What will the Republican Party look like when it retakes the lead in governing? I’d bet it will be a coalition that identifies more with what Alex Castellanos is laying out at NewRepublican.org.
Some of it is new messaging for old ideas. Castellanos rebrands spontaneous order and subsidiarity as “open,” “natural,” “organic,” and “bottom-up.” He tags statism, command economies and federal control as “closed,” “artificial,” and “top-down.” Those are elegant ways to tell Whole Foods shoppers and Silicon Valley what we’re about without assigning them F.A. Hayek or a history of the Soviets.
Castellanos also stresses the superiority of private compassion over state welfare, but instead of getting trapped by placing charity in a bidding war with the welfare state, or quibbling over the definition of charity, he casts the state welfare agencies as “machine-like” or “factory-like” and “archaic,” and more importantly labeling them as “social mercenaries” that allow Americans to “distance ourselves from our responsibilities as human beings,” which involve “person-to-person” compassion.
That leads into a much more substantive change: redirecting social conservative energy to where it can actually accomplish something for itself and for the party, namely local and fulfilling private action instead of trying to seize the top and push down, which outsources to politicians and bureaucrats the promotion of our values.
Several items on the list of 67 beliefs of New Republicans (67!) deal with this:
4. We believe in freedom nationally and values locally.
6. We believe that when we allow big-government to enforce our values, we legitimize it to enforce other values, as well.
7. We believe in natural and organic ways of addressing social challenges, not political and artificial controls directed by Washington.
12. We believe Washington should stay out of our wallets, and out of our bedrooms.
39. We believe we are Republican for Everybody, and Republicans Everywhere. We believe our principles are an indispensable force for good, needed now to alleviate poverty, misery, dependency, and family breakdown destroying American lives in our inner cities.
Social conservatives lost the battle to use federal levers to enforce family and religious values, and damaged the good reputation of those values in the attempt, but those beliefs are still popular in many states, towns, and households. They can still gather a majority coalition with libertarians and moderates to carve out the space to practice their values and their faith without interference from the state, with more confidence and optimism than Paul Weyrich had in the late ’90s; if they revert to using top-down power, those potential allies will be embarrassed of their association with social conservatives. That’s coalition politics.
The New Republicans will avoid being associated with Big Everything, including Big Business. What saps the Republican Party’s entrepreneurial spirit and daring to cut government and promote free markets is its reliance on forces that want the state to protect them against change and competition; Milton Friedman repeatedly observed that this makes business community a frequent enemy of free enterprise. But the GOP need not be anti-business, just suspicious to the extent of keeping anything Big at arm’s length.
Finally, Castellanos does stress a couple of times that New Republicans believe in “campaign[ing] for our solutions in the most benighted parts of America, from the barrio to the inner city.” I’ve heard noises to that effect from Republicans for years, but that will only succeed if it’s a major, sustained effort; if we have nothing to say about urban problems beyond school choice, and we don’t learn how to assertively persuade people that we are absolutely superior at addressing poverty, we’re cooked. These things require practice, trials and errors, and personal experience with the poor and with urban life. We have to be able to win at least sometimes, electing mayors and city councils in major metro areas, to show that our way of governing works for the growing portion of the country living in cities.
I said at the beginning that this is how Republicans will think when they regain the lead in governing, and I chose those words instead of “winning elections” because it’s possible the GOP can temporarily get over 50% here and there by other means, but it won’t have the initiative until it accepts the challenge to persuade all of America that its principles are relevant to them. The party could and should also make gains by modernizing the way it learns and reorganizes itself, how it encourages and channels activism, its campaign tactics and strategy, and more. But those things go naturally with a mindset that’s reflexively entrepreneurial and not only open to change but so hungry for it that we’re unafraid to stop doing what isn’t working.
If we had just bought what the establishment GOP was selling, they would have thrown in undercoating for free
I don’t visit The Corner at National Review as often as I used to. Their pop-behind ads annoy me too much. But with good stuff from Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, Andrew McCarthy, and a few others of that ilk, I still go by from time to time, despite the ads.
Almost as annoying as the ads are the Gentry GOP types who are constantly providing cover for establishment Republicans. Ramesh Ponnuru leads that crew. Ponnuru had a post yesterday, with a follow-on today, that both serve as a fine illustrations.
