Chapter 6: Political Reform

 “The Founding Fathers, steeped in classical history and morality, feared that America might fall as the Roman Republic had if it failed to guard against the corrosive forces of corruption, petty interests, and the unrestrained zeal of faction. George Washington called upon his fellow citizens to show ‘mutual forbearance’ and follow ‘a middle course.’”

Kabaservice, Geoffrey, Rule and Ruin[1]

During the last few decades American politics has changed in very destructive ways. These destructive changes must be reversed for government once again to function at a level that can effectively address the problems that we face as a nation, both domestically and abroad.  Regardless of whether our government implements traditionally conservative policies or traditionally liberal policies, or some of both (as has been the case through most of American history), our government needs to function well.

I don’t know anyone who thinks that we have good government in America today. Just as constant infighting weakens families, sports teams, religious congregations and businesses, the constant infighting and gridlock that characterizes our Federal government today weakens America.[2]‎ Whether we have small government or large government, we need good government.

This website maintains that resurrecting a Liberal Republican branch of the Republican Party would be a means to return to consensus-driven, pragmatic politics. And consensus-driven, pragmatic politics is the key to making effective change in Washington D.C. and throughout the nation.

But how do we do this? Three steps that could help us do so are discussed below, along with some background history to support the proposition that taking these steps does not involve creating a movement from scratch. Rather, doing so would be a return to past politics.

Liberal Republicanism can only be revived if three things change in Washington:

First, regardless of its size and specific functions, government has to work fairly and effectively. Today, people’s confidence in our government is at approximately an all-time low.[3] Too many people do not think that our government works fairly or effectively.

Second, our politicians must again view their primary function in Washington as public service, not the assurance of their own reelection. ‎

Third, Americans who believe in the values and policies of Liberal Republicanism, especially young people and people who have been involved in Republican politics in the past but have little affinity either with the conservatives or Trumpites who now control the Party, must reengage at the local level with passion and patience. The forbearers of those whose ideologies now control the Republican today did not change the Party quickly.[4] They worked hard to do so.‎ It will likely take a decade of hard work to restore some balance to the Republican Party.

Why It Is Ludicrous to Regard All Government as a Problem

In his first Inaugural Address on January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan purportedly stated “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” ‎For decades that quote has been fuel for a Republican Party that has morphed to a place way beyond Reagan’s belief in limited, decentralized government. By 2012 the Republican Party had taken Reagan’s principles to extremes way beyond the place the conservative but pragmatic Reagan had taken them [link]. Mitt Romney, a former moderate Republican Governor of Massachusetts and the son of the great liberal Republican George Romney, only won the Republican nomination for President in 2012 by abandoning many of the policies that he and his father had stood for. At around the same time, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had pointed out that Ronald Reagan and his Dad, President George H.W. Bush, would have had a difficult time securing the nomination of the Republican Party in 2012 (let alone in 2016, which Jeb Bush unsuccessfully tried to do) . [5]

In fact, Reagan’s famous quote about government is taken out of context by the all-government-is-bad crowd. What Reagan said was “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”[6] The present crisis to which he referred was the state of the economy and the high inflation that existed at the time of Reagan’s election.

Reagan stated: “These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.

Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.”[7]

Reagan’s quote is used today as if the words “In this present crisis” were not part of what he said, as if he was making a blanket statement about all government being bad.

In fact, as described by Geoffrey Kabaservice in his outstanding book Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party:

“Reagan’s inaugural address revealed his skill at rousing conservatives while retaining moderates. The address is best known for his pronouncement that ‘government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.’ But Reagan quickly reassured the nation that he was no right-wing anarchist: ‘[I]t’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work-work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.’[8]

It is rational to believe in the kind of small, decentralized government that Ronald Reagan embraced.  It is a wholly other matter to believe that all government is inherently bad. To condemn all government unreasonably ties our nation’s hands. A couple of examples, one about what might be the world’s most successful country over the last half century and one about American college football, may help to illustrate this point.

Many years ago I lived in Singapore, and I travel back there frequently, often with other Americans who have never been there. The more politically conservative they are, the more they tend to like Singapore. It is a very clean, safe and organized place. After we leave Singapore, just to tease them a bit, I ask “So how did you like the socialist state?” They usually respond with a shocked look on their face. I then explain how much of Singapore is owned by the government or by government controlled-agencies–including publicly traded companies like Singapore Airlines–much more so than in the United States. Moreover, Singapore is famously highly, highly regulated.[9] Yet Singapore is an ultramodern, efficient, well-run place in which capitalism prevails and the per capita income has increased more than 100 fold (yes, really) in the 50 plus years the country has been independent.[10]

Once, I told a Singaporean friend about my habit of asking first time visitors how they liked the “socialist state.” He smiled and said that Singaporeans don’t think of their government as socialist. Rather, they think of the Singapore government as running the country like one would run a big corporation. In Singapore everything, from business to government, is expected to run efficiently and honestly, like a well-oiled machine.

Rather than merely complaining that all government is inherently problematic, some on the political right in America who are viscerally against government could help address our dysfunctional, gridlocked government by advocating for Singapore-style efficient government, along with smaller government. And some on the political left who advocate for a larger government role in society could be more convincing if they combined their advocacy for large government with an expectation that government would run like a well-run business.[11]

Saying that all government is bad is a bit like saying that only football players whose last names start with the letters A through K can play for our team. Our team will be weaker than if we used all the players available to us. Taking a look at how college football teams performed before and after they integrated racially, and before and after public university teams ‎recruited aggressively out of state, illustrates this point.

