May 1, 2009
The Future of the GOP - a symposiumBy AT symposium
Arlen Specter's party switch has reignited the debate over the GOP's mission: a conservative party vs. a big tent coalition including liberal Republicans ("moderates" in media-speak). Five AT writers have addressed the topic, taking rather different positions.
Richard Baehr argues for the big tent approach:
We need a party that can win legislative elections in the Northeast, the suburbs, and other areas where the social conservative vote comes nowhere near a majority. Putting GOP moderates in the House and Senate from those states or districts where they are the only kind who can win, does help. There has been a successful strategy by the left depicting Republicans as Southern, religious, racists, led by Rush Limbaugh, playing off the cultural prejudices of the metropolitan elites who get their news from mainstream outlets.
I am not suggesting Specter or Susan Collins type Republicans need to run in Mississippi. The conservative base will always dominate the legislative delegation as a whole, but for the GOP to have any legislative power at all, it must be competitive in more than the conservative heartland. The GOP can be a minority power, with some ability to block, and with an upward trajectory, or have no power at all.
It is easy to be angry or disgusted with Specter, who has always been a ridiculous egotist, and say best to be rid of him. Wrong. Unless you like card check, national health insurance and cap and trade. For that is what you may now get -- all this year, thanks to Pat Toomey's entrance into the GOP race, which forced the Specter switch.
The GOP is now self-destructing. The behavior of the Club for Growth is a big part of it. They are as absolutist on their issues as some social conservatives are on theirs. This is the reality: the number of those who are conservative on all the key areas: social issues, the role of government in the economy and in favor a tough foreign policy approach, is a shrinking minority -- less than 30% of all Americans, maybe a lot less. Maybe that's enough to win most of the time in Idaho and Utah, but guess what? The Democrats now have Congressmen from both states and a Governor in Wyoming.
Chuck Schumer picked Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat to take on Santorum, and rob him of his blue collar pro life union base in western Pennsylvania. It worked. Rahm Emanuel picked a dozen Iraq war vets to run in 2006. Most of them won.
One party is smart about winning seats, and taking power. Our side has a lot of chest thumping purists. The other side fights policy battles among themselves after they have taken power. Our side conducts death marches in party primaries. Pretty dumb if you ask me.
The reality is the GOP has lost the suburbs around all major cities in the East, Midwest, and West. This is because those voters grew more fearful of GOP's social conservative agenda than of the Democrats' big spending.
Obama and Dems can overreach and drive some suburbanites back. But the reality is that with changing demographics, GOP has no future unless it expands beyond white voters, and in particular white males, and accepts that to regain a majority, the GOP candidates in some places will be very different than the more conservative GOP candidates who can get elected easily in Utah or Texas.
Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are the only Republicans who can win in Maine. Do you want them in the Senate, or would you prefer Democrats who would vote the wrong way 90% of the time, instead of 40-50% of the time with the two Maine women? It may have been Frum who said it the other day- but the GOP wants to play football on its own 10 yard line when the ball is often in play on the other team's 40. That was a good way to describe the Toomey challenge to Specter.
I say good riddance to Toomey and the Club for Shrinking.
There is nobody who can run and win against Obama 2012. The key will be to not get embarrassed. 24 of 33 senate seats up in 2012 are filled by Dems, so there's not much down side that year. But a big Obama win could increase their House majority even more. Presidential election years attract more Democratic base voters -- especially with Obama running.
If the economy will be in the tank in 2010, there should be some opportunity to pick up seats in the House. The Senate is a problem due to GOP retirements in swing states -- Ohio, Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire; Bunning is a sure loser in Kentucky, and North Carolina is a tossup (burr running for re-election).
Near half of Americans do not pay income taxes, though they do pay Social Security taxes. Bush is responsible for this in large part. It makes it harder to fight class warfare; more and more folks want the rich to be squeezed more on taxes and want government to do more for them.
I think the growing debt is a better issue, since it plays to the future -- children and grandchildren -- and to insecurity that China and Middle East thugs will run us by owning our debt.
Kyle-Anne Shiver argues for conservative politics as the driver.
So, pragmatism is in; principle is on the way out. Refusal to support abortion on demand is deemed the Republican Party's albatross and social conservatives are being tagged as the scapegoats. The Party's problem is that we have "a lot of chest thumping purists."
Could the real problem be that we have too many Party politicians who are simply unable to explain, easily and pragmatically, why abortion on demand, embryonic stem cell research and homosexual "marriage," among the host of other social issues, are just plain bad for the society that practices them?
Why do we not have politicians well-versed in citing the demographic nightmare that befell the Soviet Union, the first to legalize and promote abortion? Why do we not have politicians able to explain how the killing of 50 million American citizens has all-but-destroyed the Social Security system? Why are not our candidates well-versed in the eugenics history of abortion and the inherent dangers to other segments of our population? None of the abortion arguments need to be about religion. There is more than ample evidence that as societies have practiced these policies, they have fallen into decay, ripe for the picking of foreign powers.
