Where is a Progressive Republican in 2016? What do Progressive Republicans Need to Do in 2017?

Where is a Progressive Republican in 2016? What do Progressive Republicans Need to Do in 2017?


Progressive Republicans posture somewhere between True RINO’s (people who jumped ship and became Democrats like Charlie Crist and Lincoln Chaffee, or people who pander to Democrats like Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Establishment Reaganite-Gingrichite Conservatives (like Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan.) Blue-and-Purple-state Republican Governors like Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, and George Pataki, and John Kasich would probably qualify if they weren’t pulled rightward and elite-ward by their presidential campaigns. So would true mavericks like Jon Huntsman and John McCain (admittedly, Jon Huntsman is probably the closest thing to a committed Progressive Republican with national power nowadays.)

Policy and philosophy-wise, Progressive Republicans are Centrist, Reformist, and Nationalist. They tend to be economically Hamiltonian nationalist, administratively reformist, fiscally prudent, socially moderate, temperamentally conservative, political federalist, and strategically internationalist.

At the same time, Progressive Republicans are neither Rockefeller Republicans nor Reformocons. As many historians have pointed out, there was little meaningful difference between Nelson Rockefeller and John Lindsay on the one side, and Lyndon Johnson and Scoop Jackson on the other side. Both sets were big spenders and socially liberal. Even Jacob Javits, greatest of the recent Progressive Republicans, did not characterize the Rockefeller wing as the heir of the Lincoln-TR-Eisenhower tradition, but of the Wilson-FDR-LBJ tradition.

And Reformocons like Reihan Salam, Peter Wehner, and Yuval Levin are similarly not quite Progressive Republicans, although they are indeed doing good work. They are still enamored with basic supply-side Reaganomics and the power of market forces to solve everything- they do not question Establishment conservative ideology.

Progressive Republicans continue to take their cues from the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln- and further back, of Henry Clay, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. This is a tradition that shares some- but not all- characteristics in the 20th Century with FDR and Truman and Kennedy’s New Deal Liberalism, but is yet distinct.

The task of Progressive Republicans in 2016, moving forward, is three-fold:

-We must articulate, through blogs, op-eds, essays, and books, as well as conversations, what Progressive Republicanism is and how it fits in to the current political climate. A think-tank, journal, or other policy shop is in order.

-We must build up a national grassroots network of supporters, both individual citizens and established political figures, capable of organizing into a political force and engaging in political action at the state and federal levels. A political association is in order.

-We must determine which interest groups in American society have the most at stake in the soon-to-be-defined Progressive Republican agenda, and actively court them. A look at our pro-growth economic ideology and our nationalist social-political philosophy suggests that we might look into the housing, energy, manufacturing, and shipping industries, as well as the military-industrial complex and civic associations. A fundraising entity is in order.

So there is plenty of work to be done at all ends.

If the forecasts of several experts prove to be true and the GOP nominates a right-wing extremist like Trump or Cruz, and proceeds to get crushed in November, the GOP will be shut out of the Oval Office for another 4 years. Historically, parties left in the presidential wilderness for twelve years or more moderate themselves nationally, as occurred with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Bill Clinton in 1992. This is because they enter a period of soul-searching and redefining themselves, wondering what went wrong.

If the GOP is smushed in November, a similar situation will arise, and reformists will have added power over redefining the narrative. You can bet the Reformocons will advocate a pro-working class neoliberalism, with both the Establishment Reaganites and the Cruzite populists taking policy ideas from them. The Libertarians will probably offer their own prescriptions.

If there is any time for the Progressive Republicans to resurge and show themselves on the national scene, it’ll be January 2017- a month to demonstrate that Reaganite ideology is stale and exhausted, and that the GOP need do more than be nice to Latinos and Gays- it necessarily must re-examine its basic assumptions about economic and administrative policy. An Eisenhower-wing resurgence could open up that discussion.

Our job would be to work on establishing and growing a 7th GOP Establishment to join the power-struggles with the other 6 GOP Establishments. These are: the Reaganite-Gingrichite Neocons under Bush, the Ideological Purists under Cruz, the Libertarians under the Pauls, the White Working Class Populists under Trump, the Fusionist Conservatives under Rubio, and the Social Traditionalists under Huckabee. Note that Pataki and Huntsman have no home.

If we set out to build up a counter-establishment for January 2017- articulate Progressive Republicanism, recruit supporters and leaders, ally with funders and interest groups- we can join the fight for the soul of the party in a time when the party’s soul is lost. The first step to building a New Republican Coalition is building a New Republican Establishment to lead it.

8 responses to “Where is a Progressive Republican in 2016? What do Progressive Republicans Need to Do in 2017?”

  1. Dat Harass says :

    Have you considered the possibility of having a progressive republican approach Sen. Sanders as a running mate. Wouldn’t be the first time in history and it might do us well to actually work together from both sides to put this country back on track.

    As I see it, we’ve got a lot of work ahead in fixing our political process, economy, legislation, prison and education system. We need new ideas in my opinion from both sides of the fence.

    • Kevin Trevithick says :

      I consider myself a Progressive Republican. I recently re-registered as a Democrat for no other reason than to vote for Sanders in the California primary. One of the platforms of a Prog-Rep platform should be a strong bias toward working with all parties on legislative reform even if we can’t buy into “big government” programs.
      At the same time I would caution the original author of making the building of a “New Republican Establishment” the beginning of anything good. Get yourself some “muckrakers” and activists to help you grow from the grass roots.

  2. rygb says :

    What do we do next?

  3. richardrbarber says :

    Where can I read more about the kinds of policies that fit into the Progressive Republican Agenda?

  4. Steve Hunter says :

    Please am I alone? Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower are my heroes. Where has the party gone?

  5. Tom C. says :

    Progressive Republicans are Centrist, Reformist, and Nationalist…Hamiltonian nationalist…reformist…political federalist, and strategically internationalist –

    These terms are unknown to most voters. If you want to create a a widely recognized identify for modern Progressive Republicans you need to talk about specific policy proposals.

  6. Janice says :

    We are doomed as a nation! The Democrats are communists, and the Republicans are socialists (same ideology ultimately) Google your history beginning with socialism/Communism 1848 onward! AFL, CIO. There are 4 stages of subversion of a nation to Communism we are at Stage 3. Cultural Marxism has overtaken us. It has other names, such as multiculturalism, and political correctness. See it’s goals, they are identical to those of the Democrats, and the GOP establishment and Democrats are owned and operated by the goals of Big Money Corporations​! There is no viable way to start a 3rd Party. Our Constipated is ignored by activist judges. WE ARE THE COMMUNIST STATES OF AMERICA!

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