Republican Convention 2016

A Republican Party of Emotions, Not Ideas

How will the newfangled GOP make America safe again? By blustering like the last 15 years didn't happen


"War is not about bathrooms," former Gen. Michael Flynn said near what should have been the end of Opening Night at the 2016 Republican National Convention. "War is about winning."

Forget plagiarism—this confident non-sequitur was a concise and timely reminder that when it comes to ideas, the GOP has gone to shit.

Monday was officially "Make America Safe Again" day at Trump's RNC, so let's recap some of the tautologies, taunts, and threats put forth to accomplish that goal:

* "To defeat Islamic extremist terrorism we must put them on defense. If they are at war against us—which they have declared—we must commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them." – Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

* "Ever heard of a place called Gitmo? Let's just say that I'm personally acquainted with many of the individuals now experiencing those accommodations. Let me tell you, they need to stay there forever." – Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana).

* "There is no adversary the U.S. military cannot defeat if we unbind them from the restrictive, ludicrous rules of engagement they've been forced to fight under for the past seven years."—Karen Vaughn, mother of a killed Navy Seal.

* "[Elect] a commander-in-chief who speaks of winning wars and not merely ending wars, calls the enemy by its name, and draws red lines carefully, but enforces them ruthlessly." – Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

* "The question I hear time and time again is 'Where is America's leadership?' There's a void in the world, a deficit that cannot be filled by others. Our country and the world of which we are a part simply cannot afford four more years of this lack of leadership." – Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

* "We are in the crosshairs. Our own city streets have become the battleground….Instead of protecting Americans, the Obama administration turned a blind eye to the danger. Let's cut through the suffocating political correctness and call the threat what it really is. The enemy is radical Islam." – Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas).

To translate, in order: 1) Win, 2) Permanently incarcerate without due process, 3) Erase restrictions on killing, 4) Talk tougher and back it up, 5) Lead, and 6) Use different words. These aren't policies, they're authoritarian slogans (with a little editing aspiration thrown in). And in many cases, they were the closest thing to constructive suggestions given through the whole speech.

This collection should give many people pause, starting with a thing that exists (at least as a headline) called "Libertarians for Trump." I know those people don't take advice from the likes of me, but one would hope seeing their new political crush flanked by Rudy Giuliani and the Great Neoconservative Hope might talk them out of the fantasy that the belligerent foreign-policy naif is "the peace candidate."

Beyond those margins tonight's performance was a near-perfect illustration of—and maybe even test case for—Business Insider Senior Editor Josh Barro's perceptive tweet in February that, "Most voters don't have opinions about policies. They have feelings about issues." What mattered most in Quicken Arena tonight was not solutions about anything much at all, but rather that President Barack Obama is "a weak, spineless president who is more concerned about issuing apologies than in protecting Americans" (Mike Flynn), that he's guilty of "leading from behind" (most everyone else), and even that he might have his fingerprints on some Malevolent Design, at least according to Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas):

Our country's national security is at risk. After eight years of weak leadership, our city on a hill is now a city under siege….This did not happen by accident, it happened by design. It happened because of the failed policies of President Barack Obama and the architect of his foreign policy, Hillary Clinton.

These words, like so many of Trump's during his successful road to the GOP nomination, has been about connecting with voters on negative feelings, not laying out a blueprint to solve something hard. The approach has certainly succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of most of the political class (including me), who tend to be wedded to the importance of capital-I Ideas.

But tonight's undisciplined amateur-hour of a broadcast possibly illustrated the limitations to that approach as well. Having Rudy Giuliani bark about defeating enemies can be enormously satisfying to a Republican Convention audience, as we have learned over the long years, but translating those emotions into policies create new clusterfudges that will produce tomorrow's frustrations. (One of the best moments tonight was Rudy actually trying to get mad at Hillary Clinton for being too interventionist in Libya.) The Jacksonian impulse to remove real and imaginary shackles from Our Brave Men and Women as they fight radical Islamists is the kind of mindset that brought us Abu Ghraib, which frankly wasn't very helpful in the War on Terror.

And of course we know all this. We've had 15 years of public policy (especially of the foreign variety) in the form of crudely translated emotional impulses. And so here we are. Responding to all that dysfunction with some of the exact same habit of dysfunctional mind, and even featuring some of the exact same dysfunctional characters, is not some kind of exciting new break from a tawdry past. It's the same blueprint of woe, with a bit more amateur unpredictability thrown in.

NEXT: Amateur Melania Trump/Michelle Obama Plagiarism Job Ends Amateur First Night of RNC

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  1. Wait, I thought the Evil Party was the party of emotions. Although I see no sound philosophical reasons why the Stupid Party can’t get in on this action. And double down on it.

    1. They both are.

      I’m currently wasting my time elsewhere pointing out that police are thugs, it’s not because of police racism against blacks, and people reply, “But blacks commit more crime!”

