Tag Archives: Republican Party

Conservatives Need Better PR

The Republican Party and the conservative movement in America doesn’t really have a diversity problem as some would have us believe.  The GOP can boast that it has several persons of color holding electoral office in the statehouse , the Senate and the House.  Former Secretary of State Condi Rice received cheers during the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The party doesn’t have a diversity problem per se.  It most certainly does have an image problem.

The two most recent conflicts in the news: the flap over UN Ambassador Susan Rice and the defeat of a UN treaty on disabilities are not placing conservatives in a good light.  There might be good reasons to oppose Ms. Rice and the UN treaty, but those reasons, however sensible they may be, are getting trampled by the images of white men going after a black woman and someone in a wheelchair.

Let’s look at Ms. Rice first.  While I think Ms. Rice would make a poor choice for the State Department, I think the current campaign against her is foolish.  Why?  Because this is not a hill to die on.  Yes, she did make a big flub when it came to Libya, but take a step back and look at how people are seeing this.  When the average Joe is looking at this, there are probably a few folk who will see Senators McCain and Graham, two white men, and think that this has to be about race or because she is a woman.  Nevermind that two GOP women Senators have questions.  Nevermind that Republicans did endorse the nomination of Condi Rice to State.  Fair or unfair, what people will see is two aging white men going after a black woman and they will make judgements based on what they see.

People in the wider culture already view conservatives with suspicion.  Why on earth do you want  to add  fuel to the fire?

Now the treaty.  I understand that some of the concerns posed by UN treaties.  I also think they are a waste of time.  But there again, no one is going to think in those terms.  What they will see is a bunch of crazy, whackjobs who hate persons with disabilities.

A few weeks ago, Jim Geraghty  wrote about why conservative ideas are popular, but conservative people aren’t:

So why are Republicans so much less popular than their ideas? A ubiquitous accusation from their Democratic rivals, echoed by an allied media, is that Republicans lack empathy to the point of displaying sheer meanness. With Obama running up huge margins among various demographics — African-Americans, Hispanics, women, young people — the argument is that the GOP increasingly represents an aging, white, bitter, and angry rump of the electorate, lashing out nastily at a world changing too fast for them.

Conservatives need to be more aware of how things look to others.  Right now, the GOP is considered the party of bitter, white men.

There are times you need to fight a battle and times when you need to fall back and make plans.  It’s way past time for the GOP to spend less time on things like UN Treaties and to focus on burnishing their image with gays, African Americans, women and a host of other groups.  The image of being misanthropes is not a winning strategy.  When we have improved our diversity image, then maybe we can go after people like Susan Rice with more integrity.

 

Republicans Key to Same Sex Marriage Victories

The state I live in, Minnesota, was one of four states that voted on same sex marriage.  In Maine, Maryland and Washington, the vote was to allow same sex marriage.  In Minnesota it was to prevent a ban on same-sex marriage from being on the Minnesota constitution.  Walter Olson notes that in all four states, Republicans were key in voting for same sex marriage.  Here’s what he said about the Minnesota results:

In Minnesota, where voters were asked to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment, precinct returns show that suburban Republicans broke from their party in droves to defeat the ban. According to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, 47 towns around the Twin Cities area voted for Romney while opposing the measure, known as Amendment One. Exurban Scott County, the state’s fastest growing, narrowly turned down Amendment One, even as it gave Romney a comfortable 56.5 percent of its vote.

To be sure, rural parts of Minnesota saw ticket-splitting the other way, with some Democratic-leaning areas backing the marriage ban. But within commuting distance of the Twin Cities, the defections from the Republican line were deep and unmistakable. Romney won easily in such lakeside Hennepin County towns as Orono, Deephaven and Shorewood. Conventional wisdom would have them voting for the marriage ban as well — but they rejected Amendment One by 60 percent or more, an outcome that suggests a significant change in demographics and attitudes from even a decade ago.

 

“The Republican Party is Screwed”

Josh Barro:

Murphy urges Republicans to talk about “economic freedom.” But Mitt Romney did talk a lot about that, and middle-class voters weren’t impressed, because calls for lower taxes and less regulation are not responsive to their need for more jobs and higher wages. Murphy also urges “reform of government institutions like schools,” but that’s an issue for state and local officials.

