GOP Myths

GOP Myths May 13, 2009

For those uninitiated, I am a former Republican.  This does not mean I am a conservative and not a Republican, in popular parlance.  I stopped calling myself a conservative a couple of years ago, because the word became mostly associated with beliefs I didn’t hold.  I stopped really considering myself a conservative about a year ago.  Whatever conservatism in America is today, I’m not it.  In this dichotomous world, people are prone to label me liberal.  I guess there is nothing wrong with being a liberal, but I don’t consider myself one.  I consider myself to have a rightward disposition.  Being one of the ones that left, I figured I might as well advise the GOP on how to get back into the game.  Take it for it’s worth.

  1. Stop worrying about abortion.  The GOP isn’t too pro-life.  Any voter that left the GOP over abortion had other issues.  Abortion was one of the few issues the GOP had going for it that can swing moderates and independents.  The GOP isn’t going to win elections on abortion alone though.  Thankfully it doesn’t have to do so.
  2. Gay marriage isn’t a deal breaker.  Where this is a problem for the GOP is that its hard core base of middle-aged upper class whites are moving toward being broadly supportive of gay marriage.  Supporting gay marriage overall is a fairly white phenomenon.  In composition, each party is just about as supportive of gay marriage as the other, so any candidate using it as an issue cuts himself when he cuts the other guy.  Regardless, I’m not sure any election outside of San Francisco has been swung on the issue.
  3. Oh but what about the yout’ vote?  What about it?  The yout’ vote is basic demographics: yuppie peter pans, poor people just getting by, and young families with middle class aspirations.  The first two demographics have always polled well with Democrats.  The last demographic has always polled well for Republicans.  So what changed?  That last demographic has been shrinking tremendously.  Fewer people are getting married, and they are getting married later.  Additionally, major recessions have ways of crushing higher income aspirations.  Rather than patronizing the first demographic with appeals to gay marriage as some propose, the GOP would do well to work to expand the last group.
  4. Drill baby drill!  I mean tax cuts.  Where are the people going to turn?  If the GOP was getting 70/30 out of the >$100,000 income demographic, this would be an argument.  In the last presidential election it was 49/49.  When the Democratic candidate is promising to raise taxes on people making over $200,000 a year and the Republican is calling for tax cuts, the return had better be more than 0.  This isn’t to say taxes will never be an issue, because they will be and they have been.  They aren’t a big enough issue to win in the current environment.  When you have people like Ben Stein writing that it would be responsible to raise taxes on the rich, you should see that this club isn’t going to bring too many people into line.
  5. We must win the war.  This is a very solid minority belief.  It isn’t enough to win elections.  No, you won’t win the peaceniks anyway.  The people that look in profound sadness as another child is buried and another mother grieves are in play.  I think McCain was able to win the primary because he was able to empathize with those that didn’t believe that no burden was too great.  Parties pay a great price when they think sacrifice is noble and great but forget it is real.  Obama will face real consequences if troops are not out of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq in 4 fours.  He may face it in 2 years.
  6. We need to secure the Mexican border and send the illegals home, or perhaps not.  It wasn’t enough to win several Arizona races, and it certainly isn’t enough to win national ones.  The GOP does better when it focuses on assimilation, like requiring English.  It insults the intelligence of many people when it focuses on getting rid of the current illegal immigrants.  Needless to say minorities are alienated when the grassroots use illegal immigrant and Mexican interchangeably.  Regrettably for all involved, this issue would benefit the GOP if it neglected it for a good long while.  Amnesty is also very unpopular, so the Democrats don’t have anything really going for them.
  7. The Hispanic vote will save.  If it keeps becoming Evangelical it just might.  The Democrats are supposedly the natural constituency of the poor.  Where people start breaking off because of social issues is around $22,000/yr income.  If I were to speculate, this number is probably higher in the Hispanic community due to historical issues.  The same speculation has been offered about the black vote as well though.  The problem with outreach in both communities is that it is outreach.  The GOP doesn’t have an urban policy (school choice is not an urban policy) and you aren’t going to reach voters if you don’t care about their issues.  The organization is sparse and ineffective in the urban communities.  Love him or hate him, Rudy Guiliani did more black and Hispanic outreach than many Republicans.  It is hard to win points if you don’t show up.
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  • Are you familiar with John Lukacs’ distinction between a conservative and a reactionary?

    • M.Z.

      I confess that I do not. I have seen Luckacs referenced by a number of folks I read, but I’ve never read him myself.