      People want to suck cop dick.

      1. Black people, per capita, DO commit more crime.

        Even when you remove victimless crimes like possession and prostitution.

        Don’t know why that’d refute your ‘police are thugs’ pieces–unless they’re based on more than one fallacy.

        1. Because of Democratic policies (that they ignorantly keep voting for) keeps the majority of blacks in perpetual poverty. Poverty creates crime, not genomes. Police are not inherently racist, but the system they must enforce is.

          1. And yet the Democratic leadership is going all in on gun control, which would be enforced by this racist system.

          2. Poverty creates crime,

            Complete BS.

            Lack of character and discipline creates crime. Poverty may test character, but it doesn’t in any way create crime.

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  2. We haven’t seen an elephant so savagely murdered since Topsy, but Edison wasn’t nominated for President.

  3. Well damn Nick, 30 seconds faster and you would have been First!. Although there is some kind of an obscure rule about having to post a link related to the topic for that to count. If I was computer savvy enough for all that I would have to had to have gone with something SP related. Like “An Elephant fucks a Pig” or “Giant Douche VS. Turd Sandwich”.

    1. Or some confusingly non-sequiturish selection from HM’s vast library of middle earth twerking videos. Also I just got the Edison-Topsy reference, (with no help from google). Wasn’t that the elephant that Edison electrocuted to death during his famous AC-DC war of currents with Tesla to prove that AC=strychnine and DC=cream of wheat, or something along those lines to the public.

      1. Show off. I suppose this is probably some basic HTML stuff I should know by now.

    1. Pokemon go to the polls?!

      I wonder if anyone’s tried to sell her a subscription to face book.

      Every month she could get a new face book in the mail to add to her collection.

    2. Someday I will learn how to post a link like a proper commentariat cishet shitlord. After that all I need is a 200+ comment flame war with John and Cytotoxic, a hat tip and to be accused of being a Tulpa sock.

      1. Shut up, Tulpa.

        1. Thank you, although I am actually a White In#@n/Mary sock.

    3. Are there some balls I can throw at Hillary to trap her in?

    4. With a cloth?!!!?!?!??!?!?!??

  4. In the libertarian world, there are two prongs to our attack.

    On the one hand, we’ve got ideology–like Reason Magazine, Cato, et. al. They’re out there preaching the libertarian gospel, persuading people to our position, using reason, argument, logic, etc.

    On the other hand, we’ve got the election side. If Johnson is poling 10%, that means 90% of the people who are listening to him are people who haven’t voted Libertarian in the past. Many of these people are non-libertarians.

    That’s the way elections are won–by appealing to people who do not share your ideology.

    The Republicans are in election mode. Their ideology side has been completely overrun by Trump and Trump supporters, and they’re immune to your consultations. That’s the way they should be.

    This is how you win elections:

    It isn’t by appealing to people’s reason. Half the voters out there are of below average intelligence. You need the right tool for the job–don’t bring a gun to a pillow fight.

    1. Half of the population has an IQ below 100. That is just a statistical fact. I fear that you may be vastly overestimating the IQ of the average voter. People smart enough to realize the folly of encouraging the bastards by trying to pick the lessor of two evils are much less likely to be in this second demographic.

      1. You are vastly overstating the importance of IQ. Lots of high IQ people believe incredibly stupid things. IQ is not wisdom.

        1. Don’t feed it.

        2. I agree with that statement 100%. IQ and even an Ivy League education and wall hanging papers have very little to do with wisdom or common sense, there may even be something of a negative correlation in that regard among the general public. The best definition I have heard for stupidity is something along the lines that it is actually an unwitting tendency towards self destruction (as opposed to ignorance or low intelligence). I think people with better educations or higher IQ’s are often just better at fooling themselves and others in this regard. Also just kidding above about the 200 comment flame war thing above. Should have thrown in the /sarc tag but it did seem obvious I thought.

      2. Half of the population has an IQ below 100

        That’s only because we keep it constant over time. A person with an average IQ of about 100 in the 1950s would be intellectually deficient by today’s standards; and someone of average intelligence today would have been considered gifted in the 1950’s.

  5. The Jacksonian impulse

    Isn’t Trump more Hamiltonian though? Tariffs, anti-immigrant, expansionist?

    1. In the case of Trump or Hillary, I was hoping more for a Harrisonian president.

      1. William Henry or Benjamin?

  6. The approach has certainly succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of most of the political class (including me), who tend to be wedded to the importance of capital-I Ideas.

    You mean the same political class that was big on “Hope and Change”?

    1. The big idea was to MAKE HISTORY

    2. They like the “ideas” of their enemies to the extent that their historical response of blanket rejection, constant derision, and unmitigated hate has proven so effective for the past decade.

