes cut, too.
But the two factions were never identical. They were always in an alliance, based on shared goals, conditioned by the broader political climate. Recent developments have strained the relationship.
Indeed they have. Big businesses have profited from subsidies and tax breaks that fall under the name of corporate cronyism. And taxpayers keep funding them. But a new breed of Republicans have gotten into office, Republicans who genuinely do favor small government. That's an encouraging trend, but we'll have to wait and see which faction prevails on election day.
Meanwhile, I would re-title Mr. Cost's article, "The Establishment Branch of the Republican Party Is Not Your Friend."