There’s been much discussion amongst the punditry about the precipitous decline in Pres. Obama’s poll numbers. The fact that his RCP average has dropped below 40% for the first time, or that Hispanics and white women have seemingly soured on Obama and the Democrats, is causing much buzz. Most alarming, are the numbers on millenials:
Young Americans are turning against Barack Obama and Obamacare, according to a new survey of millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are vital to the fortunes of the president and his signature health care law.
The most startling finding of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics: A majority of Americans under age 25–the youngest millennials–would favor throwing Obama out of office.
Obama’s approval rating among young Americans is just 41 percent, down 11 points from a year ago, and now tracking with all adults. While 55 percent said they voted for Obama in 2012, only 46 percent said they would do so again.
When asked if they would want to recall various elected officials, 45 percent of millennials said they would oust their member of Congress; 52 percent replied “all members of Congress” should go; and 47 percent said they would recall Obama. The recall-Obama figure was even higher among the youngest millennials, ages 18 to 24, at 52 percent.
To be sure, these numbers don’t bode well for the survival of Obamacare, or for the Democrats chances in 2014. But I don’t think they necessarily mean that the GOP will reap the benefits.
For example, with respect to younger voters, Kristen Soltis Anderson makes some interesting points over at The Daily Beast:
The way young voters feel about Obama doesn’t just matter in 2014 or even 2016. Despite the conventional wisdom that young voters don’t matter in politics, the way a voter first looks at politics when they come of age resonates throughout their voting behavior through their lifetimes. Just last month, Pew Research Center released a study showing that if you came of age under Nixon, you’re more likely to vote Democratic, even to this day. Came of age during the Reagan years? You’re still more likely to lean Republican.
Harvard rolled out a chart of party identification by age, which showed that in November 2009, some 43 percent of those aged 18-24 called themselves Democrats. Four years later, that has fallen to 31 percent. A huge drop to be sure, but that doesn’t mean people were necessarily changing their minds; it mostly means last election cycle’s bright-eyed kiddo has had a few birthdays. Our gender and race don’t change much year to year, but each of us is constantly moving up in our age bracket. And sure enough, when you look at the Harvard survey’s 25-29 year olds, they’re as Democratic as ever.
That doesn’t mean that this block of voters won’t ever change their minds and views, but it does suggest that, however low their opinion of the Democrats and their leader is now, they are more likely to remain loyal to that party and change it from within.
Another way to look at this is, those who voted for Obama because they wanted to see the ACA enacted and implemented, among other changes he promised, are going to suddenly change their minds about state vs. market solutions just because of a failed implementation. If anything, they are likely to seek out more capable technocrats as their political leaders, and to express greater interest in single-payer health care.
Even so, Anderson makes another great point, i.e. that not all millenials are the same:
To better understand what’s happening with today’s “youth vote,” first consider this fact: someone who turned eighteen on election day last year would have been just six years old on September 11, 2001. They would have been eighth graders during Obama’s first election.
I’ll violate some rules of decorum here by revealing my age: I am 29 years old. I’m a few short months away from aging out of “the youth vote” entirely. And I have about as much in common with today’s high school seniors as I do with my own parents. We researchers and pundits lump 18-year-olds and 29-year-olds into the same bucket when we talk about the “youth vote,” but the truth is that the back end of the “Millennial” generation has little memory of “hope and change” at all.
In short, provided that the GOP can deliver a compelling alternative to the Democrats, it’s possible that they can pick up some of those young voters. Of course, they aren’t called the stupid party for nothing, so don’t expect much on this front.
Andrew Kohut thinks so:
Tucked away in recent polls—which have documented the extraordinary anger directed at the Republican Party during the shutdown crisis—are measures of clear disappointment with the Democratic Party. The disappointment is substantial, and it raises big questions about the 2014 midterms.
The Republican Party’s favorable ratings fell substantially in most every national survey that uses this yard stick, declining to 28% in the Gallup poll at one point. Yet when the GOP was matched up against the Democrats on key political measures, it did not look so bad.