In order to appeal to the broad middle-class, the party will have to adopt some economic policies that its big donors don’t want. As Ross Douthat points out on Twitter, that means Murphy may have picked the wrong side of the Republican schism: Social conservatives are more likely to signal openness to pro-middle class economic policies than the “hardheaded business types” who fund the party.

But social conservative interest in non-plutocratic economic policy looks awfully soft. When you look at the 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential primaries, social conservatives threw in their lot with the candidates pushing the most regressive economic policies. Mike Huckabee sounds good rhetorical notes about middle-class economic struggles, but he’s also a backer of the hugely regressive “Fair Tax.” While the donor base drives the Republican Party’s orthodoxy on economic policy, conservative activists are not exactly being dragged along — they, too, are opposed to pro-middle class policies.

The upshot is that the Republican Party is screwed: It’s in for a lot of infighting, but both sides of the party’s internal fight are committed to economic policies that are not saleable to the broader public.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, Josh is correct. I would probably fall on the side that Murphy represents and so would many Republicans that don’t care much about the social issues. But the problem isn’t just the social issues, it’s also the economic ones as well. The party is going to have to go through a wholesale makeover, not just a touchup. None of this means that the GOP becomes the diet version of the Democrats, but it does mean speaking to the economic realities Americans face in ways better than they are currently doing and in ways far better than what the Dems are selling. As Barro says in an earlier piece, conservatives are going to have to get used to talking about redistribution.

“What Are We Going To Do About This?”

My apologies for going so long without a post.  Part of it has to do with me being a bit more cynical about politics these days.  But something has made me want to write a post, so I’m back at least for a little bit.

As the Romney campaign seems to be behind in the polls, there has been a raft of articles about the state of conservatism and the Republican party.  Here’s David Brooks talking about the loss of traditional conservatism. There’s Rod Dreher talking about his losing faith in the GOP after Katrina. Here’s Conor Friedersdorf talking about how conservative media is not helping the GOP. Doug Mataconis talks about how to fix the Republican Party.  Economist Scott Sumner calls the GOP “the stupid party.” I could go on.

There was a time that I was invested in articles like this and would write blog posts talking about how the GOP needed to change and so on.  I still believe the GOP is in trouble and needs to change, and I don’t disagree with what these writers and others have to say about the party.  But I can’t say that I’m excited enough to run to my computer nodding in agreement.  Acutally, reading some of the articles leave me more annoyed than anything.  I’m annoyed because I know these as much as these cris de coeur make sense, I know that they won’t really lead to any real change.  There were a number of these articles four years ago after McCain lost the election and nothing much came from them.

In an email I wrote to Rod Dreher, I explained what I think is missing in these denunciations:

Rod,

I’ve been reading your posts on how the GOP should change with some interest.  I’ve been involved at some level of Republican activism for about a decade now, mostly through Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection.  Politically, I am probably a mix of the old Rockefeller Republican with a healthy dose of libertarianism mixed in.  While I found your articles engaging, I also came away frustrated.  I believe its important to read some of the great conservative philosophers but I am left feeling that reading Kirk and ignoring Fox is not enough. 

What has frustrated me the most about heterodox conservatives is how much they complain about what is wrong with conservatism and how much these folks disdain the give and take of everyday politics.  It’s as if people want something different, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty in trying.  Over the years, I’ve seen people who seem to have some passion in changing the GOP get fired up for a bit and then leave.  There’s no will to stay and change things for the better. 

The thing is, if people want a Republican Party that has a less hawkish foreign policy, is fiscally conservative and is interested in the common good and not just the self, then people have to get involved.  Yes. we need an intellectual foundation, but we also need other organizations that can support and put forth candidates that can carry these ideas and bring these ideas to fruition.

But all of this means getting involved and having to actually persuade people towards this vision of conservatism.  And that’s something we don’t want to do.

So keep up the writing on this topic.  But unless folks move from thinking to action, don’t expect the GOP or conservatism to change.

I’ve written about this before.  I’m not saying things are great in the GOP.  There are a lot of problems.  But I am reminded of something I said a few years ago to a colleague as she complained about the lack of a children’s ministry at the church I am serving at.  I basically told her in my usual subtle way, “What Are You Going to Do About It?”

