For as long as I can remember, the Republicans were the serious daddy party, and the Democrats were the dirty hippie hysterical mummy party.
If you look past the crude gender stereotype, the mummy party/daddy party frame is actually a useful way to think about politics. Government needs to uplift the poor and protect the vulnerable; it also needs to be mindful of resource limitations, encourage productivity, and conduct its own operations efficiently.
Two parties that put different weight on these values can have productive debates about making government better. But Republicans today are not holding up their end of the division of labour.
If Republicans were once the daddy party, now they’re the abusive ex-husband with a substance abuse problem party.
Instead of telling hard truths, Republicans are wildly misleading voters, both about policy (“America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare”) and political reality (“Democrats are feeling the heat” because Republicans shut down the government).
Instead of warning about resource limitations, Republicans are manufacturing them. President Obama’s deficit spending did not result in the debt crisis that conservatives warned it would, so Republicans have been actively trying to create one by making dangerous threats over the debt ceiling.
Republicans have abandoned the pretense of trying to run the government like an efficient business. What kind of business periodically tells its workers they won’t get paid but they should keep working, and clients that it’s going to shut down operations for a while with no clarity on when they will resume?
With Republicans having gone completely off the rails, Democrats have been left trying to play the role of mummy and daddy at the same time.
It’s Democrats who are mindful of the financial markets and striving to avoid roiling them with the prospect of payment default. It’s Democrats who are finding ways to control health care costs. It’s President Obama who is trying to get Republicans to cut a deal to slow the growth of old-age entitlement spending.
This makes me wonder: Why aren’t more business interests breaking with Republicans? Groups like the Chamber of Commerce are expressing irritation with Republicans over the government shutdown and debt ceiling brinksmanship, but they’re not taking the obvious next step and aligning with Democrats.
Republicans’ role as the “daddy party” and the party of business have always been closely linked: Daddy’s restraint is what stops the government from sinking the economy when it tries to provide nice things to the public. Now that daddy is drunk and beating the children, it’s time for business to throw its support behind mummy.
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