In 1970, the University of Southern California’s football team, a fully-integrated team, traveled to play Alabama, a still segregated team. USC won the game 42 to 21. Sam Cunningham, a USC running back, had twelve carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.[12] This thrashing convinced Alabama of the need to integrate, and, in 1971 Alabama recruited its first Black player. The Crimson Tide’s wins, losses and ties in the years before integrating and after speak for themselves.

Year W L T
Pre Integration
1967 8 2 1
1968 8 3 0
1969 6 5 0
1970 6 5 1
Post Integration
1971 11 1 0
1972 10 2 0
1973 11 1 1
1974 11 1 0
1975 11 1 0

Similar statistics can be found when looking at the success of state college football teams that diversified their rosters to include more out-of-state players (regardless of their race). For example, in the 1990s Louisiana State University had a ratio of 2.675 in-state players to out-of-state players. Their record that decade was 54-58. In the next decade, LSU’s ratio of in-state players to out-of-state players dropped to 2.113. LSU’s record in that decade was 99-31.[13]

Not only was Reagan’s statement about government taken completely out of context, but even Reagan’s belief in limited, decentralized government was a point to which he evolved from his earlier support for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Reagan stated: ‎”At the end of World War II, I was a New Dealer to the core. I thought the government could solve all our problems just as it had ended the Depression and won the war. I didn’t trust big business. I thought government, not private companies should own our public utilities; if there wasn’t enough housing to shelter the American people, I thought the government should build it; if we needed better health care, the answer was socialized medicine.”[14]

Republican politicians today routinely pay homage to those who want to strangle government, misusing Reagan’s words to deny something that Reagan clearly recognized: that changing times require changing politics.[15]

Just as the circumstances were different when Reagan supported the New Deal than they were when he later sought political office, the Republicans who today argue that all government is bad face circumstances that are very different from the circumstances that existed when Reagan was elected President. ‎After all, Reagan was elected after fifty years of basically progressive government, starting with Roosevelt’s New Deal, and whose excesses were arguably abundant. Today’s Republicans, in contrast, are living in an American political environment that Reagan re-calibrated to a much more conservative space.

The contemporary Republican Party has not evolved towards the center, and it does not appear at the national level to be adaptable to changing times. In fact, almost all Republican politicians at the national level are reluctant to speak moderately for fear of disgruntling the Republican right wing.[16]

Why is this so? It may be because national politicians who do not adhere to right-wing dogmas are attacked voraciously in the Congressional Districts and states they represent by a Party base that is passionate and much more active than the average citizen. They are challenged in Republican primaries by challengers who do adhere to such dogmas.[17] And this state of affairs subsists for two reasons. First, many politicians strike the wrong balance between public service and their own reelection. Second, at the grass roots and local levels the Republican Party lacks the progressives and moderates‎ who could provide support for Republican politicians who refuse to adhere to right-wing dogmas.

Restoring the Primacy of Public Service — The Example of George Washington

Our politicians must again view their primary function in Washington as public service, not as the perpetuation of their own holding office. While our Congress is full of well-intentioned, intelligent and strong men and women, the balance between politicians’ time and energy spent on their reelection and actual public service ‎has careened toward reelection. ‎Among the most conservative of Republicans, the most liberal of Democrats, and those in between, compromise is only generally possible if politicians put public service first.[18]

Fortunately, to find a model for how our elected officials should act, we need only to look to our founding father, George Washington.  Washington provides a model of public service that we should expect from all of our politicians.

During his active political life, George Washington identified with Cincinnatus, the famous Roman general who resigned from a position of near absolute dictatorial authority and returned to his farm and family. In Washington’s time Cincinnatus was regarded as an example of ideal political leadership; that is, a leader who led without personal ambition.

Washington was a hero to his contemporaries and, as Garry Wills ‎explains in his book Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment, Washington willingly sought to meet his countrymen’s expectations of him as a political hero. Yet what constituted political heroism then was very different than our conception of it today.

According to Wills, “Like the Roman Cincinnatus, Washington perfected the art of getting power by giving it away. He did this when he resigned as Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Army, and again when he declined to run for a third term as President. This was virtuous in the sense of the word when Washington did these things: public spirited.”[19]

“Washington resigned his Commission as Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Army in a series of goodbyes, the last in Annapolis, Maryland, on December 23, 1783. He had served for seven years, never returning to his home in Mt. Vernon. [Some biographers have argued that if he had gone home the Revolutionary Army would have gone home too and the American Revolution would have been lost.[20]‎] He had served with no pay and always with the understanding that when independence was won, he would resign.”[21]

At Annapolis on that morning, Washington delivered what he expected to be his last goodbye, in a speech written in part by Thomas Jefferson. As Wills describes it,

“His horse waiting at the door, to carry him to Mount Vernon by Christmas Eve…At that moment the ancient legend of Cincinnatus–the Roman called from his plow to rescue Rome, and returning to his plow when danger had passed–was resurrected as a fact of modern political life.”

