Skip to comments.The Southern Captivity of the GOP (Oldie but goodie - 1998)
Posted on 01/10/2004 6:37:10 AM PST by Amelia
HORTLY before the 1994 midterm elections, when House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich began talking about a coming Republican takeover of Congress and outlining plans for his speakership, David Dreyer, a White House aide, remarked, "He's done Lord Acton one better. He's corrupted by power he doesn't yet have." After Election Day it was Dreyer who had egg on his face. The Republicans did take over the House and the Senate, controlling the two for the first time since 1955 -- and by a broad enough margin that they seemed likely to hold both houses indefinitely. Everyone spoke of a "revolution" -- both politicians and the wider public, both those who favored and those who feared one. Pundits resurrected the decades-old metaphor of the political analyst Samuel Lubell, according to which America has essentially a one-and-a-half-party system. One party is the sun, illuminating all the planets. The other is the moon, giving off only reflected light. For the first time since before FDR's election, it looked as if Republicans were the sun and Democrats the moon.
Today Dreyer and others who scoffed at a Republican ascendancy seem likely to have the last laugh. There has indeed been a movement to the right on some issues, but it has not translated into a partisan shift. A stunning mid-1997 ABC/Washington Post poll, asking voters "Which party do you trust more to ...," showed the Democrats besting the Republicans on practically all issues, including such Republican staples as taxes, crime, and budget balancing.
|Trust more to ...||Democrats||Republicans|
|Help middle class||51%||30%|
|Hold down taxes||41%||38%|
|Handle foreign affairs||38%||40%|
|Reform campaign finance||34%||31%|
|Maintain strong defense||32%||50%|
Suddenly it looked as if either the 1994 election was a fluke or the 104th Congress had done something dramatically wrong. The Republicans have narrowed the gap in party registration until they're only four percentage points behind the Democrats (39-35), but the Democrats still lead on the issues. The Republicans hold a majority in Congress, but that Congress has been trumped by a Democratic President on every major policy initiative of the past three years. And when a midwinter sex scandal initially sees the President's job-approval ratings rising to about 70 percent, the Republicans have cause for worry. There is now no sense in which they are the sun of American politics. Far from it: they are a majority giving rise to second thoughts among those who made them one.
This is something the Republicans seem not to realize. Their party was thrashed in the 1996 national elections. In presidential politics they were stuck on the Goldwater-McGovern-Mondale landslide-loser plateau of 40 percent, as they had been in 1992. They lost nine seats in Congress. Yet the party is approaching the 1998 election as if it won the last time out. Republicans of all persuasions view their party's problems as temporary, remediable through either ideological fine-tuning or image buffing and spin. Certain Republicans -- particularly cosmopolitan governors on the East and West Coasts, such as Christine Todd Whitman, of New Jersey, and Pete Wilson, of California -- claim that the party has moved too far to the right, and that its stances on social issues, notably abortion, are driving away centrist voters. Others -- particularly those at Christian organizations, such as Gary Bauer, of the Family Research Council, and James Dobson, of Focus on the Family -- say it's too far left, lacking the guts to assert itself on family dissolution and related family-values issues on which the public is in its corner. Still others -- among them such Class of '94 congressional firebrands as Steve Largent, of Oklahoma; Linda Smith, of Washington; and Mark Neumann, of Wisconsin -- say that the party has ignored centrist, Reform Party-style outrage and made itself a campaign-finance-swilling incumbency-protection machine. Another line of thinking is that the party has merely been victimized by accidents of personality: the mysterious ability of Newt Gingrich to generate loathing and of Bill Clinton to generate support.
Many, if not most, Republicans view the 1994 election as a mandate stolen from them by accidents of leadership and the collusion of the press and other "elite" institutions. In this reading Bill Clinton lifted "their" issues by mouthing conservative positions on the budget and welfare reform, and the credulous media have abetted Clinton's public-relations war of "micro-initiatives" such as school uniforms, the V-chip, portable phones for neighborhood-watch groups, and various small education proposals.
Republican problems go deeper than that, however. The party faces a crisis of confidence that has many symptoms -- repudiation in the most sophisticated parts of the country, widespread distrust of the Republican leadership, an inability to speak coherently on issues. All of them grow out of the same root cause: a vain search to rediscover the formula that made that unformulaic President, Ronald Reagan, so broadly appealing -- even beloved. Congressional Republicans triumphed decisively in 1994 on such Reaganite issues as free trade, welfare reform, and shrinking the government. But thanks to a deficit-dissolving economy and a dwindling memory of the Cold War, those issues were of declining importance even then, and they have given way to a bipartisan consensus. "Consensus," of course, is only another way of describing the issues that have been taken off the table. What remains for the party to talk about? On first thought, not much. The Republican strategist Ed Gillespie says, "We're like the dog that caught the bus."