Both are about the intricate strategerizing (as another establishment Republican might put it) around the so-called fiscal cliff. I tried to understand what he was getting at. I really did. But it all just came out as complicated blather to promote some kind of go-along-get-along viewpoint. I never did understand his argument. I’m pretty sure that he wants the Republicans who blocked the last deal to get with the program and support the establishment cohort led by Boehner, but even after reading his posts through twice I still don’t get *why*.
He ends the first piece with this paragraph:
That some Republicans are willing to see higher taxes for the sake of anti-tax purity is topsy-turvy enough. Adding to the vertigo: The Republicans (inside and outside the House) who fret about blurring the party’s definition are the ones who are doing most to blur it. They are the ones who are, in most cases, accusing Republican leaders of seeking to raise taxes when they are actually trying to cut taxes as much as they think possible—cut them, that is, from the levels the law already has in place for 2013. They’re the ones who are accusing most House Republicans of “caving” to the Democrats, even as some of them prefer that the Democrats get their way entirely. That’s where the convoluted politics of this moment have led us.
This word salad sounds like an old Dilbert cartoon to me. In it, Dilbert is asked to sign a document stating "Employee election to not rescind the opposite action of declining the reverse inclination to not discontinue employment with the company."
The Gentry GOP’s equivalent seems to be "Voting for the bill to raise taxes in order to not raise taxes while electing to stand firm on not doing anything on spending while ensuring the previous action of claiming to reduce spending." Or something like that. I’m not really sure.
On stuff like this, I am a firm believer in the Asimov principle. In an introduction to one of his books, he said (approximately) "When I read something I don’t understand, I don’t assume I’m stupid." There are plenty of reasons for something to be incomprehensible that don’t have anything to do with me:
- The author might not know what he’s talking about
- The author might be a very bad communicator, and so just can’t explain himself very well
- As in the Dilbert example, the author might be trying to obfuscate the issue
For the entire discussion over the fiscal cliff, from Democrats, the media, or establishment Republicans, I’m going with the last explanation. It’s pretty clear at this point that the whole thing simply does not matter that much in the long term. No proposal being taken seriously will do anything to alter our long term trajectory. So the entire episode is just for political maneuvering.
That’s the part Ponnuru doesn’t seem to get, or at least he doesn’t assign any real weight to it. He doesn’t understand why twenty or so Republicans just won’t go along with the gag.
I get it completely. They have the intuition that they are being gamed.
Analyzing the details doesn’t help, because those details are intentionally confusing, and leave entirely too much room for statists to make things come out the way they want later.
If you’ve ever been subjected to the car salesmen who insists that this wonderful deal he’s offering you won’t be good tomorrow, you know the dynamic here. Those in the GOP who won’t go along with the game sense that the ruling class is using the same technique, with the fiscal cliff deadline as the nominal justification.
In general, I’m sick of any argument by an establishment GOP type that it’s necessary to do X to avoid being blamed for Y. Much of this fiscal cliff discussion seems to be in that vein. I’m sick of it because it pre-supposes that there is a path where the GOP won’t be blamed for the bad things that happen. That’s ridiculous.
Because we’re served by the worst political class ever:
President Obama’slead negotiator in the “fiscal cliff” talks said the administration is “absolutely” willing to allow the package of deep automatic spending cuts and across-the-board tax hikes to take effect Jan. 1, unless Republicans drop their opposition to higher income tax rates on the wealthy.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in an interview with CNBC that both sides are “making a little bit of progress” toward a deal to avert the “cliff” but remain stuck on Obama’s desired rate increase for the top U.S. income-earners.
“There’s no prospect for an agreement that doesn’t involve those rates going up on the top two percent of the wealthiest,” Geithner said.
Apparently there is no way to raise the desired revenue, at least according to Obama/Geithner, that “doesn’t involve those rates going up on the top 2%”. No way.
Oh, wait …
What we said was give us $1.2 trillion in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking taxes — tax rates, but could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in a tax reform process that could have lowered rates generally while broadening the base.
Say, wasn’t that President Obama in July of 2011 at a press conference? Why yes it was. So there is a way, but he and apparently his “negotiator” refuse to pursue it (btw, no I”m not fooled by the illusion that this isn’t just as much a tax hike as what they’re proposing)? It that what is happening?
Why yes, yes it is. So there is another way to do this, apparently. Unless our President was telling a tall one about what he’d be willing to do in July? Yeah, I know, perish the thought. Lie to us? Unthinkable.