A mid-October Pew Research national poll found that a plurality regard the Republicans as “better able to deal with the economy” than the Democrats (44%-37%). Independents favored the GOP on the economy by a whopping 46%-30% margin in that survey.
The Republicans took most of the blame for the shutdown, yet a growing number see the GOP as “better able to manage the government.” In December 2012, the Democratic Party held a 45%-36% advantage over the GOP as the party Americans viewed as better able to manage the government. By Oct. 15—in the midst of the shutdown and debt crisis—the Democratic lead on this measure disappeared: 42% said the Republican Party is better able to manage the federal government, compared with 39% who named the Democrats.
An early read of voter preferences for the House in 2014 by the Pew Research Center in mid-October had the Democrats with a six-point edge: 49% to 43% among registered voters. In historical terms, this is a relatively modest margin. Six points is the same lead the Democrats had in 2009, a lead that steadily eroded in 2010. The GOP picked up six Senate seats and 63 House seats in that year’s midterm.
The anger over the government shut-down is fading. But at the moment, ObamaCare is the gift that keeps on giving. And, of course, there’s the struggling economy. Neither the economy nor ObamaCare promise to fade into obscurity before the mid-term elections next year. One indicator of how deep the looming trouble is for Democrats can be found in the numbers associated with independent voters:
One clear troubling sign for the Democrats at this early stage is independent voters, who decide most elections. They are evenly divided, according to Pew’s mid-October survey: 43% say that “if the elections for Congress were being held today,” they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, 43% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate.
The reason there’s hope for good results in 2014 for Republicans rests with the two issues nagging Democrats. Healthcare and the economy. Both are very personal issues, i.e. they are issues that effect all voters. They’re not some issue which voters simply have an opinion about. Both effect their lives, sometimes in dramatic fashion. And those are the very issues Republicans, if they’re smart, will focus on:
The economy and ObamaCare’s inauspicious debut are likely the most powerful drags on the president and in turn on his party. In a September Pew survey, 63% of Americans say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 market crash.
A majority of Americans say their household incomes and jobs still have not recovered from the great recession. But pluralities think that government’s policies have helped large banks, corporations and the rich more than the middle-class, the poor or small businesses.
So maybe it isn’t as bleak for Republicans as some pundits would like to believe. That said, we’ve all watched the GOP manage to screw up all sorts of issues in the past. 2014 is going to take a focused effort to lay out those 2 issues for the pubic in clear fashion and with clear and appealing alternatives.
I’ll be interested to see if they can actually do that.
I was reading Da Tech Guy’s musings on why limited government types need to work within the GOP rather than try a third party approach to rid themselves of the GOP establishment. He quotes Rush Limbaugh on what Ronald Reagan managed to do the last time the GOP establishment found themselves threatened:
The real question, in my humble opinion, is that this effort and energy needs to be used, as Ronald Reagan did, to take over the Republican Party, to repopulate it and that’s exactly what Reagan did, he took it away from the Rockefeller blue-blood country club types starting in 1976, took him ’til 1980 to do it.
Worked before, so it should work again, right? I’m skeptical.
First, what did Reagan really accomplish? A few things, sure. Don’t get me wrong – he was the best we’ve seen in my lifetime, but given the competition, that doesn’t mean much.
He got income taxes down from their preposterous progressive wet dream rates of 70%. He stood up to the Soviet Union, and possibly hastened the crumbling of that creaking empire by a few years. He made it respectable, after the raging waves of liberalism in the sixties and seventies, to say that government was more likely to be a problem than a solution for social problems.
And that’s about it.
There was no “taking over the Republican Party” under Reagan. He got a few things done, but as soon as he was out the door, it was back to business as usual for the GOP.
Reagan was forced or induced by the GOP establishment to take on one of their blue bloods as his VP. Then, after Bush the Elder won what was supposedly a third helping of Reagan, he immediately broke his solemn promise on taxes, passed more social nonsense such as the ADA, and managed to fumble away the popularity and credibility built by Reagan to the point that he was defeated by a smarmy hick used car salesman from Arkansas.
