Romney sneaks in

Romney sneaks in
  •  emoticon

With the GOP convention officially underway in Tampa, I figured now would be as good a time as any to share a couple of my broad, foreign-observer theories regarding where the Republican Party seems to be headed at the moment — and where American politics in general are likely to be dragged along with ’em.

THEORY NUMBER ONE: The Republican Party will continue its current trend of demanding pure ideological hegemony within its caucus, which will lead to a further parliamentization of Congressional governance.

More than any time in living memory, American voters are being asked to elect national parties to govern them — not local politicians. The Tea Party’s aggressive use of primaries as a blunt weapon to depose incumbent Republican congressmen and senators deemed insufficiently conservative (according to their one-size-fits-all national standard) has now conclusively purged the last of the GOP moderates, creating an incredibly clean two-party dichotomy. As the National Journal noted late last year, the Senate’s most liberal Republican is now considerably more right-wing than even the most conservative Democrat. The popular poli sci theory of the 1990s — that everyone was destined to congeal in the mushy middle — has now been quite solidly discredited.

We can easily debate whether the GOP has gone too far in this self-enforced quest for ideological single-mindedness, but the fact remains that extreme caucus hegemony equals extreme predictability when it comes to legislative votes. If all Republican representatives or senators hold identical views on budget cuts, or defence funding, or taxes, or gun control, then the ancient art of cloakroom deal-making and horse-trading, perfected by mid-century politicians like Lyndon Johnson, becomes an anachronistic talent appreciated nowhere but the history books. There are no more bipartisan deals to make simply because the new raison d’être of the parties is not to make them.

As the years progress, I predict this polarization will eventually make the American legislative process largely identical to that of a parliamentary nation like Canada, where once a party obtains a majority of seats it assumes absolute power over lawmaking for its entire term, with every single bill introduced by caucus guaranteed swift passage. The problematic American twist, however, will be that if a party can only win control of one chamber, any passage of legislation will basically be neigh impossible until the next election, which is, of course, what we’re already seeing today.

Injecting parliamentary rigidity into a bicameral system that was designed to accommodate compromise kind of “breaks” the US political process in a weird way. In time, I guess it’s possible voters will come to accept this stagnation as “just the way things are” but I think it’s equally possible the presidency will steadily get stronger in response, with more executive orders and such, in order to compensate for the constipation of the other branch.

THEORY NUMBER TWO: parliamentization and hegemony will lead to a growing need for a more powerful party leadership hierarchy.

This one seems a bit counter-intuitive, I realize. Have not the numerous victories of Tea Party insurgents, from Rand Paul to Richard Mourdock to Ted Cruz, proven fairly definitively that the GOP base has no time or respect for the party’s existing “elite” and their snobbish, out-of-touch, top-down, father-knows-best approach to setting the partisan agenda?

Perhaps. But to a considerable extent that elite has already been frightened into ideological compliance. And if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner remain holdouts, well, they could always be purged as well. In either case, at some point the forces of hegemony simply win, and the elite/base distinction ceases to be relevant, a la the ending of Animal Farm.

A respected, legitimate, Tea Party-backed leadership, will, in turn, find it easier to exercise the sorts of powers one generally associates with a party boss in a parliamentary system, which is to say, speaking openly on behalf of the party, articulating its values, determining its legislative priorities, and coordinating its votes. If everyone already holds the same agenda, it’s simply more efficient to have one guy in charge of deciding in what order that agenda will be pursued. In a previous essay, I noted the unprecedented degree to which the 2010 Congressional rece was presented as a sort of prime ministerial election between Mr. Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, with both detractors and supporters alike portraying the leaders as cyphers of the sort of governance to follow.

The modern Republican Party already places an enormous premium on charismatic leadership; I figure it’s just a matter of time before a venerated Marco Rubio-type assumes the office of speaker or majority leader, and the prime minister thing becomes even more pronounced.

Likewise, as the whole Todd Akin flap has shown, a centralized leadership would also make it vastly easier to rid the party of its most troublesome members. Since a one seat gap is even more crucial to close in a parliamentary regime, the need to  swiftly eliminate bad candidates becomes even more pressing. Considering how embarrassingly ineffective the combined forces of Republican officialdom proved in securing the ouster of this single kook, I think many can now make the case that a strengthened GOP hierarchy with expanded disciplinary powers is simply in everyone’s best interest.

THEORY NUMBER THREE: assuming Romney loses, the GOP will run a more conservative candidate in 2016.

In the wake of the policy failures of George W. Bush and the electoral failures of John McCain and (I presume) Mitt Romney, I’m not really sure how anyone makes the case for another compassionate/maverick/moderate candidate in 2016. For better or for worse, the party has repeatedly tried the pragmatic course with its presidential candidates, even amid ever-louder complaints from its most conservative faction. By 2016 the dissidents will rightly figure their turn has come, though this leads to my final prediction….

THEORY NUMBER FOUR: America might become a one-party state at the presidential level due to the negative consequences of everything mentioned above.

Purity and parliamentarianism are fine tactics for winning the small races of the legislative branch, but can cause great problems for the executive. In a parliamentary system, the government can often be far more radical than the nation as a whole, simply due to the fact that legislative elections don’t really represent the views of the country per se so much as the assembled views of certain factions of certain hyper-gerrymandered regions. In the senate in particular, it’s been oft-remarked that  it’s possible for a majority of senators to represent as little as 20% of the national population, due to that body’s  increasingly unpopular system of equal representation for all states.

In contrast, the electoral college might be a little weird, but its outcomes still paint a vastly more representative picture of the gigantic, hyper-diverse nature of the American electorate overall. And that electorate remains far more moderate on social and economic issues than the GOP seems willing to accept. Then there’s the whole “demographics thesis” that the country’s liberally-minded minorities, youth, and urban centres are growing at a rate effectively eclipsing the power of the conservative old, rural, white Christian base.

Historically, Republicans have attempted to square this circle by nominating men like Romney or McCain — who are considerably more moderate than their Congressional caucus. Once the party makes moderation a high crime, however, it seems the only choice is to either write off presidential elections as purely symbolic arguments of principle, or embrace some sort of brazen double-standard between who’s allowed to be a Republican member of Congress and who’s allowed to be a Republican president.

I don’t want to say “only a liberal Republican can win,” because I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. But I do think a future Republican presidential nominee will have to change his ticket’s brand in a very sweeping and dramatic way if they ever hope to pull Obama-in-2008 style numbers.

It might take many, many years of Democratic administrations before anyone’s willing to swallow that much pride, however.

So… what are your thoughts?


  1. Mark

    I think that the writings of Theodore Roosevelt will prove more relevant to the fallout of this election season than they've been at any other time in the past century.

  2. Jake_Ackers

    Wait. Moderate to Liberal Republicans have failed to get elected. Then how will running a moderate to conservative also fail or cause a one-party state? Answer is simple. Perception. Reagan was viewed as a true conservative yet he governed like a moderate. Moderate Republicans don't win the presidency, at least if they are viewed so. IE: HW Bush first term versus HW Bush running for 2nd term. Conservative or at least conservative seeming candidates win. IE: Nixon, Reagan, Bush.

    Christie would probably win the Presidency even though he isn't conservative but is viewed as such. How would he win? A candidate has to pay lip service to his base. IE: Romneycare. Reagan legalized abortion but he was out of the governorship for a while and he had been through 3 campaigns. And running against Ford and HW Bush made him look conservative even more.