Wills relates a story of a conversation during the Revolutionary War between the British King George III and the artist Benjamin West, who who knew both the King and Washington. Asked by the King what General Washington would do if he prevailed, West told the King he thought that Washington would return to his farm. “If he does that,” the King is supposed to have remarked, “He will be the greatest man in the world.”[22]

I have practiced law for thirty-four years, including immigration law for a considerable part of that time. One of the absolutely most depressing things I ever heard about the state of our country’s governance was at an immigration law conference where a senior attorney of the Senate Judiciary Committee (the Senate Committee responsible for immigration law legislation) said that every single member of his Committee–from the most conservative Republican to the most liberal Democrat–supported stapling a green card to every Ph.D awarded by an American university to a non-American citizen in math, science or engineering. But the majority of the Committee members did not want such a provision to pass other than as part of a comprehensive immigration bill because enacting it separately would mean that there would be less motivation thereafter to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The attorney implied that different Senators had constituents for whom other aspects of immigration reform were important, like greater border security or certain provisions desired by organized labor, and these constituents would be less likely to provide additional financial support to members of the Committee if they thought comprehensive immigration reform was less likely to be enacted because the provision on which everyone agreed had already been enacted.

How has the culture in Congress evolved so far away from Washington’s values?[23] How did we get to a place where things all our legislators agree would be good for America don’t get enacted because of partisan politics or for reasons related to generating continuing political contributions? Our elected officials’ job is to move this nation forward, regardless of whether doing so means they are putting their own reelection at risk.[24] We need more Washingtons in Washington.

The famous philosopher John Rawls has stated, “In constant pursuit of money to finance campaigns, the political system is simply unable to function. Its deliberative powers are paralyzed.”[25] This is true. And our political culture needs to evolve so that the politicians we admire most are the ones who, like George Washington, are willing to sacrifice personal power for the public good. Hopefully when some of them start doing so, they won’t go quietly, but will rip as much rot out as they can as they go.[26]

Restoring Balance to the Republican Party

The third thing necessary‎ to bring back Liberal Republicanism is for people who believe in Liberal Republican principles and pragmatic, consensus-driven government to get involved in the political process. It is understandable that people on the Left and Right who are passionate about political and social issues are also passionate about taking the time and spending the resources to effectuate those passions. In contrast, people who are inherently moderate and pragmatic are more likely to be moderate and pragmatic in how they practice politics. Unfortunately this moderation destroyed Liberal Republicanism before. Liberal Republicanism will not re-emerge until people who believe in its values and policies are willing to get back into the political arena and duke it out (politically, not with their fists) with their more conservative Republican brethren.

A little more background on how all of this happened, and how it has changed all aspects of politics, including basic civility among our politicians, sheds some light on what needs to be done to reverse the tide:

Clifton White was an American Republican political activist who evolved from moderate mainstream Republicanism to become the conservative force behind the movement that secured the Republican Presidential nomination in 1964 for Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The only time White ran for elective office himself was in 1946. Apparently his candidacy was sabotaged by Communists under orders from Moscow, who were attempting to infiltrate and take over liberal-leaning organizations. Although the Communists were greatly outnumbered, they were able to get their way through secrecy, rigid unity, manipulation of parliamentary procedure, and sheer ruthlessness.

According to Geoffrey Kabaservice in Rule and Ruin: The End of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party,[27] “Sometimes the Communists simply demonstrated a superior grasp of organization and tactics, for example by voting as a bloc for one candidate while their opponents spread their votes across multiple candidates. At other times they would run roughshod over the democratic process, employing stalling motions to keep a meeting going all night until enough of their opponents had left in disgust, then ramming home the vote. Or they would wait until a rival candidate had built up such a majority that most serious challengers had dropped out, then destroy the front-runner through foul-play and make their own candidate available as a last-minute substitute. That was the fate that befell Clifton White, as he was on his way to victory in the state chairman’s race, when at the eleventh hour the Communists spread a rumor that he had diverted funds to an adulterous tryst with his secretary. Most of the non-Communists who witnessed these abuses of democracy were horrified; some were moved to join the CIA in order to dedicate themselves to attacking the evils of Communism around the world. White, on the other hand, wanted to emulate the Communists. He saw in their example methods by which a small, disciplined minority uninhibited by bourgeois scruples of fair play or tradition or truth, could defeat a majority and bend an organization to its will.”[28]

The 1964 Republican Convention that nominated the archconservative Senator Barry Goldwater put these strategies into action. Former Republican President Dwight Eisenhower (less than four years out of office) “felt it was unpardonable- and a complete negation of the spirit of democracy. I was bitterly ashamed.”[29]  Former baseball star Jackie Robinson, who was one of the most prominent African-Americans in the convention audience, felt that he was witnessing white supremacy in action. “I know now how it felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”[30]  Many African-American delegates and alternates walked out of the convention. Others stayed out of determination not to give into the thugs.

It is fascinating and ironic that this long-shot success of White and his colleagues in recasting the Republican Party as exclusively conservative was accomplished using tactics of the Communist Party, whose politics were diametrically opposed to the politics of White and his colleagues. Modern Liberal Republicans likewise must be equally tenacious in advocating and organizing for Liberal Republican candidates and policies if they hope to be as successful as White and his colleagues were‎ when they transformed the Republican Party to the exclusively conservative party it is today. Even though surveys show that moderate political principles are held by the plurality of Americans.[31] moderate political tactics will not suffice to rebalance the Republican Party.[32]

In contrast, while White and others were building their movement “Moderate Republicanism, considered as a long-range political movement, was ‘in terrible shape.’ It lacked articulate spokesmen, movement-conscious intelligentsia, action organizations, financial backers, and coordination. Critics of moderate Republicanism identified its crucial shortcoming as the lack of a national grassroots organization”, and an inability or unwillingness to commit funds and resources to building the moderate wing from the ground up. [33]  (This was a criticism leveled particularly at Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who arguably “failed to do for Republican moderates and progressives what a few wealthy individuals were doing at that time for the conservatives: building an enduring political infrastructure of opinion journals, think tanks, donor networks, and grassroots organizational support)”.[34]  And the fact that the major Liberal Republican newspaper, The New York Herald Tribune, went out of business in 1966 also was a serious blow to the liberal wing of the Republican Party.[35]

“The most detailed moderate battle plan for Liberal Republicans came in the mid-1960s from Doug Bailey, a Ripon Society founder and Rockefeller aide, and David Goldberg, a Boston attorney.[36] Both had attended the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco, and both were sufficiently horrified that they drew up an analysis of what would be required to reverse the conservative takeover.” 