Instead according to Turbo Tax Timmy, they’d “absolutely” take us over the cliff, because, you know, raising taxes on the “rich” is now the only acceptable position. You and your life? You’re a mere pawn for these poppinjays. They’re fine with playing with your life and livelihood to score a political win. They have no problem holding your life and property ransom and using your future to force their desired resolution. But if we go over the cliff, screw you.
Meanwhile, in the House, Speaker Boehner continues to look for a comfortable place to lie down and surrender.
In the Senate the GOP actually tried to bring the President’s proposal to a vote and Majority Leader Reid denied it. Because it was, per Reid, a “stunt”.
This is all a “stunt”. A miserable stunt perpetrated by a miserable group of people who have no concept of leadership or service to their country but are long on ego and party.
It is the price of always voting for the “lesser of two evils”.
Here is a good example of what is wrong with politics today – this time from the right:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on Saturday defended his decision to break with conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, telling constituents he would not be “dictated to by anybody in Washington.”
“I think that you sent me to Washington to think for myself. And I want to vote the way you want me to vote,” Chambliss said to a group of local constituents at a Cobb County Republican party event, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t want to be dictated to by anybody in Washington, as to how I’m going to vote on anything.”
You see, Chambliss doesn’t seem to get the basic point: he made a pledge. HE made a pledge. Not someone else – him. He didn’t have his arm twisted behind his back when he made the pledge. He did so voluntarily. The dirty little secret, however, is he didn’t make the pledge out of principle, he made the pledge because it was politically helpful and expedient to do so at the time.
Now he wants to back out of his pledge. It is no longer expedient or helpful politically. He, like our President, is trying to blame the predicament he finds himself in – i.e. breaking a voluntary pledge – on someone else. It’s their fault he’s in this predicament. And by gosh he won’t “be dictated to by anybody”.
Well he hasn’t been dictated to by anyone. Again, he voluntarily took a pledge back when it was politically helpful and popular to do so. Now he wants to bail on it. I don’t know about you, but when I pledge something, I give my unbreakable word I’ll do what I pledge to do. I don’t enter into them lightly. And I do everything in my power to live up to the pledge.
It’s about honor.
But apparently that’s a concept that is passe in today’s political world.
Go ahead Mr. Chambliss. Break your pledge. But remember what happened when a certain president bailed on his no new taxes pledge?
I can only hope I’ll be part of the lesson teaching when your time for re-election comes. Then, by Georgia, you’ll be “dictated too” by the people of this state. And you’ll be looking for new work.
When is the GOP (and the public) going to learn?
How many times have we heard that the only thing standing in the way of a grand bargain to reduce our growing national debt is Republican intransigence on taxes? If Republicans would only agree to dump Grover Norquist, Democrats will agree to cut spending and reform entitlements. Then, we can all join hands and sing Kumbaya as we usher in a new era of compromise and fiscal responsibility.
Except that now that Republicans have agreed to raise taxes, er, revenue, as part of an agreement to avoid the looming fiscal cliff, liberals appear to have decided that there really isn’t a need to cut spending after all.
Yup, in fact they’ve taken entitlement reform “off the table”.
Senate Democratic leaders signaled Tuesday they would not agree to any entitlement reforms before the end of the year that cut spending on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
They also said that any year-end deal to avoid the expiration of tax cuts and implementation of spending cuts — known as the fiscal cliff — must include a provision to raise the debt ceiling, which would otherwise have to be addressed early next year.
The White House and Reid have indicated they will not consider cuts to Social Security, a notable change from 2011, when President Obama said “everything is on the table,” including entitlement programs dear to his party’s base.
In other words, we’re back to “tax the rich”, raise the debt ceiling and spend, spend spend. Meanwhile, it is left up to the GOP to “compromise” by breaking the tax pledge (led by the Judas goats, Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham) or be forever branded as the intransigent “bad guys” in this.
Meanwhile, low information Americans who, by over 60% approve of taxing the rich, will buy the spin by the press painting the GOP as the cause/reason for the calamity while Democrats “lament” the problem (“but, hey, that’s now the law thanks to Republicans”) and gleefully rub their hands in delight at all the new revenue they’ll have to “redistribute”.
Some things never change, do they?