  • “A conservative will profess a preference for and a trust in Ronald Reagan; a reactionary will not, and not because Reagan was a Hollywood actor but because he never stopped being one. A reactionary considers character but distrusts publicity; he is a patriot but not a nationalist; he favors conservation rather than conservatism; he defends the ancient blessings of the land and is dubious about the results of technology; he believes in history, not in Evolution.” – John Lukacs, Confessions of an Original Sinner.

    Lukacs is kind of an idiosyncratic thinker, but interesting nonetheless.

  • RR

    That last point is key, I think. No matter how conservative you are, if you think the GOP hates you, you aren’t going to vote for them. Right now the GOP has a HUGE PR problem with minorities. McCain won the white vote and the Protestant vote. The GOP either needs to win a supermajority of the WASP vote or start listening to minorities.

    Then again, it was only 4 years ago pundits were saying that the Democrats were going extinct. The Dems didn’t change a thing and look at where they are now.

  • digbydolben

    I’m a “reactionary,” then, and I guess I’ve always been a “reactionary,” even when I THOUGHT I was a “social democrat.”

    However, I think the European term “wet Tory” is the most accurate way to describe my own political affiliation.

    On another note, I think the Republicans’ best chance for getting back into power any time soon will involve the Democrats’ war plans in Iraq and Afghanistan going awry–which they are almost certainly going to do.

    It is sad to watch another “liberal Democratic” American regime repeat the mistake of the Kennedy-Johnson one just in order to prove their militarist and nationalist credentials and to attempt to placate a right-wing establishment that would be displeased with them, no matter what they did.

  • M.Z.

    I think the Republicans’ best chance for getting back into power any time soon will involve the Democrats’ war plans in Iraq and Afghanistan going awry–which they are almost certainly going to do.

    It appears Obama is doubling down in Afghanistan, and I think he will regret the choice. The calculus involves the American people giving Bush credit for the surge in Iraq, something I don’t think ever really materialized.

  • William

    Republicans need to emphasize how the Democrats are fiscally driving the country into the ditch. They need to convince the country that they will get the budget under control.

  • Right now the GOP has a HUGE PR problem with minorities.

    Understatement of the year!

    • M.Z.

      I believe the issues the GOP has with minorities are on substance and the pr flows from it. Minorities are more likely to be urban. The GOP doesn’t have an urban policy. The late Jack Kemp tried to start remedying this, but it is a real problem.

  • Republicans need to emphasize how the Democrats are fiscally driving the country into the ditch.

    That’s a bit difficult when an article of faith of the Republican party since Reagan was that there is no lower bound to tax rates, and no bad consequences of a race to the bottom. It took Clinton to fix Reagan’s mess, and then Bush came along, abolished PAYGO, and went again on a spending free financed by the Chinese.

    I find it highly ironic that the Republicans are only now rediscovering the virtues of fiscal prudence — precisely at a time when normal conditions do not apply (we are in the midst of the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and there is no crowding out through either the interest rate or exchange rate channel).

    But then again, a party that makes “supply side” voodoo an article of faith is a party that fails to understand the basics of economics. When things are fine, they can get away with such ignorance. When things turn sour, the fault lines are exposed. I think this is the key reason why people turned decisively toward Obama and away from McCain last Fall — it was clear that only one side had a clear handle on the issues. And even today, with the same tired old answers, the Republicans still don’t get it. Time to purge the evil spirit of Reagan….

  • William

    MM,

    I agree that Bush let spending get out of control. But, the Democrats will double the national debt in five years! Total irresponsibilty.

  • William – the Keynesian rule is, run deficits in bad times (like now), and pay them off in good times. Paygo was seeing to that; its abandonment can be blamed on the political party I abandoned several years before M.Z. did.

  • William

    Matt,

    The Democrats are using the recession as an excuse to push through their massive social programs. They are taking the “Keynesian rule” way beyond where it was ever intended to go. The country is headed into very dangerous territory. Huge tax increases are coming for everyone, not just the “rich”. They will try to call it something else like “cap and trade”, but the taxes are coming.

  • “The Democrats are using the recession as an excuse to push through their massive social programs.”

    Is this what you FEAR or can you VERIFY this accusation? It’s one or the other.

  • Huge tax increases are coming for everyone, not just the “rich”. They will try to call it something else like “cap and trade”, but the taxes are coming.

    William, the top marginal tax rate is barely a third of what it was under that notorious Leninist, Dwight Eisenhower. Obama is talking about raising it by something like, what, 3 percentage points?

    Not sure what you mean by “massive social programs.”

  • William

    Gerald and Matt,

    Socialized medicine is coming, and the Dems will have to substantially increase taxes to pay for it. Raising the marginal tax rate is not the only way to do it. They will look at reducing deductions and credits, raising fees on businesses (cap and trade), and anything else they can think of.