“The Bailey-Goldberg plan called for a widespread moderate effort to replicate F. Clifton White’s seizure of the party machinery at the grassroots level, building a moderate counterpart to the conservative political infrastructure that had sprung up in the previous decade. They also insisted that moderates would have to generate clearly defined policy proposals and an inspiring ideology that they had so far lacked.”

“We sent the proposal far and wide,’ Bailey remembered ruefully, ‘and it was ignored far and wide… No moderates ever mounted that kind of grassroots effort, so far as I’m aware, despite the obvious need.”[37]

The roots of the modern Republican Party are in Clfton White’s ”take no prisoner’s” politics. Viewed through the lens of the 1960’s and 70’s, it is no wonder that today’s Republican Party is so uncompromising, and inter-party communication has become so uncivil.

That this would be the result of such political tactics was foreseeable at the time. For example, after the 1964 Republican Presidential Convention at which Goldwater was nominated, George Romney responded by writing a piece in which he pointed out that he and Goldwater differed on the desirability of realigning the Republican and Democratic parties into “conservative” and “liberal” parties along the European model.  Romney observed: “Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”[38] Romney sure had that right.

The New York Times editorialized that:

“Heterogeneous national parties are confusing and untidy but they lend stability to a diverse society which always needs a stabilizing influence.” When the parties spanned a broad ideological spectrum, each was forced to appeal to independents and moderates in the opposing party, which softened the sharpness of partisan battles.”[39]

*             *           *

The decline of moderate Republicanism continues to reverberate in our politics today.  Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush’s political roots are in moderate Republicanism.  Jeb Bush’s father, President H.W. Bush, was a moderate Republican, as was his grandfather, Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush. (Senator Prescott Bush served as the treasurer of the first national campaign of Planned Parenthood and was an early supporter of the United Negro College Fund.) And as for Secretary Clinton, her politics actually evolved from a place further to the political Right of moderate Republicanism as a “Goldwater girl,” to moderate Republicanism, before she abandoned Republicanism entirely, preferring instead the emerging moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

This history is lost to most Americans, especially to young people who came of age politically after the Republican Party had become the predominantly conservative monolith it is today. For example, according to Geoffrey Kabaservice, “A symbolic indication of youthful disaffection with moderate Republicanism occurred when Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke [link] addressed the Wellesley College commencement in late May 1969. Brooke, one of the Senate’s most progressive Republicans as well as its lone African American, tried to persuade his restive audience that change within the system was still possible, as demonstrated by the poverty rate’s having fallen from 22 percent of Americans in 1959 to 13.3 percent in 1967. (That is an extraordinary reduction in such a short time.) Brooke was followed on the speaker’s platform by the student government president, Hillary Rodham, who was the first student ever permitted to address a Wellesley graduation ceremony. The future New York senator, then a slight blonde in Coke-bottle glasses, departed from her prepared text to tear into Brooke for his alleged indifference to poverty. “What does it mean that 13.3 percent of Americans are poor?” she demanded. “How about talking about the humans, not the statistics?”[40] Her classmates predictably gave her a standing ovation.[41]

Brooke was convinced that his young antagonist hijacked the occasion for her own purposes, and would have attacked any other commencement speaker: “I was there representing authority, and she was representing the frustrations of her own generation, which she did most effectively.” But Hillary Rodham’s political trajectory suggested a broader generational significance as well. A dedicated Illinois Republican for most of the 1960s, she had been a Goldwater Girl in 1964, interned for Melvin Laird (President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense), campaigned for Brooke in 1966, and assisted the Ripon Society with an antiwar symposium in 1967. By the spring of 1969, however, even a progressive Republican like Brooke appeared hopelessly reactionary to her, and she left the GOP to support the New Politics wing of the Democratic Party.”[42]

It is certainly easy for young people today to conclude that government is such a mess that their efforts and passions should be directed elsewhere. One only needs to look to Secretary Clinton’s evolving politics to understand the complexity of forming political opinions, especially in our fast-moving times. But abandoning politics will not help end the poisonous politics we face today. In the words of the late David Foster Wallace, in his essay “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub: Seven Days in the Life of the Late, Great, John McCain”:

“There are, of course, some groups of Young Voters who are way, way into modern politics…  It is interesting, though, that what gives these small fringe blocs such disproportionate power is the simple failure of most mainstream Young Voters to get off their ass and vote… And it’s not just the fringes who benefit – the fact is that it is to some very powerful Establishments’ advantage that most younger people hate politics and don’t vote… If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home… By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting.  In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”[43]

[1] This outstanding history of the liberal and moderate Republican Party’s decline‎ merits reading by anyone who is interested in a thorough understanding of how this decline happened. Rule and Ruin was a New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year in 2012 and has been an invaluable resource in writing this book. (Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 402)

[2] See Lexington. “Zero-Sum Politics.” The Economist, February 8, 2014. “[T]he Right has done a fine job convincing lots of Americans that Democrats are a party for the undeserving poor. The Left, meanwhile, has successfully portrayed Republicans as a party for the heartless rich. Neither Party has done nearly as well at making a positive case for itself.”