    For example: Christie v Santorum. Christie becomes the liberal candidate. He wins nod but loses general.
    2nd Example: Christie v Susan Collins. he wins the nod and wins the general.

    Why? Because in the first example he is beaten just like Romney was. His favorable were so much higher. If Gingrich didn't call Romney a vulture capitalist he would be doing better. in the 2nd example, it forces a Christie to appear to be conservative without even having signed any major right wing legislation because after all not like he would be able to in NJ. So the left can't attack him as too far right (well they will but can't point to anything directly). But the right will embrace him regardless if he signed a major liberal legislation because Collins would be too far left.

    In point, Romney 08 versus Romney 12. Simple. McCain made Romney look conservative, Santorum and Gingrich made him not. And like you said, Rubio would become Senate leader soon enough. Why? Because he is pragmatic but appears to be conservative. In short, appearances can give you points so as long as the other side can't point to anything concrete in terms of being extreme.

  3. Jake_Ackers

    And actually Democrats are the major ideology/partisan politicians. Republicans disagree more with the party. Then again a Dem is in the White House so the Dems in Congress tend to vote his way.

  4. Kento

    Republicans can disagree with the party because there is much more of an official party policy. Disagreeing with the policy allows the policy to be shaped, and forces all others to fall in line. Public disagreement with party policy has a greater reward in the Republican party because if you win, you force all other Republicans to hold your views.

  5. OldsVistaCruiser

    I'm not so sure. Christie is hated in his home state of New Jersey, even by Republicans who have suffered buyer's remorse. He is best known for flying in a state helicopter to a baseball game in which his son was participating, and when he arrived, he didn't walk to the ball field- he was chauffeured a few hundred yards/meters to the ball field in a state limousine which had been waiting for his arrival. All of this, of course, was on the taxpayer's dime.

    I grew up 20 miles/32 klicks west of the Delaware River, and since NJ is heavily covered by Philadelphia television news, I have seen much of the controversies that Christie has caused in that state.

  6. @RedneckGaijin

    The first mistake made is that American conservatism is a political movement. It's not. It's a religious movement that worships wealth. Once you understand this, you can understand that the radical nature of conservatism in the United States will only change if and when the religious forces behind it are so utterly discredited that religion is forced to withdraw from politics. Until then, no matter how ideological or extreme they become, the Republican Party will remain either a strong minority or a slight majority in national politics.

  7. Mark

    This post saddens me. Have liberals and conservatives become so estranged that they can only conceive of each other as exotic and contemptible zealots?

  8. Kento


    Everything in American culture is politicized. Music is political. Clothing is political. Food is political.

  9. Chuck

    I have to say that I don't think RG's statement is too far off the mark. I tend to avoid the fundies, but I do know quite a few secular conservatives.

    What I have found with most of the conservatives that I know personally is that they do worship wealth. They always make political choices that preserve the best chances for them to become wealthy in the future, instead of political choices that give them the best chance to have a good middle class.

    For most of the conservatives I know, they seem to value the possibility of being filthy rich more than the near certainty of having a decent living. Their thought process seems to be, "Health care for everyone? Screw that! When I'm rich I can participate in the best health care in the world already."

    For these people it seems that chasing the possibility of wealth is more important than making sure that if they fail to become wealthy they can still get the basic services that they need.

    I don't personally know all conservatives, and there are even a few conservatives that I know that have logical reasons for their conservative views. They can logically support how they believe that their conservative views are better for the vast majority of Americans and not just the wealthy few. But they are in the minority.

  10. anonymous

    I would be pretty surprised if any of the things you predicted happened, at least in the drastic form you've presented them.

  11. Kento

    I've thought along very similar lines, and am very glad to see someone comment on it.

    The Republicans have means of making every official or candidate in their party fall in line. Funding people to win primaries against "RINO"s is incredibly easy, all that needs to be done is make a non-ideal Republican the target of attack in parts of the ring-wing media, and their opponent can get funding from everywhere in the country even if they're representing a small part of a state.

    I doubt the Democrats have similar means to demand ideological purity. The need for it is certainly going to be more pronounced, since the Republican's ability to mobilize and stay on message (because they have -a- message) is likely going to be more useful than having a big tent. This may lead to the Democrats to eventually split into two or more parties, but it doesn't seem likely to happen in the immediate future, since the problem at this point seems largely unrecognized.

  12. @AshburnerX

    I'm pretty sure the Democrats have already had their major split: Most of the Southern Dems were ether forced out or left as a result of the Civil Rights issue. Instead of forming a new party, they just became Republicans. A lot of the Republican image problems with minorities came as a result of them (stupidly) letting these people in and then shape policy.

  13. William

    With respect to the non-populationally proportional nature of the Senate — that is one of the major points of the Senate. They even call the compromise that resulted in it "The Great Compromise". If there hadn't been a body that gave disproportionate weight to small states there are states that may have never signed the constitution and today we might have had a handful of small independant Northeastern states separate from the rest of the country.

  14. Chris

    But now is not the Eighteenth century. The fact that it was neccessary then is irrelevant to now. *If* it is truly unpopular now then it has no business being part of the Constitution of a democracy.

  15. Taylor

    ^ Exactly

  16. Jake_Ackers

    One thing is that the article fails to acknowledge is this. The Republican Party was a third party. It has a varied base, Libertarian, Neocons and Moderate/North East Republicans and so on. The Democrat Party is pretty much all the same. It's either Liberal or the Moderate Left like Evan Bayh or Bill Clinton. Either way the Dems rarely fight it out. It happens but way less often than Republicans. Republicans constantly put up 2 or 3 strong candidates in most primaries, especially for President. If not that just ask Teddy Roosevelt and Taft.

  17. beanz

    After the election of 1852, the Whig party essentially disintegrated into three parts: pro-slavery Whigs joined the Democrats, anti-immigrant Whigs formed the Know Nothing Party, and anti-slavery Whigs (including Lincoln and Seward) became the Republican party, which quickly filled the political vacuum to become the "new" second party. The Republicans were never really a "third" party, because at the time there was no "second" party either.

  18. ThePsudo

    Republicans were a new party that jumped instantly to 2nd place in the '56 election. The idea that a new party can jump into prominence in less than a decade is hope for 3rd parties even though the Republicans weren't technically a 3rd party.

  19. beanz

    I think the US might be heading towards a period where Presidents are all Democratic and Congress is Republican-dominated. National polls will reflect the overall attitude (say 52% liberal leaning), whereas the micro-political climates of the kind that make up Congress will benefit Republicans in the long run. The American political system has an uncanny ability to shift quickly into equilibrium, maybe partisan control of different branches will be the next one.

  20. Chris

    That doesn't sound particularly like a democracy, though. If the President is always a Democrat, and Congress always Republican, then what's the point of voting?

  21. OldsVistaCruiser

    Not to mention that in many places, including my home state of Pennsylvania, gerrymandering of political districts has become widespread, especially in Republican-controlled states. My new congressional district (PA 15) is no more than 20 miles/32 km from north to south, yet it's more than 100 miles/160 km from west to east. There's one district here in PA that is over 200 miles/320 km between the two most-distant points.

  22. Virgil

    I don't think so….

