Wednesday, November 07, 2012

10 suggestions for the Republicans

The Republicans will now have a fourway - debate that is between four factions:

True religious conservatives - The cross carrying wing of the Tea Party, who will all claim that they needed to be closer to God, be louder on abortion,  Christian values, shrinking the government (except when it is about enforcing the latter) and that Romney was too moderate.  They are in denial that their views on personal freedom are a significant, but shrinking minority.   They are the backbone of activism in many states, but have scared away others elsewhere.

Moderates (RINO some may say) - Who will all claim the Tea Party wrecked the election, and that a moderate, who doesn't want tax cuts for the wealthy, who doesn't want to privatise bankrupt social programmes, who doesn't talk either social or economic conservativism, would have won.  Of course, one wonders what, if anything, would have been on offer that was profoundly different.

Libertarians - The small government wing of the Tea Party, who will all claim that the religious right wrecked the election, and that there needed to be courage about cutting spending, slashing regulation and that Ron Paul could have won over many Democrat supporters.  I doubt it.

Pragmatists - Who will point at Romney flip-flopping, who will point at gaffes by some Republicans, who will point at the fear the Obama camp coughed up about Medicare and social security, and that a campaign of mutual scaremongering and flinging of dirt is unlikely to be as productive as a positive optimistic one with a simple plan.  They will choose whoever can win and do whatever it takes, apparently.

However, I have some views.   Things the Republicans need to think about.  For four years are ahead for them to still control the House (for at least two years), and have a strong voice in the Senate, and for Obama's stuttering recovery to plod slowly forward, until... eventually... the QE fueled bubble inflates and bursts again.

It is that the political map in the US is made up of people who want more involvement of government in the economy, and people who want less - you've kind of positioned yourself as the latter.   However, it is also made up of people who want more involvement of government in people's private lives, and those who want less.  You are a party with people who represent both.  The Democrats are a party that appears to be the latter (but offers nothing on topics from the environment, to drugs, to victimless crimes, to state surveillance).

There is a gap in the political market for a party that accepts social liberalism (true liberalism, as in less government, not interventionist social engineering) as well as an economic free market.

Like the Democrats in 1972, you might face one election with a breakaway socially conservative, anti-immigrant, anti-free trade Pat Buchanan type 3rd party candidate which costs you an election - but like the Democrats in 1972, you will have embraced a new constituency of urban, educated, middle class people who are suspicious of government, but don't pay much attention to religious conservatives preaching to them.  Ronald Reagan was somewhat closer to that than you'll care to remember.  That's a reason why he won virtually every state in the union, and your rejection of this is why you never win the Pacific and half of the Atlantic coast.

Here are some suggestions.

- Medievalism: The likes of Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin just need to be purged.  Todd Akin's comments that women can "shut down" fertility in the event of "legitimate" rape and Richard Mourdock's statement that implied that children of rape are part of God's will caused enormous harm.  Such views are immoral, medieval and scientifically bankrupt, and fundamentally corrosive.  It's not enough to repudiate and condemn them when they get expressed.  No mainstream political party should tolerate even selecting people  with such attitudes.   Get a Presidential or Vice Presidential female candidate that is competent and not a theocrat, and this will make the most profound difference.

- Religion: Most Americans are Christians, and a fair proportion regard church as important.  However, they don't want you preaching to them about it.  Make it clear that you explicitly believe in separation of church and state.  Make it clear that one of the reasons America was formed was by people fleeing religious sectarianism in Europe, and that America is a country where people may have whatever faith they wish, including none.  The ranks of the 20% or so who would welcome a Christian theocracy are decreasing.  You may gain your values from your religion, you may regard it and your church to be important parts of your community.   However, religion is a private matter and to have ever growing numbers of people turn off of your party because they think it excludes them on this point is suicide.  

- Immigration:  The USA was built by immigrants.  Embrace them.  You scared away conservative, hard-working Hispanic and Asian voters. This constituency is only growing. Make your policy open, with the three simple provisos that anyone is welcome as long as they swear allegiance to the Constitution and the values of the Republic, they are not convicted of offences against people or their property and will be prohibited from claiming taxpayer funded welfare, healthcare, social security or education.   In fact, offer all new immigrants that deal.   Come, be free, live your life, leave peaceful people alone, and get the first $30,000 of your income free from Federal Income Tax (and tax deductions as well).  Give all illegal migrants an amnesty period, where if they spend five years without committing a felony and without claiming social security, Medicaid or Medicare, they gain residency.  Get a candidate who is the son or daughter of immigrants.

- Corporatism:  The big stick Obama hit you with was links with big business, giving business tax breaks, Romney paying a low rate of tax and giving a picture of corruption and advantaging big business at the cost of small business at individuals.  Of course, he's just as guilty, so you need to change the terms of the debate.  Advance scrapping all subsidies to business, including agriculture.  Advance a simple low tax plan, with a high income tax free threshold, include scrapping as many rebates as you can as you lower rates.  Make it clear that no businesses should ever be bailed out by the Federal Government ever again.  Reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to remove the government guarantee for them.   In other words, offer the American people a grand deal that is about eliminating taxpayer funded pork.  Make it the same in regulation, so that statutory monopolies are abolished, both private and public (e.g. USPS).  Abolish eminent domain for the private sector (you wont do the public sector, but you can heavily constrain it for the public sector).   The Democrats are propped up by enormous networks of interests with subsidies, specific tax breaks and regulations, so do a clean sweep.  Make it clear you want Americans rich and poor, businesses big and small to have a level regulatory and tax playing field.  Indeed, right now this should be your number one argument with the President on avoiding the fiscal cliff.

