How bad will the GOP become?

David Frum has a new piece in The Atlantic, which discusses the GOP’s increasing opposition to free enterprise. These tweets summarize part of his argument:

Meanwhile, the GOP is also moving away from property rights for homeowners that wish to sell their house to developers of multifamily units:

Remember when Republicans used to point with pride to Houston’s lack of zoning, and contrast that with California’s restrictive housing policies?

The GOP has always been awful on the military, social issues, voting rights, etc. Their one saving grace was they were more supportive of free enterprise than the Dems. Now they are even abandoning that ideology. What’s left?

The conservative wing of the House GOP recently put out a report that in the future the party should follow the lead of Trump. Many of you claimed that Trump was discredited after January 6. I still expect him to be the GOP nominee in 2024. Who’s going to beat him?

BTW, John Boehner says the rot began before Trump, indeed with the GOP class of 2010.

HT: Matt Yglesias



41 Responses to “How bad will the GOP become?”

  1. Gravatar of Daniel Kling Daniel Kling
    2. April 2021 at 10:34

    Scott, you wrote “I still expect him to be the GOP nominee in 2024. Who’s going to beat him?”

    You are risking turning into the guy in the movie who says “at least it’s not raining.” Connect the dots from 2010 to 2016 and 2020 and extend the line further into the future. Would you really bet that we can’t find someone meaner, stupider, and at least as vile as Trump to lead the GOP over the next 4 years? Where’s your faith in American exceptionalism?

    P.s., I would argue that the starting point of the rot definitely goes back before 2010. But I’m not surprised if Boehner doesn’t want to see it, given that the pre-2010 GOP coincided with his personal career ascent.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. April 2021 at 10:45

    Daniel, Good points.

  3. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    2. April 2021 at 12:15

    Daniel, I agree. Considering 2001-2009 was the dumbest 8 years in American history in which we had a president currently nobody will admit voting fit and a convicted pedophile as house speaker…it began before 2010. 😉

  4. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    2. April 2021 at 14:29

    What’s left?

    Tax cuts for the best off, elimination of regulations designed to protect workers and consumers, culture wars, voter suppression, gerrymandering and other methods of denying the majority political power and appointing judges who will support all of the foregoing.

  5. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    2. April 2021 at 16:10

    The lefts turning into a religion. It puts businesses in a very difficult position where half the population wants a policy and the other half doesn’t.

    I support getting the vaccine. I don’t support vaccine passports. For a good reason the vaccine essentially prevents serious illness in someone. There an unvaccinated person isn’t a risks to a vaccinated person. Being that there’s no spillover effect or externality on innocent people there’s no good reason to have vaccine passports.

    I don’t believe private companies should have access to highly private personal health information (don’t we have privacy laws?) unless we had a compelling reason to require it. Where’s the compelling reason here? Any American who wants a vaccine will be able to get it in a few months.

    If we were going to do passports we should have done it 6 months ago when those with prior infections could have had special rights (I know there’s a good reason we didn’t). Now that anyone who wants immunity to the disease can get it – what’s your argument for a vast invasion of privacy?

    Seems like it is you whose lost his mind.

  6. Gravatar of bb bb
    2. April 2021 at 16:19

    I remember feeling that that the Republicans were losing their mooring when they tried to interfere with that family trying to take the woman in a coma off life-support which was in the mid-2000s. By the time the 2008 primaries came around, it was obvious that the Republican party was heading in a bad direction. Trump was along time coming.

  7. Gravatar of bb bb
    2. April 2021 at 16:28

    There are a lot of people who will not be able to get the vaccine for a variety of health reasons, many of which are the most vulnerable. Vaccine’s are about protecting the heard, not the individual. Also, fully suppressing the virus protects us all from new strains. Privacy concerns are valid, but I disagree with your point that there are no externalities or spill over effects.
    In a vacuum, I favor vaccine passports, but after the last year of watching people jeopardize the health of themselves and their community because they resent being told what to do, persuasion might be more effective.
    I predict that by the end of summer, polls will undercount how many people are actually vaccinated. More people will get vaccinated if they don’t have to admit out loud that they did what the elites wanted them to do.
    But seriously, refusing the get the vaccine could result in a child with a chronic illness contracting the disease and dying. so there are externalities.