“What Are You Going to Do About It?” Yes, I know you have aren’t crazy about the GOP. Good for you for sharing it.  But, so what?  Do you really think the Eric Ericksons of the conservative blogosphere give a rip what you think?  Do you really think just bitching about how wrong the party and the conservative movement is will make things change?

The thing that bothers me is not that these folks are complaining: it’s that they aren’t really offering ideas on what should happen next, let alone how to refashion American conservatism.

In 2010, I wrote about “Why Moderate Republicans Suck.”  What I wrote back then applies to those heterodox conservatives as well:

…the hard right is a movement. There are groups of like-minded individuals that come together and are able to force change in the party. A single person realizes they are part of a larger movement and that gives them the stregnth to march forward.

On the other side, moderates are at best a collection of individuals.  We tend to feel lost and alone and don’t feel a connection to anything greater than us. Because we are isolated, we don’t feel as empowered and tend to give up easily.

If the GOP is to moderate, then there needs to be an effective moderate movement within the GOP forcing change. Nothing will ever happen unless these collection of frustrated individuals come together and organize.

Hence, why we moderates suck.

If we want to see the GOP reform, there has to be Something more: think tanks, political PACs to help hetrodox candidates run for office, committed activists.

I don’t expect Brooks or Friedersdorf or any other the other writers to take up the busy work of a countermovement.  But I would like to hear them urge folks to be “mad as hell and not take it anymore.”  I want them to urge people to run for office or organize a bunch of people to go to the next state caucus.  I just want something that will move this beyond the complaining stage.

“What Are We Going To Do About This?”  It’s a question I fear we are afraid of answering.

The Beginning of the End on the Gay Marriage Wars

It seems the GOP is waking up to the reality that same-sex marriage is becoming more commonplace and that it’s not the winning wedge issue it once was:

It’s been one of the swiftest shifts in ideology and strategy for Republicans, as they’ve come nearly full circle on same-sex politics. What was once a front-and-center issue for rank-and-file Republicans — the subject of many hotly worded House and Senate floor speeches — is virtually a dead issue, as Republicans in Congress don’t care to have gay marriage litigated in the Capitol.

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told POLITICO.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that change, especially in the Republican party is slow, but it is also most certainly steady.

…and David Brooks as Martin Luther

David Frum points to David Brook’s “withering column” on the GOP and notes that the public will not only blame the President for this mess, but will also look to the GOP as well:

Republicans in Congress need to understand that there will be a political price to them, not only to the president, if they force the United States into reneging on its contracted obligations. They need to hear that message from inside, from donors and supporters. That’s not a “pro-Obama” message as some hot-heads charge. It’s a pro “full faith and credit” message. The Obama program can (and in large measure should) be repealed. But default is not an acceptable tool of politics.

Brooks’ column is a manifesto for the times, it should be nailed to the Republican equivalent of the church door at Wittenberg.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Whenever I start talking about issues regarding the budget, I tend to get a few responses that go like this: the Democrats are pragmatic and the Republicans are crazy.

I tend to roll my eyes when I hear that because I tend to think it’s too simplistic and tends to look at any and all political issues in a black and white viewpoint.  I like to believe life is a lot more complicated than that. That, and most of the folks that are saying this seem to be hard partisans that will always find the other side as crazy while they are rational and sane.

While I don’t think the entire GOP is nuts, there is always a bit of truth in everything.  There are those in the GOP who I think are able to control the debate when it comes to the budget.  They have turned tax policy into a religion and not in a good way.

David Brooks takes the Republicans to task for basically squandering a perfect opportunity to get control of federal spending.  As Brooks notes in today’s column, the GOP has in many ways “won” the debate on spending and has forced the Democrats’ hand when it comes to the budget.

But instead of declaring victory and making a deal which would include closing tax expenditures and maybe even raising taxes, the party has not budged from its “no-taxes” stance, risking the federal government to default in a month’s time. Here’s what Brooks notes about the GOP.

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

Brooks pretty much tears the GOP a new one for not acting like a political party that makes deals and instead like a protest movement that doesn’t allow for any compromise.

And he’s correct in doing so.

Politics is and has always been a mix of compromise and principle.  It’s one thing to talk use ideology as a governing framework to guide oneself in a democratic society.  It’s is another thing to use ideology as something to hide behind, to keep yourself from governing and representing the people.

