Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Republican Party’s Geriatric Trap


There are many ways to think about the Republican Party's electoral predicament — in racial terms, in sectional terms, in ideological terms. One clarifying way to conceive the problem is in generational terms — a geriatric trap.

David Frum has an essay in Foreign Affairs laying out his view of how the Republican Party must change in order to regain parity at the national level. Frum’s core insight is that the Republican Party fell into a self-perpetuating cycle whereby its ideas attracted mainly old people, and old people in turn shaped its ideas, and so they wound up “reinventing themselves as defenders of the fiscal status quo for older Americans — and only older Americans.” Even while fighting a desperate rear-guard campaign to prevent, and then to destroy, universal health insurance, Republicans exempted all Americans over the age of 55 from any budget cuts. As a Fox News ratings gambit, this works splendidly. As both a long-term Republican political strategy and as a governing doctrine, it is a catastrophe.

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