Rob Port throws up a couple of graphs that show that, as most of us have been saying for quite some time, it’s not a revenue issue causing the Federal Government’s deficit problem – it’s a spending issue.
Per Port, since 2009, tax revenues are up 19%.
So how does one get the message across to government that it must live within it’s means if it gets a tax increase without spending cuts?
You don’t. You just encourage it to push for more. Already “millionaires” are defined as those making $250,000 a year.
But let’s make excuses for the GOP’s capitulation, shall we (the hapless GOP, which will get blamed if we go over the fiscal cliff or if we avoid it and everything crashes anyway)?
Apparently the new conventional wisdom, “spend till your wallet bleeds and then break out the credit cards” has repealed the laws of economics once again. Ask Paul Krugman if you don’t believe it.
Apparently when you pledge your word and you’re a politician, that pledge (and your word) has a shelf-life:
The decades-old pledge from the Americans for Tax Reform group has been signed by 238 House members and 41 senators in this Congress and has essentially become inescapable for any Republican seeking statewide or national office over recent election cycles, especially in the Republican-controlled lower chamber.
New York Rep. Peter King and Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday they would break the pledge and accept tax changes to generate more revenue to curb the trillion-dollar federal deficit.
Their statements followed a similar one Thursday by Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
“I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss,” King said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. … The world has changed, and the economic situation is different.”
That’s what you get for electing moral cowards (aka, “politicians”) to office.
Forget about it. It is your fault they spend more than they have so pay up and shut up. After all, voters don’t seem to hold them accountable for any of this so why should they worry or take responsiblity?
The great cave-in begins.
The good news? We won’t have to hear any moralizing by the GOP about “principles” … or at least we won’t have to take it seriously.
Charlie Cook, who is very astute politically, made this observation about the election that I think is pretty spot on, and it reinforces what we’ve been talking about here for the last few days:
Watching politics for 40 years now, I have seen the two major parties tend to leapfrog each other in terms of political sophistication. This state of the political art, when one party is firing on all eight (or, these days, six or even four) cylinders, seems to happen when the other party is in desperate need of a tune-up.
Democrats had a lousy economy, made some rather dubious policy choices in the past four years, and had an incumbent who chose to skip the first debate. But when it came to just about everything else, they handled things expertly, or developments went their way. Republicans had a bright candidate, but one who lacked the dexterity to handle a very challenging set of circumstances, and a party that was well out of touch with the demographic, generational, and ideological changes quietly transforming the electorate.
The emphasized lines make the bottom line point, in my opinion. “Tune it up” or continue to push the same tired line to an electorate that is transforming and you’ll see similar results the next time too. Deny it all you wish, “them’s the facts”.
What was it that Einstein said we should call trying the same thing over and over again while expecting different results?
Perhaps it comes as a surprise to some of our readers, but we are not a Republican or Conservative blog. We are a libertarian, or more precisely a Neo-libertarian blog. As it happens, this puts us far closer to the conservative end of the spectrum than the liberal end in most things, so I can see, what with our constant nagging about President Obama’s policy foolishness over the last four years, why many readers would think of us as conservatives. But we aren’t really.
Maybe that’s why Bryan’s suggestions seemed so off-putting to the conservatives who regular read us here. Oh, and the fact that Bryan, while he’s had posting privileges here for, well, a long time, doesn’t post all that much anymore. I wish he posted more, but apparently, he has a life. But he’s still got his name on the masthead. See? It’s over there on the sidebar, on the left.
It’s gonna stay there.
The thing is, if you’re a conservative—especially a social conservative, you just need to accept that pretty much all of us support gay marriage, are at least squishy on abortion law, etc., etc., so you’re not going to find this a congenial place, for the most part, on social issues.
So much for old business.
Now onto the the posts Bryan contributed over the last few days. As It happens, I have some thoughts on his ideas myself.
Immigration is a sticky issue. I think that Milton Friedman was right in that you cannot have both unrestricted immigration and a welfare state. If you try to have both, you will inevitably bankrupt the system completely. Which, now that I think about it, is at least a self-solving problem.
But that solution itself would cause…difficulty, so it’s best to avoid it.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have a very expansive welfare state and what of we did have would be off-limits to immigrants. That isn’t the situation we have, however, which makes unrestricted immigration difficult to deal with.
It’s even more troubling when you realize that we have a set of challenges that make any immigration difficult to deal with at the present time.