(Excerpt) Read more at theatlantic.com ...
It's too long to post the whole thing, so I excerpted it. Definitely worth reading the whole thing, however.
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Much of the Republican mass vote on election day is engaged in productive, nonpolitical pursuits between elections.
Much of the RAT mass vote is making a living of of politics, politicians, or their excretions.
I also found that it had been posted here a long time ago, with some interesting comments by Publius, Cato_the_Elder, x, Freedom Wins, Mr Rogers, and D'Boy.
I think the graph above, if still accurate, might be a clue right now - I think that especially after 9/11, people trust the GOP more on foreign affairs and defense - it would be interesting to see if the trust factor has risen in other areas.
Did you read part 3 yet? The author argues that since the GOP has failed to reduce the size of government, it's now the same:
People are finding out that the Republicans don't want anything at all, other than to re-elect enough of their members to keep enjoying the fruits of a congressional majority. Lacking a voice on the new 1990s issues, the Republicans are retreating to the issues on which they used to have a voice. In this they resemble those "boomerang kids" who after their first career reversal return home in their late twenties to live with their parents. Republicans are going home to Ronald Reagan but are finding that theirs is no longer the only house on the block promoting the most popular part of his agenda -- free-market economics. They're finding that there's nothing to do around the house except dress up their old ideas in the clothes of Clintonite insincerity. Where is the broad argument of a "natural majority" here?
Some of the article is dated, some is biased, but IMO there are some interesting points about how and why the GOP has failed in some ways to "capture the hearts and minds" of average America, and also, perhaps more importantly for our purposes, why those of us on FR can have such vehement disagreements - i.e., the GOP being made up of economic conservatives, social conservatives, and foreign policy hawks, all of whom have different agendas.
I'll tell you what I think, but keep in mind, I'm no Karl Rove, and this is just my opinion. ;-)
I think it's a combination of the War on Terror - people perceive an outside threat to our country, and they trust the GOP to deal with that threat most effectively - and "compassionate conservatism" - some of us see GWB as "moving too far to the left", and middle America sees "he's not as much of a right-wing fanatic as I'd feared."
I think it's mostly the War on Terror, however.
Does the GOP have a focus other than the War on Terror?
Does the party really want to reduce the size of government, or do the American people in general really want government to remain at approximately the size it is, and will they reject serious attempts to reduce it?
Are the disparate parts of the GOP (social conservatives, economic conservatives, and foreign policy hawks) too disparate to maintain a strong and coherent party as a whole?
Worth discussing, I think -- if it's possible to do so in a civil manner.
Do you think the GOP is racist? How can that perception be overcome?
The Republican Party is doing quite well and the elections are showing it since 1994.
On what issues do you think the American people are turning to the GOP? Which issues do you think they trust the Dems more on?
Weren't we discussing this recently?
I think you're right. Do you think that's a good thing or a bad thing?
A lot of people here think the President has moved too far to the left to reach the middle, and abandoned his base.
There was a poll about this right after the election, and try as I might, I can't find it now...too many polls out there to google it without searching through hundreds of pages.
In section 3 of the article, the author makes the argument that so many people have so much money invested in government programs such as medicare and social security that they can't afford to have them taken away - those programs must be protected so that the people have some hope of recouping their "investments".
Right. And that really is a valid point that a lot of us (including me) forget about. We talk about "reducing government" but we neglect to take into consideration the fact that perhaps the American people actually oppose that train of thought.
And it's probably not that they oppose the idea in itself - they oppose (as you said) the loss of their investments. They've grown to expect certian things of the government and the thought of having it taken away (even for the sake of smaller government) doesn't appeal to them.
You would think this immigration issue is a burning issue within the populace at large by reading the articles and post on this forum. But if you can believe or think that polls have some symblance of accuracy then immigration doesn't rate that high.... Here's a question from a poll just taken. Note where immigration falls on the list .
8. Later this month President Bush will give his State of the Union Address to the nation. What topic are you most interested in hearing the president talk about during his speech? (OPEN ENDED)
The economy/jobs 35% Iraq 17 Terrorism 10 Health Care 4 Medicare/
4 Education 3 Immigration/
2 Social Security 2 Taxes 2 Budget Deficit 1 Other 5 None 6 Not sure 9
Thanks for the ping... Catch you later.........
