Republican Party: Dead or Alive by Al Sikes


One phenomenon of Donald Trump as a candidate for President is that never in a Presidential campaign have more persons looked beyond Election Day so early. And I am not talking of discussions about the inauguration or the President’s choice of key aides.

To me the Clinton-Trump match-up is no longer interesting. Both are fully revealed in a campaign that is focused on them and not the challenges our nation faces.

Turning briefly to Trump, a majority of those who supported him during the primary contests did not anticipate the cascade of self-inflicted bullet holes. And that, of course, is the essence of the problem. Trump’s decisions turn on his psychic needs. This fact causes an overwhelming majority to be unnerved, if not horrified. In a world of unpredictable dangers a discernable measure of stability and consistency is vital.

It is my guess that Clinton will win and that the failure of the Republican Party to pick a winning candidate, and the likelihood of negative down ballot consequences, will result in an intense leadership battle. If our laws were not stacked in favor of the two major parties, the Republican Party would be history.

I suggest to those who want to lead the Party that they not just lip sync the name of Ronald Reagan, but go back and do personal and leadership studies of the party’s legendary figures.

Why, they should begin, is there a Republican Party? Abraham Lincoln and his stand against slavery and for the Union is the answer. What, they might ask, would Lincoln do today?

Why, they might question, is Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore? The reformists (reform is essential) should look at his aggressive defense of business freedom and environmental initiatives.

Why, they should ask, did Dwight Eisenhower decide to run as a Republican when both parties were courting him? And why did Ronald Reagan switch parties and then serve two terms as Governor of California, a state where Republicans barely have a pulse today.

And the reformists must understand how Donald Trump gained the support of so many, given his obvious personal and policy irregularities? The answer, I would suggest, is that voters were paying attention to the full field of candidates and didn’t find scripted orthodoxy appealing.

Occasionally leaders shape culture; more often it is the reverse. Year after year we see certain sports teams dominate their respective collegiate or professional leagues. We understand that they are capitalizing on a winning culture shaped and sustained by legendary players and coaches.

When we look around the business community we find no shortage of new companies, but we also find iconic ones that underscore Jim Collins’s analysis, in his book, Good to Great. Inevitably these are companies with strong and constructive cultures and leaders that understand succession is the single most important act of corporate leadership.

My view is that both major parties have regressed into extensions of their strongest interest groups—neither party represents the broadly defined public interest. Since neither party can pass the public interest test, leadership succession has become a systemic problem. When prospective leaders are forced to ape the most extreme positions of their special interest coalitions the best and brightest use their energies elsewhere.

Bernie Sanders, an obscure socialist senator from a small state, would have won his Party’s nomination but for the Clinton Network pulling the strings of her party’s apparatus. Sanders used the title Democrat as a convenience not a definition. The Republican Party voters selected Donald Trump who for much of his life was what economists call a rent-seeker and a registered Democrat.

If the Republican Party is to be revived, its leaders must begin by working on its culture. They must revisit its historical sources of strength. If they fail to develop responsive policy positions, then leadership succession will remain problematic. If Party leaders are wise and skillful the Party will have a huge advantage because if Mrs. Clinton wins, the Democrat Party will not be forced to face its similar weaknesses. In short, whichever Party loses, has the potential to be the ascendant Party for the next generation.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Letters to Editor

  1. James Nick says:

    Mr Sikes asserts that both major political parties in this country have regressed into being extensions of their strongest interest groups and, as such, no longer represent the broader public interest. This is an often repeated trope. It is a false equivalency. It is an argument based only on some fantastical cosmic notion that requires there be some sort of symmetry in this world. ” If we’re doing it, they must be doing it too”. The fact is that the Republican and Democratic ecosystems are vastly asymmetric.

    There are simply no counterparts in the Democratic world that match the likes of the NRA or Grover Norquist that score the behavior their marionettes in congress like Olympic gods and threaten them with being primaried from the right should they stray from straight and narrow dogma that they alone have defined.

    The Democrats have no counterparts to the likes of the Koch brothers that have used their vast wealth to build a shadow governmental infrastructure of secret banks, thinks tanks, and phony front organizations that blatantly skirt tax and election funding laws, fund hate groups and protesters that they activate whenever needed, and lobbyists that seek to weaken environmental regulations all for their singular benefit.

    The Democrats have no counterpart to the Powell Manifesto that defines the long range plan for a conservative takeover of this country or the American Legislative Exchange Council that puts the Powell game plan into coordinated action in both the US Congress as well as in red states legislatures across the nation.

    The Democrats have no counterparts to the haranguing extremists on right wing talk radio and FoxNews that spew endless lies, misinformation, and hair-brained conspiracy theories. For all intents and purposes, these people represent the propaganda apparatus of the Republican Party.

    In short, the Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a vast network of deep-pocketed rich men operating behind the green curtain working to insure that their God-given white privilege is never challenged.

    Consider that President Obama’s number one legislative priority when he took office was to pass Obamacare. Say what you will about its efficacy and its flaws but to assert that the Democratic Party does not have the broader public interest in mind simply defies reality. Especially when you contrast it with the Republican’s number one legislative priority of “ripping out Obamacare, root and branch” or even their quixotic goal to end Social Security and Medicare. So Mr Sikes, please try explaining again which party apes the most extreme positions of its special interest groups and which party has the broader public interest in mind.

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