The GOP then proceeded to nominate Bob Dole, Bush the Younger, John McCain, and Mitt Romney as their presidential candidates. GOP establishment stalwarts, every one of them. In some of those cases, the GOP establishment pulled out every trick in the book to drag their preferred choice over the finish line.
Yes, the GOP establishment learned something from the ascent of Reagan. They learned techniques to keep it from ever happening again.
The GOP establishment has made something perfectly clear: they would prefer to lose rather than let people like Reagan threaten their dominance of the party. Even when they get control, as Newt Gingrich managed in 1994, they revert to their ruling class habits and fumble the opportunity away without making any progress in limiting government. In fact, after a few years, and given a cooperative president, they proved they prefer bigger government to smaller. Under Bush, a classic GOP establishment blue blood, the establishment players in the Congress enthusiastically federalized education, passed a whole new social welfare program for seniors, and passed the biggest infringement of free speech seen in my lifetime (thankfully eventually overturned by the Supreme Court).
What motivation do limited government types have to vote for such weasels or give them support of any kind? Not much, and the elections of 2006 and 2008 proved it.
Even after seeing their limited government base re-energize the party and give them back control of the House in 2010, the GOP establishment still didn’t get the message. They worked their butts off to get the “electable” Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee. Having again shown contempt for limited government types, the establishment GOP thus managed to lose against one of the weakest presidential candidates for re-election in history. No one besides Obama has *ever* won re-election with fewer votes than he got the first time, which ought to tell you just how weak he was. But the GOP managed to be even weaker, with a candidate who looked like an android programmed to only say nice things, and never ever raise any of those unpleasant ideas about limiting government. Oh, no, government was just going to be managed better. Just like it was under those managerial types named Bush.
So how do these establishment GOP types keep getting what they want? One big reason is that limited government advocates such as Limbaugh, Da Tech Guy, Charles Krauthammer, Allahpundit over at Hot Air, and about half the denizens of sites such as Free Republic pound the same drum every election. Their basic message is “Yep, we’ve been screwed by these guys more times than we can count, but we still have to support them because the Democrats are worse!TM”
OK, message taken – the Democrats are worse. But, as limited government types demonstrated in three of the last four elections, that’s not enough reason to support the GOP establishment. Indeed, in the only exception that the GOP did well (2010), many of the limited government types only turned out because they were supporting someone other than an establishment candidate.
So we’re really four for four in proving that limited government types are fed up on supporting the establishment GOP.
Why on Earth would they not be? What’s the point of investing time, energy, and emotion in an effort to elect someone who will most likely end up being just as subverted by the GOP establishment as Bill Frist, Tom Coburn, Jeff Flake, and Mario Rubio have been?
And even on those occasions where a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul ends up winning and sticks to their guns, they can’t get anything done. After obediently voting for establishment GOP types for leadership positions, they then spend more time fighting the very people they supported instead of fighting Democrats.
The limited government advocates I mentioned above all desperately want to believe that the answer is simply running better primary candidates to beat establishment Republicans, but then supporting the establishment guys who win the rigged game at least nine times out of ten. That’s playing by their rules. I simply don’t see how that can ever work.
Therefore I’m confident that simply “working within the GOP” isn’t the answer. It’s a fantasy to think that will get us a party in which the leaders will work for limited government. The establishment GOP has decades of experience defeating every such attempt, and they’ve got the entire nomination and campaign financing game rigged in their favor.
Plus, the establishment GOP is willfully blind to the biggest successes the Republicans have had in my lifetime: Reagan, and the turnovers of Congress in 1994 and 2010. All three were fueled by enthusiasm for limited government. If the establishment GOP were simply practical politicians, they would embrace the limited government strategies and philosophies that won those elections.