  8. Gravatar of Market Fiscalist Market Fiscalist
    2. April 2021 at 17:28


    ‘It’s really dead simple. Republicans favor freedom of association and strong property rights when it allows them to discriminate against people they don’t like. They oppose freedom of association and strong property rights when it allows others to discriminate against them. There’s nothing more to it. It’s blatantly self-serving tribalism. That’s the GOP’s one foundational principle. That’s it.’

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. April 2021 at 18:16

    Sean, You said:

    “I don’t support vaccine passports.”

    Nor do I. But I do support the right of property owners to determine who gets to walk onto their property.

  10. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    2. April 2021 at 21:15

    Normally I would support property owners right to choose.

    But now everything is political.

    It’s still a huge invasion of privacy to require it. If it’s an issue that a lot minority support a lot of property owners may prefer that the government bans them from requiring it. Takes political pressure off the organization and keeps their full customer set in play. I’m not sure if I would attend an event requiring a passport even when I’m vaccinated. I’d prefer it not be a norm that private organizations get my medical records.

    On externalities – you are talking about a very small subset of people that can’t get the vaccine but are high risks. At some point we hit herd immunity anyway. At least before the new variants it appeared that we had hit herd immunity. 100 million vaccinated plus 100 million infected is fairly close.

  11. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    2. April 2021 at 21:36

    So far the biggest aggrieved party on government banning vaccine passports is Disney. Privately I bet Disney is happy the government banned passports. Otherwise they would have been forced to either adopt passports or not. Either way they lose a percent of their customer base. I assume they would adopt passports. That likely costs them 30-50% of their customer base that doesn’t want to share their private medical data with a corporation. Now they get to say it’s not their choice to the woke.

    Weird world when property owners likely prefer the government taking away their rights.

  12. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    3. April 2021 at 03:34

    Trump has been diminished some within the Republican Party, but is still the most popular politician within it, by far. I think his popularity within the party will increasingly damage it politically, shaping primaries, but dooming Republicans in general elections. Republicans don’t increasingly try to restrict voting rights because they think their prospects at winning general elections are improving.

    At some point, the Party might split over Trumpism.

    I don’t know how Trump himself runs again, given his age, apparent unhealthy lifestyle, and legal problems.

  13. Gravatar of David S David S
    3. April 2021 at 03:53

    I want to believe that someone meaner and stupider than Trump wouldn’t get elected, but it makes me wonder about something worse: a Trump-like candidate who is more organized and even less inhibited—a Trump-Putin if you will. Stephen Miller comes to mind, but he lacks the charisma.

    Market Fiscalist basically nailed it.

  14. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    3. April 2021 at 06:16

    It is fascinating that libertarians such as Scott find Tucker Carlson more relevant than Joe Biden. What about the CNN dopes? Who cares about those people. I care about the liars kicking the all star game out of GA because of “racist voting laws”. Disney’s ESPN is a pure straight out propaganda machine. What about them? Scott’s hate for Trump has made him ignore what is really going on. He knows this of course——but he gets off on Fox hate, Trump hate to much. It’s too much fun for him

  15. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    3. April 2021 at 06:51

    Is it too much to ask for just one sane party in the US?

  16. Gravatar of Jonathan Jonathan
    3. April 2021 at 07:56


    I don’t know. I would be much more likely to go to a place like Disneyland if they required passports. Without passports I am likely to keep vacations to things a little less crowded (maybe Yosemite will be too crowded this summer, last summer it was not crowded and was wonderful).

  17. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    3. April 2021 at 08:12

    Easier to have two sane parties than one. When rational compromises go too far and one party clings to extremist civil liberty violating lockdowns it becomes important to take a hardline give no ground position becomes the safest position on a host of issues.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. April 2021 at 08:12

    Sean, The problem is that Republicans want to make “exceptions” for all the activities they personally approve of, and not for things like drugs and prostitution.

