'Cause I Said So…

Party of Squishes or Party of Conservatives

Ayn Rand had it right in Atlas Shrugged. Without the willing consent of the hosts, the parasites cannot continue to survive.

In light of the recent election, I’m waiting to see if the GOP will change direction. If they cannot do this in a serous way, then this election is only another speed-bump on Hayek’s “road to serfdom”.

I don’t only mean the GOP changing the country’s direction. No, I mean a change in the GOP’s own direction. Will it actually become the party of the “country class”, or will it continue to remain simply another party of the “ruling class”?

The GOP has been mouthing “country class” values for decades, but has (for the most part) not put these words into action. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and both Bushes, they all believed in big government. It’s not simply that they believed the existing government was too big for them to meaningfully change. No, they bought into the necessity and usefulness of big government. They may have wanted to marginally change its direction and how it operated. They may have wanted to make it less wasteful, more effective, and less costly. However, the premise underlying big government was never really questioned.

Since WWII, only two Republican presidential candidates, Goldwater and Reagan, have been true Conservatives. Can we really call the GOP the “conservative” party when only two of its last ten presidential candidates have been conservative? We can work to elect as many conservative Senators and Congressmen as possible. However, how can we expect them to behave conservatively when most GOP standard bearers are “squishy” moderates?

Many of us have worked hard for decades to elect conservative politicians to help retain those of our freedoms which remain, and to regain those freedoms which we have lost. Our only real hope is for those of us in the “country class” to once and for all take control of the Republican Party from the Establishment. Once we’ve wrested control from them, their only chance for survival within the party is to go along for ride.

Won’t we lose some of the Establishment to the Democrats? Think about it. If that’s the case, then chances are they are already voting with them a lot of the time. In many important ways they’re already gone. If they don’t agree with us most of the time, and find us to be the bigger threat, then let them be on their way. In the larger scheme of things it won’t make much of a difference. The Establishment as an actual percentage of voters is not enough to make the difference in general elections, as long as we bring in the disaffected Independents.

Are these the same Independents the MSM talks about incessantly every election cycle? No, I’m not talking about the pseudo-moderates, who are, for the most part, the least informed among us. How has it become a virtue to have no educated opinion about the elected leadership of your country? No, I would do best to not speak of these pitiful, ignorant sheep watching Oprah and The View. Instead, I’m talking about disaffected, right-of-center citizens, who feel the Republican Party haven’t spoken to or for them, or, worse, believe their votes have been taken for granted in the past.

I’ve recently been reading articles about the successive groups of new voters having come to the GOP beginning in the early 1970’s. According to the pundits, the first was Nixon’s “silent majority”. Next to appear were the “Reagan Democrats”. Then on their heels came the “Christian Right”. Each of these new groups ushered, in turn, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, the Freshman Class of ‘95, and then Bush II. The newest of these groups of voters is supposed to be the “Tea Parties”, which helped the GOP take over the House of Representatives, and most of the States’ legislatures.

The “new voter groups” theory sounds great. However, if you take more than a cursory look at it, you’ll find it to be total nonsense.

Since the death of FDR, Democrats have won seven presidential elections. Of those seven elections, only three times were they won with a majority of the popular vote. Two of these Presidents were Johnson and Carter, both of whom were unable to win re-election. The third President is the current officeholder, Barack Obama. People seem to forget that Clinton won both of his elections with only a plurality of the popular vote totals. Arguably, without Perot’s third-party candidacy, Clinton would not have even been elected the first time.

During this same period, there have been nine Republican presidential victories. Of these nine elections, only two were won with less than a majority of the popular vote. In both of these cases, the Presidents won re-election with an outright majority. These two Presidents were Nixon and G.W. Bush.

So, let us look again at this “new groups” theory. According to this theory, Republicans, who’ve had presidential election majorities most of the time, keep adding to this majority with new groups coming into the fold. I don’t know about you, but the math doesn’t add up for me.

