By David Beilstein
THE Monday morning quarterbacking of brouhaha has begun. Republicans are now going over the election returns – asking, pleading really,
What the hell happened last night?
What happened, besides Mitt Romney losing to a president, who based on all historically indicators, other than the power of incumbency itself, should have been roundly defeated?
In the aggregate there was a great disconnect between the Republican Party and voters they used to win handedly. Also, it appears, an earlier blog entry I wrote, here, was partly the cause of President Obama’s electoral fortunes. The Democratic Party mantra of Republicans being stuck in the past – venerating a time and place many voters do not venerate – eras many Americans growing in population were in some sense left out of American life.
This, no doubt, hobbled the message of the Republican effort. There are now more Americans who think the default position on economic and societal progress belongs in the Democratic Party.
This, it seems to me, is a product of three circumstances.
One, changing demographics, two, a high percentage of dependent citizens – and three, an electorate that does not see or believe Republicans are competent in matters of fiscal responsibility, foreign policy, and expansion of individual liberty within the diversities now animating the country.
The victories of the Bush era defeated the Republicans in the Obama era. Victory defeated them. When George W. Bush ran for president, on the back of President Bill Clinton’s successful economic management of the late 90’s, Republicans had already lost trust on economic matters. This explained the 2000 election debacle. Under Bill Clinton’s leadership, and for the first time in generations, the Democratic Party was seen as creating millions of jobs, and fiscal restraint. At the same time, the DNC did a stellar job advertising these gains within a diversity of cultural and racial milieus.
The economic collapse of 2008 and endless blood and violence of Iraq and Afghanistan destroyed Republican competency on their one historically strong hand post the Clinton era boom: foreign policy gravitas. Add to this, Bush’s own fiscal overspending, and subjugation of free market principals during the financial collapse and any opportunity to explain (and teach) the American public of the fundamentals of fiscal prosperity and ruin was destroyed.
With such issue destroyed, voters could not and would not see the GOP competent on economic matters. Worse, a Democratic attack upon free market principals as the reason for the financial collapse – even though Bush abandoned them – would thus be effective, and was. Enter the 2008 presidential election, and with it, the election of Barack H. Obama.
While Republicans have had a mixed record on enacting free market programs, they have had an atrocious record in explaining and interacting with voters, illuminating why and how prosperity happens in a free society. The lack of teaching the basics of classical liberalism, economically especially, is the reason why something like 55% of voters still held George W. Bush to blame for Barack Obama’s economic failures, Tuesday, Nov. 6.
There was no reason, historically or politically; voters should have seen Obama’s economy after four years as George W. Bush’s fault. They did, then, because more and more Americans are economically illiterate and Republicans, based on past actions, are untrustworthy on the issue to begin with.
What can be done? Small ball.
Republicans find themselves in the same position they did back when FDR was president of these United States – persona non grata, in other words, at least in regards to the presidency. Democrats controlled the presidency from 1933-1953. Still, conservative fortune in the 1980s and 1990s was built on the congressional inroads conservatives made nationally when denied the presidency in those years in the 1940s and 1950s.
The new American demographic that elected Barack H. Obama twice was born in the Democratic Party’s actions (while losing the presidency) during the 1970s and 1980s, locally and congressionally. The Democrats, then, played small ball in those etiolating years. While Republicans celebrated 12 years of Reagan and Bush, 8 years of Bush the son, Democrat’s built their future victories county-by-county, state-by-state.
Republicans have to do the same thing. The other thing Democrat’s did – they got honest. They are a far left party now, unapologetically so in presumption and policy. Ideology matters. Democrats have an ideology and Republicans should have a classical liberal ideology. Republicans need to use ideology because it disavows far better than simple policy positions Democratic mischaracterisation. Liberal ideology, also, in the classical sense will win elections. Republicans may have to settle with winning and controlling Congress routinely, blocking statist creep, and securing state governorships first – then build national bridges as consequences of progressivism come home to roost, to the presidency.
It can be down, and it will take time.
Republicans need to play small ball, run on free markets and free minds locally and congressionally – block assaults on personal liberty (even if they war against certain moral convictions Republicans may have) and aggressively campaign for the preservation of Burkean islands of separation, including inalienable rights. Such Burkean inroads, will, in the long run, pay down Republican incompetency debt and mistrust with the electorate.
A moderate Republican Party will defeat itself. The answer is a more purest classically liberal Republican Party. Compromising with progressive politics – moderate Republican mantra, will delegitimise Republicans further, because those policies will lead to societal, cultural, and economic impoverishment.
Progressive ideas about the economy and views of the world will have dire consequences. In due time, hopefully not to late, voters will aggressively desire solutions to the messes they themselves helped enact through the ballot. We cannot be bitter – we must have free market and free minds’ solutions when the bill comes due. And the bills always come due.
Classical liberals need to be ready and represented across the nation when that time arrives.