There has been a distinct cultural shift in the way we deal with immigrants, in terms of our willingness to assimilate them into the American culture. For instance, when I was a child, immigrant children were expected to learn English, and conform to mainstream American culture. Essentially, immigrants were told—often in no uncertain terms—that we didn’t care how they did things in Kaplokistan, they were in America and they would do things our way. The message, from every level of society, was that if their original country was such a great place, they’d still be there. The result was that the children of immigrants were quite keen to assimilate, and mostly did so.
But we don’t do that any more. We’re now ever so sensitive to their cultural concerns, that we don’t try to assimilate them at all. We fear offending their delicate cultural sensitivities. As a result, the assimilation takes place at a much slower rate.
For example, here in southern California, we provide official voting ballots in somewhere around 100 different languages. Let me just state something that should be obvious: If you cannot vote in the English language, you shouldn’t be voting. Or, dare I say it, even be a citizen. If you can’t even be troubled to learn the dominant language of our popular culture, how in the world can you grasp the essentials of our political culture and principles?
This is compounded by the fact that today’s immigrants come from a vastly different political culture than those of a century ago. Today’s immigrants come from countries with an explicitly socialist political culture, which is decidedly not the case of immigrants who came to the US prior to the 1920s. Prior to that time, most immigrants came from monarchies with an intensely class-based structure, no middle class to speak of, and no possibility for social mobility. They come from countries where their social status was determined by the class they were born in, and they came here to escape both grinding poverty, and a class structure that made escaping that poverty extraordinarily difficult.
Today’s immigrants, thanks to the USSR’s pervasive influence in the 3rd world in the 50s-70s, have grown up with a socialist political world-view. They will naturally be prone to gravitate to the Democratic Party. Certainly, some portion will come here to escape socialism, but most probably don’t think too deeply about politics, and simply accept the socialist view of activist government they’ve been taught all their lives. When they get here, they find a political party that also accepts that political world-view, so naturally they gravitate towards it. Prior to the 1920’s, they would not have.
So I don’t think you can point to unrestricted immigration in the 19th century and draw too many parallels to how such a policy might work today. Both the original political culture of the immigrant, and the American political culture they find on arrival here, are completely different than they were a century ago.
And, of course, I also think about how California has fared with the massive immigration, a great portion of it illegal, of the last 30 years. The Central Valley has deteriorated almost to 3rd World status, with a permanent underclass of Mexican laborers who have essentially become modern-day helots, rampant property crime, deteriorating public services, and terrible poverty.
What lessons do we learn from all that?
I honestly don’t know how to approach entitlement reform. Maybe Bryan’s suggestion has merit, but I simply don’t know. We’ve told every person in the country that they have a defined-benefits pension, and, though people my age and younger don’t really believe Social Security will be there for us, We’ve spent all our working lives paying into it. We certainly feel we’re owed something for it. We had a Deal. You can’t just break the Deal.
And here is the real, non-obvious reason why you can’t break that Deal: We don’t have a stable currency. As a result, we simply cannot safely save for retirement.
Let me explain.
When the US was on the gold standard, you could simply stuff money into your mattress. In fact, a lot of people did. And the reason they could was that their money retained its purchasing power. Every dollar bill was a receipt for your real money. Every banknote said, "The US Treasury will pay the bearer X dollars." If you took a dollar bill into the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, slapped it on the counter, and said give me my money, a servitor would take your dollar, nip back to the vault, and return with a little bag containing 1/35oz of gold, or 1/16oz of silver. Today, your dollar bill is a receipt for nothing. It’s worth whatever the US government says it’s worth at any given time.
And, especially since 1973, it’s been worth less and less every year. Since 1970, the price of housing has risen 1050%. A savings account at a bank doesn’t pay an interest rate that keeps up with inflation. So, with a fiat currency that is constantly debased, that leaves very few savings options.
Essentially, to make a return greater than inflation, the county has been forced into the stock market for investment. But what happens if the market crashes? You lose a large portion of your saved investment. If you have several years to make it up, well, good. But what if it happens when you’re close to retirement? Well, you say, of course, you have to find safer investments like tax-free munies or something. And you should allocate your portfolio wisely, etc., etc.