Nixon won re-election in 1972 with 60.7% of the popular vote. That vote would have included his “silent majority”. Where were those voters in 1976 when Ford garnered only 48% of the vote? It wasn’t like Nixon was running again. Ford was untouched by the “Watergate” scandal. If a “new group” had joined the GOP, what happened to them? While the total popular vote did increase by almost 4 million, Ford received approximately 8 million fewer votes than did Nixon four years earlier.

Reagan won election with 50.8% in 1980, and then won re-election with 58.8% of the popular vote in 1984. Not only was Reagan’s ’80 vote a smaller percentage than was Nixon ’72 vote, it was also about 4 million fewer votes. So, we started with Nixon’s 60% including his “silent majority”, and then we supposedly added “Reagan Democrats” and the “Christian Right”. How do we end up back at 58%? Yes, in ’84 Reagan did receive over 7 million more votes than Nixon’s high water mark, but the popular vote had increased by almost 14 million. I thought these were “new groups”. How does this theory explain Bush only getting 53% of the vote in 1988, and his then getting 37% in 1992? Bush’s ‘88 vote was just 1.7 million more than Nixon’s ’72 vote, and his ’92 vote was even lower than Ford’s vote in ‘76, while the total popular vote had increased by almost 22 million.

Another problem with this theory is the Clinton years. Two years after Clinton’s election, the GOP took control of both Houses of Congress. Yet two years later, Clinton was able to win re-election, albeit with less than a majority of the vote. However, the GOP maintained control of Congress until after G.W. Bush’s second mid-term elections, with the exception of the Senate during the first two years of his first term (thank you, Jim Jeffords).

Now, just two years after President Obama won the presidency with 53% of the popular vote, the Republicans have again taken control of the House of Representatives with a historically large majority. Why have the American people changed their minds so dramatically in just two short years? Have the GOP, indeed, brought over a new voting block, the “Tea Parties”, consisting of voters dissatisfied with the President? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately for the pundits, the “new groups” theory rest on three assumptions. First, one has to believe that all citizens of voting age already vote. Next, one must believe all of these voters are well-informed of and have a good understanding of the American political system and political philosophy. Finally, one has to believe the default position for most voters is Democrat. However, we all know three of these things are patently not true.

We know all citizens of voting age are not registered to vote. We know less than 70% of those who are registered voted in the most recent presidential election. Anyone who has been to an American public high school knows how little is actually taught about our systems of elections, Constitutional processes, political philosophies or the histories of our political parties. We also know that both major parties have about 30% of registered voters each. So, why is the question always framed in a way that seems to assume the Democrats are the majority party? “Where are these Republican voters coming from?” Indeed?

Let us look back over the last eight congressional election cycles. During this sixteen year period, both parties have had the presidency for eight of the years. In the Senate, Democrats had control for six years, while Republicans had majorities for ten years. In the House, Democrats have had control for only four years, while the Republicans have had control for twelve of the years. The next two years will see a change to only equal years of control in the Senate. So, if we call the House, as did the Framers, that chamber of the legislative branch closest to the people, then it could be considered the tie breaker. The country is marginally more Republican than Democrat.

Let’s look at this question another way. Consistently for about twenty years, people have identified themselves in opinion polls as conservative, moderate, or liberal, by 40%, 40% and 20%, respectively. Now, the Republican Party has sold itself to be the “conservative” party, while selling the Democrats as the “liberal” party. Not that the Democrats identify themselves that way. Most Democrat politicians run away from that characterization, choosing instead to be called “progressives”, “moderates”, or by some other undefined term.

The dirty little secret is… neither of them is coming clean with the people. In reality, the Republican Party is the moderate-right party, while the Democrats are the liberal party. It’s not a matter of how they market themselves, but of who actually runs the parties and the legislation they promote. Do we judge somebody by their actions or their intent? It has to be by their actions, because there is no way to know what’s in a man’s soul.