      Many GOP primary voters chose Trump precisely because he was the one candidate the DNC/MSM machine just couldn’t take down. And that is hardly by accident.

      Trump is to politics what drug resistant bacteria are to antibiotics.

      1. Completely coincidental random unrelated thought. Gonorrhea is now antibiotic resistant.

        1. Gonorrhea is going to be Hillary’s pick for VP?

  7. All the Rockwellians are pro-Trump. The typical “Whoever the neocons hate can’t be all that bad” from Rockwell and Raimondo. Up there with there love of Erdogan, Putin and Chavez. I’m sure Raimondo is calling for all opposition media and parties in Turkey to be banned. Or is the fact that Obama called for support for Erdogan proof that he is a US puppet all along?

    1. *Ah the Rockwellians are pro-Trump*

      Didn’t mean to imply lockstep thoughts…

  8. The whole pro-Trump/pro-Hillary stuff really brings to mind the age-old conflicts between the revisionists and the revolutionaries. On one side we have a group that dreams of allying with anti-establishment figures to take over and win out afterwards. Rothbard in particular used Lenin as a model. On the other side we have the Fabians who hope to ally with the establishment figures and convince them using statistics and arguments for political expediency to move the ratchet their way.

    1. If you are practicing Fabian Libertarianism you are doing it wrong.

      (Yes, Welch I’m talking to you.)

  9. The Good News is that if Trump really is the Death of the GOP then the LP can pick up the slack. American really needs its “Big Government is bad but we can’t do anything about it for political expediency and a few tax cuts and spending cuts will save it” and Johnson/Weld are a big shift into that direction.

    1. Yep. Nothing screams ‘free minds and free people’ like two squishy former Republicans.

      1. Squishy ain’t so bad considering the LP poll results. As many alleged nonliberatrians as alleged libertarians claim to want to vote for out top slot squishies, not that the bar is very high this time. See Bookies in Ireland are already laying 40 to 1 odds that the machine candidates won’t both get hit by lone hitmen unconnected with any conspiracy, so no, Gary and the noob impostor won’t win. But by simply smiling, saving and maybe mentioning the PLANKS in the PLATFORM their coattails could usher in some spoiler votes and candidates now-ballot. This helps to gut taxes and repeal moronic laws. I call that winning.

  10. The political class is about ideas? At this point you are a comedy act Matt. You can’t seriously believe that.

    1. Just wait until the “libertarian case for Hillary” articles come out, then you’ll see some real ideas!


        There. Can you shut up now?

  11. No love for the token black sheriff who loves law and order?

  12. I used to visit almost every day. In between the understandable appeals to the common curmudgeon, they posted some pretty good libertarian material. They probably still do. Throwing a line to the curmudgeons is worth a try, I guess.

    A couple of years ago, the low-brow stuff started getting a little too much for me. Since Trump, it has been over the top. It became to depressing even go there anymore.

    I understand the appeal that Trump has to Raimondo, Lew, and Block in has much as they think he’s a bull in the china shop. However, suspect that if Trump did manage to win, the establishment would figure out pretty quickly what deals they need to make with Trump in order to get what they want.

    I’m pretty confident that those deals would not involve anything that would be satisfying to a libertarian.

    1. I’d bet dollars to donuts they know that. But its like the Brexit phenomenon — kicking the smarmy NYT crowd is the ultimate shadenfreude. The Brits, as expected, are going full retard on their indy statism. But the establishment’s indigestion was fun to behold, forma few days anyway.
      Trump hasn’t a chance, but…. if he and Melania are waking up on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave come January, won’t be long before Lew et. al. start wailing on his populist protectionism.
      Meanwhile, there is a god — getting my diner pancakes served up a few minutes ago, and the girl (yeah, girl — can’t be no more than 17) pouring my coffee said, “I couldn’t help but notice you were on the Mises Institute site…”
      Holy s—! Not that the crooked nominees give a rat’s ass about our pathetic 4 electoral votes, but there are worse ways to start the day.

  13. Of course, before we scorn the paleo libertarians too harshly, let’s not also forget that there were plenty of libertarians making a case for Obama in 2008. Embarrassing in hindsight.

    1. Trumps’ history is an open book. Make of it what you will.

      Obama was not merely a cypher, he was a hermetically sealed cypher.

      Trump support is embarrassing.

      Obama support was revealing.

  14. Reason is criticizing Republicans and not criticizing Democrats!

    Not fair!

    They’re in the tank for Hillary!

    Not fair!


    Not fair!

    They love Obama!

    Not fair!

    *stomp stomp stomp*

    Not fair!



  15. “I know those people don’t take advice from the likes of me, but one would hope seeing their new political crush flanked by Rudy Giuliani and the Great Neoconservative Hope might talk them out of the fantasy that the belligerent foreign-policy naif is “the peace candidate.””

