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Revenge of the Middle — the implications and repercussions
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, November 09, 2006

Morris Fiorina wrote a book entitled "Culture War?" in which the question mark is very important to the theme of the book. The entire premise is that the conventional wisdom that America is a highly polarized society is a myth. He does a pretty fair job of supporting his premise in the book and frankly I think tuesday's results do as well. As the Wall Street Journal said:
In 2006, instead of heavy lifting on substantial reforms, House and Senate leaders attempted to rally their political base on wedge issues like illegal immigration and gay marriage. Instead of dealing with spending bills or retirement security, the Senate dedicated two full legislative days to a constitutional ban on gay marriage that no one expected to pass. No substantive legislation was passed dealing seriously with border security and legitimate guest workers (funding for a 700 mile fence was finally authorized, but no funds were appropriated). In both instances, it was pure politics, designed to appeal to angry factions of the GOP base. While Republicans managed to hold conservative Christians, they alienated independents, who represent 26% of the voting population. For the first time in 10 years, independents sided with Democrats by a wide margin. Candidates that bet on the high demagogy coefficient associated with illegal immigration, notably in Arizona, lost.
In reality, the faction which controls the majority for either party is in the middle. Defining what that specifically means politically is a difficult job, but I think another part of the CW which has to be discounted now is that we're so polarized that either side can play to their extremes and win.

Mark Tappscott makes that point well:
... Rove's strategy was built on the tried-and-true GOP Establishment axiom that "conservatives have no place to go," and therefore the biggest challenge was getting them to turnout on election day in sufficient numbers to overcome the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media.

It was essential for the Rove strategy to create the appearance of sufficient progress on key issues in order to "get the GOP base stirred up." But the "progress" was little more than smoke and mirrors and everybody in Washington knew it, as did millions of conservative voters who had heard the same broken record over and over again in the past.

Thus, the Rove strategy was doomed months before it was implemented.
And it is no different for the Democrats.

Apparently, at least in the middle (and at least this time), substance wins over wedge issues, and what should be obvious to anyone who has spent 10 minutes reviewing the 109th Congress, little of substance came out of that institution.

Now, if true, this is a bit problematic for libertarians because if Republicans read this wrong, it could signal a move toward the middle for them which would be less likely to include the fiscal restraint and smaller government which we want and support.

That sort of decision, of course, would fly directly in the face of the argument some are making about the need to return to those conservative roots. See Tapscott. While conservatives may make up the base of the Republican party, some will argue, they probably aren't sufficient, by themselves, to win elections. Of course the other argument to be made is that had the 109th Congress been more conservative, and passed issues of substance while they had the opportunity, it would have turned out all of the base and kept enough of the middle to win.

And that's a very important point. What Republican leaders have to do is determine which of the two scenarios they will follow: A) become a conservative party again, re-energize the conservative base and attract sufficient numbers of those in the middle and libertarians to win or, B) move to toward the middle and out-pander the Dems.

Hopefully they'll chose "A" since, if anything, they've proven, with the 109th, that "B" doesn't work for them.

Now the collection of special interests called the Democrats, given how this election turned out (and the segment on which it turned), are most likely going to figure this out too. Never having been a party of fiscal restraint (although they now claim to be) or smaller government, they have a much easier time of reconciling themselves with doing what is necessary to attract the middle.

Advantage Democrats if you're cynical about the American people and what they want. And, it all hinges on whether Dems can deliver, of course.

All this to say, it will be interesting to see who the Republicans choose to put in leadership roles now that they're the minority. It will most likely determine whether in '08 libertarians are again supporting the GOP or are instead talking about licking fire ants off a stick rather than support them.
 
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It won’t be pandering the Middle exactly, it will be pandering to good press in order to sway the Middle. That is what McCain is about. Spector and few other RINOs come to mind. They do what will get them good Press in the MSM at the expense of their Party and their Country.

We have become a Mediocracy and will become mediocre in not time.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
The GOP elite in D.C. forgot what Reagan and Gingrich knew. Voters don’t have to agree with every one of your principles to vote for you.

You do need to deliver your platform with a smile and you do have to try to convince undeclareds of the virtues of your postition. Principles work—Americans know phonies when they see them. Faced with a choice of two packs of phonies, they’ll elect the ones writing them checks.
 
Written By: spongeworthy
URL: http://
I challenge the premise that you must "out-pander" the other party to carry the middle. The average, moderate, independent voter believes that the government needs to balance its check book, just like citizens. This fact was the basis of the Reagan revolution (along with pride in a strong national defense). Whether to balance that check book by raising taxes or cutting spending...now we have a real debate and one which conservatives essentially won over the last 12 years...they just did the opposite of what they said they would do for about 6 years, so they lost. Corruption, spending, earmarks...that is what cost Republicans this election.