    (1) For starters, the Democrats have long been far more organized than the Republicans. The Democratic Leadership Council..aka the Liberal organization in the House, has since the 1950's been attempting to force out Conservative Democrats…and largely succeeded by the end of the 1960's. It obtained….tellingly, a majority of the Democratic districts after the 1958 elections, and presaged a run to the left on the part of the Democrats. The Democrats have therefore been fairly left-leaning since the early 60's. The Republicans answer…the Republican Leadership Council, began around the start of the Reagan era and only obtained a majority of Republican seats in 2008. The RLC is aligned with the National Review in the same way that the DLC was aligned with the New Republic and the American Prospect. The RLC Republicans differ from older less organized Republicans (like Bush) primarily in demanding smaller government, but in an age of trillion dollar plus deficits that is what you would expect, right?

    (2) The high spending has forced out the moderates. Forget the social issues for a moment. The Supreme Court has had less and less to say about them and the 60's are falling ever further behind in view. They've been fairly static since around 1980. They divide the electorate closely, but the economy trumps them. Bush, economically, was pretty moderate and spent far more than Clinton. His views are now considered "RINO" since there is a general view that the budget being as out of balance as it currently (with over a trillion in debt annually) is dangerous. This, together with the RLC domination of the congressional caucus, amounts to the "swing to the right." In considering this matter it should be kept in mind that the rightward lurch so far has produced, in Ryan's math, a budget that still does not quite balance. By this standard your Prime Minister is to the right of Atilla the Hun.

    (3) The libertarian streak in America is stronger than in many other nations. And it occasionally breaks with both parties. I am not the first to note the similarity between the Tea Partiers and Ross Perot's movement….or, heaven preserve us, Ron Paul's. It gets stronger in direct proportion to the extent of the budget deficit.

    (4) The current Democratic policies are unsustainable. Clinton was more libertarian, arguably, than any other president in modern memory other than Reagan. He responded to the Perot movement. Obama has written off its successor as a dangerous bunch of kooks. In doing so he has built in expectations on the left that will be difficult to meet and has increased the organizing power both of the Tea Party and of somewhat more moderate tempermentally RLC types. More importantly, the old programs are running into trouble due to demographic factors. These issues can only be demagogued for so long.

    (5) The slash the spending movement is winning. Wisconsin is the biggest example, but its succeeding all over the midwest. Democrat Andrew Cuomo has also included various spending cuts in New York. The future of the Democrats is likely to look more like Cuomo and Clinton, and less like Obama and Jerry Brown.

    My predictions:

    (1) If Obama wins re-election he will attempt to reverse on the spending issues. His base will not let him without massive wailing and gnashing of teeth. If he does not whether to go along with the spending cuts will become a test of Liberal or Moderate bona fides.

    (2) Democrats will continue to get more Liberal until economic reality forces different. Republicans will continue to get more Conservative.

    (3) So long as there is no major melt-down the parties balance will remain at about the same level.

    (4) If there is a major meltdown the issue will be decided upon results and decidedly not upon the demographic thesis. As the Conservative and Liberal dominations of their respective parties is now nearly complete, the verdict will be decisive. It will take a keen observer of society and politics to watch the shifts. Conservatives won a round from 1980-84. Liberals have not succeeded in coming to a definite verdict in 2008-2012. Now…we watch…and see. Whoever wins will remake the institutions of the US government for a new generation.

  23. Cicero

    One thing that I find myself wondering about is the possibility that neither party can get a "clean" win to enact a full policy program. Envision, if you will, a scenario where either Obama limps back into office but either the status quo ante election prevails in Congress or he loses the Senate by a vote. Not necessarily the most likely scenario, I'll admit, but hardly implausible. Alternatively, envision a situation where Romney wins but the GOP fails to win the Senate. Cue four more years of deadlock in either event, given the history of midterms.

    Worth considering: What is more dangerous as a deadlock, in terms of policy jams: Obama and a GOP Congress (or at least a GOP House)? Or Romney and a Democratic Senate?

    I can see strong arguments going both ways. With Romney, Democratic digging-in could just redouble (especially since at the Presidential level it could be argued to have worked). With Obama, the question could come down to how far each side is willing to push…as I noted in an earlier post, would the GOP be willing to block supply on some front? What would Obama do in such a situation (especially considering some of the rumblings from the debt ceiling crisis)?

    The other risk is a string of "boomerang victories" where one side gets control, then the other…then the first guys come back…and so on. If Romney gets in with a clean mandate, slashes spending, and something goes wrong in the process (either the economy takes a major hit in the process or somebody gets to aggressive on a mandate), the Dems could be back in four years. Obamacare gets repealed…only for the Dems to try and reinstate it in some form and do so without the time delays built in that let it get repealed without large parts going into effect first (remember, this has been a bugaboo for them since the 40s…something like this is going to remain a priority of theirs for quite a while).

  24. Philip Wilson

    Since when is the DLC "forcing out conservatives"? They may be liberal, but they're hardly progressive.

  25. virgil

    I will also add that, in the 1950's political scientists wanted one liberal and one conservative party, and that the parties at the time were coalitions still partly inherited from the Civil War. Be careful what you wish for….

  26. @Kisai

    My sad money bet is on increased stagnation. Every time you look at a electoral map you see the same thing, Democrats in cities, Republicans in rural areas. The states with the largest urban cores vote democrat, and the ones with the largest rural areas vote republican. See also "jesusland"

    I do hope that the US doesn't fall off the fiscal cliff and cause some of the silly dystopian futures to become real. (I laugh, but in Canadian produced fiction (Mass Effect, Continuum, H20/The Trojan Horse) and American fiction (Hunger Games, Fringe, Fallout, Halo) NAU has been the result of a breakdown of both Canada and the USA poltical-economic influence on the world stage. As they say in business, when you can't grow yourself, you buy into growth by merging with ones that are. The entire Euro experiment I think will put off any chance of a monetary union here, and unless the second amendment disappears, the borders will remain a trade barrier, keeping a NAU in check.

    As for what I think won't happen, regardless of the winner of the presidential race this year, there will be more stagnation as the Tea partiers refuse to compromise, and laws get passed but no budgets to enforce them. I don't think there will ever be another civil war, though I think there will be more pushes to repeal or change the second,fourth and fourteenth amendment if the country starts swirling the toilet.

  27. Cicero

    Well, it's also political suicide in both countries to suggest support for an NAU, even (justifiably) excluding Mexico. With Canada, it's the "51st State" feeling; with the US, I think the biggest part of the lump is a concern that in the process of such a merger, some things such as the Second Amendment (or the present understanding of the First) could go out the window either with a badly-designed agreement or through even /more/ detached judges making things up. Want to cause a panic on the right? Just throw the threat of some sort of Human Rights Commission into the mix. There's also the concern that you're just sticking another layer of government on top of things, and I think more than a few fair questions would come up as to "Why not just dump the national governments in the process" and have 60-odd states and a few territories under a single government…try floating /that/ idea in Canada and see how far you go.

    Serious question: I can see the hackles over the Second Amendment that come up every time there's a shooting leading to this fairly logically (not that I agree with the logic, but I can easily see the chain there). The Fourth and Fourteenth are perhaps a bit more questionable…could you explain how those would come up?

  28. @Kisai

    Well, with the second amendment, Canadians aren't exactly thrilled about gun violence and "stand your ground" laws. See:

    The fourth amendment "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…" is routinely violated in the name of security, and the exclusionary rule is what keeps it in check. In today's day of internet sharing, people are stupidly volunteering this information on the likes of facebook. Hence it becomes a thought crime to not use facebook. Canada’s exclusionary rule is discretionary, not automatic. Thus it doesn't lend automatic privacy protections and is only invoked half the time. Your use or lack of use of a social network can be used as evidence against you. So both in Canada and the US, these rules would likely be eliminated or relaxed under misguided security concerns, and further erosion of privacy.