    There’s a term for political systems where you are only allowed to do things that the government approves of. And it’s not “freedom”.

    Michael, You said:

    “It is fascinating that libertarians such as Scott find Tucker Carlson more relevant than Joe Biden.”

    LOL. My previous post was entirely devoted to criticizing Joe Biden!

  19. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    3. April 2021 at 09:51

    Johnathan – Do you have a fear of a negative outcome if you are vaccinated? I’ve yet to see a report of someone dying with covid who was properly vaccinated. I assume a few cases will pop up especially very old with poor immune responses but the data seems solid that the risks is extremely low.

    I already canceled Disney for other reasons but I will not be going to firms requiring vaccine passports. I’m assuming a few people will have health fears but most vaccinated people will not.

    I would share vaccine papers if I went to a children’s cancer ward.

  20. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    3. April 2021 at 09:57

    Sean, how is a business requiring customers to be vaccinated a violation of civil liberty?

  21. Gravatar of dcpi dcpi
    3. April 2021 at 10:02

    If one finds oneself demonizing one party (ahem, Scott), then it is time to reassess ones own sanity. I have met many politicians. Anyone with a modicum of ethics does not rise in the party. Does not matter which party.

  22. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    3. April 2021 at 10:11

    I see two quick arguments
    1) a structural racism/caste system. If 95% of people believe X is bad and 5% believe X is good then the 5% are cut off from all of normal society. It’s why protecting minority rights can be important.

    2) Monopoly power. For example our payment system is privately owned. If a few private key companies require vaccine passports to use the system it would cut someone out of all commerce. Less important for small businesses and more important for large businesses.

    Try being gay 50 years ago in the Bible Belt. Even without a law on the books the sheer full exclusion from society would keep you in the closet.

  23. Gravatar of ee ee
    3. April 2021 at 11:30

    Sean is raising separate issues. IMO it’s not worth engaging with him. Great example of a modern conservative though.

  24. Gravatar of Jonathan Miller Jonathan Miller
    3. April 2021 at 12:14


    I have two children who are younger than twelve and won’t be vaccinated this summer (and very likely not this year). If I went to Disneyland it would be primarily for them. While kids have a very low chance of having a negative outcome from Covid, it is still possible. I would prefer to not take them to such a crowded space with people from all over if the people there are not vaccinated.

    My wife and I should be vaccinated by the end of May.

  25. Gravatar of bb bb
    3. April 2021 at 12:28

    “On externalities – you are talking about a very small subset of people that can’t get the vaccine but are high risks.”
    You don’t know that. The portion of the population that are immunocompromised or have autoimune diseases is not insignificant. This would be the first vaccine that I’m aware of that works for everyone.

    “At some point we hit herd immunity anyway. At least before the new variants it appeared that we had hit herd immunity. 100 million vaccinated plus 100 million infected is fairly close.”
    I don’t even know that that means? We’ve had 30 million cases so far- you’re suggesting we triple that. I think you just don’t want to agree with liberals. I’m out.

  26. Gravatar of bb bb
    3. April 2021 at 12:32

    “Nor do I. But I do support the right of property owners to determine who gets to walk onto their property.”
    This is a reasonable position.
    Silly question: if you had to choose between the federal government maintaining the registry of people who have been vaccinated (as a services to businesses who choose to use it) or have the credit bureaus maintain the registry?

  27. Gravatar of Will Will
    3. April 2021 at 12:46

    “Sean is raising separate issues. IMO it’s not worth engaging with him. Great example of a modern conservative though.”

    It’s transparent post-hoc rationalization. He came to his conclusion based on tribalism, loyalty, and emotion, rather than anything logical or rational. That’s why his attempted defense of his position is all over the place.

  28. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    3. April 2021 at 13:25

    BB at least engage in good faith arguments. 30 million is official case counts. No one knows the true case count but 100 seems fairly accepted now.