[3] In a survey conducted in February 2014, 24% said they trust the government in Washington all or most of the time.  See Pew Research Center, “Public Trust in Government 1958-2014”.  Congress’ ratings have been even lower than government as a whole.  A December 2014 Gallup poll found that only 15 percent of Americans approved of Congress (and the 15 percent figure applied to Democrats and Republicans).  A 2010 Gallup poll found that only 19 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing most of the time. See Zakaria, Fareed, “Can America Be Fixed?” (Zakaria, Fareed. “Can America Be Fixed?” Foreign Affairs, February 2013. In 1964, 76 percent of Americans thought you could trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time. See also David Leonhardt, “The Quiet Movement to Make Government Fail Less Often” (Leonhardt, David. “The Quiet Movement to Make Government Fail Less Often.” The New York Times, July 15, 2014. ml.) See also Peter Schuck, “Why Government Fails so Often” (Schuck, Peter H. Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better. Princeton ; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014.)

[4] In this regard the columnist George F. Will made a joke about Barry Goldwater having won the 1964 Presidential election, they just didn’t finish counting the votes until 1980 (when Ronald Reagan was elected).

[5] For example, while Reagan drastically lowered taxes–the top income rate went from seventy percent to twenty-eight percent while he was in office–he also raised taxes many times (five to eleven depending on how you count). Today Republicans are expected to take a pledge that they will support no tax increases, an inflexibility by which Reagan did not abide.

[6] “Ronald Reagan: Inaugural Address.” Accessed August 28, 2015. 0.

[7] “Ronald Reagan: Inaugural Address.” Accessed August 28, 2015. 0.

[8] “Ronald Reagan: Inaugural Address.” Accessed August 28, 2015. 0.

[9] There is a saying in Southeast Asia that in Hong Kong everything that isn’t forbidden is permitted, while in Singapore everything that isn’t permitted is forbidden.

[10] “Singapore – GDP per Capita.” Index Mundi. Accessed August 28, 2015. pore /gdp-per-capita.

[11] Productivity has been flat in the public sector while it has doubled in the private sector. See “Another Fine Mess: A Useful Debate has begun about America’s biggest domestic challenge, but it is comically shallow”( “Another Fine Mess.” The Economist, July 28, 2012. Also, by 2013 the percentage of Federal government employees under the age of thirty hit an eight-year low of 7 percent. (In 1975, more than 20 percent of Federal employees were under age thirty.) “Without a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world, current and former government officials say.” See Feintzeig, Rachel, “U.S. Struggles to Draw Young, Savvy Staff” (Feintzeig, Rachel. “U.S. Struggles to Draw Young, Savvy Staff.” Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2014, sec. Careers. See also, Leonhardt, David. “The Quiet Movement to Make Government Fail Less Often.” The New York Times, July 15, 2014. upshot/the-quiet-movement-to-make-government-fail-less-often.html.) “But much of the mistrust [in the Federal government] really does reflect the federal government’s frequent failures– and progressives in particular will need to grapple with these failures if they want to persuade Americans to support an active government. When the federal government is good, it’s very good. When it’s bad (or at least deeply inefficient), it’s the norm…The evidence is abundant. Of all the 11 large programs for low- and moderate- income people that have been subject to rigorous, randomized evaluation, only one or two show strong evidence of improving most beneficiaries’ lives… [T]he government has largely ignored the ‘moneyball’ revolution in which private-sector decisions are increasingly based on hard data.” See Schuck, Peter, “Why Government Fails so Often” (Schuck, Peter H. Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better. Princeton ; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014.)

[12] Jerry Claiborne, a former assistant to Alabama coach Bear Bryant, said “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate [the University of] Alabama in sixty minutes than Martin Luther King did in twenty years.”  USC Legends, cited in Wikipedia entry “Sam Cunningham”. Not true of course, but the effects of this game are undeniable. See the Showtime documentary Against the Tide.

[13] A multitude of factors undoubtedly contributed to the different records of Alabama and LSU described above. But it is simply intuitive that the more tools in one’s toolbox (or the more talent one can bring to bear to solve problems), the more successful one will be over time.‎

[14] Brands, H.W. Reagan: The Life. New York: Doubleday, 2014, location 1018.

[15] Even before Reagan recalibrated his political views, he was disturbed by the complete double standard in Hollywood regarding totalitarianism of the Right and of the Left. This apparently is part of the basis on which he (and interestingly, the actress Olivia de Haviland) found themselves rethinking their politics.‎

Reagan was, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an idealist but also a pragmatist. “Each understood that a successful president provides a compelling vision for the long term while making progress in the short term. Each understood that presidents are not czars; they must deliver what the people want, even as they try to make people want something different and better.” (Brands, H.W. Reagan: The Life. New York: Doubleday, 2014)

Reagan told his aides on many occasions, “I’d rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.” (“Reagan’s Rendezvous with Destiny,” Review of H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life in “The National Interest,” July/August 2015, 84). As governor of California, Reagan had once stated his feet were set in concrete on a tax issue. Acknowledging that he had said this when he later compromised with the Democratic legislature, he joked, “That sound you hear is the concrete cracking around my feet.” (H.W. Brands, Reagan: The Life. (New York: Doubleday, 2015). On California’s welfare reform, Reagan’s conduct was similarly pragmatic in dealing with the Democratically-controlled legislature.

