The Party We Need

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Dr. Malcolm Cross

Within the Republican Party a war over whether it should be more pro-Trump or anti-Trump is raging.  Last week’s breakdown in power needed to help us get through the Big Freeze shows the best direction for the GOP to evolve.

The Republican Party must become more conservative in order to check and balance the Democratic Party’s addition to big spending, big government, and identity politics.  President Trump made outstanding appointments to the federal courts, but his trade wars, economic protectionism, and excessive deficits have weakened our capacity to sustain long-term economic growth, reduce the deficit (or at least reduce the rate at which the deficit is increasing), and someday, in the far distant future, restore fiscal responsibility.  A major overhaul in how the GOP develops and implements public policy is clearly needed if it’s to save America from the excesses of the Democratic Party.

It will be months before we can truly learn all the causes for the power breakdown.  Some of the early explanations—we were too reliant on wind power; we were not reliant enough on wind power—are especially ideologically driven and unhelpful.   There seems to have been a system-wide failure in the creation and delivery of power from all the sources on which we currently rely.  The same subfreezing temperatures which froze the wind turbines damaged the systems for the production and distribution of power from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy as well.  Other explanations, including charges that we failed to adequately regulate the privately-owned power companies (especially by not requiring adequate winterizing of equipment) and that we’re too addicted to the idea of a power grid independent of the main American grids may merit more attention.  

But the problem of supplying sufficient energy produced cheaply enough to be affordable by all, and distributed reliably enough to reach all, is sufficiently important to demand thorough analysis.  And such analysis can best be conducted, and the resulting solutions can best be implemented, by those who are unfettered by ideological constraints and prejudices.  In short, we cannot allow an excessive addiction to deregulation, free market principles, or Texas exceptionalism to blind us to looking at any and all solutions to the current mess.  Nor must we allow adherents of socialism, public power, or overreliance on renewables to dominate the debate either.  And here’s where a reformed Republican Party can prove most useful.

We need at least one political party devoted to pragmatic problem solving through fact-based analysis free of any ideological preconceptions otherwise harbored by those at the left and right ends of the political spectrum.  Only the obligation to produce constitutionally allowed solutions which don’t break the budget should constrain the otherwise free range of solutions to be considered.  

Can the Republican Party adopt such an approach to problem solving yet still be a conservative party?  It depends on how one defines conservatism.  Many modern self-proclaimed conservatives simply repeat the mantra that “the best government is the least government,” without bothering to consider what exceptions, if any, should be made to this rule.  But some of conservatism’s greatest thinkers, including Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk, said conservativism was not an ideology; rather it was the rejection of ideology in favor of realistic analysis.  A party grounded in reality, not ideology—the best government is the least government; government can do everything and anything; whatever—is by definition a truly conservative party, even if it can’t immediately be located to the right on the conventional political spectrum.

Texas is still practically a one-party Republican state.  The most important decisions to be made on the future of Texas power will inevitably be made by Republicans.  They should consider all possible causes for last week’s fiasco—too much reliance on renewables, too little reliance on renewables, too little winterization, too little regulation, too much independence of the Texas grid from the nation’s main grids, etc., etc, etc.  And they should consider all possible reasonable solutions to the problem of how to reliably generate and distribute enough power at the lowest cost to ensure that this disaster does not recur.  Should we have more regulation, or at least more winterization?  Who’ll pay for government-mandated reforms, if any?  Should we restructure ERCOT?  Should we require all members of its Board of Directors to actually live in Texas (apparently 5 of its 15 Board members, including its head and second-in-command do not)?  And should we connect our grid to the national grids?

If conservatism is truly reality based, then the consideration of the widest range of possible explanations and constitutionally permitted solutions is the truly conservative approach to dealing with the issues of Texas power and basically everything else.  Adopting this approach at all levels of government will make the Republican Party the conservative party we need.  Moreover, a comprehensive reality-based approach offers the best chance of developing solutions that will actually work.  That’s even better.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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