The Three-Headed Republican Party


One of my favorite political and economic writers is the Brookings Institute’s William Galston who writes a regular weekly column in the Wall Street Journal.   Most recently his article, “The Three-Headed GOP After Trump, “ is particularly lucid.

Mr. Galston sees three factions in today’s Republican party:

  • Establishment conservatives who favor free trade, immigration reform, are broadly internationalist, believe in climate change, want corporate and individual tax reform, and also support entitlement reform. They would accept tax increases as part of a “grand bargain” to address our debt problem.
  • Small government conservatives ala House Speaker Paul Ryan and his “A Better Way” plan for American renewal. They believe that government is the principal obstacle to growth, especially with excessive regulation. They want major tax cuts and reductions in domestic spending as well as structural changes in Medicare and Medicaid. They are more nationalist than internationalist in outlook and oppose corporate welfare such as the Export-Import Bank.
  • Populist conservatives ala Donald Trump, many of them working class. They distrust all large institutions but do not have an ideological preference for small government. They strongly support Social Security, Medicare and Disability Insurance. They view the world outside the U.S. as more of a threat than an opportunity, and therefore oppose trade agreements and large scale immigration. “America First” is their demand.

Can these three groups coalesce into a single working majority? As I see it, Mr. Trump might have been able to accomplish this but has fallen short because he is such a sleazy individual.  Mr. Galston thinks that, after Trump, the second and third groups will be able to come together but only without the first group. I see the challenge as the traditional Republican Party, consisting of the first two groups, figuring out how to join forces with the third group.
Conclusion. A prosperous and secure future for our country depends on having a strong and viable (fiscally) conservative party.  How will this be achieved?

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4 thoughts on “The Three-Headed Republican Party

  1. Jack,
    I like the distinctions within the Republican Party described by William Galston.

    To begin I see myself as a conservative in these areas: living sparsely, saving energy, appreciating diversity, and attending to the least fortunate, that is those with the poorest health, the least education, and lacking a sense of worth. On the other side of the coin of conservatism, I fear people who have too much economic and political power, for it “corrupts and corrupts absolutely”. I am troubled with either big government or big business or ‘people in suits’. As you know I want a balance in the four major institutions of any society–chief, hunter/gatherer, shaman or teacher/scientist. Government and business seem to have formed an alliance to dominate our society, including science/education and religion.

    I fear for the country believing that we are following a path not so differently than England when it lost its empire after WWI.

    • I believe that our society does do a good job of providing for our least fortunate members, both through government welfare programs and private charity.
      Where we fall down is in not doing enough for the working class, who are paying their own way but not getting ahead as much as the educated class.
      These are the people whom Donald Trump is successfully reaching out to. What I’m hoping is that the Republican party can become a broader tent by figuring out how to make the economy work better for them.

      • Jack,
        In my working with the mentally unhealthy, the drug/alcohol misusers, and the least educated as well as people with health problems, I don’t see any major improvements with the exception being the Affordable Care Act. I see more power and domination in the economic and political leaders than before, particularly with the diminishing of unions and the major shift in education away from the Arts and Humanities. I also see the country more materialistic than idealistic than a half-century ago. I also as much division as ever among the peoples of color.

        What improvements in the standard of living and the broadening of a middle class can you identify? Also, what changes are bringing any unity to the country as a whole?


  2. For just a brief and general response to your comments, take a look at my two posts:
    These posts are a general discussion of overall human progress in the past two hundred years and continuing right up to and presumably beyond the present.
    Then we can get into more detail about your specifics.

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