The National Catholic Review

The GOP has a GOM (Grand Old Mess) on its hands. (Apologies to Gladstone.) The election for a new party chairman is exposing the fact that the party has no idea how to proceed after two straight election losses.

George W. Bush had become the boogeyman for the GOP. It was all his fault. This line of reasoning has the advantage that everyone agrees, albeit for different reasons. Conservatives say Bush betrayed his principles, encouraging the growth of big government and especially in his decision to ram through the Wall Street bailout last autumn. "Most of us strongly supported the Bush administration through the entire two terms," GOP delegate Curly Haugland told the Washington Post, "but in the last few months, this bailout and the abandonment of capitalism really kind of sealed it."

Abandonment of capitalism? Ah, there is nothing quite so bracing early in the morning as a true believer, someone who has convinced himself that maybe if there had been less regulation of Wall Street, and lower taxes of course, the economy would be doing gangbusters. After all, the invisible hand of the market works everything out for the best. Mr. Haugland should try telling that to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the past few months.

The economic collapse of the past six months is the final repudiation of the idolatry of the market that is such a part of conservative lore, starting with Reagan and Thatcher. "Government isn’t the solution; government is the problem," Reagan famously proclaimed in his first inaugural address. But, to whom did Wall Street and Detroit turn when their capitalists ran their companies into the ground? The collapse of communism came about because the internal lies of the system made it hollow to the core; the collapse of the idolatry of the market also came about because the internal contradictions of the system became too great. The tide of unrestricted markets that Reagan initiated, that tide is now flowing back out to sea. Good riddance.

To paraphrase a famous first century rabbi, the economy is made for man, not man for the economy. This is a first principle of Catholic social teaching. And, its immediate corollary is that when the private sector fails to provide for the good of all in a society, the government must step in. In terms of the relationship of government to the economy, this first month of President Barack Obama’s term is becoming a profoundly Catholic moment.

So, let the true conservatives bewail their oh, so recent champion George W. Bush. Let them elect a true believer to the chairmanship of their party. The faithful remnant in the Congress all hail from the most conservative districts in the country, so they are unlikely to recognize that the Republicans must move to the center, not to the extremes, if they are going to return to power some day. They should be focused on their abysmal showing among young people and Latinos, but instead they are debating the purity of their economic litanies. Shame. Someone should tell them, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, that the market is not the solution; the market is the problem.

Comments

Anonymous | 1/29/2009 - 9:10pm
It's all about abortion all the time.
Anonymous | 1/29/2009 - 8:06pm
It's sad that the pro-life leadership chose to align itself with the Republican party. The strategy was so flawed that it could only lead to the cycle that has developed: One Step Forward--Two Steps Back. We saw it a decade ago during the Clinton years and again now. What little was gained (even after six years of single party rule) will now be lost. Other than dividing the Catholic faithful, generating political diatribes from the pulpit and insults within the pews and blogosphere, we are no closer to outlawing abortion than we were 30 years ago.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 9:33pm
Mr. Winters: This is not your typical closely reasoned commentary. To say that on the economy ''this first month of President Barack Obama's term is becoming a profoundly Catholic moment'' is hard to take. Are we Catholics supposed to accept his economic measures and overlook his unstinting support of abortion? He ordered the State Department and Agency for International Development to fund organizations that provide advice on abortion as a method of family planning. This makes the last week a ''profound'' loss for the value of life and truth.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 4:33pm
Is that some kind of record for hyperbolic phrases per sentence? Your emotion and bitterness at your political opposition shines through each over the top statement and provides a demonstration of why angry left publications like America are nearly unreadable by Catholics who don't believe in central planning. "In terms of the relationship of government to the economy, this first month of President Barack Obama’s term is becoming a profoundly Catholic moment." After all the pro-abortion stuff of Obama's first couple weeks, it's just breath-taking that any allegedly Catholic publication can make that statement in good faith.
Anonymous | 1/28/2009 - 2:40pm
My first thought is to let them die. Their economic theories and their opportunism on abortion have doomed them. My second thought is to organize a more moderate versions of Republicanism, just in case the former Freshman Senator from Illinois does not do well. My third thought is the same as the first, let them die and create a third party to either run against the former Freshman Senator from Illinois (if he doesn't do well) and the inevitable Huckabee or Palin candidacy on the right. Of course, if Mr. Obama does well, no further action is required until 2016, as the GOP will likely further slide into irrelevance.