But by subverting every one of those successes, they proved that they’re not just apathetic to limited government – they’re actively opposed to it. As members of the political class, the only thing they like about their limited government base is the votes provided. They are willing to pretend to embrace limited government principles to get those votes, but that just makes them more dishonest than Democrats, who are at least honest about growing government without end.
I see no reason to give the establishment GOP any quarter whatsoever.
The reluctant backers of the GOP establishment then say, “A third party would be disastrous! The Democrats would dominate for a generation!” I think things are a lot more complex than that.
First, waves of political change tend to happen in unpredictable, non-linear ways. We’re headed for some radical change in the next couple of decades, as we face multiple “what cannot go forever will stop” problems. Plus, a majority of people consider politicians more untrustworthy than the guys offering Three Card Monte on the streets of New York. I think there are plenty of possibilities in that mix to trigger the downfall of a major party.
Second, a third party opens up possibilities that make it more likely to genuinely take back the GOP by kicking out enough establishment Republicans.
The GOP stalwarts would have you think that the only way a third party would work is trying to challenge both the Democrat and the Republican in a large number of races. That would indeed give Democrats a better chance in marginal districts, and help them achieve majorities in Congress. But that’s not the only way to do it.
Many states allow candidates to run under the banner of more than one party. In such places, a candidate backed by a Tea Partyish third party could also run for the GOP nomination.
The message to Republicans would be “Look, I’ve already secured this limited government party’s nomination, and so I’m running. I’d also like to be the Republican nominee, which would mean I have a really good chance to win. But if I’m not the GOP nominee, the conservative/libertarian vote will be split and the Democrat would probably win.”
The GOP establishment would be furious, and as I noted above, they would probably prefer to lose to a Democrat rather than cave to such pressure. I’m not so sure, though, about the typical Republican primary voter. A lot of them are fed up with business-as-usual Republicans, and might be open to someone who shows serious limited government credentials by also running under a party specifically created to advance those principles.
A variation in other states would be to run for the GOP nomination, and make it clear from the beginning that losing that nomination to an establishment Republican will then result in a third party run. Sure, the establishment GOP and media would be shouting “sore loser!” till election day. But they had no problem with an establishment Republican (gentry GOP member Lisa Murkowski) who did exactly that, so why not ignore their hypocritical braying and do it anyway?
Would these kinds of strategies work? Probably in some cases, and not in others. But we can’t solve the current dominance of establishment Republicans by playing by their rules. It’s time to try more hardball strategies.
There is risk in that approach. There’s also risk in the “stick by the GOP because Democrats are worse” route. The limited government energy generated in 2010 has already been reduced to cynicism in many Tea Party supporters, and much of that reduction is due to seeing their goals subverted by candidates they trusted who defected to the establishment GOP side. We’ve seen what happens when the base just gets sick of supporting the establishment Republicans and drops out of the process. We get demagogue Democrats.
I think it’s time for direct confrontation with the GOP establishment. They’ve screwed us long enough. Any game theory expert would tell us it’s time to return the favor.
Another reason we’re in the mess we’re in is because of the rise of professional politics and politicians. According to a recent study 46% of the present Congress is comprised of lawyers. That’s 68 times the density of lawyers throughout the population. But law school for many has been or has become the jumping off point for life as a professional politician.
And so, as with our current president, we get a class of people who have never “done anything or run anything.” The results predictable, just look around. For the most part, those who are our supposedly “leaders” haven’t a clue on how to proceed or how to “fix” what is wrong with this country. They have little experience in doing much of anything else but getting elected. Execution, governing, management – all seem foreign to most of our political class. So they rely on “experts”, mostly in academia or among their political connections, to advise them on how to proceed.
Ed Driscoll provides us with a great example of one politician who, after he left political life, realized how little he knew about extraordinarily important information, and how little experience he actually had where it counted. Former presidential candidate and longtime politician, George McGovern, decided to go into business after leaving politics. It was only then, after his business failed, he realized how little he knew about something as critical as what it takes in the business atmosphere he helped build to run a business.