[16] Thus Jeb Bush’s comment that Reagan and his father would have had a difficult time procuring the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012. See footnote 6 above. The Washington Post political columnist Richard Cohen wrote, during the 2012 Presidential election, “The Iowa caucuses alone take the GOP so far to the right that it all but dooms the winner. Romney had to vow to stop thinking.  He had to virtually declare himself to be anti-Hispanic (criticizing Texas for providing tuition discounts to college-age children of illegal immigrants)… Hispanic is not Spanish for Stupid.” (Cohen, Richard. “The Republican Brain Drain.” The Washington Post. Accessed August 31, 2015. b6e-066b-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_story.html.)

[17] In the 2014 Republican primary, Representative Eric Cantor, the House Majority leader and one of Congress’ most influential conservatives, was defeated by an unknown professor, David Brat, who attacked Cantor from the right, in particular regarding Cantor’s favoring a modest relaxation of immigration laws. Cantor outspent Brat by millions, purportedly spending more in steakhouses than Brat spent on his entire campaign.  Yet Brat’s passionate supporters were present.  (They turned out in large numbers to vote.)  See Weisman, Jonathan, and Jennifer Steinhauer. “Cantor’s Loss a Bad Omen for Moderates.” The New York Times, June 10, 2014.

[18] Why should our elected representatives have so much easier a time working with the opposition when they are no longer seeking reelection?  See “Barbara Boxer rides away from Democrats on highway bill,” Politico, July 26, 2015. “Barbara Boxer has always been a reliable foot soldier for the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama and [the Democratic] leadership.  But with just 17 months left in her long, progressive Senate career, she’s become a controversial lightning rod within her party…aligning herself with Senate Republicans…to fight for passing a long-term highway bill… A top liberal voice charged that Boxer, who is retiring at the end of next year, has her own motivations: legacy.” Why should someone’s legacy be associated with working in a bipartisan way for what the elected representative regards as being in the country’s best interests, if not because, even in our current poisoned political environment, our elected representatives realize it is the right thing to do? (Everett, Burgess, and Heather Caygle. “Boxer Rides Away from Dems on Highway Bill.” Politico. Accessed August 31, 2015.

“In his farewell speech to the Senate, Thomas Kuchel, a moderate U.S. Senator from California who retired from the Senate in 1969, noted that he had been an author of every civil rights bill that had become law in the Twentieth century. ‘Some of the votes I have cast I know have been very costly to me politically,’ he told his colleagues. But he believed that the greatest satisfaction of being a legislator ‘comes at the time he tallies the votes which he believed in his own mind were right, just and appropriate,’ even if public opinion was against him. He thought it ‘not only permissible but, indeed, vital that the Senate of the United States lead public opinion instead of following it. That is the difficult path but the only one to tread if our republic is to remain.’ Despite his accomplishments and his noble Roman qualities, the Republican Party would treat Kuchel as a pariah for the rest of his life. Instead of being regarded as an effective and pragmatic lawmaker or honored as an elder statesman, he was held up as an example of the fate that would befall any Republican who ‘acquired too much of a reputation.'” Geoffrey Kabaservice. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 238.

[19] Garry Wills. Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment. (New York: Doubleday, 1984), 10.

[20] See, Wills, Garry, “The Wise Warrior”, New York Review of Books, March 10, 2005.

[21] Garry Wills. Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment. (New York: Doubleday, 1984), 3.

[22] Garry Wills. Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment. (New York: Doubleday, 1984), 13.

Washington’s resignation was the thing most often praised in the eulogies at his death, more than his surrendering the Presidency or anything else he accomplished. According to Wills, “his preeminence was not, as we ‎often hear, because he was a “war hero.” People did not admire a conquering Caesar in him, but a Cincinnatus resigning. He embodied the ideal of limited power, restrained and checked, but with dignified authority.” Gary Wills. Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment. (New York: Doubleday, 1984), xxiv, 132.

[23] Many of our politicians today are celebrities more than public servants. As of the summer of 2015, Hillary Clinton had more than 4.1 million Twitter followers, and Ted Cruz had more than 483,700 Twitter followers. Rand Paul had two million Facebook likes. See “D.C. has leaders- but can any really lead?” (Purdum, Todd S. “D.C. Has Leaders ‐ but Can Any Really Lead?” Politico, September 24, 2014. In 2018, Donald Trump had 55 million Twitter followers. We live in a narcissistic society where it is accepted wisdom that drawing attention to yourself is consistent with good character.  By way of contrast, Neil Armstrong never even wrote an autobiography…and he was the first human to walk on the moon.  See the films The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 for America’s views of virtue in the pre-narcissistic age.

[24] See “Our Selfish ‘Public Servants’” by the conservative political commentator Peggy Noonan. “Politicians call themselves public servants, so they should be expected to be less selfish than the average Joe; their views and actions should be assumed to be more keenly directed to the public good. But no one expects that of politicians anymore, and they know it and use the knowledge to justify being even worse than they’d normally be…They are the locus of selfishness in the modern world… There isn’t a staffer on the Hill who won’t tell you that 90% of members are driven by their own needs, wants and interests, not America’s.” (Noonan, Peggy. “Our Selfish ‘Public Servants.’” Wall Street Journal, January 16, 2014, sec. Opinion. 052702304603704579325090935491388.)  See footnote 3 and Pew Research Center, “Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor: The People and Their Government”, April 18, 2010.