What the GOP is being asked to do is to accept closing some tax loopholes and subsidies.  Yes, that would mean “taxes would rise.” But really, are we talking about raising rates back to the Eisenhower era of 9o some percent?  No.

What this comes down to is what the GOP wants to be in the next few years.  It can choose to be a governing political party that accepts compromise and takes into account that there is another political party that they have to deal with, or it can choose to be a protest movement that doesn’t care as much about governing than it does getting accross it’s ideological message.  It can’t be both.

Republicans have an opportunity to make more inroads in 2012.  They actually might have a chance to win the White House.  But if the party chooses ideological conformity over responsible governing, they can expect to see those chances slip away.  As David Brooks says at the end of his column:

The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

Indeed.

One Small Gay Step for Republicankind

While some might think the GOP is hopelessly homophobic, there have been green shoots of greater acceptance of gays and lesbians.  Today, we see that Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director, R. Clarke Cooper was tapped by the Republican National Committee to serve on its Finance Committee.

Let me repeat that.  Openly gay man, who heads an organization of openly gay Republicans,  is asked to serve on the fundraising committee of the Republican Party.

Kinda amazing, don’t you think?

This didn’t please the folks at the Family Research Council.  The Advocate reports how they responded:

In a blog post this afternoon, the Christian conservative lobbying group denounced Cooper’s appointment — as well as his organization’s “homosexual-centered” aims — which include bringing a lawsuit against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (a federal judge ruled DADT unconstitutional last September).

In a subsequent fund-raising plea, the post’s author, FRC vice president for government affairs Tom McClusky, urged readers to donate to his organization’s own political action committee — or to the Senate Conservatives Fund, chaired by South Carolina senator Jim DeMint.

The blog post is accompanied by an image of the Disney character Dumbo, with an alt tag that reads “elephant gay.”

 

Stay classy, FRC. Below is a pic that Log Cabin was able to capture from the FRC website.

Log Cabin fired back with a fundraising email of its own:

Dear Family Research Council,

Log Cabin Republicans don’t mind that you called us“Dumbo,” because on Election Day, we want to see elephants fly – to the White House, Congress, and in statehouses nationwide.

 

Now, that’s class.

I think this is an important step for the GOP.  It wasn’t too long ago that we had the chair of the RNC who was in the closet and having to support an anti-gay agenda.  To have someone out and proud serving at such a high level in the GOP is nothing but good.

The Ryan Budget

These days, I tend to get a little intimidated by all the super-smart bloggers who can spew all these facts and stats when it comes to budgetary issues.  So, I’m never going to be the next Ezra Klein or Tyler Cowen, but I can at least give a basic layman’s view on Paul Ryan’s plan on the budget.

At first glance, I think it’s pretty good.  One of my chief complaints with Republicans is that they either don’t have a realistic budgetary plan or most of their plans are just slash and burn without any purpose.  Ryan’s plan does have a lot of slashing of budgets, but I think he at least tries to keep the safety net somewhat intact.  For those on the Left like Klein and E.D. Kain, anything that changes the current understandings of social programs like Medicare and Medicaid is basically throwing the old and the poor on the street.  I don’t think it has to be that way.  I think some of the criticism about privatising Medicare by giving people vouchers is valid (it doesn’t at least on the surface try to rein in costs).  That said, it is a starting point and it’s good to see a Republican come up with an innovative idea.  I also think that while Ryan is willing to “go there” when it comes to entitlements, folks like Kain are correct in saying that the military also needs to be reigned in. 

Which leads me to a side issue.  David Brooks notes in his column today that America needs to re-envision its welfare state.  The system we have in place for the most part has been the system we have had for 50-70 years.  We are pushing the limits of the old welfare state model.  It’s becoming unsustainable.  This means that we have to create a new social contract that can carry this nation forward.  I think Ryan’s proposals are a good starting point.

That said, we also need to take a good look at what some call the “warfare state.”  Our defense needs are based on what those needs were back in the 1950s.  The Cold War with the Russians has been over with for 20 years and we need to design a military for our current world.  That means a smaller footprint around the world when it comes to bases and troops and that means cuts.  The world still needs the United States to take part in military action when called for, but we can’t do it with a military designed for the “Red Dawn” era.

So that’s my simple take on the Ryan plan.  I’d like to hear others viewpoints.