But most people don’t want to do that. And they don’t want to learn all sorts of investment arcana. They want to save, do so safely, and not have inflation eat away all of their savings. Social Security does that, from their point of view, and it doesn’t make them live in fear that some unforeseen market event will eat up their hard-won savings.
That’s why so many people are opposed to Social Security privatization. They’re afraid of market investment, and are especially so seeing the roller-coaster rise the market’s been on since 2000.
But they have no safe option for saving that keeps pace with inflation.
Not having a stable currency forces people into riskier and harder-to-understand investments, and people don’t want to mortgage their future to investments that are risky and hard to understand.
Social Security was easy to understand, and it at least gave the illusion of security, no matter what the reality was.
A reliable, stable currency would make entitlement reform a lot easier, because it would vastly reduce the fear of inflation eating away at their retirement.
Social issues are the hot button with a significant portion of the GOP. I’m not entirely sure that if the GOP abandons social issues they’d be able to attract enough people from the Democrats to make up a viable political party, by which I mean one that has a shot at winning nationally. I don’t think that the Democrats have enough of a fiscally conservative, socially liberal electoral base to attract to the new, socially agnostic GOP.
The reality is, though, that when it comes to politics, the culture is determinative on the outcomes of social issues.
It doesn’t get much play, but, as it happens, according to polls—which as we know from the last election are pretty accurate—a slight majority of the electorate is actually pro-life. You wouldn’t know it from watching the news, but somehow, over the last decade, pro-choice has become the minority opinion in the country. Presumably, if that trend continues—and there’s no guarantee it will—Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Maybe. I mean, just because people are generally pro-life, it doesn’t mean that women don’t want to have abortion as an option. Just in case. Maybe it doesn’t get overturned at all, but abortion becomes culturally objectionable and we’ll get a lot less of it.
If Roe is overturned, then, abortion will become a state issue. Or, perhaps we’ll keep Roe, and just tighten down on abortions: limit them to the 1st trimester, and give exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, implement stricter parental controls, and that sort of thing. If it is overturned, states like California and New York will make it unambiguously legal. Some states will restrict it. Some will ban it completely.
Maybe that’s the answer for social issues. Leave them to the states, and people will gravitate to the states where the social milieu is more congenial to them. But that will be difficult to do now that we’ve cast all social issues in terms of rights.
I think that was a mistake, but here we are.
The gay marriage people say they have a right to marry. OK. Then why don’t polygamists have a right to do so as well? Once you’ve cast an argument in terms of rights, you’ve started wielding a hammer, not a scalpel, to solve your social problems. If gays have a right to marry, then why doesn’t another group of consenting adults have that right? How do you draw that line in terms of rights?
We forced the Mormon religion to de-legitimize polygamy in order for Utah to become a state. If adults have the right to order their relationships as they choose, then how was that legitimate? How is it legitimate, in terms of rights, to forbid close relatives to marry?
Rights are a pretty blunt instrument.
But how does letting gays get married somehow damage marriage as an institution? I guess I don’t understand that. I get that marriage is important, and I get why it’s important. But, it’s not so important, I guess, that we want to make divorce difficult. Which is, after all, why more than half of marriages end in it. Oh, and by the way, aren’t something like half of the kids born today, born out of wedlock?
Something’s going on with marriage today, and it’s mainly not good, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with gay people.
Here’s a couple of realities to think about, though:
- We’re about 30 or 40 years behind Europe in turning into a post-Christian culture. You wanna know the culture your grandkids will grow up in? Look at the Netherlands or Britain.
- With Obama’s re-election, there’s an excellent chance that 1 or two conservative justices will be replaced by Obama. That means Roe v. Wade will probably be around for another 20 years, and who knows what the culture will think about it then?
Ultimately, the place to fight social issues doesn’t seem to be in politics, though. If you want to win on social issues, you have to to win the culture. If you can’t get a cultural consensus, you will never get a political one.
That seems to me to imply that conservatives should be battling not in Washington, DC, but in Hollywood, and in the Media, and in their local schools and colleges. The Left has made a largely successful march through the country’s cultural institutions, taken them over, and are shaping it to their liking. Conservatives have spent the last 4 decades unsuccessfully trying to take over the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Left has turned education into a 16-year commie indoctrination course, topped off by Continuing Education in socialism from TV, news media, and movies.
Maybe conservatives should be thinking about how to win the culture. If they do that, the politics will ineluctably follow. The reverse, however, is simply not true.
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.