A truly mass party: The 1976 Republican Convention shows the triumphant centrist Gerald Ford over the conservative Ronald Reagan. Liberal Nelson Rockefeller, Ford's vice president, is to his right. Next to him is Ford's daughter, Susan.
The media have constructed a narrative for their campaign horse race stories, the ones all about the positioning of candidates and little about real issues. It goes something like this: The Republican "establishment," apparently represented by the likes of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, is contending with an "insurgency" from Ted Cruz and especially Donald Trump.
Things are so dire that the idiot David Brooks, who traveled to the sprawl abortion of Verrado in the mid-2000s and saw "the future" rather than the dangerous housing bubble, to write a column (kinda) missing President Obama.
This, of course, is nonsense from a cowed national media.
The "moderate" Kasich is obsessed with a balanced budget achieved by cutting federal spending, attacking women's reproductive rights and charter schools. At least he said climate change is real — once. His ambition has him back denying mainstream science and he opposes EPA regulation of carbon emissions.
Kasich cut more than $84 million from Ohio's public schools. He removed a modest amount of state funding that had been slated for the Cincinnati streetcar and deep-sixed Ohio's plans for high-speed rail. Ohio boasted some of the finest public universities in the nation, including "public ivies" Miami University and Ohio University. Kasich threatened to "take an ax" to them if they didn't cut costs and raise tuition.
As a presidential candidate, he says he wants to keep Medicaid expansion, but favors "repealing and replacing" the rest of Obamacare (with what is murky). He wants to cut taxes and reduce union bargaining power. He wants "boots on the ground" to fight the Islamic State.
In other words, take out the bombast and some of the most embarrassing anti-immigrant language from Trump and Cruz and not much sunlight separates them and the other GOP candidates from Kasich.
There are no more moderate Republicans, much less the mass political party it once was. At the risk of violating Godwin's Law, I think of the harsh sentiment of American infantrymen such as my father who fought their way across Europe and into the Third Reich: "There are no good Germans. All the good Germans are already dead."
I know this offends some of my readers who hold onto the Republican Party of the past. But it's the reality. And the brokenness of the GOP is one of the biggest reasons why our politics are so destructive, our Cold Civil War so vicious.
The death of the GOP as a mass party began in 1964 with the nomination of Barry Goldwater, continued in 1980 with Ronald Reagan, but was really sealed in the 1994 congressional elections and the triumph of Newt Gingrich. Although Kasich was a congressman who effectively worked across the aisle until 1995, afterwards he became a top Gingrich lieutenant. After leaving Congress, he took a lucrative job at Lehman Brothers, one of the firms at the center of Wall Streets rackets and the near collapse of the world financial system.
Centrist Republicans died off or were voted out as RINOs — Republicans in Name Only — lacking ideological purity. Since then, the party has moved ever more to the right.
And no, both sides are not equally extreme. The Democrats have remained a mass party, which has proved to be a liability. But actually governing this complex republic has always depended on two mass parties.
None of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates are talking about the most pressing issues facing the nation: slowing climate change, stopping the endless wars, exposing and dismantling the deep state, getting big money out of politics, and building 21st century infrastructure. In fact, they want to perpetuate and enhance the first four.
This is why it is one of the most important elections in our history. But let's quit looking for the "moderate" Republican. Such a creature might exist among the voters — but they will vote for anything with an "R" after its name.