I think one problem is that most people in the U.S. don't think like we do....in fact, obviously, there are many who agree with the Dems.
Not at all - and we deceive ourselves when we think "most people" think as we do.
I suppose the challenge, if we want "our" agenda enacted, is to convince the rest of the country that our way is better - but first we have to convince them to care!
Yes, we were. I don't think that either of the two major parties represent a movement to reduce the size of government. For the most part, I think that their differences concern by whom the costs of government goodies should be borne and to whom the benefits should be directed. The biggest loser right now seems to be future taxpayers.
Good post! ;-)
The split is more like 30-70 in recent elections. Bush got 40% in some districts of Texas when he ran for re-election as governor of Texas; that was the high-water mark so far.
Bush and his "audience" (in John Q. Wilson's sense of the word) are pushing the GOP over the cliff by insisting on opening up the Mexican border to mass immigration. The 'Rats know this; that's why they encourage Hispanics to run for all their top posts. In 2001, only one of the top three or four statewide office-seekers on the 'Rat ticket was a white male. Their problem is somehow to get the "yellow dogs" to keep voting for them even though they're in danger of becoming the "anti-white-man" party. They failed in 2001; the soup was too thin, and the hostility was just below the surface. Tony Sanchez in particular sometimes sounded like Santa Anna himself. The East Texas white male voters in particular could look at the 'Rats and say to themselves, "if these guys get in, I'll never have a friend in government again -- and I probably will have trouble keeping my job, or getting a new one".
I think a lot of people have noticed by now that the 'Rats are trying to politicize the workplace and turn jobs into an identity-political spoils system in which men are one-down and whites are one-down, and for that matter Christians and straights generally are all one-down to their opposite counterparts. In a 'Rat-run country, you'd have to be a Spanish- or Vietnamese-speaking black Moslem lesbian transsexual recycling engineer to get ahead.
Better to look at polls than to try to wing it that way.
Bush and the plutocrats are by themselves on immigration. Even a lot of Hispanics are flinching at the new amnesty-not-amnesty proposal. They're finally beginning to realize what unlimited immigration does to wages.
Brooks argues in the article that the GOP can no longer run as the party that wants to shrink government because a) the issue gets no traction now and b) the GOP no longer has any credibility on this issue after two years of Bush's "big-government" agenda carried forward in the name of conservatism. (That's why it is so very important to dissent and not let someone use your name/credit card when they are doing something objectionable, as Bush has done.)
He is basically saying that it's over, that conservatism is dead as an idea and that Bush killed it fair and square.
Of course, this is a neoconservative talking, which label I define as a New Deal socialist with a defense policy.
See what we get for voting for a Bush?
Well, I think this is a tangential question to what the Party wants, which is to get and keep the fruits of holding national power, and to use that power for the benefit of their "audience", i.e. their real constituency, the people the political investments come from.
In this landscape, conservative voters have no friends.
The Bush wing of the Party hijacked the party in 1988 and has marginalized the conservatives ever since. We've been paying for that hijacking as the GOP's agenda has become less and less conservative, and more openly plutocratic. The ascent of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was just another means to power for the money interest.
As proof of the pudding, watch to see whether Tom Tancredo attracts a well-oiled GOP primary opponent. If he does, you might as well change the opponent's name to "Bush", because that will be who is really running against Tancredo.
Thanks for the link to the article.
That's not how I read it - in fact, I think Brooks' argument here is very similar to Caldwell's in the 1998 article posted above - the American people don't really want the size of government cut, even if they say they do:
Republicans have learned through hard experiences that most Americans do not actually want their government sharply cut. Voters are skeptical of government, but they elect candidates who promise solutions for their problems, not ones who tear down departments. They do not respond to politicians whose primary message is "No, no, no."
In any case, it's almost a Catch-22: the GOP can't enact its agenda if it isn't in power, and it can't stay in power if it doesn't give the voters what they want.
In regards to your second question, I think that the hard working, tax payers Americans who are very proud of being Americans tend to vote for the GOP because they want less taxes and the want a party that preserve the pride of the US all over the world. They want a party that is strong on national security and defense and this party is the GOP. On the other hand, the Democrats created the perception that they are the defenders of the needy, the poor, and the minorities from those "Evil Rich Republicans". Unfortunately, many Americans are deceived by the Democrats malice and hypocrisy and out of fear they vote for them. However, the good news is that the when the economical situation of these peopole gets better, many of them tend to leave the Demcoratic party and vote for the Republicans.
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