George McGovern laments that after his experience in the bed-and-breakfast business he realizes that laws and regulations pertaining to small business are actually hurting the lower-wage workers whom he had tried to help during his entire political career. With his Stratford Inn in bankruptcy, McGovern now says:
In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business…. I wish that during the years I was in public office I had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better Senator and a more understanding presidential contender… To create job opportunities, we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.
He is just one of many of this of this professional political class who have helped put us in this mess.
We should demand, as voters and citizens, that our politicians have real world experience before we allow them the privilege of representing us. We should end this era of politicians whose only real world experience concerning the effects of policy come from dormitory debates and untried academic theories. And we should reject, out of hand, anyone who has “never done anything or run anything”, unless we find ourselves comfortable with the shape this country is in.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, brain surgeon, or even particularly smart to figure out that this trend means entitlements, as structured, will fail:
Last week, the Commerce Department announced that the gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. And the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. birthrate in 2011 was 63.2 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, the lowest ever recorded.
Slow economic growth and low population growth threaten to undermine entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Despite contrary rhetoric, they are programs in which working-age people pay for pensions and medical care for the elderly.
When Medicare was established in 1965 and when Social Security was vastly expanded in 1972, America was accustomed to the high birthrates of the post-World War II baby boom. It was widely assumed that the baby boom generation would soon produce a baby boom of its own.
Oops. The birthrate fell from the peak of 122.7 in 1957 to 68.8 in 1973 and hovered around that level until 2007. The baby boom, it turns out, was an exception to a general rule that people tend to have fewer babies as their societies become more affluent and urbanized.
So, when will our so-called “leaders” finally figure this out? My guess, in fact it really isn’t a guess, is they know but haven’t intestinal fortitude, politically speaking, to do what is necessary. That is cut them, privatize them or any of a host of other options they won’t even consider.
What they will consider, of course, is raising taxes and borrowing.
The fact of the matter is that both Social Security and Medicare are based in flawed models. The original models saw the base of the those paying into the system remaining constant, despite the “general rule that people tend to have fewer babies as their societies become more affluent and urbanized.”
The numbers don’t lie. Fewer and fewer workers are available to pay into these systems and continue to pay out at the rate at which they’re paying out now. This is no mystery. This is plain old everyday economics. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Yet our so-called “leaders” seem unwilling and unable to face the facts. The facts are not going to change. We’re not going to suddenly have a baby boom again.
These are the sorts of problems elected leaders are supposed to face head-on. That’s why they’re elected, supposedly. Yet we continue to let our elected officials get away with malfeasance. So while it is easy to point at them and say they’ve failed, in fact we’ve failed. We have failed to gin up the courage to do what is necessary to fix these problems. To force our “leaders” to do the right thing. We continue to claim in poll after poll that entitlements must be fixed. Yet we continue to put in office, time after time, the same people who haven’t yet mustered the courage to do that (nor fund themselves held accountable for not doing it).
Whose fault is that?
UPDATE: Here’s a perfect and timely example of part of the point:
John Kasich, the fiercely conservative governor of Ohio, announced Monday that he’s going to expand Medicaid dramatically using federal money — a 180-degree turn from what conservative groups swore their allies in governors’ mansions would do when the Supreme Court gave them an out last year.
This makes John Kasich a big, fat liar.
Republicans should be the ones circulating recall petitions. He should be drummed out of office, out of politics and never again hold any office higher than dog catcher. But they won’t, because despite this, he’s “one of ours”.
This is a departure from my previous two posts; it’s not about a particular group that has pulled away from the GOP. Romney pulled a slightly larger share of older voters than McCain did, even if fewer total turned out than in previous years. That the Romney-Ryan ticket did this while proposing entitlement reform is a substantial feat, but it did involve watering down the reforms a great deal. For example, Republicans now make a habit of promising that nobody under age 55 will be affected by their reforms.