If the GOP were actually the conservative party, then the national party leadership would be conservative, as would be its legislation agenda. They would be conservative enough to hold on to the 40% of the population who call themselves conservative, while reaching out to those moderates who are right-leaning, just enough to get slightly over one-quarter of them. Instead, it has a party leadership which promotes legislation to the moderate 40%, and then reaches out to the conservative 40% just enough to win elections. Its outreach to conservatives is done in two different but complimentary ways: promising to be more conservative, and (if that doesn’t work) fear-mongering about the Left. A truly conservative party would never do things like introduce new or expand existing government programs, offer amnesty to illegal aliens, or allow itself to become the tax collector for the welfare state.

The Democrats are different, but use similar tactics. They claim to be the party of the center, while being run by the Hard Left. They constantly market themselves to the “mushy” middle. They use ill-defined terms like “fairness” and “equality”. They are always talking about giving a “helping hand” to those “less fortunate” than ourselves. They use all the feel-good language of the day. However, they never talk about the costs, in Property and in Liberty, of all this “generosity”. The majority of their leadership comes from super-safe, ultra-liberal enclaves, which all but guarantees their re-election to office in perpetuity. They constantly push and prod the political system to advance their statist agenda, all the while talking of “moderation”, “compromise” and “bi-partisanship”. Would a truly moderate party seek to gather all power and resources into a centralized state?

So, taking a critical eye to the proposed “new groups” theory regarding Republican Party expansion over the past few decades one would have to declare it “hooey”. It begs many more questions than it offers solutions. Why the sudden surge, then quick recession, in the wake of Nixon? Why was Reagan/Bush able to have three terms, but never come close to a majority in the House? How was Clinton able to gain re-election, even after the “Gingrich Revolution”? How were Republicans able to gain and keep Congress through Clinton, then to lose it outright during Bush’s second term? How was the GOP able to regain the House, come close in the Senate, and devastate the Democrats at the state-level just two years after having “it” handed to them by Obama, Pelosi and Reid?

The “new groups” theory fails because it is based on the idea that the Republican Party itself had any involvement in its own good fortunes. It’s a great idea to sell, if you’re in the politics business. “I, too, can get you voters. Here’s the magic formula.” If that were the case, then the GOP would have gotten 60+% of the vote even after Nixon. The only control the GOP seems to have over its fate is in making the wrong decisions, often at the most inopportune moments. You see, the Republicans, through their own hubris, lose almost as many voters as they gain, over any given period of time.

The GOP gains voters at times of perceived “crisis” to these peoples’ way of life. However, the GOP can’t keep large numbers of these new voters for the long-term because they continually disappoint the new arrivals. Inevitably, a new crisis occurs and the cavalry (or its successors), composed of the productive, middle-classes, ride out to the rescue. They don’t come in rescue of the GOP, but to rescue the nation. The GOP’s short-term success is just a by-product of these good citizens’ desire to defend their families and selves from an overreaching state.

These different groups of voters coming to the GOP are not permanent additions, like water pumped into a holding-tank. These voters are more like waves crashing on a beach. It’s repeating cycles of the same water, over and over. It washes up and then pulls away, driven by the political tides and winds. They become energized, act, and then becoming dispirited and disillusioned, finally pull away. Then a new crisis occurs beginning the cycle anew. The waves don’t accumulate, though larger ones have been known to wash over the dunes and collect in pools behind them.

The “Tea Party” movement is just the most recent of these citizen waves. It is potentially the strongest of these waves in several generations. It must wash over the political leadership in Washington and undermine the dunes of centralized authority. It must not simply slip back into the sea, its energy wasted on the beach. They cannot, as in the past, just elect new people and then go back to their lives, hoping these guys will do as promised. We’ve seen what’s happened too often.

The power of Washington is intoxicating liquor, which once imbibed proves too difficult for many to resist. We need to be the ones to call their tab and send them home if they get too drunk on it. No one is more dangerous than a politician behind the wheel of government, drunk on their own power. None is safe in his path.