    The fourteenth amendment part I'm looking at is the birthright/immigration aspect . It's a hot potato. Every time someone is elected in Canada or the US, there's always a wave of "I'm going to move to (the other country)" even though that's not legally possible. Should the borders disappear, you'd probably see the entire liberal/conservative split widen. As global warming warms the north, and the US south faces more droughts, there will be a push to move northward.

    Historical observations seldom includes mergers of territories and countries by peaceful means. They always breakup. A short lived NAU would be followed by the conservative south wanting to split off again as the political balance tilts against them.

  29. Blur

    Nigh, not neigh.

  30. Zulu

    Intriguing analysis, JJ.

  31. Jake_Ackers

    Obama win or lose will give rise to either an Evan Bayh or Hillary Clinton. Dems will never win with another liberal candidate because the debt is ridiculous. Thus they will be forced to run a true moderate or lose. Giving the Republicans room to run a conservative. Hillary will have a tough time if the economy tanks. Even if the economy recovers, well even Bush beat Gore so a Republican could beat Hillary. Truth be told unless the Dems get another Bill Clinton (IE: Evan Bayh) for the next election the Presidency will keep ping ponging.

    Even if the economy recovers it will be 5-10 years since the recession started. The "lost decade" under the Democrats will be hard to overcome. If Obama is FDR then lets look at the situation. Truman narrowly won versus Dewey. Eisenhower then won. JFK narrowly beat Nixon. LBJ destroyed Goldwater but that gave rise to Reagan. Nixon won messed up and Carter then won. Reagan/Bush to Clinton and then to Bush and then to Obama. Frankly, the presidency has been jumping around after 2-3 terms and I frankly see it keep going back and forth. Again unless Dems change face from Obama to someone like Evan Bayh.

    Clinton beat Gingrich and Dole at there own game. Clinton was willing to balance the budget but not at the expense of Medicare and Medicaid. He let them win the battle but he won the war by making it about the programs. Now the problem has shifted. It's not just spending, its the kind of spending and the programs themselves. Whether Obama wins or not, Medicare and Social Security will have to be addressed. If not the programs will go bankrupt and the Dems will have egg on their face. Harry Reid said he will address Social Security when it runs out of money. The Ryan Plan is on the record, Bush's plan has been on the record. If those two fail, who's fault will it be? The public will blame the Dems, while the Reps had a plan at least.

    In short, the Presidency will be determined not by this recession but the problems ahead.

  32. Coffee

    "Obama-in-2004" style numbers? OBama didn't run for presidency in 2004.

  33. Cicero

    I /think/ JJ meant 2008…though he could always have been referring to Barack's smashing Senate win.

  34. Monte

    I tend to side with Theory number 4. With how the economy is, beating obama should not be too difficult for the republicans, and yet Romney struggles to beat him in the pools and thus keeps the race neck and neck. Why? Because the tea party has had a negative impact on the republicans as a whole. In their attempt to make the republicans more conservative they have in turn been alienating the moderate voters, the same moderate voters who play a huge roll in the swing states. Romney may be a moderate but the tea party zealous movements and Romney's attempts to please them has resulted in Romney coming off as even more conservative. In the end, the republicans can't win a presidential election without the swing voters, and their movement to the right puts them at risk.

  35. @Cristiona

    " The problematic American twist, however, will be that if a party can only win control of one chamber, any passage of legislation will basically be nigh impossible until the next election, which is, of course, what we’re already seeing today."

    For many Americans, this is a feature, not a bug. "That government is best which governs least," and all. And, frankly, when every action Congress takes does little more than pile on a few billion dollars to the ever-growing deficit, can you blame us for this opinion?

  36. J.J. McCullough

    I'm sympathetic to it myself, but I think the problem is that stagnation is supposed to be a means to an end and not an end unto itself. Which is to say, split control of the House/Senate is supposed to help moderate the worst impulses of both sides, not prevent the legislature itself from performing its constitutional obligations to the nation. I don't think "governs best by governing least" really describes, for instance, a prolonged failure to pass a budget. That just seems irresponsible.

  37. Alejandro

    If the Democrats and Republicans fail to reach a compromise then the Bush Tax cuts will expire next year raising taxes on all Americans, Sequestration will take effect locking in military spending at current levels adjusted to inflation, the Farm Bill will not be renewed ending hundreds of agriculture subsidy's and benefits worth billions of dollars as well as most federal funding for food stamps. No funding will be allocated to the army and air force in two years causing their dissolution as pertaining to the constitution.

    The Navy and Marine Corps at current funding would be more than enough for most national endeavors short of a proper war which no one is currently expecting (China, Iran, North Korea?)

  38. @Cristiona

    It certainly is irresponisble, but there are questions about who's to blame there. The (Democrat controlled) Senate hasn't brought a budget to vote for over 1000 days. It's not a matter of Republicans filibustering it, it hasn't even gotten that far. Are the Democrats gun-shy over what the Republicans might do, or are they simply refusing to do their duty? Honestly, I'm not sure how the lack of a budget can be blamed on congressional gridlock. If budgets had been offered and then nothing happened with them, you could blame gridlock, but when one chamber utterly refuses to even bring up a budget?

  39. Cicero

    Good observations, though I'd like to put what I see into somewhat different terms.

    Up until fairly recently, I think you can at least argue that both political parties were, in essence, vehicles aimed nearly exclusively at electoral success. To the extent that there was an ideological tilt in each party, it was governed by a tangle of Civil War-era allegiances that could often override almost everything else. In essence, the job of the party was, insofar as there was a formal organization, to come up with a platform that could get its candidates elected.

    In recent years, I think a trend has emerged in America (and I suspect in other parts of the world) that amounts to this:
    "We would love to govern America and fix the problems that we agree exist. But we are unwilling to take power unless we can also address those problems that /we/ see as existing." In other words, to a large number of supporters of a party, power has gone from being the end to simply being the means, with policy changes being the end.

    That this was always true for some folks is no doubt the case…the difference, at least for now, seems to be that such movements could previously be expected to "blow themselves out" such that they had cooled off by the time they got to power. Witness the differences between Ronald Reagan in 1968 and Reagan in 1980 and beyond: Reagan and his movement became far more pragmatic then, working within the broad context of the values that he supported to achieve what he wanted to; that doesn't seem to be happening this time around, and you're increasingly getting parties prepared to accept opposition rather than back off of their values. I suspect that are a lot of Republicans now who would accept a second term of Obama if they were convinced that Romney was going to put in a bunch of pro-choice judges, for example.

    One of the biggest risks that is affecting the US at this point is, IMHO, that Theory Number Two (which does seem to be arising, I would note, with the nonsense at the convention today) comes to pass…and that it triggers a fragmentation among the parties. Much of what has kept the US a two-party state with few other parties exceeding any sort of significance outside of a single state or a single election is the fact that there are various groups within each party that can hope to force "their guy" on the party as a whole in a given cycle. If there's a real risk of this, what is to prevent the next substantial insurgent group from being kicked off the ballot en masse by the leadership…and them responding by simply storming out and running on their own? For a case in point in Canada, look at the formation of Reform. Splits like that seem more likely in a situation where a party can dump a "troublesome" candidate…even if they get them off the ballot in a given election, every time you do that you risk creating a martyr of sorts for a given movement.