Why make this concession when the lion’s share of the fiscal problem is current retirees and the many, many Baby Boomers who will retire soon? Boomers vote, of course, but what motivates them? I don’t think most seniors could bring themselves to act on straightforward greed; I think they’re voting based on a particular concept of fairness.
Specifically, they paid into the system over a long career, and they believe they should be able to get back what they paid in. And even though current Medicare beneficiaries get two to six times as much in benefits as they paid in (if this is right), only about a third of Americans think Medicare beneficiaries get any more than they paid in. As long as they think that way, they’ll continue to oppose means testing and raising the retirement age by wide margins.
You might be tempted to say that our task is to educate them, but it’s much easier to persuade people based on their current beliefs than to convince them of inconvenient facts first. Republicans basically conceded that cutting benefits to older voters at all would be unfair, and pushed complicated plans that few people aside from Paul Ryan can competently defend.
But we might be even bolder if we just hugged that core fairness principle tighter.
September’s Reason-Rupe poll (PDF – fixed link) asked Americans if they’d support cuts to their own Medicare benefits “if you were guaranteed to receive benefits at least equal to the amount of money that you and your employer contribute into the system.” It was a blowout: 68% yes, 25% no. Three quarters of Tea Partiers said yes.
At a stroke, you could slash Medicare in half with a reform based on that principle. (Their August 2011 poll suggested similar support for applying the principle to Social Security, but the cuts would be much more modest.)
Centering a reform on that principle achieves steeper cuts and seems easier to defend than what Paul Ryan is trying. Because if Democrats fought us on it, they’d have to make the wildly unpopular case for entitlements as redistribution programs rather than as “insurance” or “savings.”
The kind of coalition the Right needs for sustainable entitlement reform has to include people who highly value fairness (or, as Jonathan Haidt would call it, proportionality). If we want the project of liberty to be successful, we have to pluck on other heartstrings.
I already mentioned that marriage, kids, and a mortgage are very strong indicators of conservatism. Here’s a straightforward causal explanation: when you’re invested in something, you don’t want it to be taken from you, and you’re skeptical of starry-eyed meddlers doing anything that might threaten it. Probably the best thing done for the cause against gun control was teaching others how to use and maintain a firearm: once people own one, it sharpens the mind to cut through any argument for taking it away.
But a gun is a small investment compared to a committed and intimate relationship, custody of children, and homeownership. A dollar taxed is one that you can’t spend on your family when they want something, a dollar borrowed is one that your kids will pay back, and that meddler on TV is rolling the dice with a major part of your life.
In the case of immigration, Hispanics are already primed to be conservative because they’re already invested. With gay marriage, you have a group trying awfully hard to get more invested.
The conservative argument for embracing gay marriage is that marriage seems to be a fine institution that benefits even people who can’t have children together, and that it may strengthen the institution and the country to expand the institution so that a nontrivial minority of the population is on the inside trying to protect it rather than on the outside where their exclusion leads to thorny political issues of respect and tribalism.
Another conservative argument is that if gay marriage is politically inevitable, conservatives should proactively move through legislation to ensure that it goes smoothly without infringing on other freedoms (like those of association and contract), rather than allow this to play out entirely in the courts or in a referendum. If conservatives keep trying to board the windows, more stuff is going to end up broken than if they just opened the door.
As with immigration and Hispanics, marriage may not be gays’ top priority, but it matters, and the way Republicans approach and discuss the issue can signal that “you’re not one of us,” which is poison for coalition-building.
The flip side of that coin doesn’t have to be pandering; given the consciousness of gay communities about targeted violence and bullying, it’d be awesome if conservatives taught more gays how to use and maintain firearms.
OK, look, I’m done with the election. It’s over. Romney lost. Time to move on.
Most of us who follow politics understand the reasons and have a pretty good idea of why he’s going home and the Obama’s are staying in the White House. Short version: They let the left define the election issues. It was a masterful job of distraction aided and abetted by a complicit media (hey, “60 Minutes”, you have NO credibility anymore). Period.
