The GOP’s Incredibly Shrinking Policy Agenda

Jared Kushner wants the 2020 Republican Party platform to fit in his shirt pocket—because he’s got nothing else.

According to Jonathan Swan, Jared Kushner has taken on yet another task: “a radical overhaul of the Republican platform.” Apparently Kushner wants to reduce it from 58 pages down to a single card that people can fit into their pockets. Rather than a document outlining policy statements, he wants it to be more of a mission statement that “looks something like the 10 principles we believe in.”

Kushner’s efforts are the perfect example of how the entire GOP is about to complete its journey toward being the post-policy party. What the president’s son-in-law wants to accomplish is to turn the Republican Party platform into a public relations document rather than a policy statement. That aligns perfectly with what I reported recently about the Trump campaign website, which contains no issue statements or policy proposals, but is simply dedicated to selling campaign merchandise and raising money from contributions.

The pathway to becoming the post-policy party didn’t begin with Donald Trump. The process started back in the 1970s when Richard Nixon revived the party by adding southern Dixicrats to the base via the Southern Strategy. Then, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Paul Weyrich brought Christian nationalists into the fold, primarily by exploiting the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court ruling. That allowed the GOP to use grievance politics (i.e. “cultural issues”) to keep their base in line while continuing their policy agenda of shrinking the federal government, lowering taxes, gutting regulations, and implementing military adventurism abroad.

By 2008, that policy agenda had brought us the fiasco in response to Katrina, involvement in two endless wars in the Middle East, and the Great Recession. In the midst of all of that, the Democratic candidate of “hope and change” got elected. Rather than rethink their policy agenda, Republicans made the decision to ignite grievance politics in support of their strategy to simply obstruct everything Democrats attempted to do. Their base voters responded by eventually electing Donald Trump—who made grievance politics his platform.

Over the holiday weekend, we saw all of that in action with the president retweeting mockery of Stacey Abrams’ weight, lies about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drinking, a reference to Hillary Clinton being “a skank,” accusations that Joe Scarborough is a murderer, and attacks calling a Marine Corps veteran “an American fraud.” Those were combined with lies about mail-in voting and Joe Biden’s record as vice-president. While we edge towards the mark of 100,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, this little gem was retweeted by the president.

That’s all Trump has, and his enablers in right-wing media are content with that. Even those who previously engaged in post-truth politics in order to convince the Republican base that tax cuts for the rich would eventually trickle-down to them seem to have given up on all of that and devoted themselves entirely to documenting conspiracy theories.

Beyond how that will play out in the 2020 election, it is important to note that the reason the GOP resigned itself to being the post-policy party is that their policies were a failure. A perfect example of that comes from Jennifer Rubin, who, as a Never Trumper, remains one of the few conservatives still interested in policy. Over two years ago, she wrote a column stating that the Republican Party can’t be rebranded, but must be completely junked. Rubin went on to ask “what would a replacement party that cares about governing look like?” Here’s her answer:

…those who favor reform conservatism; responsible internationalism; free trade and robust immigration; tolerance and the rule of law; and market economics with an ample safety net.

Other than “reform conservatism” (who knows what that means?), Rubin demonstrates why she would feel at home in the “big tent” version of the Democratic Party. Not only did the Republican agenda fail, but Democratic policies worked.

How long can the GOP sustain itself as a party based on grievance propped up by conspiracy theories about their so-called “enemies?” That is the question of the hour and needs to be posed clearly to American voters because, if Republicans continue on their current course, it is a recipe for fascism.

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Nancy LeTourneau

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