John Warner and the Ratchet Republicans | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
John Warner and the Ratchet Republicans
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John Warner. Susan Collins. Chris Christie. The first a longtime GOP Senator from Virginia, now retired. The second the senior GOP Senator from Maine. The third the GOP Governor of New Jersey who doubles as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And all three symbols of exactly what troubles the Republican Party, even as liberalism and its policies have led the nation and the globe into chaos.

First, the Virginia Senate race: the Republican nominee is Ed Gillespie, a Washington lobbyist, ex-White House aide, and one-time chairman of the Republican National Committee. Gillespie is hardly a fire-breathing far right-winger. Todd Akin he is not. If anything, in the establishment versus Tea Party divide that so preoccupies the media, Gillespie is the Establishment to a T. 

So one would assume that former Virginia Republican Senator John Warner, whose old seat is up for election this year, would be out there rallying to Gillespie’s side in the battle against Democrat Mark Warner (no relation).

As far as being of the GOP establishment, John Warner has Ed Gillespie beat hands down. A one-time secretary of the navy for Richard Nixon, once married to a member of the Mellon banking family before a divorce and famous re-marriage to acting legend Elizabeth Taylor, Warner made his first run for the Senate in 1978. He lost at the GOP state convention to longtime conservative activist Richard Obenshain. Shortly after his nomination, Obenshain died in a tragic plane crash while on the campaign trail. With time running out, the Virginia GOP gave the nod for Warner to be the replacement nominee. He carried the day and would spend the next thirty years in the Senate, retiring in 2008 and being succeeded by Democrat Mark Warner.

In fact? Former Republican Senator Warner has gone out of his way to endorse current Democratic Senator Warner. He’s made no negative comments about Gillespie, couching his decision in terms of seniority for Virginia in the Senate. But the former senator has also told Politico that Mark Warner “has shown a very courageous ability to cross the aisle and try to work in a bipartisan way on major pieces of legislation.” Calling attention to exactly the problem that roils the national Republican Party.

What does it actually mean “to cross the aisle and try to work in a bipartisan way on major pieces of legislation”? One need look no further than this recent comment from Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins. The topic was the repeal of Obamacare. Said Collins: 

“You know at this point, I think we’re past that…I think at this stage what we should do is a number of bills that would fix flaws in Obamacare. I think we’re past the point of being able to repeal the bill altogether.”

Witness what the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to call the “ratchet effect,” a term she learned from her fellow Conservative Party colleague Sir Keith Joseph. It works as follows: a Labour (or Democratic) government takes power and moves the country left, introducing all kinds of big government programs. After a Conservative (or Republican) government succeeds it, the right-leaning administration keeps the last government’s programs in place, and works on managing them better. When the next leftist government comes in, it again moves the country left — and the cycle repeats. Over time the country is dragged continually left, with individual liberty and freedom disappearing in alternate gulps big and small, the government growing regardless of who is in charge.

What Senator Collins now has no intention of repealing Obamacare. She will tinker at the edges. So Obamacare stays.

The problem now? Around the political universe there are questions abut the GOP’s inability to “close the deal” in terms of winning the Senate next month. Various causes are cited from fundraising problems to the lack of a national theme.

The real question? What happens if the GOP wins? Then what? Will a putative GOP-controlled Senate take the opportunity handed to it by the voters to underscore the collapse of what might be called the liberal order?

If Senator Collins has her way the first thing a new Republican Senate would do would be to refuse to repeal Obamacare. Yes, any repeal would be vetoed by the President. Can his veto be overridden? Too soon to tell. More to the point? Would the attempt be made? Would alternatives be passed? Not if Susan Collins gets her way — allowing the ratchet effect to simply move left yet again.

Yesterday Americans learned that a second health care worker in Dallas has been infected with Ebola. Calls are rising for the resignation of CDC Director Tom Frieden. Yesterday brought news that the second health care worker had flown from Cleveland to Dallas — with the Cleveland airport now in a mad scramble to clean its facilities, and Frontier Airlines pulling the plane that carried the Ebola-infected passenger for cleaning. But we now find out that Frontier had already flown the same potentially infected jet that another five times. Even Ohio’s Kent State University has been pulled into this mess, with the discovery that three university employees are related to the nurse in question and now must stay home for the twenty-one-day quarantine period. In other words? Chaos. Yesterday, as a result of that chaos, the stock market tanked, dropping 458 points in the beginning, than managing to make that a mere 173 points at the close.

At long last the president, who once assured that there was an “extremely low” risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., has now felt compelled to cancel a campaign trip to convene an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the crisis.

And meanwhile? ISIS closes in on the Baghdad airport and a town on the Turkish border, with Obama’s second Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta racing through various media venues castigating the president’s decisions on Iraq that got us here in the first place.

This is where the world of the Ratchet Republicans fail abysmally. Whether the issue is Ebola, Obamacare, ISIS, the IRS, the Veteran’s Administration, or more, these disasters are the fruits of the liberal order. These Senate races that are getting such fevered attention are, in theory at least, supposed to represent a conflict of two distinct worldviews. The role of a political opposition is to oppose. To draw a line in the political sand and say, as it were, no further. To have its own view of the world and aggressively go out there — there being in this case both the campaign trail and the floor of the United States Senate — and make the case. Yet in fact we have a thirty-year former Republican Senator endorsing his one-time Democratic opponent over a perfectly qualified member of his own party.

And did I mention Governor Christie?

In the race for New York governor, Republican Rob Astorino trails Democrat Andrew Cuomo by 21 points, according to the latest Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll. No wonder, given how his own party sees his candidacy, as reported in July by Politico

Republican Governors Association head Chris Christie brushed off the possibility of helping struggling New York GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino, saying the group doesn’t invest in “lost causes.

Did I mention that Christie is chums with Astorino’s opponent — the Democrats’ Governor Cuomo? Now there’s party loyalty for you. But you can believe that if by some chance Chris Christie became the GOP presidential nominee in 2016 he would be demanding that every Republican rally to his banner.

Still, Republicans’ chances look good. One news outlet after another is predicting success for the GOP in many of these Senate races. Statistical whiz Nate Silver says the GOP has a 58.2 percent shot of winning the Senate majority. The New York Times puts the odds at 73 percent. The Washington Post says no, the GOP is an overwhelming 94 percent choice.

The real question? What is the point of voting for the GOP if its party elders have already fled the battle for the opposition and caved on a major legislative priority to the ratchet effect?

What it says is that even as liberalism is responsible for one policy collapse after another, from Ebola to ISIS to the IRS and more, the GOP hierarchy is proving itself utterly unwilling, incapable, or both, of leading the charge to a conservative victory.

Whatever happens in these Senate races, none of this bodes well for 2016 — not to mention for a GOP-controlled House and Senate in the interim.

Not good. Not good at all.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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