Guess what those issues weren’t? The winning issues: Jobs. Economy. Debt. Deficit. ObamaCare. Benghazi. Fast and Furious.
Lesson: Don’t let your opposition define the issues. A lesson as old as politics. Romney’s campaign blew it. It allowed the left to make it about “lady parts”, abortion, contraception, Bain Capital, class warfare and racism. They made being successful something of which to be ashamed. And, of course, a couple of idiot GOP candidates at state level who came off like jackasses talking about “legitimate rape”, etc. who made it even worse (because the complicit media made their stupidity national stories — unlike jobs, the economy, debt, ObamaCare, Benghazi and Fast and Furious.).
And that scared the usual suspects enough to turn out and vote (ye olde and reliable low information voters in swing states who scare easily) and dampened GOP turnout (didn’t even get the number out that McCain got for heaven sake).
That’s the election in a nutshell.
So, now we put that behind us and deal with the inevitable aftermath.
After the election, Righty circles are naturally engaging in some soul-searching, finger-pointing, and bickering. Some of this is unproductive venting, but it’s also the start of the process of working out how to move on and improve, and there’s no time to waste.
My conversations with fellow Righty operatives and bloggers have spurred me to suggest several ways Republicans could simultaneously make the party more attractive (or less repulsive) to voters and achieve more conservative results. This post is about immigration and reversing the trend of Hispanics rapidly abandoning the GOP; the next is about gay marriage; and the final post is about entitlement reform.
First, let’s dispense with the notion agreed upon by many on the Right: seal the border first, so that whatever follows is more controlled and orderly. This is an expensive fantasy. Conservatives need to apply their skepticism of huge, complex, market-distorting government plans to every issue surrounding immigration, starting with any plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on thousands of miles of fence, surveillance, unionized government employees, and a verification system forced on every employer in the country.
It’s a joke that the Republican Party, which is practically defined by marriage, babies, and mortgages, holds at arm’s length a whole demographic (Hispanics, especially foreign-born) that tends to be more religious, marry younger and longer, and have larger families than the average American voter.
Mass immigration could work for the GOP if the GOP went with the tide instead of trying to stop it.
- If Republicans want school choice, they should have natural allies among those who are religious, have large families, and see their children suffer under the worst public schools. When you hear complaints that Hispanic immigrants don’t speak English, suggest vouchers and education savings accounts for private-school English language instruction.
- If Republicans want to revive farms and stop the population drain from rural areas, make legitimate cheap labor more available: open up a bunch of farm worker visas.
- If Republicans want to cut the cost of new housing so that young people can form households and families, make legitimate cheap labor available for that too. Heck, why not try to break various trade unions by inviting enough skilled immigrants to swamp or bypass their system?
- So the entitlement system is a problem? Yeah, Milton Friedman famously said you can’t simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state. Shouldn’t the Republican response be “Bring on free immigration“? If math dooms Medicaid and the subsidized industrial-age hospital model, why not make the math even harder?
- Conservatives have longed to shift taxes away from production and toward consumption. Nobody wants to remove labor tax wedges (AHEM: the payroll tax) as much as someone in a labor-intensive business, the kind that tends to thrive when there’s a lot of cheap labor available. That goes for both employers and the employees whose compensation is tilted toward wages rather than benefits; we know it suppresses the Hispanic savings rate. And the payroll tax, of course, helps to maintain the accounting fiction that SocSec and Medicare are like savings.
Now, about the security problem: is it easier to pick out a genuine security threat in the crowd if everyone just has to pass a security check, or if hundreds of thousands of people are trying to cross the border undetected because the only legal route is a seven-year byzantine process?
Heather Mac Donald at NRO offers a potential counter-argument: Hispanics are more suspicious of Republicans for supporting class warfare than for opposing immigration according to a poll (from March 2011), and a majority favor gay marriage, so they’re not such a conservative bunch. But:
- Immigration may not be most Hispanics’ top concern, but it isn’t trivial either. And because politics is so tribal, there are many ways to alienate a group without actually disagreeing on policy – many of which Republicans blunder into when discussing immigration.