    By the way, there is also one fact that always comes to the fore: As long as an ideological group sticks to their guns, they can always reasonably hope (in their own minds, at least) to fight on long enough that the "other guy" (whomever he might be) loses sooner or later on a combination of voter fatigue, incompetence, scandal, and/or complacency. As long as that possibility exists in a real way, it is quite possible that a group within the party will be prepared to accept opposition in Congress.

    I will make one last note: Theory Number One worries me quite a bit for a whole host of reasons. Watching both parties spar for this sort of dominance could make for quite a few people honestly hoping for continued deadlock as an alternative to one (if not both) parties threatening to bring in "bad" policy priorities of some sort or another. An overly-powerful presidency doesn't necessarily solve this, either: What happens if the other party gets incensed enough to refuse to [pass a continuing resoluton/raise the debt ceiling/pass a "must pass" bill] and decides that they're willing to see part or all of the US government shut down rather than accede to the sitting President's demands on legislation? I don't think that such a situation is unrealistic in the context of too many executive orders being thrown around: The lack of a viable VONC mechanism in the US and the general unwillingness of the courts to rein in the executive branch can lead to some rather unpleasant possibilities here, with Congress either being rendered irrelevant (if the President wins a string of such showdowns) or a highly-neutered Presidency emerging (if you get a unified Congress somehow winning the fight) as not-that-extreme options.

  40. J.J. McCullough

    Very interesting stuff, Cicero. I would add that I think what you said about martyrs seems to be proven by some recent races — witness Chris Christie in Florida, Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, andTom Tancredo in Colorado. Akk wronged by primary losses, all ran spiteful third party candidacies as a result.

    I used to think there was a possibility that the Tea Party would abandon the GOP and run independent candidates, now it seems more likely that Republican moderates will be forced to do that. Or, I guess the scenario Jake describes above is also possible, that the Democrats will simply become the moderate party all non-Tea Partiers claim to want — due to circumstances and strategy — and the more "pure" left will be forced out of the conversation.

  41. Cicero

    I think you mean Charlie Crist? Don't worry…I've made that slip, too.

    I increasingly suspect that there will be a major fault of some sort in the political system in the US. The problem is that, per polling evidence, instead of a bell curve of views (with a large pile in the center) there seems to be a major pile on each side with a gap in the middle. This was cited as a fair part of the reason that Americans Elect failed (though far from the only cause of it).

    Tancredo's situation is a little bit odd (that was a case where both primary options wound up contaminated ahead of the primary and the party organization got stuck with a bad candidate), not /terribly/ unlike Missouri this time around, though that was a case of a plagiarism scandal (I /think/) rather than the Foot-in-Mouth outbreak that hit Akin. But you're right that there seem to be an increasing number of moderate third-party candidates showing up: Joe Lieberman also comes to mind, and I can spout off a list of others who haven't been quite so successful.

    The main problem is envisioning a Democratic climbdown on a number of issues (or at least, climbing down any further than getting to a Presidential majority requires), or at least an "opening of the tent". This worked pretty well in 2006/8, yes, but the price was utter chaos when they tried to actually use their (rather substantial) majority in Congress only to find that a bunch of their members in less-safe seats weren't with them, and it was also those more moderate members who took the 2010 landslide on the chin, regardless of how they voted on many things. So a "move to the center" by the Democrats might not be as workable as it seems.

  42. J.J. McCullough

    Some interesting commentary from everyone, but one important fact that I think needs to be explicitly addressed is the increasingly stark reality that people simply don't vote based on issues anymore — they vote as an expression of their class/geography/religion/race/etc. For instance, the economic situation of African-Americans is quite awful at the moment, as is the economic situation of recent college grads. Yet neither group is in any hurry to abandon the president and the Democrats. I thus question whether or not "the economic situation getting even worse" in coming years will really change anything that much.

    If anything, it seems that a worsening economic situation simply makes people dig in and get even more rigid and partisan with their pre-existing beliefs.

  43. JonasB

    Well, that could be one explanation, but a counterpoint could be that those groups are staying democratic because the economy isn't the only thing that matters to them (they support other Democrat stances on other issues), that they see the democrats as the lesser of two evils (may not like current situation, but dislike alternative more), or because they don't believe that the Democrats are responsible for the current economic situation (the economy always goes up and down and it's not always the fault of the executive branch).

  44. rmjones13

    I myself am a struggling college graduate, and for me the reason I am voting Democrat this time around is very simple: Obama may be bad (although I would argue that the inter-party squabbling that is preventing key legislation and the budget from getting passed and not Obama's leadership is what has slowed the economy's recovery), but looking at Paul Ryan's budget and Romney's agreement with it (from what he has said in interviews) scares me far worse.

    Last election I voted a healthy mix of republicans, democrats, and some independents. I considered myself moderate and voted on the person. This election, and the lack of anything getting done in congress, is terrifying me and has me planning on voting straight democrat this time- something that I would never normally do, but I just want to send a message to the GOP. Watching the Republican National Convention has made this a legitimate plan for me, despite me hating voting strictly for one party as I actually have a lot of conservative values.

    But between Paul Ryan's speech that was filled with so many lies that Fox News called him out on it, Mrs. Romney labeling all women as their role being family oriented and all moms should agree that voting for Romney is best (because apparently all mothers think alike on policy, wut), the USA chant that was so horribly timed and showed a complete lack of decorum, and the peanut throwing scandal… not to mention the redefining of nonconsensual sex, a no-exception platform for abortions, the constant misquoting of the 'we built it' drilled into the ground (because apparently they can't actually discuss the facts), the way they plan to change medicare…

    Even if I agree with quite a few of the core policies of conservatism, between the bad behavior of the Republicans this year and the take-over of the extreme right? I'm going Obama, simply because I feel he will do the least amount of damage. Heck, it's his final term- he might finally step up and actually stop trying to compromise to the point of getting nothing done!

    Honestly, I was hoping the beating from Obama last election would make the Republican party a bit more moderate (because let me tell you how many normally republican but still swing voters were driven away by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement- um, about 90% of the ones I knew.), but they seem to have gotten far, far, far more dogmatic in their niches. Your idea that another beating would only make them worse scares the crud out of me.

  45. Cicero

    In the case of blacks, that is probably the back end of a continuing trend over the last 80 years or so combined with Obama's race. However, I think the overall trend you note is right. My explanation would be that identity /does/ trigger "issue voting", but that identity also affects how a lot of people believe that problems should be solved. For example, if someone thinks the economy is bad they might vote GOP if they think that cutting government spending will solve the problem…or they might vote Democratic if they think that spending needs to be sustained indefinitely. Basically, it comes down to not only "Is there a problem?" but also "What will solve the problem?" There are undoubtedly folks whose biggest complaint about the last four years is that the government didn't pump more into the economy or didn't cancel out student debt or mortgage debts (or nationalize some banks)…Obama may not be doing so hot, but it's not like they're going to get their way under Romney.

    If anything, I suspect that history tends to push a lot of folks off to an extreme of their previously-held beliefs (at least for a time). For an example, the troubles of the 1970s in Britain begat the peak of Militant Tendency's (a more-or-less Trotskyist group) influence in Labour on one side, and Margaret Thatcher winning out as Tory leader and subsequently pushing for privatizations and union-busting on the other. In the US, it seems to be bringing out a lot of small government conservatives moving quite far along that continuum (witness Ron Paul and/or the Tea Party folks, both bringing different flavors of this to the GOP) while Democrats dig in supporting a regime of heavy government spending.

    The key is that in Britain, for example, one party won and the other lost. As I've noted elsewhere here, what happens if /nobody/ wins and a deadlock continues for a long time?

