Too much success? Posted by: mcq
on Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Dick Morris says that success in solving the Republican agenda may spell trouble for the Republicans in '06 and possibly '08.
A big part of the reason is the success the Bush administration has had in solving and hence diminishing the importance of the Republican agenda. Taxes have been cut, we have not had a terror attack since Sept. 11 and trial lawyers are on the defensive. The issues that remain — energy, environment, healthcare and Social Security — usually are Democratic and liberal.
And, those issues, per Morris, are traditionally seen as issues of the left:
It is always dangerous to generalize about ideological trends among the American electorate, since it will always lean right on certain issues (like defense, terrorism and taxes) and hew to the left on others (like healthcare, education, poverty and the environment). But the data are becoming overwhelming that the nation is moving left and is likely to stay that way through at least the 2006 election — and, if President Bush doesn’t adjust, for a lot longer.
This is why, per Morris, the generic party ballot for Congress sees Democrats ahead by 13 points.
Now obviously we don't vote Congressionally on a generic ballot, but specifically for personalities. But the point is instructive. There's a lean to the left within the nation because the issues remaining are traditionally issues of the left.
The drip-drip-drip of Iraqi casualties isn’t helping Bush any, and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has done more to hurt the GOP than any Democrat has, but the fundamental reason for the liberal drift is the salience of issues normally identified with the left.
Assuming that argument to be valid for a moment, what must Republicans do to counter its effect?
(A) Fight the Democrats on issues that are already in play but have a Republican skew.
(B) Raise new issues that have a built-in skew right and a Republican orientation.
(C) Recast Republican positions on Democratic issues that are already in play to make them work for the GOP.
Sound familiar? Hello Bill Clinton, could you fill in the details? Think welfare reform, balanced budgets, etc. What Morris is suggesting is precisely what he suggested to Bill Clinton and what Clinton did to take credit for issues and programs which are traditionally considered to be those of the right.
And, of course, Morris notes that the Dems are their own worst enemies in some cases:
The Democrats are helping Bush mightily by their vitriolic response to reports of National Security Agency wiretapping and their opposition to the Patriot Act renewal. Since we have not had a terror attack in four and a half years, the homeland-security issue, the mother of all Republican issues, would seem likely to fade into the background. But by beating Bush over the head for his efforts to keep America safe, the liberals are helping Bush, raising the salience of one of his core issues. In his State of the Union speech, Bush should spend considerable time taking them to task on these grounds, since it will help him enormously.
So the strategy is to co-opt the traditional issues of the left, continue to encourage the left to respond as they are on issues of national security and then, pick up one or two major issues to differentiate the right and left. Such as:
Two new solid Republican issues are begging for attention from the White House: immigration and drugs.
Gag. Drugs? Not a winner in my book. Not a winner at all. Most recognize that immigration must be fixed and I agree it will be one of the top three issues in the '08 election (barring any unforseen violence here between now and then in which the impetus on controlling illegal immigration moves such reform to the top of the list). But I think the drug war demonstrates all the wrong things about the right that'd I'd not want on display during an election if I were them. If I were to hazzard a guess, I'd say that the majority of Americans have decided that the drug war is a total failure. That's not to say they want to legalize drugs or simply walk away from the issues, but they certainly have seen nothing in terms of "victories" in that fight which they can point to as progress.
As the victory of Eva Morales in Bolivia makes clear, cocaine is concomitant of oil in fueling terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. The narcoterrorists use our dependence on black oil and white cocaine to power their anti-American work and terrorist activities. Soon their terror will spread to our shores. Already the cocaine infects our young.
Bush should urge drug testing, with parental consent, in schools in his State of the Union address and put drugs back in play as a domestic issue. Crime is down, but drug use is still a vital Republican issue. Put it back on the agenda.
No thanks. The way to combat the ability of narcoterrorists to benefit as they are now from drugs is to find a way to kill the market incentives for importing it to the US. And, the sad fact is that neither the Republicans or Democrats are willing to face that. Until they are, nothing is going to change in the drug war except more civil liberties being jeopardized here.
If you want couch this is national security terms, as Morris is attempting here, then the way you kill the golden calf of drug money is by cutting off the incentive which drives the grower, the processor and the importer: obscene profits. Unfortunately that's not going to happen.
Morris then discusses another issue of importance:
Finally, the Republican Party had better consign itself to defeat in the next two elections unless it does more to elaborate an energy/environmental policy. It must go beyond nuclear power and Alaska drilling in policies to achieve more energy independence.
Terrorism and pump prices have made this issue the dominant one in our political matrix. Bush needs to make hydrogen and hybrid cars a key part of his program and needs to challenge America to switch and end our dependence on imported oil.
He notes that regardless of the facts of the matter, most Americans have come to believe that global warming is a problem which must be addressed (if it is part of a solar cycle, I'm not sure how that will be done) and that the warming is responsible for aberant weather patterns such as Hurricane Katrina (despite the absolute denial of such by experts in the field). His point is that whether or not any of it's true, the issues of energy and the environment must be addressed by Republicans beyond nuclear power and drilling in ANWR. As a point of politics, I'd say he's right.
Morris concludes that the future of the Republican party really rests in Bush's hands:
Bush has to decide if he is willing to preside over the diminution of the Republican Party so that the nation embraces Democrats for the ensuing eight years, just as his father did. Those are the stakes.
If those are the stakes and it is on Bush's back to rescue the party, I'd suggest the party is in trouble. Having watched how this administration has told its own story over the last number of years, I find nothing to be optimistic about in that vein. However, the Democrats have rarely if ever found the leadership necessary to take real advantage of that fact, so perhaps, if Bush's handlers can at least get their mind around the stakes and make even a mediocre attempt, it might be enough to stave off an attempt by the Dems to take it all in '08.