    Every time I catch myself sort of cheering for a Trump victory over Hillary I think about the people he has around him or I see Rudy, or Christie promoting him on television and then go back to mild depression. Just thinking about a possible Attorney General Chris Christie……..ugh which one of these candidates is supposed to be the lesser evil again?

    Johnson 2016, because I really can’t stomach the other two choices.

    1. GJ is a perfectly acceptable choice…when faced with the Donkey and Elephant show.

  16. To translate from the leftist, in order: 1) Win, 2) Permanently incarcerate without due process, 3) Erase restrictions on killing, 4) Talk tougher and back it up, 5) Lead, and 6) Use different words

    why not–

    in order: 1) Win, 2) Incarcerate enemy combatants until end of hostilities, 3) Re-establish ROE that allow for victory, 4) Talk tougher and back it up, 5) Lead, and 6) Identify threats correctly

    Strange that they see 4 and 5 as bad things………

  17. Re: Gitmo and “Permanently incarcerate without due process.” This is part of the problem that comes from playing fast and loose with the differences between war and peace.

    A guy isn’t a legitimate combatant unless he says he’s a combatant. If he does, then he can be held as a POW “for the duration” and habeas corpus due process doesn’t apply, but the standard international conventions on POWs do apply. The laws of war apply, not civilian peace-time laws.

    But if they guy denies being a combatant, then he is either (a) telling the truth, or (b) committing a war crime – and in either case he’s entitled to a proper hearing. That’s where habeas corpus and due process come in; the government can’t just declare him to be an “enemy combatant” without his say-so and drop him into a POW camp.

    Bush screwed the pooch on this one after 9/11, Congress let him get away with it, and Obama, after he became President, embraced this canine canoodling. And while more of the fault lies on the GOP side here, the Dems have signed onto it enough to make it a bipartisan policy: Both stupid AND evil.

  18. Are Johnson/Weld still running?

  19. You neglect the most damning example from last night. Antonio Sabato:

    “we had a Muslim president for seven and a half years.”

    There it is. The party of conspiracy theories. And in the proper hands, then, of the presidential candidate who says climate change is a hoax foisted on us by China.

    1. Pots and kettles.

  20. our city on a hill is now a city under siege

    I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream. Maybe all three? What do you call that?

  21. Yeah the Party of Trump is now basically about:

    1. Keep the “undeserving” people out (Mexicans, Muslims)
    2. Make America White Again

    1. Oh, and also:

      3. Big government statism is totally okay, as long as the big government statism affects the “correct people”.

  22. Platituds isn’t that what all politics is anyway. You will never hear an in depth speech with specifics and I never see alternatives promoted here either just complaints. Anyone can complain without solutions to counter the complaints. just like i just did here.

  23. It is very sad. I am old enough to remember when the Republican Party was the party of ideas, and the Democrat Party was the party of kooks. Now, they are BOTH the parties of kooks.

  24. The lack of awareness in this article is galactic. Your “staff” literally voted for Obama to “punish republicans” but it is the Republicans which don’t have any ideas and are “emotional”? The million articles about the ‘fairness” of not having same sex marriage where totally not emotionally driven? WOW. DOWN. THE. TOILET.

    Well, at least you have college degrees. That makes what you say all correct, and stuff. At least that is what Ezra Klein and Warty tell me.

  25. The part about Gitmo made me realize that by floating the occasional miscreant prisoner out to feed the sharks (waterboarding?) “our” guys train them to develop an appetite for boat people and gusanos floating from the Workers’ Paradise toward the Welfare State. Gitmo could lobby for funding on the basis of cost savings and reducing the workload for DHS. If the idea catches on, Italy could stock the Mediterranean with sharks and even give the Puerto Rican export economy a boost for providing the livestock.

  26. This is possibly the least intellectual, most hysteria-promoting article I’ve ever seen on Reason. Apparently, the author is ignorant not only of LOAC, Geneva and Hague, but also of context.

  27. At least the GOP is truthful about their emotions, unlike the “other party” which hasn’t told the truth about anything since sometime during the Jackson Administration.

  28. “… By blustering like the last 15 years didn’t happen.”

    You typed that in Arabic, right?

  29. The hard fact is that it’s come down to Trump or Hillary. If you oppose Trump, you support Hillary. Now try to imagine the country after 4 years of Hillary – not the least of which is 2, probably 3 new Supreme Court justices, who will be there for 10 or 15 years.

  30. A family photo full of obnoxiously puncheable faces.

  31. uptil I saw the check which had said $6115 , I didn’t believe that…my… cousin woz actually erning money parttime on their apple laptop. . there uncle had bean doing this for less than nine months and a short time ago cleared the loans on there apartment and got a top of the range Mini Cooper

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