One popular way to limit a politician’s ability to indefinitely focus on his or her reelection is to impose term limits on government service. Term limits date back to ancient Athens and the Roman Republic, and Congressional term limits were incorporated into the American Articles of Confederation. (The term limits in the Articles of Confederation were written by Thomas Jefferson.) But term limits were omitted from the U.S. Constitution that replaced the Articles of Confederation. While terms limits are common at the state level (for example, governors of thirty-six states are subject to various term limits), attempt to enact term limits in the Federal government have been unsuccessful. In U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot impose term limits upon their Federal Representatives and Senators. (Voters in eight states had approved congressional term limits by an average margin of two to one.) See Priest, Dana, and William Claiborne. “Voters in Several States, D.C. Adopt Limits For Legislators.” Washington Post, November 9, 1994.  Occasionally reformers continue to advocate for term limits. See the work of Steven G. Calabresi and James Lindgren of Northwestern University regarding term limits for Supreme Court justices, and the 2007 book by Larry J. Sabato, A More Perfect Constitution. The organization U.S. Term Limits, Inc. remains the leader of the term limits movement. See

If terms limits ever do again get traction at the Federal level, this author believes they would need to be combined with comprehensive, long-term prohibitions on government officials, including legislators, from lobbying Congress after serving in public office. In fact, even apart from term limits, enacting such restrictions could materially aid the process of returning our legislators to true public service. Unfortunately, the pendulum is moving the wrong way on this issue. In August 2014, in the face of a legal challenge, the Obama Administration rolled back part of its ban on lobbyists serving in government. See “Obama Administration Loosens Ban on Lobbyists in Government” (Davis, Julie Hirschfeld. “Obama Administration Loosens Ban on Lobbyists in Government.” The New York Times, August 12, 2014. ists-in-government.html.) See also “Public Citizen’s Clean Up Washington: Taking Government Back from Special Interests Campaigns” (“ – Home Page.” Accessed August 31, 2015. http://www.Cleanupwa

[25] See “Campaign Finance Reform in the United States” (“Campaign Finance Reform in the United States.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, August 28, 2015. reform_in_the_United_States&oldid=678228000.) Campaign finance reform is the political effort to lessen the involvement of money in politics. Modern U.S. campaign finance reform began with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972 (the “FECA”), which, including 1974 amendments after President Nixon’s resignation due to the  Watergate scandal, required broad disclosure of campaign finance and enacted regulation and enforcement mechanisms. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) struck down various FECA limits on spending as unconstitutional violations of free speech. In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (the “BCRA”) was enacted. Also called the McCain-Feingold Act after its chief sponsors, the Conservative Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and the liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, the law represented a successful cross-party, cross-ideological spectrum effort that would be almost impossible to accomplish today. In 2010, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down provisions of the BCRA, ruling that prohibitions on corporations and unions from promoting the election of candidates violates the First Amendment to the Constitution and that corporations, as associations of individuals, are protected under the First Amendment from restrictions on their freedom of speech. In response to Citizens United, Senator McCain stated that, “campaign reform is dead,” but predicted a voter backlash once it became obvious how much money corporations and unions could thereafter pour into campaigns. In 2014, in McCutcheon et al. v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. _ (2014) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the FECA’s aggregate limits on how much money a donor may contribute in total to all candidates or political committees violated the First Amendment. This ruling has opened the floodgates for wealthy individuals to give almost unlimited amounts to or for the benefit of favored candidates. See also “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” This paper concludes that today, ordinary citizens have little or no independent influence on government policy. Those with the biggest influence are economic elites (those with the top ten percent of earning power), and interest groups representing business. (Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin Page. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (September 18, 2014): 564–81. See also then Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s brutally honest remarks in July 2015 regarding his donations to political candidates. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.” (Nicholas, Peter. “Donald Trump Walks Back His Past Praise of Hillary Clinton.” Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2015, sec. Politics. President Bill and Secretary Hillary Clinton were guests at Trump’s 2005 wedding in Palm Beach, Florida.

There continues to be various efforts to progress meaningful campaign finance reform. See Lawrence Lessig’s book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress- and a Plan to Stop It and Lessig’s continuing efforts in this regard, including his Mayday PAC, a political action committee dedicated to reforming campaign finance laws and formerly run by former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout.  And in a Washington Post-ABC News poll in February 2010, approximately 80% of polled Americans were opposed to the Citizens United ruling. There was relatively little difference of opinion among Democrats (85 percent opposed), Republicans (76 percent opposed) and independents (81 percent opposed). (Eggen, Dan. “Poll: Large Majority Opposes Supreme Court’s Decision on Campaign Financing.” The Washington Post, February 17, 2010, sec. Politics.

See also “McCain-Feingold’s devastating legacy” by Robert Kelner and Raymond La Raja, which argues that the BCRA caused a “tectonic shift of political money away from the [political] parties and toward outside groups which were likely to be far more extreme and far less accountable.” (Kelner, Robert, and Raymond La Raja. “McCain-Feingold’s Devastating Legacy.” The Washington Post, April 11, 2014. mccain-feingolds-deva stat ing-legacy/ 2014/04/11/14a528e2-c18f-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html.)

[26] I have always wondered why Senators Paul Tsongas and Warren Rudman retired from the Senate so quietly. Recently retired moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine founded the organization “Olympia’s List” dedicated to the proposition that “our future depends on government working.” Her website states: Government can work again but only when individuals support and vote for individuals who will follow the principles of consensus building.” See (“Senator Olympia Snowe | Olympia’s List.” Accessed August 31, 2015.

[27] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 49.