I would also caution approaching your Option "A" in the same manner that Rove did. Plenty of Gay Marriage, Abortion and Immigration initiatives on the ballots on Tuesday. Didn’t do much for the GOP.
 
Written By: Ron C
URL: http://
I challenge the premise that you must "out-pander" the other party to carry the middle. The average, moderate, independent voter believes that the government needs to balance its check book, just like citizens.
Well, we’ll see. I think there is certainly a portion of the middle which is open to pandering. I’m hoping that Reps decide not to appeal to them and appeal to the portion that are like you claim.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think there is certainly a portion of the middle which is open to pandering.

It’s awful hard to come up with an objective difference between "pandering" and "making life easier for your constituents, while also not make it harder",
which is what they elect you for.

What isn’t pandering, exactly? What can a politician promise a voter that isn’t in some way pandering to them? It’s almost a meaningless word.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The average, moderate, independent voter believes that the government needs to balance its check book, just like citizens.

Depends. I like balanced budgets, but in a serious economic recession, the voters and me often prioritize immediate assistance a lot higher. There’s a reason why third world governments often have a reason implementing austerity budgets.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
It’s awful hard to come up with an objective difference between "pandering" and "making life easier for your constituents, while also not make it harder", which is what they elect you for.
It’s not hard at all, ’nost. If you enable them so that through their own effort they can "make life easier" for themselves, you’re not pandering. If, however, you take other people’s money and spend it on making life easier for some of your constituents whose votes you want, then you’re pandering.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It’s awful hard to come up with an objective difference between "pandering" and "making life easier for your constituents, while also not make it harder", which is what they elect you for.
This is where true conservatives and libertarians differ from Republicrats and Demoplicans (i.e., big government socialists of the left and right): I don’t believe the purpose of government is to make anybody’s life easier (or harder). That’s the responsibility of the individual. The basic function of government under the United States Consititution is to ensure that basic rights and rule of law are guaranteed, blindly and equally to all citizens. This rules out everything from progressive income taxation to immigration prohibition and protectionism. There is a difference between the pursuit of happiness and the attainment of happiness. The second one is the sole responsibility of the individual.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
It’s not hard at all, ’nost. If you enable them so that through their own effort they can "make life easier" for themselves, you’re not pandering. If, however, you take other people’s money and spend it on making life easier for some of your constituents whose votes you want, then you’re pandering.
It’s very hard when your party is dedicated to pandering. You need to look at it from the other guy’s perspective sometimes.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Small-government conservatism lost mass appeal after passage of welfare reform. After that, the GOP played a schizophrenic hand of tax cuts, more spending and social conservatism because spending cuts were no longer popular with white lower-middle class voters (i.e. Reagan Democrats). The GOP is in trouble now because big government conservatism has run its course, and small government conservatism only attracts about 30-35% of the electorate at this point (see: Social Security debate).

Where do the Republicans go now? The surviving blue-state Republican Congressmen (Shays, Gerlach, a few others) will face pressure to switch or retire. The northeast is gone to the GOP permanently. John Sununu is in deep trouble in NH in 2008, as is Susan Collins in Maine. Out West, Allard will be in trouble in CO. And of course Norm Coleman will be a big target in MN. Will Gordon Smith survive in Oregon? Here in Michigan the Dems are on the verge of taking the state senate (they took the state house this year) and can redistrict in 2010. Right now our delegation is 9-6 in the GOP’s favor. It could easily be reversed with minor district tinkering. The only GOP pickup opportunities in 2008 are Landrieu and Johnson (NJ too, but that’s a perennial loser for the GOP). In the House there are the two GA seats, Baron Hill in IN, Lampson in TX and Mahoney in FL that are vulnerable in 2008. Other than that, there aren’t many real "win-back" opportunities for the Republicans in 2008. So, barring a massive scandal (always possible), the Democrats will control Congress for some time. So the GOP must redefine itself in order to win.
 
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://
Small-government conservatism lost mass appeal after passage of welfare reform.
Newt Ginrich lost his mass appeal, Republicans mistook this rejection of a "mean-spirited" partisan attack dog who didn’t play well on TV for a rejection of his principals, even though Bill Clinton ran as a (nicer) small government conservative in 1996 and won.

What people who spend a lot of time studying government policy frequently lose sight of is that most people vote for people they like, not details of policy. Newt Gingrich was just not a very good spokesman for small government ideals to the mass public. He was a brilliant salesman for those who already agreed with him, which is why conservatives have never come to grips with this.

When Republicans run as Democrats they lose, when Democrats runs a Republicans they win.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://

 
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