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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > November 2016 > How reason got fired

How reason got fired

Government is for the people, even conservative people. The Republicans forgot it, and Trump is the consequence that they will now have to live with, whether he loses—or wins...

Politicians are famous for their memories, which are remarkably detailed, especially when it comes to names and faces, places and dates. But that gift necessitates another, just as important: the gift of forgetting. How much our politicians would rather not remember—defeats, mistakes, embarrassments, not to mention crimes and misdemeanours, malfeasances great and small. Ask Hillary Clinton (the private email server!) or Donald Trump (the “birther” controversy! the tax returns!) Rather, don’t ask them. And please, don’t ask the two parties stuck with these two battered candidates till the Doomsday moment on 8th November, which could well lead to even darker days.

If Clinton wins and Republicans hold onto the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate, Republican legislators, embittered by a third straight presidential defeat, may well announce a formal investigation of Clinton regarding her private email server usage even before she takes the oath of office, the first step in a long siege whose goal will be 2020. And if Trump wins?

The prospect has pitched Republicans into the most ambitious programme of forgetting in modern political history. Victory in November would make their party his, but it could also make him captive to its agenda, since he has no viable programme of his own. A Republican fail-safe agenda is already in place. Since the spring, House Speaker Paul Ryan—the party’s highest ranking official— has been trying on the role of legislative proconsul. The two would be decidedly awkward partners in the new Republican era.

They have little in common. Steeped in numbers and policy minutiae, Ryan is a celebrated budget hawk. As such, he is the type of Republican who has done most to reduce the capacity of the Federal government, and arguably the governability of America. The long years of penny-pinching and gridlock in Washington have created the impression that it is impotent on the home front, provoking that great sense of frustration and abandonment, which made candidate Trump possible. For his own part, Trump is legendarily bored by budgets and any other policy detail. This is part of his appeal. “Republican maths” has aroused suspicion for many years now, especially when it’s attached to the supply-side doctrine Ryan espouses: tax cuts for the wealthy, reduced spending on the “entitlements” much of the country, including the Republican base, depends on in hard times. The consequences are contributing to the rage of the hour. Add to that Trump’s instinctive feel (possibly the surest since Bill Clinton’s) for what the public wants, and the conflict with Ryan could be titanic, an intra-party battle of the kind not seen in many years.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s November issue: Sam Tanenhaus argues Donald Trump is a consequence of the American government ignoring the people—and they’ll have to deal with his impact whether he wins or loses the presidential election. Diane Roberts explores the rage eating America by looking at the people that government has failed. Switching the focus to the UK, David Marquand and a quartet of commentators assess Labour’s position—with varying conclusions. Also in this issue: Matthew Qvortrup looks at the relationship between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, two of Europe’s most important politicians whose lives have long been intertwined. Andy Burnham, Labour’s candidate for the mayor of Manchester, lays down the reasons why the northern powerhouse is so important and Prospect’s Arts and Books Editor Sameer Rahim reviews Zadie Smith’s latest novel.
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