In addition to my “crisis wave” theory to explain sudden volte-faces in the political fortunes of Washington, I have a “general theory” of American popular politics. It’s is, “In the aggregate, most people in most states will elect the more ‘convincingly conservative’ candidate (and/or party, in the case of a nationalized legislative election), unless they have good reason to distrust their authenticity. In the absence of a perceived degree of difference, the voters will default to a contest of personalities. For the purposes of this theory ‘conservative’ is defined as a generalized belief in traditionalism, national defense and free-enterprise, not the more specific ‘Movement Conservatism’.” If you apply this theory, not as a Monday morning quarterback, using the information the average voter would have had at the time of the election, you can see why some elections went the way they did.

In ’48, Dewey was a liberal “me-too” Republican with no point of difference. In ’52 and ’56, Stevenson was a “pointy-headed intellectual” and Ike was a successful, military leader. In ’60, the platforms were nearly indistinguishable, and so it was Dick or Jack by likability. ’64, here we have an outlier because the self-styled conservative lost, but other issues at play, like assassination (exceptions prove the rule, right?). In ’68, Nixon seen as conservative to Humphrey (plus Chicago Convention didn’t help matters). In ’72, Nixon was seen as way more conservative than McGovern. In ’76, the Rockefeller Republican Ford versus professed born-again Christian, Southern Democrat Governor (in the wake of Watergate, to boot) was a no-contest. ’80, Reagan beats Carter. ’84, Reagan really beats Mondale. ’88, Reagan’s successor beats Massachusetts Governor. ’92, incumbent no longer seen as conservative loses to moderate Southern Democrat Governor (trust issues and degree of difference). In ’96, Clinton had been pulled to the right while Dole ran as a moderate (no degree of difference, default to personalities). In ’00, “soft” conservative, Southern Governor defeats moderate Southern, Senator/Vice-President (most people in most states, electoral college). In ’04, sitting war-time President beats Northeast, Democrat Senator. In ’08, moderate-sounding, well-spoken, young Senator defeats historically moderate-sounding, grouchy, old Senator (remember that MSM didn’t report any appreciably negative stories, his politics were not well examined, while McCain ran to the left giving people nothing to go on but personalities).

My theory explains sixteen of the seventeen most recent elections. Take of it what you will. It does a lot better job of analyzing these past elections than any other on I’ve heard. In examining any problem, I tend to use Occam’s razor. It just seems to cut through all the unnecessarily complicated ideas. Think about it. Look at the ’00 race objectively, most people thought of Gore as the “New Democrat” Vice-President of a popular sitting President. He spoke better. He had answers to every question. He was involved in “reinventing’ government. He was all in to the internet and the environment, when people still believed that global-warming jazz. Everything being even, he should have won that race. I think Bush actually made the race closer by his use of that “compassionate” conservative rhetoric. It lessened the degree of difference between Gore and himself. Stark contrasts show better.

In discussing these ideas with others, I keep being told that the demographic trends of the country are against us. Don’t listen to the ‘demographic’ argument. Politics is not biological. Keep this in mind. Before Buckley revitalized the Conservative movement, most of the population had been reared under Hoover, FDR and Ike with their unwavering belief in big government intervention. WFB had not yet been born the last time a conservative, Coolidge, was in the White House. Even so, the movement came back. What it took to start was one twenty-three year old man writing about his experiences at Yale.

The long-term problem has been that each wave thought they could simply elect someone and then disengage and go back to their life. This is the ‘long war’ and it must be treated as such. Every day, every election, both primary and general, must be used to reinforce our insistence that government exists for our purposes, not the other way around. Politicians must learn to do as we say or they will find themselves unemployed. If necessary, we must create wave after wave of politicians, elected and then defeated, until we finally get to those who actually follow the Constitution.

The market is a great indicator of what people want. Just as we cannot fault a manufacturer for producing a frivolous product which people want, we cannot fault the politician who does whatever it takes to get re-elected. What we can do is change the market indicators. Manufacturers make new products or change existing ones to meet consumer demands, or risk losing business to competitors. Politicians must be made to understand that the only way for them to get re-elected is to change their product, or risk another politician getting our vote.

In this case the desired product is Constitutional government. Will we ever get what we want?