Watching these two parties compete is as riveting as watching to see which of two drips reaches the bottom of the window first. There’s just about as much conscious control over the process in each case.
If those are the stakes and it is on Bush’s back to rescue the party, I’d suggest the party is in trouble. Having watched how this administration has told its own story over the last number of years, I find nothing to be optimistic about in that vein
Except somehow, they seem to get their way (in general)
I agree, McQ, "Drugs" is a loser for the Repubs. It is a wedge issue that pushes away the "small-government" libertarians they need to grow their majorities.
My view is the Libertarian center is the only segment of the American electorate that is in play anymore. Socialists and transnationalist are firmly in the Democratic party. Republicans (nationalists), liberal capitalists and traditional religionists tend to vote Republican.
The party that plays to America’s "Don’t-look-over-my-fence, and-I-won’t-look-over-yours" center will come out on top. As long as the "War on Drugs" encourages invasive policing, and neighbors peeking over their neighbors’ fences, its proponents can’t be trusted by this crucial aspect of the "limited government" constituency.
A little mind-game: Imagine if a Republican congress passed a bill allowing the states to legalize medical Marijuana, and Bush signs this "compassionate" bill into law. This modest federal compromise could put the Democrats on the defensive on two very interesting fronts: States-rights, and the Drug war. -Steve
My view is the Libertarian center is the only segment of the American electorate that is in play anymore
So you’re saying that only about .05% of the US population is in play any more? I mean considering that you are addressing a minority of MINORITY, "the libertarian centre". Would you care to point out those members of the Libertarian Centre and how that might be enticed, except for "Medical Marijuana". Also, what will it profit the Republicans to gain 2-5% of the vote to lose 5-10% of the vote, at least?
Steve, you are simply living in the Libertarian Cocoon where there are LOTS and LOTS of Libertarians laying around just waiting to be recruited. Sure everyone YOU know is one, but then Pauline Kael knew NO ONE that voted for Nixon.... It would be better to realize that a libertarian position must be staked out and marketed, and created. It does NOT exist, currently.
So you’re saying that only about .05% of the US population is in play any more? I mean considering that you are addressing a minority of MINORITY, "the libertarian centre".
While granting that outright libertarians — those who self-identify is "libertarian" — are a very sharp minority, I should note that 1) almost everybody has some libertarian tendencies and 2) a Rasmussen poll done some years ago concluded that approx 10% of the population could be defined as "libertarian".
It really all depends on how sharply you define libertarian.
Joe, I concede that as an electorate hardens around 51:49, as ours has, the law of diminishing returns kicks in: the effort required to aquire every additional vote increases as the pool of "in-play" voters shrinks.
And that is why our political parties’ focus will shift, I think, to the small constituencies that aren’t "wrapped up" yet. When a national election swings on 300 votes in Florida, or 2000 in Ohio, the smallest convinceable constituency can decide the outcome.
The trick is to create a message that reaches the largest number of these undecideds, and Jon’s Rasmussen stat suggests that self-identifying "Libertarians" are a good subset of the electorate to pay attention to - maybe you can suggest another.
And, (sorry to belabor my pet point) allowing states to experiment with the legalization of Medical Marijuana comingles two issues favored by this 10%. Most Libertarians I know are fond of loose-federalism - so getting the feds out of the way of a state’s legislative perogative, like it’s medical system, would attract these voters. And most Libertarians have only qualified support for the ’War on Drugs." They view it as governmental suppression of private medical choice. Allowing experimentation with regulated botanica like marijuana, Ma huang, or ephedra at the state level would appeal to these voters.
More on topic, this renewed libertariarian appeal could permit the GOP to side-step the dangers posed by Morris’ "too much success" by restating these old, intransigent issues in new and constructive, libertarian terms. Not incidental, a plurality of competing medical systems, such as that nurtured by independant experimentation at the state level, is the best check on the growth of our federal medical bureaucracies. -Steve
BTW, Morris is a potato head, to an extent... did the Democrats experience "Too much success" from 1932 until 1994? And if they did, I pray my party and my faction experience EXACTLY that kind of too much success.
See I’m not sure that the electorate has "Hardened" at 51/49... I would argue we are at an inflection point. NO party has an automatic lock on election, however the trend will be for one to move into a near-permenent or short/medium term "permanent minority" position. The question is whose party and which faction(S) will head that new majority...
Please take note that global warming is an issue that exists despite the facts of the matter. In other words, people are will to incur costs and sacrifices for cause that has little basis in reality. How did this come about? What lesson is there for us?
Over the past 30 years our culture has cultivated a disposition to sacrifice for the environment to such a degree that one only wave the green flag and people genuflect. Rather than completely disparage this behavior, I’d like to draw attention to the profoundly moral orientation of Americans. I do this because many cynical libertarians often note that we can create tax cuts but can’t get people to accept spending cuts, especially when it affects them. This raises the question: how can we invoke an ethical disposition to accept short-term sacrifice for a broader principle and longer-term orientation?
The answer would require a book. However, the end goal is to cultivate a disposition whereby a call to self-reliance invokes an immediate assent before the detailed economic arguments, which we are so good at making (if only people understood economics better!) It doesn’t mean harsh moralizing, or bashing people with exhortations and demands. It means making people aware and sensitive to the ethnical issues involved. It also means understanding and sympathizing with the difficulty of “doing the right thing” and giving credit to incremental change as people regain a passion for self-reliance and a respect for the achievement and rights of others. That’s a long-term cultural change.
I suggest we study the cultural acceptance of environmentalism. We can learn about cultivating a change in attitude whereby the gut response is “I rather not have the government give me or others this handout.” Imagine!