  46. Doragoon

    The issue of republicans moderating to the middle is an example of the Epimenides paradox. A moderate republican is like a Cretan telling you he's a liar. All republicans are far right wing. If they moderate, they are still far right wing because they are a republican.

  47. virgil

    In regards Cicero's point:

    I think that neither side wins only if there is no disaster. If there is one, then people line up on the other side. Nothing would seem harder than making the sons and daughters of Civil War vets vote Democrat….but that's exactly what they did in 1932 when it appeared that the economy was collapsing. Likewise, and in the recent past, Obama got huge margins in Congress due to the feeling that things were falling apart in November 2008. What we have now reflects more a persistent ache rather than a sharp pain, but if we do go back to feeling that we are getting a sharp pain then enough of the population will swing accordingly.

  48. Cicero

    Define a disaster, though. I don't see anything like 2008 (or 2001) on the horizon, and I don't think a few years of a staggering economy will do anything, either. For the closest examples of a "walking dead" economy I can think of, Britain in the 70s saw a pair of effectively hung parliaments while in Japan, it took close to 20 years of stagnation for an actual opposition landslide to happen. My point is mainly that a disaster needs to be pretty significant to actually trigger that landslide, and I'm not sure we're going to see one soon.

  49. Virgil

    I hope not! I certainly don't want a disaster. Generally though, something happens to end a term. Disaster is relative. 1932 and 2008 were extreme examples but it can be anything that causes the electorate to feel uncomfortable. Since 1900…..1912 was due to a split. Period. 1920 was an overreaction combined with a feeling that Wilson was giving away America's place in the world. 1932 is obvious. 1952 was sick and tired of the Korean War. 1960 was a close call, 1968 was Vietnam, 1976 was a punishment for Nixon, 1980 was the Iranian hostage crisis, 1992 was a meltdown that turned out to be only a recession, 2000 was close like 1960, and 2008 is obvious.

    To paraphrase Eden a "permanent" majority fears "events".

  50. Cicero

    You mean Macmillan, dear boy? (j/k)

    And I know what you're saying; however, a number of those were mixed results and didn't result in major swings in Congress. In particular, if anything the GOP lost ground in Congress in 2000, there was no major swing in 1960, not much of one in 1992. My point being that there's room for control to change at the Presidential level without major effects elsewhere on the ballot. So likewise, there's room this time for control of the Presidency to change (or not) without a landslide either way down the ballot.

  51. Zulu

    Frankly, there is no way the Republicans will win in 2012 nor in the near future. Republicans have tarnished their image in the eyes of most Hispanic voters. The Black vote is hopeless. Both these demographics are growing faster in proportion to the White voter population, ~40% of which will vote for Obama anyways. As the Republican party swings right of the right, they only worsen their chances of winning the Presidency. Sure, they rouse up the conservative base enough to keep them interested in voting, but they aren't making the concessions needed to secure the votes of other demographics.

    Assuming the economy doesn't go to hell like it did back in 2007-2009, we're going to see at least a full term for Obama, and quite possibly another 4 years of a Democrat after. Hillary Clinton 2016, maybe?

  52. Kadin

    "I’m not really sure how anyone makes the case for another compassionate/maverick/moderate candidate in 2016"

    McCain and Romney were/are rhetorically "moderate", but their actual policies all come from the hard-right of the GOP.

  53. Cicero

    Eh…I'm going to disagree, at least insofar as their legislative histories go. Romneycare isn't what I'd call a hard-right policy, and McCain had a somewhat mixed record as well.

  54. Monte

    True but that's not the perception they have given the voters during their campaigns. In order to win their primaries and win over their base both of those candidates turned against many of the policies they once championed. I mean Romney supported the idea of stimulus and everything that makes up obamacare, but once his party decided they hated those things he told the country he hated them as well. In the end, both of them completely lost their moderate credentials in the eyes of the non-conservative voting public. I say non-conservative because it seems like the conservative are the only ones able to remember their pasts well enough to remember that what they say is not how they acted in the past and remember they are moderates. Its a lose lose situation; they struggle with their base because they can't make them believe their conservative enough, while at the same time alienating the rest of the country who comes to see them as being too extreme.

  55. Kadin

    2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney is not the same as 2002 Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The national-level Republican coalition today is not the same as the Massachusetts Republican coalition of ten years ago; the political interests that dominate are very different in each case. Whatever Romney Truly Believes Deep Down is irrelevant, because if he is President he will be governing as head of a radically far-right party that will have a significant influence on his policy. Same for McCain four years ago.

  56. Etc.

    I'm not sure how it makes sense to argue that the policies moderate Republicans have actually enacted and support in their heart don't matter because they're pressing conservative credentials to pander to the base.

    If you pay attention to what happens when moderates get elected after pandering to more extremist groups, there tends to be a lot of extremist tears because they get ditched at the first opportunity. That does tend to cause a reaction later, ex. the Tea Party knocking out most of the moderate Republicans who'd failed to sufficiently appease the further-right block of their voters… however, for the moment, Romney is the candidate, and were he to win the nuts in the further right section would probably still vote for Romney if only because they don't want anyone further left in office. Romeny would have little reason to keep on pandering to that segment.

  57. Etc.

    No edit button? Anyway, my point is that the words politicians put out to their base in election years tend to fall short of the truth.

  58. Colin Minich

    I think one of my greatest fears is the course of #3. Already we've seen an ideological hijacking of many parts of the GOP to where the Bachmanns and Norquists are not hushed but instead embraced. Politically overt idealism obviously does not discriminate nor do the people who bring violence in its name, but there has been a frightening trend amongst Republican leadership to come out rather shamelessly about their ideas of helping big business over little, racial profiling, and a VERY scary foreign policy in regards to the Middle East that even I, a foreign policy conservative (so to speak), cringe at. Obviously media has its heavy hand in all of this and some things are taken out of context, but with a party that I've seen devolve into wanting Inquisitions of non-WASPy members, Muslim women like Huma Abedin, a complete disregard for the fundamentals of taxation and revenue, and the defense budget as a sacred cow while the very important education standard is reduced to complete crap, I cannot and will not find any credence with them at this moment. Frankly, they scare me. I've tried to understand them but the people they're influencing are coming out as celebrity internet racists and it's not where I want my country to be. The Democrats, warts and all, at least are trying to NOT be as outwardly malicious.

  59. Drew

    "There are no more bipartisan deals to make simply because the new of the parties is not to make them."

    No. It's the raison d’être of one party. False equivalence is false.

  60. Jake_Ackers

    There is no need for bipartisan. Democrats had a majority and got nothing done expect a piece of legislation nobody wanted.

  61. Trenacker

    Some of these new "revelations" might just be age-old truisms that were once obscured by bad survey methodology and the weight of prevailing truths now discredited. Did Rove's wisdom about the base reflect a change in vote behavior, or merely a reassessment and rejection of conventional wisdom?

    In theory, the electorate should be overflowing with moderate voters ready to blame the sitting president for continuing economic malaise. According to what information I've seen, there are actually a very small number of undecided voters in the United States. The important questions, then, are whether there are many undecided (and presumably moderate) voters lurking in the swing counties of the swing states, and whether, if one or another candidate tacks toward the moderate middle, a significant fraction of their base will sit this one out in retaliation. Romney appears to have concluded that moderate voters are either (A) so small in number as to be insignificant, or (B) already predisposed to punish Obama, regardless of Romney's own moves. His strategy is quite clearly to flatter the Republican base, reflecting a probable belief that he has more to lose from defection than failure to appeal to putative independents.

