Why do we even bother?

A couple of days ago, Ben Domenech, writing in The Transom, asked a question that many of us have been asking (at least) since the first of the year:

Why does the Republican Party exist? What is its purpose as a political entity – to what end do its members work to elect their fellow Republicans? What are its priorities? Whose interests does it serve? Why is this political party still around so long after its primary motivations for creation – the defense of the Union and the end of slavery – were achieved? The Democratic Party exists to serve its clients – but the Republican Party’s justification is more ethereal. Is it just an arbitrary entity seeking a universal negative, designed to push back against Democratic policies and demand they be more something (efficient) or less something else (expensive)? Or does it have actual principles and priorities it seeks to make a reality?

The Republican Party’s voters and supporters certainly seem to have such beliefs. But they rarely seem to make it through the process of synthesis that turns such beliefs into actual policy priorities. Being a negative force is not nothing, and blocking bad policy is worthwhile. But when given the opportunity to put good policy into place, or to take steps to make such policy more feasible in the future, where is the Republican Party to be found?

Perhaps you believe the Republican Party exists as the party of limited government and free markets. This is impossible after the past weekend, where Senate Republican Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] went so far as to blatantly make the lie he told his fellow Senators – that no deal had been cut with interested Democrats during an earlier debate to reanimate an entity of pure corporate welfare, the Export-Import Bank – a priority so critical he would box out all other attempts to attach amendments to what is considered a “must-pass” measure, the Highway Bill.

Perhaps you believe the Republican Party exists as a national security party, which believes in a clear-eyed trust but verify approach to dealing with our enemies. This is impossible after the past few months, where the Senate Republicans completely ceded their Constitutional duty regarding the Iran deal, putting them in the wonderful position (so politically advantageous in the realm of domestic policy) of decrying this deal as awful without being on the hook for anything that happens because of it.

Perhaps you believe the Republican Party exists as today the lone pro-life party in the United States. This cannot be possible after the weekend, where Senate Republican Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] blocked any attempt to force President Obama and all his fellow Senate Democrats to take a stand for or against not even the legality, but the taxpayer subsidization of harvesting organs from aborted babies. The fact that McConnell did all this after telling his GOP colleagues that he definitely wouldn’t, and the fact that Texas [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] pointed this out, is a breach of decorum.http://vlt.tc/20we  [mc_name name=’Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’H000338′ ] will be along with a ruler shortly to rap your knuckles, you naughty boy.

Yesterday, my colleague Leon Wolf, made much the same point:

We have reached the point where a clear majority of sitting Republican Senators do not deserve your vote even in the general election. I say this because, quite simply, they have demonstrated time and time again that they are not on our side. Instead, they are on their own side. The priorities that these nattering, out of touch buffoons have embraced are so far out of step with the voters who sent them to office that they don’t even have the good sense to be embarrassed at how clueless they sound.

Leon’s ire was directed at the gutlessness of the Senate in curb-stomping a Planned Parenthood that has been effectively beaten to the ground by a mere handful of people. At The Week, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry picks up on the reluctance of the GOP to actually win pro-life fights when the victories are all but dropped in their laps:

The secular media loves to tell a make-believe story of a Republican Party controlled by an all-powerful, socially conservative cabal. This imagineered GOP is supposedly some kind of raging conservative machine enacting a radical agenda dictated by America’s most ardent abortion foes.

The reality is very different, as many of my fellow conservatives have long known. But here’s the problem: The above narrative is so pervasive, many of my fellow pro-lifers have begun to believe it, too.

The GOP is just a vehicle for winning elections. It has no value in and of itself. Why should pro-lifers support a political entity that does not fight for the policies we care about most?

Early this year, the GOP failed at what should have been a simple task: Pass an enormously popular late-term abortion ban. Passing a bill that polls well, and is symbolically very important to your biggest constituency, ought to be the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. But Republican politicians couldn’t even do that.

And now, after the devastating revelations that Planned Parenthood routinely engages in the sale of baby organs for profit — something that is illegal, unethical, and disgusting on at least 12 different levels — GOP Senate Majority Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] couldn’t bring himself to allow to the Senate floor a bill to defund that activity by Planned Parenthood. Why not? Because he wants to pass a highway bill instead — a pork-laden monstrosity that comes with the disgusting cherry on top that is the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a corporate welfare program that free-market conservative activists particularly detest. I have to share the cri de coeur by my friend Ben Domenech, the conservative editor ofThe Federalist: Why does the Republican Party even exist?

The sad truth is that both parties have become hotbeds of cronyism. They may disagree on how FAST the government should expand but they agree that it should expand. They may disagree on WHICH companies get rewarded — will it be GE or Boeing or one of the ludicrous ‘green’ industries? — but they agree the government should reward its friends even when the market will not. They may not agree on the METHOD by which you are stripped of your autonomy as a citizen but they are in agreement that being forced to buy insurance, for instance, is a laudable act and your religious beliefs pale in comparison to the celebration of sexual deviancy. Around the edges they have fights that are the bread and circuses for the true believers of both but these fights are choreographed so no real harm is done. They play us for chumps and somehow we go along. In the words of [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]:

“We’ve had a Republican majority in both houses of Congresses now for about six months. What has that majority done? First thing we did, in December, we passed a $1 trillion crominbus plan filled with pork and corporate welfare. Then this Republican majority voted to fund Obamacare, voted to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. And then the leadership rammed through the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general.”

Cruz added: “Madam President, which of those decisions would be one iota different if [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] were still majority leader? Not a one. Not a one.”

This election cycle should, by rights, be a momentous one. The nation is in dire straits. The Democrats are running an elderly kleptocrat and are intellectually exhausted. The GOP House majority is secure and the Senate can be retained with a modicum of hard work. The nation wants a change. This is that once-in-a-couple-of-generations election where the right man would have the strong wind of freedom and free enterprise at his back. Yet, as we prepare for this election we have a sclerotic Congressional leadership dishing out the dumplings to its cronies and it will still expect us to come out an vote in 2016. I don’t know why we’d bother.