Republicans Are Learning All the Wrong Lessons From the Coronavirus Crisis

Until they can shed the blinders that keep them chained to failed policies, they are a party doomed to repeat their mistakes.

As Congress nears completion on a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus, I’m tempted to suggest that we’re all socialists now. In the midst of an extreme crisis, we’ve all turned to the federal government as the one entity that is able to mitigate the damage.

Of course, admitting to all of that would be anathema to Republicans. But one of the marks of a healthy individual or organization is the ability to learn from mistakes. So it is at a moment like this that a healthy response from those on the right would be to re-examine the foundational principles that have crippled their ability to deal with the kind of crisis we face today.

It is becoming clear that that is not going to happen. Writing for The Federalist, Ben Weingarten lists “the 5 paradigm shifts the Wuhan virus has revealed that Americans need” (and yes, he gives himself away with the reference to the “Wuhan virus”).

1. “Communist China is a global menace” – blah, blah, blah, blame China. We’ve been hearing a lot about that one.

2. “Coronavirus Starkly Illustrates Globalism’s Downsides” – pretending that walls and borders can stop a virus, Weingarten writes:

This series of events perfectly illustrates the downsides to the globalist agenda of open borders, global political institutions, and global economic integration at all costs. It perfectly illustrates the merits of an America First, nationalist agenda, including a focus on border control, national sovereignty, and eschewing of global institutions, as well as an economic independence combined with truly free, fair, and reciprocal trade.

3. “We Must Establish Principles for Dealing with Crises” – this relates to the current conversation on the right about doing a cost-benefit analysis on lives lost vs. damage to the economy. Weingarten is merely saying that we should cost out how many lives we’re willing to put at risk in a crisis ahead of time.

4. “The GOP Needs a Real Response for Democrats’ Games” – this one is basically an attempt to paint Republicans as victims who are being oppressed by those nasty Democrats.

Democrats will shamelessly use crises to cram their policies down our throats. Do Republicans have any answer to this?…Have Republicans formulated a counter-response not only for that possibility, but for their own policies that cut in the opposite direction? Where is the GOP counter-agenda?

Weingarten actually has a point. For years now I’ve been saying that, other than xenophobia and tax cuts for the wealthy, the entire Republican agenda has been to simply obstruct what Democrats propose. But notice that there is no attempt to suggest pragmatic options that might actually work. Everything is simply viewed through the lens of partisanship as a “counter-agenda.”

5. “We Need to Get Our Fiscal House in Order” – the idea here is that, having just allocated trillions of dollars to deal with a pandemic, we need to do a better job of cutting federal spending. For Republicans, “getting our fiscal house in order” never has anything to do with the revenue side of the equation. So Weingarten didn’t bother to mention the tax cut giveaway that already had the federal government bleeding red ink.

This is what passes for an analysis of our situation from conservatives. It is an attempt to take the failed policies of the past and simply dig deeper into the hole they created. That is discouraging, to say the least.

Until the Republican Party can shed the blinders that keep them chained to these failed policies, they are a party doomed to repeat their mistakes and then lie in order to avoid being held accountable.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.