[28] “‎While watching the Young Americans for Freedom (a conservative Republican organization) founders at work, conservative organizer and former Communist Marvin Liebman felt ‘nostalgic for my Young Communist League days.’ The young conservatives were ‘exactly like’ the Red Guards of the ‘30s, ‘with the same anger and the same passion.’ White saw the vehicle through which to take over the Republican Party, using tactics he had learned from the Communists.” White’s success also derived from his meticulous attention to detail, mastery of parliamentary procedure and maintenance of tight communication among his ranks. (Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 50)

[29] Geoffrey Kabaservice. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 113, citing Victor Wilson, “Eisenhower Raps Conduct at Republican Convention”, New York Herald Tribune, June 20, 1966, p.3.

[30] Geoffrey Kabaservice. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 118, citing Jackie Robinson, “Hitlerism Is Reborn”, New York Herald Tribune, July 19, 1964, p.11.

[31] “Section 4: Political Compromise and Divisive Policy Debates.” Pew Research Center, June 12, 2014. also

[32] Presumably, however, advocates of Liberal Republicanism can be tenacious without using the Communist-inspired thuggery element used by the conservative Republicans when they were in ascendancy. As Ronald Reagan was acutely aware, such thuggery is wholly un-American, whether practiced by the Left or the Right. Reagan’s political trademark was his optimism. Conservative Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee recently commented that Republicans “have to avoid getting caught up in the loop of perpetual ‘no.’ Our ‘yes’ button has to work.” (Jr, Neil King, and Patrick O’Connor. “GOP, Business Recast Message.” Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2013, sec. US. Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign again tested whether meanness can be a winning strategy. While historically, it has generally not been (President Reagan and Obama channeled hope, not anger or fear,) the electoral success of President Trump, like that of President Nixon, demonstrates that sadly it sometimes works.

[33] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 70

[34] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 85.

[35] “Moderates lost one of their most significant, durable, and influential institutions. Nothing could replace the Herald Tribune’s importance as a publicist for moderate Republican politics and a mouthpiece for moderate values. While the Herald Tribune’s owner, John Hay Whitney, made a reasonable financial decision to cease publishing the newspaper, many conservative businessmen who were nowhere near as wealthy as Whitney would endure far greater losses to support conservative papers and magazines. The Tribune’s disappearance was further testimony that moderates were simply less willing than conservatives to suffer and sacrifice for their cause.” (Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 168)

[36] “The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that historically was the principal advocacy organization for moderate Republican principles and policies.  The Ripon Society had once operated almost two dozen chapters and study groups around the country, but as the organization’s funds dried up, these dwindled to a handful. The Ripon Forum was reduced from a substantial monthly magazine to a newsletter, and by November 1974 the Society could no longer afford even to have the newsletter typeset. Ripon officer Patricia Goldman admitted that Ripon had not been as effective in the early 1970s as it had been in the late ‘60s, ‘but it is the only organized effort that the Republican Party has going for it as a moderating influence…. I wish that there was a large organized force of moderate Republican Party members out there working to make the party in their image. Unfortunately, there is not. Ripon is all there is.” (Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 344)

[37] Geoffrey Kabaservice. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 128

[38] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 132. Kabaservice also suggests that a successful moderate might be one who combines progressive and conservative impulses “rather than simply aping liberalism or hewing to the middle of the road.” I absolutely agree. (Geoffrey Kabaservice. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 325)

[39] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 339. The gerrymandering of Congressional districts has likely sharpened partisan battles as well. See “The Stranglehold on Our Politics,” (Drew, Elizabeth. The New York Review of Books, September 26, 2013.

[40] This incredible decline in the U.S. poverty rate was unprecedented and our country would be well served to do this again.

[41] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 267-268

[42] Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 268. See also Lewis L. Gould, Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) 473.

[43] Foster Wallace, David. “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and the Shrub.” Rolling Stone, April 2000. According to the October 2014 Harvard University’s Institute of Politics Survey of Young American’s Attitudes toward Politics and Public Service, only about one-quarter of voters ages 18 to 29 vote. Perhaps surprisingly, the 2014 survey found voters this age approximately evenly divided between preferring Republicans (51%) and Democratic (47%) control of Congress (“Survey of Young Americans’ Attitude Toward Politics and Public Service: 24th Edition | The Institute of Politics at Harvard University.” Accessed August 31, 2015. See also “Not Running, but Fleeing: With rare exceptions America’s young are turning their backs on politics” (“Not Running, but Fleeing.” The Economist, May 16, 2015.; and “Why we may never have a millennial president” (Lozada, Carlos. “Why We May Never Have a Millennial President.” The Washington Post, May 20, 2015. There is some evidence from the 2018 elections that in the Age of Trump, young people are voting in greater numbers. Time will tell if this persists. book-party/wp/2015/05/20/why-we-may-never-have-a-millennial-president/). In 2010 the youth vote dropped a full 60 percent from 2008. See Drew, Elizabeth, “The Stranglehold on Our Politics,” New York Review of Books, September 26, 2013.

See also and Third Way is a think tank devoted to finding moderate solutions to political problems. Third Way has found that moderates represent the plurality of the national electorate and are the deciders in a typical national election. Perhaps most importantly, Third Way has found that Millennials are the most moderate of any voting generation. In 2013 No Labels was urging passage of twelve pieces of legislation to “make Congress work,” including bills requiring Democrats and Republicans to sit next to each other in the Capitol, attend monthly bipartisan gatherings and pass a budget before they get paid. See also Morris Fiorina’s wonderful book, Unstable Majorities.