    Johnathan, fair enough argument. Though I disagree there’s any significant risks. I could support passports under a couple conditions.
    1. It was truly temporary. A few months until we’ve had enough vaccinated to get herd immunity.
    2. It was a much more deadly disease.

    A legitimate fear exists that anything temporary like lock downs for a few months to flatten the curve becomes an expanded program that doesn’t end.


    Don’t accuse someone of tribalism you don’t know. I agreed with Scott a long time ago of the need for monetary easing back in 2010 when that wasn’t a popular gop position.

  29. Gravatar of bb bb
    3. April 2021 at 15:17

    Good faith attempt:
    “At some point we hit herd immunity anyway. At least before the new variants it appeared that we had hit herd immunity.”
    The most recent winter wave was worse than previous wave and truly terrible. Is that last wave entirely due to variants? And if so, why does it matter? Do you think there won’t be additional variants? I honestly don’t know what the argument is here. We already hit herd immunity, but didn’t because something totally predictable happened, but now we are close because?
    ” 100 million vaccinated plus 100 million infected is fairly close.”
    I agree that the number of infected is more than confirmed. I’m skeptical that the number is high enough that we are on the verge of herd immunity, because the numbers are still pretty damn high. The numbers are nigher now than they were for most of last year. Declaring victory is premature. We don’t know what it will take to get to herd immunity, but 60% is the lower end of the range at which herd immunity is achieved with other diseases. I think you’re arguments are based on some generate assumptions – low number of people who won’t be protected individually by the vaccine and herd immunity can be achieved with 60% of the herd. I’m not willing to stipulate either of those point.
    We sacrifice our privacy in so many ways these days, google, credit bureau’s, loyalty shopping accounts, amazon, ALEXA ambient listening. The weather app sells your location history. But you want to draw the line on vaccine passport because “now everything is political”. We’ve been requiring vaccinations to go to school for all 50 years that I’ve been alive, but now we can’t require it for Covid? Is it possible that you are making this political? To me it’s a simple question of public health, not a political issue.

  30. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    3. April 2021 at 16:05


    No one wants your “medical records”. It’s this one thing, you need a vaccine to enter a private business. It’s not any more an infringement on your liberty than mask wearing. Don’t be a child.

  31. Gravatar of ThatsNotAll ThatsNotAll
    3. April 2021 at 17:39

    If a person takes a shot to qualify for entrance to a business, and the person dies due to a bad reaction to the shot, is the business liable?

    It will be interesting to see how the vaccine mandates proposed by universities go. If a student declines because he is afraid to take the shot, does the student get an exemption? If so, what type of mandate is this? If not, and the student dies from the shot, can the university be held liable?

  32. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    4. April 2021 at 05:53

    Scott said “LOL, my previous post was entirely about criticizing Biden”. No, it was not. It was about Biden and other people “older than 78” being criticized for being anti-Marijuana. Of course I was criticizing another point in his Tucker Carlson essay.

    An easy pitch to hit would have been Biden’s take on the MLB all-star game. I know, who cares about baseball, or for that matter, Delta and KO? I would agree with that point

    But if we are going to criticize GOP media (I support those criticisms) one would have thought a 4 Pinocchio’s given by the WAPO to Biden on GA’s new voting law would have been an interesting “man bites dog story”.

  33. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. April 2021 at 08:10

    dcpi, You said:

    “If one finds oneself demonizing one party (ahem, Scott)”

    Did you read my previous post?

    I can only roll my eyes at people who are too blind to see what’s happened to the GOP. I’ve followed politics for half a century, and it’s not normal for a party to become a personality cult obsessed with conspiracy theories.

    No, Biden is not a personality cult.

    bb, I’d prefer to leave the federal government out of it.

    Michael, Biden’s acting like a normal politician. I tend to write I things that I find interesting. Biden is boring.