- Tax, deficit and debt:  This point resonates and has been partially successful, but your rhetoric and policies were easily criticised. Until the US is in budgetary surplus, it will be difficult for you to do much in taxes beyond oppose increases and advocate reforms that simplify them and mean in exchange for vast rebates and deductions, lower rates overall.. Your response to Romney's low tax rate should have been to advocate it for all tax.  Why should capital gains tax be lower?  On the deficit your blind spot is defence.  The big hole here is that US defence procurement remains extraordinarily wasteful, and there is considerable scope for efficiency and consolidation.   The US can still retain global dominance in nuclear deterrence, it can retain military superiority in its presence in Asia and the Middle East (for good reasons of trade and energy security), but without the heavy presence in Iraq and Afghanistan there is scope to contain spending in real terms.  Do that, end corporate welfare and you can start arguing for a long term privatised option to social security and Medicare, with specific tax opt outs for those who select it.  Meanwhile, you must continue with no new taxes on the fiscal cliff, but push hard for abolishing corporate welfare, raising entitlement thresholds for social security and Medicare, and be vocal against anyone seeking to grow public spending of any kind.  

- Abortion:  I could say just shut up, but you wont.  What you can do is simply say you will end Federal funding for it, because people who believe it is murder should not be forced to pay for it.   You can say it is up to the states how they deal with the issue, given Supreme Court precedence, and you respect the rule of law and precedent.  Yes, there is a big rump of Republicans for whom this is the top issue, but the only way this will go further is if you can convince people that you are right.  The majority of people have a view that is neither abortion on demand, nor life begins at conception.   If you're serious about reducing the incidence of abortion, then change the terms of the debate.  The current strategy is a dead end, and it loses you the White House.

- Personal freedom:  You're happy talking about the right to bear arms, you're happy talking about lower taxes and small government, but you clam up when it comes to what people do with their private lives.  How about questioning the war on drugs?  How about saying you'll leave the legal status of marijuana to the states? That will put a bomb under the Democrats.  It will also suddenly wake up Californians, again.  Do the same about the status of marriage.  You gain nothing by advancing a Constitutional amendment about marriage, leave it to the states.  A growing proportion of Americans do not care if people are gay, and a growing proportion are turned off of political candidates who do care. If you want to preach that it's wrong, go ahead, do so.  However, don't do so implying the government should pass laws against it.

- Economic nationalism:  You target this because whenever the Democrats are in power, they fail to meet the expectations of xenophobic unions who preach the "foreigners stole our jobs" or "our jobs are being exported" line.  Let it go.  Make it clear the biggest threat to the US economy is being in hock to foreign creditors.  Simple as that.  I'd like to think you could push for global trade liberalisation, but you'll fear handing Obama the plate of economic nationalism.

- Education freedom:  More than a few states are doing this, you can push this further.  One of the great success stories for those advancing freedom is the advent of vouchers and other systems to allow taxpayer funding of compulsory education to follow students to those who set up independent schools.  Make this a priority, sell how this helps the poor, sell how it allows parents to choose the education for their children.  The teaching unions and Democrats in hock to them hate this. However, for you it is a chance for long term cultural change, and to simply advance parents over vested interests.

and last, probably least to you, but it's worth it...

- Ayn Rand:  You've discovered her, now read some more, specifically Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal  and Philosophy: Who Needs it.  I know you know she advocated minimalist government, but she was also an atheist.  An atheist who believed genuine human benevolence and kindness was superior to a welfare state.  Embrace that, as it actually core to how most Americans are and realise that those without your beliefs can be good people too.  She rejected the corporatism all too many of you support.  Most of all she embraced the view that the number one value for all people is the pursuit of happiness in their own life.  It's an antidote to the nihilistic muddle-headed whim worshipping that is prevalent in popular culture.  It is an antidote to the entitlement culture Obama has continue to nurture, but which has roots from FDR.  Oh and no, you didn't advance anything that was more than a hint of the shadow of her views in the election.  I don't expect you to be an objectivist party or even libertarian, but the values of self-esteem, of personal achievement, of benevolence over dependence and violent demands and of letting peaceful people get on with their lives can be sold. The clearer you understand that, the clearer it is the other side only has the offer of making some people pay for others, of telling people they aren't responsible for their own circumstances and claiming they can make it all better.


Kiwiwit said...

Hear, hear, but I can't see a party that picks a man who wears magic underpants as its presidential candidate going for anything as rational as what you outline. Romney and Ryan deserved to lose and good riddance to them.

As far as America's future is concerned, I think Mark Steyn had the most appropriate comment this morning, quoting Sir Richard Mottram, "“We’re all f***ed. I’m f***ed. You’re f***ed. The whole department’s f***ed. It’s been the biggest c**k-up ever and we’re all completely f***ed.”

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Kiwiwit's 1st paragraph above.
Under "immigration", you wrote about the "values of the Republic". The Republican Party showed how hopeless they were that they couldn't cream Obama for what he's done over 4 years - that seem so contrary to values; their Constitution.
Rather wonder how many USAmericans read your blog from UK