    Obama himself said today: “We can’t keep on just borrowing from China. We have to pay interest on that debt, and that means we are mortgaging our children’s future with more and more debt.”

    He’s paving the way for massive tax increases, because he sure as heck isn’t going to cut spending.

  • William,

    You need to get past the slogans. What do you mean by socialized medicine? I certainly believe in social insurance over individual risk (actuarial) insurance, as it embodies solidarity. Ideally, I would like a single payer system, but there is no mandate for that, unfortuantely. Are you aware that single payer systems the world over deliver better healthcare outcomes for far less than the US? Remember, this country spends 15 percent of GDP in healthcare, twice the OECD average, and has little to show for it. If you simply look at taxes, you miss much of the real cost, which is borne by individuals through premia and payments.

  • William

    MM,

    By socialized medicine I mean disastrous systems such as those in Britain and Canada. I could list dozens of horror stories about poor healthcare in those countries as well as rationing.

    “Are you aware that single payer systems the world over deliver better healthcare outcomes for far less than the US?” Are you joking? The quality of healthcare in the U.S. is the best in the world. Many people travel to the U.S. from these countries because they can’t get quality healthcare. Sure, I’d like it to be cheaper, but not at the expense of quality or availability.

  • “Are you joking? The quality of healthcare in the U.S. is the best in the world. Many people travel to the U.S. from these countries because they can’t get quality healthcare.”

    No, MM is not joking. The quality of healthcare in the U.S. ranks near 35th among industrialized nations. That’s a fact. The U.S. health care system is fragmented and disjointed. It is a broken system that provides the “best’ care to only the few. But the system itself — that which serves most Americans — is extremely poor.

    So, the U.S. does have high-tech medicine. People from abroad come here to take advantage of it. But — and this is the key point — it is not widely available to the American public. The average American gets much more limited care — if they get care at all. Like I said above, the “best” medicine goes only to those who can afford to pay for it.

    Now ask yourself: what benefit does such a high-tech capability provide to the average middle class or poor American? It offers no benefit at all. It is totally beyond their reach.

    One other point. What kind of preventive care can you get in an emergency room? None. Yet, this is where tens of millions of Americans are expected to receive whatever health care they get.

    Finally, if you have pre-existing conditions, and you have, or expect to get, private insurance — well, just forget it. You are on your own. Private insurance companies cherry-pick those whom they cover.

  • William,

    So wrong I don’t know where to start. Suffice it to say that these countries do far better than the US across the spectrum of healthcare outcomes, and they do so far more efficiently, and they don’t leave anyone behind.

  • digbydolben

    I’m living right now in a country with what some here would call a “socialistic” health system. It’s cheaper, more efficient, more responsive and more geared toward PREVENTIVE health care than anything I knew in America.

    During my last two months in Albuquerque I was on COBRA without any unemployment insurance benefits because the Catholic Archdiocese of New Mexico gets itself exempted from paying unemployment insurance to the State, but never informs prospective employees of this until they leave or are separated. I was requested by a gastro-enterologist to have a CAT-scan, because he wanted to be assured that the antibiotics course he’d put me on to get rid of a bacterial infection I’d picked up on an Indian reservation out there hadn’t ulcerated my stomach or esophagus before he managed to get it out of me. I was already paying over $400.00 a MONTH for the COBRA plan, and then the hospital requested a “co-pay” of over $300.00 for an x-ray that took all of five minutes to perform.

    Half of the population of the state of New Mexico have no health insurance and CHILDREN in that State develop gross infections like sties in their eyes that could easily be prevented with regular medical attention.

    It seems nobody in Albuquerque goes near a doctor until they’re half-dead.

  • William

    Here are just a few examples of the horrors of socialized medicine. I have many more.

    Life-saving cancer drugs ‘kept from NHS patients by red tape’
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1788571,00.html
    – Sam Lister, September 20, 2005 [The Times]

    NHS slides into the red despite record increases in health care spending
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=P8&xml=/health/2005/09/20/nhs17.xml
    – September 20, 2005 [Telegraph UK]

    NHS faces rising bill for negligence claims
    http://news.ft.com/cms/s/e1b34ac2-07a7-11da-a742-00000e2511c8.html
    – Ben Hall, August 8, 2005 [Financial Times]

    Canada’s Medical Nightmare
    http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=15524
    – Robert J. Cihak, M.D., September 1, 2004 [Health Care News]

  • M.Z.

    To attempt to bring this back into focus, I don’t think the GOP is losing due to health care. William is exemplifying a trend in the GOP to ignore actual problems, in this case with the health care system, in favor of fear mongering. The nice thing about fear mongering is that in the end you can be like me and say, “I’ll take my chances.”