  34. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    4. April 2021 at 09:31

    Our host supports property rights as in real estate Fee Simple Absolute, which is fine, but much of today’s wealth is in intangible property rights (patents, trademarks, copyright) which I believe since 1990 forms the bulk of the wealth of the S&P500. When is Sumner going to pound the table on respecting IP? Having an inventors bill of rights where an inventor gets money from society (government) for worthy innovation? (unlike today: Nobelist Kary Mullis got $10k for inventing PCR, a breakthrough technology, that’s wrong, and few people win the Nobel Prize with the million(s) in cash).

    I do find it interesting, as real estate investor (properties in three countries, net worth of in excess of $10M, I have three projects now that should net me about $3M if all goes wall) that NIMBYs are now Red and YIMBYs are Blue, absurd. The Republicans have become the party of xenophobic geriatrics.

  35. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    4. April 2021 at 10:33

    There’s a ton of “IP” that should never have been classified as property. I work in the software industry and we are always being attacked by patent trolls based on ridiculously broad patents (e.g. a patent for a software engine that allows you to transform data using expressions). Also, the big software developers all hold caches of patents to defend themselves against their opponents in a form of mutually assured destruction.

  36. Gravatar of Ankh Ankh
    6. April 2021 at 16:25

    The conservative party is much less of a threat to private property than the radical left. It’s Klaus Schwab (WEF), a socialist democrat who is propagating the abolishment of private property, not Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and the conservative party. It’s Kamala Harris and her radical left party who seeks “equal outcome”, not the equal opportunity that Cruz and Trump support.

    It’s Google, Apple, and others that are promoting radical left theories like “critical race theory” where the proposition “you have white skin” somehow, leads to the conclusion “therefore you are an oppressor”. Let’s take a moment to show that logic, for it’s quite hilarious:

    1. You have white skin.
    Conclusion: Therefore, you are an oppressor.

    That is the party that one has to worry about. That is the communist/marxist approach that seeks to create conflict between races and classes as a tool for their end-game.

    The conservatives have their own problems to reconcile with, but when you compare the two parties today – it is undoubtedly the left that has gone too far.

  37. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    6. April 2021 at 18:39

    @Carl – I’m against s/w patents, and the Sup. Ct. the other day yet again ruled against them (Google v Oracle). Patents on regular expressions sound like RegEx and/or F#, agreed it’s absurd.

  38. Gravatar of Toshio Toshio
    7. April 2021 at 03:04

    The republican party in America is the only party that stands between your people and communism. It is the only party that stands up for you as an individual.

    I believe Scott, because he grew up in the 60s, still believes that the democratic party is the John and Bobby Kennedy party, which was predomintely a socially progressive but fiscally conservative party.

    But that is not the case today. Today’s democratic party is the communist & globalist elite party, and it has been since about 1992. These new democrats want to replace capitalism as a mode of production. They may call it “reform” what what they really mean is control over the means of production and your life.

    I believe Jimmy Carter was the last sensible blue collar democrat.

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2021 at 08:19

    Toshio, You said:

    “Today’s democratic party is the communist & globalist elite party, and it has been since about 1992.”

    Yes, that’s why Bill Clinton did free trade policies, cut capital gains taxes and ended welfare as we know it. It was his way of installing communism in America.

  40. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    11. April 2021 at 06:09

    Scott says “Biden is boring”. Is he? Trump,was not boring, presumably. Okay. Are the proposals of the Dem Party “boring”? I don’t think so. Did not know you were driven by “boring” versus “not boring”.

    Biden is not the point. I am not even sure he can state what his views are——but somehow pretty interesting ideas are coming from Dems. Supreme Court Commisions, unwinding Iran deal, 2 trillion “infrastructure” proposal——which Nancy says will be done by August—-wonder what that is. State courts finding illegal election actions by states. China ramping up Taiwan threats. These are boring compared to Twitter feeds from Trump. But they are more important.

    Your real blog is mostly monetary policy but not all—-thank goodness. But is a crappy blog I am sure you could write intersecting attacks against the Left. But you don’t.

  41. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    11. April 2021 at 06:10

    “in a crappy blog you can write interesting attacks against the left”

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