By David Beilstein
YOU know what they say about opinions.
There has been a plethora of them of late, coming across the putrid ether by Republicans. In the face of a GOP suffering an electoral battering, the scope of gormless comments seem to be prevailing. But it is always refreshing when a sturdy voice comes upon the moment and right now it seems to belong to conservative New York Times op-ed writer, Ross Douthat.
Douthat offers excellent and illuming takeaways,
In part, these failures can be attributed to the country’s changing demographics. Reliable Republican constituencies — whites, married couples and churchgoers — are shrinking as a share of the electorate. Democratic-leaning constituencies — minorities, recent immigrants, the unmarried and unchurched — are growing, and voting in larger numbers than in the past.
These sentiments are true. But even more true (and fixable) for Republicans are Douthat’s asides located in his third paragraph,
But Republicans are also losing because today’s economic landscape is very different than in the days of Ronald Reagan’s landslides. The problems that middle-class Americans faced in the late 1970s are not the problems of today. Health care now takes a bigger bite than income taxes out of many paychecks. Wage stagnation is a bigger threat to blue-collar workers than inflation. Middle-income parents worry more about the cost of college than the crime rate. Americans are more likely to fret about Washington’s coziness with big business than about big government alone.
In other words, the Republican Party majority led by the Reagan revolution from 1980 into the 1990’s fixed many of the ills effecting large sweeps of the American public.
In consequence, President Bill Clinton proved in the eyes of voters Democratic Party failure in the past in relation to economic matters would not be the story of his administration. Let us remember, Republicans forced Clinton’s hand on many another economic policies, favouring conservative philosophy, not socialistic. Whether congressional Republicans or a cornered Clinton administration did this or that; the point is, classical liberal policies and not progressive ones, took many issues off the table for the future Republican Party.
In part, then, past GOP policy victories defeated the Republicans on Tuesday.
Life being imperfect, as well as nations, new problems emerged. Today offers different challenges. Consequently, the GOP will have to find new policy measures relying on classical liberal principals to usher in greater free market solutions to new and different political environs. Add to that the incompetency factor (wide-spread public dissatisfaction with recent Republican governance) and it becomes possible, logically, Barack Obama was able to overcome the gravity of political history and win an historic election.
Both shifts, demographic and economic, must be addressed if Republicans are to find a way back to the majority. But the temptation for the party’s elites will be to fasten on the demographic explanation, because playing identity politics seems far less painful than overhauling the Republican economic message.
I have never liked identity politics. It is too easy to malign by the opposing political party and too easy to descend from ideological ground — an ‘arena of ideas’ where conservatives have the advantage — into the sump of feelings, where Republicans lose all advantage.
Classical liberalism is embraced in the mind. It does not seek to eliminate emotion, but instead realises life is more than emotion. Sentiment, in other words, is beauty — sentimentality, excessive. Excess clouds judgment. Classical liberalism is converted to, sociologically, in the heft of its intellectual and logical cohesion. Identity politics dissipates the connections, both experiential, historical, and intellectually, people need in order to prefer classical liberalism to utopian, philosophical ideas about the parameters of state power.
But then this. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is a problem of weighty significance for GOP leadership. He should be removed and the keys of Congress stripped from him. Perhaps Republicans cannot help but be soft? It is, then, an error; another reason they lose. The things they see as problematic to their fortunes are the very things, different in degree obviously, Democratic candidates have used to become the majority party. I am talking about being ideological ; The GOP needs to be obstructive — preaching the ideological assumptions of limited government and free minds and markets, while offering substantially different policy initiatives than those of the DNC.
Democrats compromise on the increasing power of the state in terms of rate of speed. They obstruct all ideas the GOP has in terms of limiting state intrusion on individual autonomy. Republicans compromise on the state even being limited — allowing for policies to grow government broader and more powerful, albeit more slowly. And too many congressional Republicans presume the statist premise in terms of governance.
Last week was rough. If Ross Douthat’s correct it will get rougher before it gets easier. Republicans will have to make severe changes from the ground up. Changes in communication and policy proposals. It will not be easy, but it never is. The Grand Old Party will have to drive sternly to classical liberalism if they desire to effect change, improve the quality of life for Americans, and turn the country around.