    American politics, I suspect, has always been more about style than substance. Voters are ill-equipped to sort the wheat from the chaff in lengthy debates between dueling experts, both of whom might appear equally credible. They are also inclined, I think, to trust elected officials, whom they believe have either credible advisers or access to privileged information that informs their public pronouncements. The result is to create an impossible choice — if facts alone are the driver. Whose budget proposals are more realistic? Whose numbers are best? Which of the many experts understands the problem as it really exists? And that's all aside from whether any of these leaders could translate their promises into actionable policy after they attain office. Will new information stay their hand? What if they haven't got a Congressional majority? How much horse-trading and watering down will be necessary? Too many variables. Too much data. Easier to simply sign up for one of two competing visions, or to select between one of two personalities. Who makes me feel more comfortable? Whose values are more in step with my own?

  62. Jake_Ackers

    True, I remember in 2008 when a person asked, "Why do you support Obama? He has no experience." They said, "Doesn't matter, he will have an all star team of advisors." I encountered this in a seminar class and these were suppose to be the most brilliant students of the previous class in that seminar. Yet they knew all the facts and figures but continued to vote based on style. They all hated Hillary but loved Obama. And McCain was just some old man who would die off and Palin the crazy lady would take over. That's what people thought.

    I remember one girl said she wanted Hillary to win because he was a woman. I got her to take the one of those political quizzes. The girl was to the right of George Bush. No, joke. She doesn't know she actually was far right but she was. She still liked Hillary in the end.

  63. Trenacker

    That's why social issues, I think, tend to take center stage even though most Americans would argue that we have bigger problems than gay marriage or abortion. Aside from being perfect fodder for some of the most activist constituencies (whose organization and wealth give them outsized power to shape political platforms), they are also the easiest for people to parse. For most Americans, gay marriage is more about an impulsive choice than weighing the scientific data. For liberals, it's often cast as a human rights issue. For conservatives, it's one in a series of battles over the kind of societal norms they wish to establish. While many fall back on the Bible when pressed, I think that the driver is less Scripture and more aversion to a lifestyle they personally find off-putting and incomprehensible — and which also breaks with the social structure into which they have invested so much. There is therefore a tendency to believe that homosexuality is a choice that young people can be discouraged from either discovering or acting upon, as well as a firm commitment to the "traditional" family, with which conservatives are so enamored. This is why you have, I think, so many young women embracing traditional gender roles, including submissiveness, that appear to limit their options in life: the flip side is a guarantee that they will be presented with a suitable, responsible mate that shares their values and is prepared to make sacrifices roughly similar in magnitude to those offered by the woman. Better yet (for some), he will assume responsibility for all the hard decisions, which already elevates him to the status of leader.

    Tacking (changing position after achieving the nomination of one's own party) is also a less viable strategy today than it would have been as recently as 1990. With the degree of access to, and saturation of niche-market media and popular journalism, candidates are much more easily punished for perceived deviation. Equally important is that highly damaging memes are more easily communicated than ever before. And, human psychology being what it is, the lies tend to resonate louder and longer than the denials. This isn't at all helped by the media's tendency to present both sides of a story for "balance," which implies moral, and sometimes even factual, equivalence between the positions.

  64. Jake_Ackers

    On the gender roles, I think its changing and has changed a lot. More and more women simply do both. Especially with the economy in the tank. And I think as a result the man may be the head of the household but the woman definitely is the neck. But what you said does ring true for those that embrace it. I guess you take the bad with the good.

    On the tacking, the problem is most politicians change just because of poll numbers not because the facts have changed. Look at Reagan, he said he would never go to Moscow unless hell froze over. In the end he did because the facts changed. Nixon was the same thing (China though). I have no doubt that if someone changes positions it can be accepted. Just look at Obama and gay marriage. It's just that the why and when need to be valid or as we have been saying, it has to be presented correctly (style).

    And on the scientific data part. I believe JJ mentioned it, both sides have their own army of intellectuals. I do wish Americans from both sides looked at the facts more. I'm not saying you are saying the following but I'm just saying there is that notion out there. That many view that there there is always one answer with science. The left is trying to do with science what the right has done with religion.

    For example, which of the following 3 countries would you like to live in, note they based their values and laws on these things:

    A) Democracy
    B) Science
    C) Religion

    Was your answer Science or even Democracy? Here are the answers.

    A) Soviet Union
    B) Nazi Germany
    C) United States of America

    On the flip side it could of been:

    A) Athens
    B) Switzerland
    C) Iran

    My point is that science just like religion can be co-opted to do what the leaders want. Frankly it, everything should be weighed. However, I do argue with your point that people just do impulse voting instead of weighing science or even everything.

  65. Trenacker

    But, of course, it's also a time of fear in the United States. Most Americans are less well-off today than they were four years ago. Whites are coming to grips with the fact that we aren't a post-racial society. I suspect that white conservative fear goes a long way toward explaining the angst over Obama's origins and values. The persistent and widespread belief that he is a Muslim serving some fundamentally anti-American cause is frankly perplexing to me. It is clearly based on the willingness of many whites to believe that non-whites are still partly an inscrutable "other." I suspect many conservatives worry that all blacks, including Obama, hold whites responsible for past transgressions, and are interested in promoting transfer-of-wealth policies as a means of social rectification. Certainly the canards that blacks choke the welfare roles, or are looking for handouts of "special" treatment — rather than equal treatment — are well-beloved by many in the conservative base who are desperate to find plausible excuses for cutting taxes and maintaining prevailing social norms. Conservatives want to believe that they are good, well-meaning people. That requires believing that welfare is necessarily broken and unfair. One way of validating that conclusion would be by proving that it creates significant disincentive to find work. But, of course, this also plays into the human race's easy typing and stereotyping of "the other," and into our natural tendency as a species to build in-groups and out-groups.

    How tragic is it that conservatives are so ready to recognize Evangelicals and the Middle Class as groups of people that can have particular sets of interests, blind to the fact that those groups have certain demographic and geographic characteristics, but so averse to accepting that African American and Latino communities tend to have certain shared experiences, as a result of historical contingency, that increases the importance of certain issues. Somehow, people accept that Jews care a lot about Israel or that Evangelicals care a lot about abortion, but not that blacks are more likely to experience poverty. Why can't a Republican just stand up before a black audience and say, "I know that you care very much about whether or not there is help available when you need it. You're not alone in that. I know that you look forward to the day when you no longer have to use food stamps. When there is money available for what you want, not just what you need. You're not alone in that, either. I also know that you worry about how to feed your children, how to protect them from violence, how to ready them to advance further in life than you were able. I also know that, because of the color of your skin, doing those things has often been far, far more difficult than it would have been otherwise. You share the concerns of all Americans, but your experience has been uniquely your own, and I'm here to tell you that while the Republican Party got it wrong in the past, we aren't going to get it wrong in the future."

    I fear, too, that some of the problems having to do with education relate to a certain litigiousness which first emerged in our society during the 1990s. An explosion of civic empowerment, if you would. I suspect that this has to do with the shifts that emerged in education during the 1960s and 1970s, when, as I understand it, Americans first began to perceive that "academia" had its own corporate identity, often inconsistent with that of conservatives. Now, it runs amok in the politicization of school boards and the tendency to fall back on lawsuits to oppose policies that are otherwise popular or widely-accepted. Now, not all of that is bad: the law is a big stick that can be wielded to great effect against cultures that promote intolerance or allow rampant bullying. However, it can also scare teachers into avoidance of teaching key theories or cultivating important discussions about topics which may not have fixed answers.