Why are candidates not able to quickly point out, when asked about support for homosexual "marriage," that marriage is not now, nor has it ever been about the adults in the marriage. Societal/state support for the natural family is grounded in what is best for the raising of future generations. There is not a single study available which shows that a child raised in a homosexual household has even near the outcome expectations as a child raised in the home of an intact heterosexual couple. It's not about civil rights; it's about what is best for children. Children are the future of our Country. Why is this so hard? Why must religion be brought into it?
While folks are attempting to explain what's wrong with Republican Party politics in the aftermath of Obama's victory, it is all too easy to place the blame on those "chest-thumping purists," but the Republican Party would do well to remember that it is the vast organizations of those same purists which are genuine activists, who also get out the vote, spread the message and contribute regularly. Without them, the Republican Party would be a lot less than it already is.
Also, the Republican Party needs to ask itself whether its members are willing to lie, cheat, steal and spread false propaganda in order to win elections. This was the decision Democrats had to ask; we know how they have answered. A resounding, "YES," anything is allowed because winning is the only way for them to bring us all to their vision of "utopia."
In my opinion, the Republican Party is courting a major split, if it decides to scapegoat social conservatives and traditional religious voters. If the Party movers and shakers are so darned smart, then they ought to be able to argue the pragmatic side of social conservatism every bit as effectively as they argue the pragmatic side of small government. The problem isn't the argument; it's those who are presenting it.
I, personally, believe that the seeds of Republican resurgence are in being bold, not the opposite. Support for the Fair Tax, ensuring that all Americans will pay taxes, support for term limits on Congress and the end of the professional political class, and support for abolishing the Dept of Education, would go far, I believe, in reviving debate on these issues and be a winning combination.
On the other hand, there may be nothing that can revive genuine American Republican government at this juncture. I do believe this is a very real possibility.
I am beginning to see a point where I, as a committed Christian first and foremost, will be forced to remove myself from politics altogether. This is a sentiment I am hearing more and more frequently from conservative Christians.
Ed Lasky sees hope in the tax issue.
I think the tax issue will be of immeasurable benefit to the GOP. We see how it is hurting Paterson in New York and Deval Patrick in Mass. I don't need to draw the parallels, do I? Obama and company will do all they can to screw the 'wealth' to get the money and will try to push the tax-raising into the second term by various gimmicks.
Eventually people are going to wake up and realize they are going to pay very high taxes and that the growth just may not be there (of course, Bernacke is flooding the world with dollars so maybe we will have the same type of bubble developing that eventually blew up in our faces last year).
The GOP should be very much up front, telling Americans that the taxes are coming, the taxes are coming. I know the issue does not poll well because taxes have been relatively low but that is going to be history.
The GOP should say, "We believe in transparency and we are being honest. The taxes are going to ruin us."
At the national level, we may see a new generation of political leaders developing. Mark Hemingway profiles one promising example, Martin Cruz of Texas. Of course, Texas has been demonized in other parts of the country, especially since G.W. Bush. But Cruz is Hispanic. Sports elite academic credentials and gifted communicator, so he may be able to transcend liberal bigotry.
For districts in which conservatives cannot win, I think we can take as a role model the Congressman who represents me in suburban Chicago: Mark Kirk. He is one of the few GOPers who survives in a district that voted for Kerry and Obama. He developed a suburban agenda for the GOP that has been highlighted in the past. Kirk is not charismatic but he has impressed people by his intelligence, ability to work across the aisle, seriousness and his activism (he is a leader, particularly in national security, foreign policy).
He is in the reserves, speaks Spanish fluently (a chunk of the district is heavily Hispanic)and he has traveled to the home town of many of the residents), pro-business-to an extent,; he is pro-gun control, pro-choice, and a bit of an environmentalist. But he wins.
Kirk won by 5% in 2008, Obama carried district by 25%.
If you think about it, Obama has a master plan. One dynamic that has always defused the class warfare issue is the fact that Americans felt they had the opportunity to get wealthy. America, the land of opportunity.
Obama is going to make it very difficult for entrepreneurs. Instead of economic opportunity, he will be paying for kids to go to college where they can get a fine grounding in socialism and learn about the evils of free enterprise. Never let a crisis go to waste.
Larrey Anderson sees the need to stake out a position for the coming hard times.
I don't know Rich. I am world weary and stressed out to the max right now, but this doesn't seem like a reasonable answer to me. Feeling our way back with moderate candidates is, in my opinion, a bad short term answer to a long term problem. We are headed for a train wreck. There is little anyone on the right or in the middle can do to stop it.
