The Republican Party is the Party of Hoover.
Herbert Hoover may be the most fascinating failed President in all American history. (Even more so than Millard Fillmore.) Not only did he dominate the late Progressive era, feeding Europe after World War I, providing private relief after the 1927 Louisiana hurricane (little fat man with a notebook in his hand) but he re-built his party by hand after its 1932 defeat, his Hoover Institution being among the key builders of what became today’s Nixon Thesis.
What the Hoover Institution was building, as early as the 1950s, was an ideology meant first to do battle with the Republican Anti-Thesis of that time, exemplified by Thomas E. Dewey, then Dwight Eisenhower, and finally Nelson Rockefeller, a practical politics which assumed the basic truth in what New Deal Democrats were saying but sought to lean against it, as into a strong wind. It was by winning this intra-party war through Barry Goldwater, who was nominated the same year Hoover died, that their triumph began, and that of their party. Today’s GOP remains what the Hoover Institution built then.
And so it remains today.
At the heart of the Hoover Party is the idea of loyalty. An elephant faithful 100%.
That’s why I still saw a W’04 bumper sticker yesterday, defiantly
displayed in the back of a pick-up truck, even while Bush’s approval
ratings head into the 20s.
Democrats aren’t that way. Democrats like to consider themselves the
natural party of governing, but there’s really no there there in their
history. By that I mean Democrats over the last 200 years have believed
a host of often-contradictory things. It’s all about the interests of
their people. When their people were slave-holders that’s who they
believed in. When they were ethnic immigrants that’s who they believed in.
When the base became black that’s who they believe in. It’s about people,
This makes their own history a minefield. Listen to Barack Obama extol that history. He’ll mention FDR and Truman and JFK, sometimes Woodrow Wilson. Never Carter. Never Bill Clinton. Never Lyndon Johnson. Reputation, not belief, animates Democrats’ view of the past. And if your reputation remains poor (or at all controversial) you’re dead to them.
Republicans have always been about ideas. And this idea above all,
capitalism. The natural elite under Republican ideology are those
accused of wealth, and sometimes guilty of education. But the great
task of the party’s thinkers was always to put some theoretical meat on
No one did this better than Hoover. To him it wasn’t right just because
it worked. It was right because it was right. And when I listen to any
committed Republican today that’s what I hear, capitalism as ideology.
But the market isn’t meant to be an ideology. The market is a constant
war of ideas. Anything which works in the market and is then followed
by the herd immediately ceases to work. That’s where bubbles and boom towns
come from, dumb-asses following the smart money and going over the
cliff. There are two kinds of businesses — the quick and the dead.
That’s not ideology. That’s practical fact. And when you try to make it
into ideology you go over the cliff with the other idiots.
The biggest bit of nonsense in the Bush Administration, the one thought which continues to animate the corpse, is that this party of belief can be re-built, through the George W. Bush Library in Dallas and the Baker Institute at Rice.
Maybe, in time, it can.
But that will take a generation. When belief goes over a cliff, it stays at the bottom for a long, long time. Especially when it goes down as thoroughly as it’s going down today.