- Republicans shouldn’t cede the class warfare argument either: it wouldn’t hurt if the party focused more on the poor, as Mac Donald’s colleague Kevin D. Williamson exhorts the GOP to do. If you’re a small-government type who reads the previous sentence as a plea to compromise on principle, that reaction is part of the problem.
- Finally: social issues. Mac Donald points out that a majority of Hispanics favor gay marriage. I’ll argue in my next post that conservatives should proactively embrace gay marriage, which should resolve this issue nicely.
When you get it wrong, what you normally should do is check your premise. Mine was that the polls couldn’t have it right running a D+ anything. That, based on 2010 and the resounding GOP victories then, the 2008 model wasn’t valid anymore. But it was, or at least D+ was. Not as much as 2008 but still a plus.
Part of my premise rested on the assumption that the conventional wisdom of “this is a center-right country” was correct. That particular bit of CW has been shaken to its foundations by this election. I’ll never again make that assumption.
So, a tip of the hat to the pollsters who I claimed had it wrong. They had it very right and tight. The only consolation I have with my prediction is that I didn’t say “landslide”. I knew it would be tight, but the other thing that let me down apparently, was my feeling I had read the “atmospherics” right.
Unlike 2008, I didn’t see the same level of enthusiasm on the left that I had seen then. And actually, the results bear that out, but not at all to the degree I thought it would. There was obviously just enough to see Obama through. Romney did better than McCain but not “better” enough.
I knew my prediction was in jeopardy fairly early when NC and FL lingered and lingered and lingered without a winner being declared. As I write this, FL is still lingering very near mandatory recount territory – not that it matters.
By any measure this was a close contest. But when the dust has settled, Obama has won.
It will be interesting, in the coming days, to dissect the exit polls and try to determine why. There are likely a myriad of reasons, some of which will be surprising and others which will likely surprise no one.
I’d like to say I’m not disappointed, but I am. I still think Obama is a disaster and I haven’t seen anything in his recent campaign to change my mind. In fact, it did nothing but reinforce that feeling and add “meanspirited”, “small”, “petty” and “vindictive” to discriptors of the man. Again, not that that matters in the big scheme of things because more Americans than not disagree with my assessment.
That brings me to the question of “why”? Why did he get a 2nd chance? And the answer lies somewhere in this shift to the left throughout the electorate I believe. Many Americans, apparently – and at least according to some of the exit polls I heard last night – are looking for someone to “take care of them”. That’s quite a change and sort of sounds a death knell to the now “myth” of American self-reliance. It also signals a profound change in how we view government. I find that unsettling.
Another thing that bothers me is accountability. I’ll make this a general statement. For the most part, we don’t hold our politicians responsible for what they do or don’t do. That very basic mistake is one of the reasons we’re in the shape we are now, in my opinion. It is my assertion that Obama should have been held accountable for his failure to do what he said he’d do in his 4 years. He hasn’t been. He failed miserably and he’s being given another chance. No accountability, just excuses for his failure. Ironically, about half the country still holds George Bush responsible while apparently not holding Obama accountable for much of anything.
I’ve been through this before with Bill Clinton and other Democrat presidents. However, even while I was not happy with them or their presidencies, we survived. The difference, however, was I at least felt that they had some level of competence. I have no confidence in Obama’s competence and, with nothing to lose now, expect to see the next 4 years devolve into something of a nightmare scenario.
But, in the end, we’ll survive it. I’m not sure what the country will look like in 4 years, but it’ll still be here.
I now concede the floor to the predictable commenters who will show up to crow. Go for it. And even to the drive-by trolls who will show up this once to do the same. It’s your day. Just remember, I’m going to hold your comments up to this man’s performance over the next 4 years and compare “results” with promise. I think, as we did in this 4 years, we’ll find the results to be sadly lacking.
The good news? We’ll have plenty to write about here at QandO. But we’d have had that had a Republican won as well.