It appears to me that America is headed toward a depression. Plus, the MSM is imploding. (Not because conservatives are boycotting it -- but because the printed press is obsolete and even TV is not that effective. TV is bread and circuses rah rah political entertainment -- but in my view, in about 5 years there will be little to rah rah about.)
Right now, people have gas for their cars and heat for their homes, and perhaps because times are a little tougher, the masses are buying into socialism.
They will soon have it. And they won't like it. If Obama and the Dems get their way, in a few years (sometime after the start of BO's second term -- and he will have a second term) we will see energy rationing, and medical rationing and perhaps even food rationing. and we (more likely Israel) will be in an all out war in the middle east.
Iin fact, that may be the pretext that the Dems need to unite the country.)
Then Americans will have a choice. And it will be an "in your face" choice.
The MMGW hoax will be fully exposed at about the same time that hundreds of thousands of barely producing windmills are built (at vast expense and for no rational reason).
Reality will bite and bite hard. The question is: have the masses been so poorly educated that they will be duped into buying whatever horse pucky apologies will be sold to them to explain why they can't drive their cars or heat their homes or feed their kids?
The 30% of the population who are conservatives will get it. They get it now. Will a third of the 70% of the middle/left figure it out? Time will tell. If not, we have a default fascism. If the masses do get it ... then we rebuild.
Missing in the discussion is leadership. I think if a short term turn around has any chance, it will only happen because a leader will arise (like Reagan) and get the party energized. But I don't see who that could be. Remember that even Reagan spent over 10 years on the local C of C luncheon circuit building his shot.
Who is doing that now in the Republican Party? "No one" seems to be the obvious answer.
Palin isn't going to cut it in the big leagues in my opinion (I thought she might for awhile, but she can not handle the press.)
Romney is out because of his underwear (which pisses me off to the nth degree every time I think about it -- we need to stop the bigotry.)
Jindal is smart. Way smarter than BO. But can he lead? Doesn't look like it - not at this time at any rate (remember how long it took Reagan.)
So again, no short term answer -- especially without leadership.
Thomas Lifson writes:
The GOP must think beyond normal politics. These are not normal times. Obama aims to be a transformative figure, and has already launched far-reaching programs altering the character of America forever. Terrible times lie ahead, with hyperinflation the most likely outcome. That will wipe out the middle class, as happened in Weimar Germany.
The Obama program is being sold to the public with a full bore media propaganda effort, as in Wednesday's 100 days press conference, which featured not one question on the stunning 6.1% shrinkage in the GDP the last three months. As what Marxists call the "commanding heights" of the economy are taken over by the state, the public hears Obama reassuring them he is fixing the problems he inherited from Bush.
The GOP has to educate the public, and speak over the heads of the media by making news they cannot ignore. This demands a willingness to be confrontational in the federal legislative branch, and on the streets as well. The base is eagerly awaiting House and Senate members willing to speak out clearly about the peril into which Obama is placing the country, strategically and economically. Lay out for the American people the danger of hyperinflation. Make an issue of the fact that the Treasury is having a harder time selling its long term securities at auction, and is going from four auctions a year of 30 year bonds to twelve. That means the Fed will be creating money out of nothing, and that means inflation.
The grass roots were energized by the Tea Parties, and would respond to a call for demonstrations in front of Federal Reserve Banks, for example, or other street theatre tactics, should a major GOP figure call for them. Already, protestors are being seen when Obama travels. The Obama media will ignore these protests as long as they can, but in the end they will be forced to cover them if they are ubiquitous. July 4 has the potential to help this along, but a national voice is required.
The GOP must, in short, become the opposition to Obama's program to create a "new foundation" (his words are ominous) for America. In the short run, those who take this position will be demonized, and probably shunned by the liberal Republicans. But they will light a fire in the grass roots, and as the economy deteriorates and the international situation worsens, we will begin to reach Obama supporters no longer willing to put up with the consequences of his policies.
Barack Obama shrewdly plays the role of an affable, intelligent, aware , capable, and caring president. But I perceive an arrogant, rather cool, even cold-blooded, persona underneath, flashes of this visible when he is spontaneous, untethered to the teleprompter.
The first Republican president taught us, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."
The magic will wear off, and then opposition to Obama will grow rapidly. There will be a backlash to Obama, and the GOP must be prepared to lead it. The GOP liberals will unite with the conservatives in opposition to the unfolding Obama disaster, and so will many voters who gave Obama the benefit of the doubt as long as they could.
Barack Obama could get his transformation of American politics, but if the GOP has the guts to play hardball as the opposition, it could be the discrediting of liberal ideology. By 2010, if we are starting to have serious inflation, we could get a pick up of House seats, and do better than Rich's prediction of doom in the Senate. I remember well the Carter years and stagflation.
The media is already discredited and in economic peril to boot. Their power will continue to fade, especially as the excuses for Obama's screw ups pile up.
It is time to play offense. Obama is creating a crisis, and the GOP should not let it go to waste.