Why is the Republican Party incapable of putting up a fight? And why is Hillary Clinton “inevitable”?

The Juggurnaut Advances

The Juggernaut Advances

Wikipedia defines an unstoppable force. “A juggernaut in colloquial English usage is a literal or metaphorical force regarded as mercilessly destructive and unstoppable. The term is a metaphorical reference to the Hindu Ratha Yatra temple car … ‘a huge wagon bearing an image of a Hindu god’ is from the 17th century, inspired by the Jagannath Temple”.

The first European description of this festival is found in the 14th-century The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, which apocryphally describes Hindus, as a religious sacrifice, casting themselves under the wheels of these huge chariots and being crushed to death. …

The term is often applied to a large machine … or even a growing political movement led by a charismatic leader — and it often bears an association with being crushingly destructive.

The festival of the Jagganath, according to JT Young in Forbes, is repeated every two years in America in biennial elections where voters are treated to the spectacle of the “Party that Can’t Win”  ritually throwing itself under the wheels of the giant Democratic Party machine as if to appease some mighty god.

Whether the subject is Benghazi, IRS, immigration, the NSA or Syria the GOP performance is shockingly repetitive. First it pauses before the mighty onset, makes a show of defiance. Then it fires off a few desultory arrows at the advancing political machine and disappears under the grinding wheels, a muffled cry of “aieeee” barely audible over the triumphant roar of the Democratic devotees.

“Republicans need to ask what’s wrong with our business model,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), after a loss in Virginia. “This should have been a slam dunk. Virginia almost always votes against the president’s party…. All we needed was a mammal up there.”

A mammal and a business model, as Davis should remind himself.

But just what is the current Republican business model? It really resembles the business model of the Washington Generals, an exhibition basketball team. The job of the Generals is to play second fiddle to the Harlem Globetrotters.  There is logic in this.

Losing is not a bad deal if the the loser’s purse is bigger than the expected value of the winners pay packet outside the deal.  Since it is the Globetrotters, not the Generals, that drive the total size of the revenue, it makes sense to accept second-best. The bigger the audience the Globetrotters attract the bigger the losers’ purse of the Washington Generals.  It is rational for the Generals to aim for a smaller slice of as long as the Trotters keep growing the pie.

The pie in Washington DC is the size of the Federal Government, which the Republicans, avowedly the party of small government, cannot grow or grow as quickly as the Democrats.  It makes sense to enter into a symbiotic relationship where like the Globetrotters, the Democrats will tirelessly expand the size of the Federal Government so that even if the GOP only gets to sit its turn 40% of the time, the feast is over an expended empire of spoils. The losers’ pay packet is pretty good.

The post World War II era has been a golden age of government spending, and it shows no sign of ending. Although spending dropped back to 21 percent of GDP immediately after WWII, it steadily climbed thereafter until it hit a peak of 36 percent of GDP in the bottom of the recession of 1980-82. Thereafter government spending chugged along in the mid 30s until the mortgage meltdown of 2008. In the aftermath of bank and auto bailouts, government spending surged to wartime levels at 45 percent of GDP. The mortgage emergency seems to have ratcheted out-year spending up a notch. Near term government spending in the future is pegging at 40 percent of GDP.

The reason why the GOP business model is in crisis is that the audience is beginning to suspect the game is fixed.  Nobody can plausibly run on “Republican principles” any more. Pledges to cut the bloated bureaucracy, close the borders to illegal immigration or put a stop to endless expansion have a ring of insincerity. Ticket sales are slumping. And the Trotters aren’t even pretending to take the Generals seriously.

How long can they keep up the draw? Ted Cruz and the Tea Party represent the recognition that the old way of doing business is fading fast. They represent a counterproposal to exit the current Republican business model and create a new start-up. This is enormously risky for the institutional GOP since there is no guarantee the startup and business model will work.  By contrast, whatever the faults of the current system it still sort of works. You can still be Chris Christie, John Boehner, or John McCain. But you can’t be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.  The argument goes that this is the best you can do, so deal with it. Would you risk resigning your job with the Generals to book a stadium across town and play to an uncertain audience?

That depends on the perception of where the political industry going. The Democrats are betting it will continue as before. The “invincibility” of Hillary is predicated on the belief that she represents the “inevitable” fulfillment of the “progressive” agenda of ever growing government. The contrary argument is that the progressive market expansion has run its course. The bubble is at its peak. Government share of GDP is already at 40% and there’s no way for it to go but down.

Hence the strategic argument for changing the GOP business model is that the market for the old product is in terminal decline; that it is time to exit that old product line and start a new one. To do this a political movement must run the risk, even accept the probability of going bust. Whenever you exit a business — even a declining one — there is always the danger that you are jumping from the fat into the fire.

But it’s been done before. Perhaps the most familiar example of such a radical political shift was in 1776, when a group of American politicians decided to exit the game of playing Second Best under what was then the greatest empire in the world — a pretty good deal all things considered — and attempted to carve their own way in the world.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends….

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

And it very nearly didn’t work, as those who study its history know. Hindsight makes it easier to sympathize with those who wanted to keep the old arrangements in place, as did Canada and Australia. Those countries didn’t do so badly. But in the long view of history it is impossible to foresee how things finally work out.

One hundred and sixty four years after the American colonies left the mighty British Empire it saved the old lion which was itself near to death under the Nazi boot. In May, 1940 Winston Churchill was barely holding on. And then deliverance came: receiving news of the attack on Pearl Harbor,  Churchill exulted “so we have won after all!” Won, he might have added, by the circumstance of an enterprise begun on July the Fourth, on the pledge of lives, fortune and sacred honor.

So why is Hillary inevitable? Is it because the game of second best, despite all its faults, remains the best practical choice? Or is it because nobody in the political universe has the guts to tell Hillary that “nothing is written”.  As with the saga of the British Empire the continued survival of the America’s institutions may ultimately depend, not on those who stay inside the Beltway, but on the rebels outside of it.  If the old model is doomed then it’s the startup, it is the oddballs who will in retrospect be credited with the salvation of the enterprise. When a model starts to fail most of the information relevant to its reform lies in the outliers and not in the enforced median.

It’s tempting to think that the Founding Fathers knew how their big risk would play out.  That they had some guarantee from God, some Risk Corridor agreement with the Creator. But they didn’t.  They bet everything on something no one had ever heard of before: the United States of America. We know how things worked out only because we live in the present. JRR Tolkien observed that the past is only seems inevitable in hindsight, like reading the Hobbit only after you’ve finished the Lord of the Rings.

Yet things might have gone far otherwise and far worse. When you think of the Battle of Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valor of Durin’s Folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from the victory here to ruin and ash. But that has been adverted — because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring in Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.

But none of the characters described in the Book knew how the Tale would end. And in that world of chance meetings, Hillary is not inevitable. And nothing is written.

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