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Starkehaus: Is there a new beginning for Reagan Republicans?

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Henry Ford with a Model T

By Irene F. Starkehaus - 

American automaker Henry Ford once said, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." The quote is sublime in that it at once demonstrates an entrepreneurial drive toward innovation through risk while underscoring the need to cut losses and objectively reassess failed attempts so that the next experiment might be more successful.

What Ford didn't clarify when he made his statement on failure is that the foundational principles for innovation rely on knowing the difference between a setback and a failure so that one might act accordingly. I guess it's because there's no formulaic treatise for knowing when one has exhausted all the options other than to recognize when entropy sets in before it leads to collapse.

Question: Does anyone know why Ford Motor Company's Model T came before the Model A?

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

The answer: It didn't.

Henry Ford began production of automobiles in 1903 with the Model A. He continued experimenting with his product line over the course of five years. Some of these models were available to consumers while others never made it to market. Each new model was assigned a successive letter of the alphabet. This went on until 1908 when Ford broke through with the momentous Model T and with that Model T, Henry Ford helped shape the course of our national history by changing auto production forever.

In 1928, Ford decided that it was time to offer an entirely new concept in automobiles, but he wanted to do so in a way that showed a symbolic break with the, by then, old Model T. He did this by dubbing his new design the Model A.

What's this got to do with the Republican Party? Start with the entrepreneurial question, "What is Republicanism and what is it not?"

The Federalist Party that was founded in the 1780s by supporters of George Washington had disappeared by 1820 after its pacifist opposition to the War of 1812. With the collapse of the Federalists, the Democratic Republicans absorbed the old party and became split into two factions – the Democrats and the Whigs.

Amidst this ill-advised period of mergers and acquisitions, traditionalist Whigs faced a quandary. The Democrats were a pro-slavery party that traditionalists could not bear. The Whigs were imploding as a result of the bilateral leadership of Zachary Taylor who was the epitome of a compromise candidate. Taylor won tepid favor from his party by declaring, "I am a Whig, but not an ultra-Whig" which lulled slave states into thinking that Taylor would end any hopes for abolition.

Taylor squeaked through the general election with less than half of the popular vote and will be remembered best for effectively killing the Whig brand before he died in office.

The resulting backlash from Whig Party failures brought the creation of the Republican Party, which began in 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin where a group of abolitionists gathered to fight the expansion of slavery and federal pork barrel spending. The birth of the GOP came about because neither the Democrats nor the Whigs were representing the needs of those abolitionists who also distrusted big government.

You can read more about the death of the Whig Party on Politico. It's an interesting, albeit self-serving post – Politico hopes Taylor can be equated to Donald Trump in 2016 for his crude, vulgar, incompetent behavior and lack of political experience, which they claim will kill the Republican brand. Taylor is actually more analogous to George W. Bush for his compassionate conservative rejection of the party base, which really means the brand was dead before Trump got to it.

Anyway, the Republican Party began in 1854, but it's ideals were present from the founding of the Republic under different titles. Republicanism as a principled struggle between federalism and states' rights has been rechristened and rebranded multiple times over the course of 240 years as the family tree of Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans experiments with different blends of governmental structure to convey a commitment to inalienable rights.

There are times when the blends are more successful than others, mind you. And these mergers become less true to the original recipe of American governance as influences from Marxism, Fascism and secular humanism get thrown into the mix. What we are learning now is what we learned prior to America's first Civil War. Watered down conservatism cannot stave off encroaching oppression any more than a diluted Whig Party could effectively oppose slavery.

There are now a growing number of prominent political leaders voicing concerns for the Republican Party since Reaganism has been so utterly abandoned with the Trump nomination. We are seeing an enormous conservative diaspora away from the Republican Party as they seek a party that advocates for natural human rights and smaller government.

Diaspora may be a metaphor but it's apt because there really isn't anywhere for conservatives to go anymore, is there?

Seriously, where to then? The Democrat Party?

Uh, no. And that's not just because Hillary shows an increasing predilection for Armani burkas either. Yes, burkas. I wouldn't be surprised if she donned a head scarf before November. Do not underestimate Clinton's choice of androgynous tent dresses. There's more to it than poor fashion sense. (But I digress.)

So then, to the Libertarians? That would certainly be an exhilarating experiment in culture shock as the Evangelical Christian conservatives become refugees in the party of anything but God, but I think – given their current nominee – that Libertarians would be more comfortable recruiting despondent Sanders supporters in order to obtain majority party status, and I wish them well in doing so.

So that leaves two probabilities in the furtherance of originalism. Conservatives will either go for another helping of neo-con in the year 2020 to reaffirm that the 30-year drought of political failure has just been a quirky coincidence that can be overcome with yet another compromise candidate.

The "don't make waves" methodology has been such a joy thus far. The 2020 election is the most important in the history of the nation, after all. What choice do we have? And what about the Supreme Court?

The other possibility is that conservatives will move for the creation of a new party that will reflect the values which they crave. It's the best of all the possibilities, mind you but it is still riddled with risks and pitfalls.

How, for instance, does one establish a party with no contamination from the political Left? How does one bring forth a candidate that isn't Mitt Romney – as National Review would have it or Gary Johnson – as John Stossel would have it?

Greg Gutfeld of the Fox News Channel suggests sardonically that conservatives might nominate an IBM computer, so that we might have fewer emotional reactions to our most pressing problems. Naturally, this is just what our computer overlords want Gutfeld to recommend, although I appreciate his forward thinking.

For our literalist readers out there, that was a joke. Obviously, the computer overlords don't care what Gutfeld thinks.

And then there's Mike Reagan who doesn't offer much of a solution, but confirms via Twitter that his father would never have voted for Trump.

Donald Trump immediately denounced Michael Reagan's conclusion with a scathing Tweet of epic proportion, stating that Ronald Reagan most certainly would have voted for him because Reagan voted for FDR.

Such a putz. Ugh. I simply don't know what to do with that putzy, putzy statement other than to reiterate to those who think if you're not voting for Trump then you're voting for Hillary:

"Even if you are voting for Trump, you're voting for Hillary."

I just want you to consider this for a minute. America is a mere ten years away from its Sestercentennial birthday. In ten years, America will be 250 years old. What will Republicanism – indeed, what will the Republic look like in 2026? Will it still be a nation that stands for the inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?

No. Not with this current trajectory. To be quite candid, conservatives have lost the battle for the soul of America no matter how you spin the election of 2016. We have failed spectacularly and we must now either give up and fade away or we must own that failure, learn from it and begin again more intelligently. Conservatism's "Model A" so to speak.

Here's a little truism to keep under your hijab. In any war, the only battle that actually matters in the grand scheme of things is the last battle, and at the risk of being accused of quoting a fictional comic book character, allow me please to quote a fictional comic book character…and no, I'm not talking about Greg Gutfeld:

"Compromise where you can. Where you can't compromise, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right; even if the whole world is telling you to move, it's your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, "No, you move."

The choice is as simple as it is dreadful. If conservatives plant their feet firmly and force the Left to move, they will have won this war by America's Sestercentennial. If they don't then the Left will be victorious. Either way, the war is upon us. Entropy has set in.

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