Sunday, March 20, 2016

This Crazy Election: Why Our Politcal Pendulum Swings in Three Dimensions

Crazy, isn't it, that Republicans so hate their potential presidential candidates that they are campaigning harder against them than are the Democrats?

How did this crazy situation come to be? Why is Trump so anathema to the 'mainstream' Republican party? It's clearly not his rhetoric and exclusionary attitudes (which they've condoned in the past). What they really detest are his policies: increasing trade barriers, meddling in corporate affairs, and so on. What's going on?

Trump is no friend of the Supply Side economics that swept Reagan to victory. In fact, he's more anti-corporate than Bill Clinton (and conceivably Hillary). So what gives? How is it he's able to run on the Republican ticket at all and still be trouncing his candidates in the primaries?

That's because he speaks articulately on two other core dimensions in the political spectrum - cultural issues, and America First-ism. Those are also core issues well articulated in the Reagan Republican coalition that re-defined the political landscape in 1980.

What we are seeing in this election, in fact, is no leading candidate (except Ted Cruz, potentially) who cares about the core issues that drove the Regan economic revolution: low taxes, low regulation, and opening free trade. All the major candidates, in a somewhat belated reaction to the historical wage inequity and post-Great-Recession anger of the 2007 bank-driven economic collapse, are taking populist arguments over economic ones.

This may seem unusual, but we all know the pendulum swings back and forth in America - from right to left, as they say. But it actually swings in three dimensions. The three dimensions of the Reagan definition of politics: social issues, economic issues, and foreign policy interventionism. In that sense, with all the major candidates (Hillary, Trump, and Cruz), we see the pendulum swinging away from the low-intervention and socially progressive Obama years and towards activist government along one of the three dimensions.

If we examine the chart above, we find Regan in the upper left corner: defining the "right" side of the triple pendulum of Neo Conservative, Socially Conservative, Supply Side government. With Bill Clinton, in blue, the pendulum swung toward the lower right - away from all three, but slightly.

When G. W. Bush took over, and swung the pendulum back, it didn't quite swing back to the type of Supply Side government Regan had defined. GW was a high-spending conservative who didn't give the same credence to Regan's religious leaning out of the government.

Next came Obama - one might argue he is more liberal than Bush on spending, one might argue more conservative (at least working to level the debt). At any rate, no movement towards the supply side with Obama, but a distinct movement to social liberalism and away from Neo Con interventionism.

In other words - the pendulum moved right on social issues and down on foreign policy, but not forward or back on the economic spectrum.

Now we have three candidates promising the swing the pendulum back - but back where? Both Hillary and Trump, interestingly enough, promise to take us even further from the supply side theories that ruled the Regan coalition. Only Cruz is a firm tax cutter, but his conviction about international affairs may leave some of his Republican colleagues cold.

But Trump - no matter how like Regan he sounds on the stump, is now as far from the economic revolution of the '80's as any candidate can get. He would certainly snap us away from the placid Obama years, as would Cruz. But you can see how anathema he would be for economic conservatives forged in the purity of the Regan triple-play.

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