  66. J.J. McCullough

    Thanks for this long — but very good — analysis, sir. I agree very much, particularly with your third paragraph in your first post.

    I notice liberals often go on and on about how conservatives are anti-fact or anti-science or whatever, but in reality, conservatives have an entire network of right-wing authors and intellectuals capable of giving thoughtful, academic gloss to pretty much everything they believe. Even the most reactionary crank beliefs will usually have some legitimizing "scholar" with a book, somewhere. Parallel, partisan networks of fact-finders and researchers has ironically made politics far more identity-driven, since, as you say, at some point it just becomes impossible to sift through everything. Much easier to just pick a side.

  67. Cicero

    You hint at an observation that I myself have made: One of "red truth" and "blue truth", where each side has a set of assumptions, an intellectual framework, and an "echo chamber" of media and experts to put forth their message.

    What is frustrating for me is that it is clear that both sides have different issues that I find their frameworks to be lacking in. The "hard right" economics as of late (pushing the gold standard, for example) fall short, while the left's tendency to embrace a more permissive society strike me as poorly conceived operations that won't end well (look at birth rates in western Europe, for a quick example).

    More frustrating still, however, is the "Evangelical" tendency that has grown among the right as well, which seems inclined against facts and observations. This group even has its own school of economics (the Austrian school, which sets aside observational evidence in favor of theory…please tell me this doesn't sound like your local "non denominational" minister dealing with theology instead of fiscal policy) and so on. The problem here is that while I can work with a conservative or liberal framework that goes on evidence, /this/ is is something which drives me more than a little crazy because assumptions can become non-falsifiable, which more or less precludes serious debate.

  68. Jake_Ackers

    3 sides to every story. Your's, mine, and the truth. The left does it as well. They pick when correlation and causation should apply. However, the problem with the right is that it's so large in the USA. 40% alone call themselves conservative, 40% moderate or independent, and only 20% liberal. The left tends to be more compact so they tend to agree and have a more top down approach in the Democrat Party. It varies yes but not as much as the Republican Party. So you get all those crazies with these weird ideas and that is what the media reports.

    For example take into account what Mitt Romney or even John McCain believe and want to pass versus all those crazies. The difference is huge. If there was a preferential voting system the Republican Party would split overnight into at least 3 if not 4 parties or more

    You are right Cicero. And it goes back to Trenacker's point. It's all more about style than substance. Face it if it was substance or least something close to it there is no way Obama would be in front. Obama would of been viewed as a failure although a very nice talking fancy one but a failure nonetheless. Heck, Hillary would of had won instead of Obama in the primaries. I know South Korea tends to favor executives over flashy candidates. I would how the US would of turned out if we did the same.

  69. Garrand

    Out of curiosity, where are you getting those numbers from? They didn't sound right to me, so I did some brief browsing. What I can find, even a poll that says that 40% are independent, list more people saying they are Democrats than people saying they are Republican. I can't find anything anywhere that puts liberals at only 20%, or anything near there.

  70. Jake_Ackers

    Simple google search. And I said lib, con and mod, not Dem and Rep. Lots of moderate Dems especially in the South.

    More recent one:

    Politifact took this question on when Rubio said a majority of Americans are conservative. He meant plurality but most people know what he meant.

    The last link offers 3 polls. The Gallup one has been polling the longest I believe.

  71. Jake_Ackers

    Good point especially on the mini speech part. However, whenever a Republican tries they are simply called a racist or a sell out (if they are black). Rush Limbaugh was making the same point as you made, even Herman Cain touched on it. Just not as on the head as you have. These Americans face the same issues as other Americans: poverty, bad education, unemployment and yet its viewed as a "black community problem."

    I don't think people view the problem as "those black people" but rather because it was been viewed like that in the past and even the left continues the notion of it being a "black community." That division makes it seems like welfare is the only solution for the poor black folks and even poor rural southern folks. Rather, there is a solution for everyone or that there are other ways to address the problem. I think both sides just go all out reactionary which causes a massive backlash whenever one side says anything to address it.

    Simply because of this: 51%. You don't need the other side. You just need all of yours, so you fight for it and make politics divisive just to hold onto your vote. Look at what all the black people supporting Hillary were called, "Uncle Tom." And the left wing women supporting McCain, "Racists." A Democrat that wants to cut defense spending "hates America" and a Republican who wants to fix Medicare or Social Security "hates the Middle Class." Until we get rid of of the two party system or a post-racial Ronald Reagan emerges we will not move on. Obama was the first step but it won't we until we get another wave of politicians that things will really change. Those that have lived and grown up in a post racial society.

  72. Cicero

    A fair part of the trouble with getting some minorities (it's worst among blacks, but there are certainly some Hispanic communities where you have /very/ strong trends as well) to vote GOP is, of course, the nasty name-calling. I would suggest that this triggers a feedback loop in a lot of cases, to the point that the GOP has absolutely zero reason to bother soliciting their votes…they won't win more than 5-10%, so they may as well ignore the group as much as possible rather than risking reminding many of them that there's an election on. It isn't ideal, but it happens and the logic is rather sound.

    What is /particularly/ problematic is this: As far as I can tell, notwithstanding some nasty gut reactions among parts of the GOP base, there's no reason for them /not/ to turn around and get "ugly" in terms of language. It is the problem with "block" votes: If you can't get part of the block, what incentive do you have /not/ to play against that block? Very little, and mostly based around not wanting to offend others outside of that block. In some ways, the only thing keeping racial politics in the US at a dull roar in the background is the fear of offending other white groups (and Hispanics, who as a whole the GOP can make serious inroads with at times…Dubya got around 40% of their support, and the right GOP candidates can make similar, serious dents…though permit me to point out that the last US census decided that they wanted to drop Hispanic as a race [technically correct, culturally a hurdle], so in at least a few cases "white" would technically apply here as well). I set aside Asians and Native Americans because in most states, they're a numerically trivial voting block (Asians off the west coast, Native Americans outside of OK and a few Western states) and therefore not much of a part of the electoral calculus above a local level.

    One thing I will present as a risk is this: That at some point the "racist" claim gets watered down sufficiently that folks start shrugging their shoulders and ignoring it, not unlike crying wolf. I know its effect is limited in a number of places, but there's a risk that more and more people stop caring at all (like seems to be the case in Europe now, with the rise of a lot of…shall we say "less than multicultural" parties…or with the PQ in Quebec right now).* I think this is happening more and more as the definition has gone from strictly including support of highly discriminatory policies to applying to anything with even a plausibly disparate impact regardless of the intent of such policies.

    *Actually, that's not the worst risk. The /really/ nasty risk is that a faction, in getting stuck with the branding regardless of their actions, decides to embrace it on some level. You can only call someone the villain for so long before they decide to start cackling a bit and, if stuck in the role, at least getting /something/ out of it.

  73. Trenacker

    More's the pity. Our society isn't just ignorant of the facts, it's incapable of finding any in the first place. And that's more observation than accusation. God knows I consider myself a well-educated, thoughtful individual, but I'll be flummoxed if I'm to figure out just which of the many different proposals for the budget or healthcare are going to have the desired outcomes. Nevertheless, we've insulated ourselves from our own ignorance by learning to cloak our rhetoric in the mantle of science. Now, we can loudly decry out foes for their logical fallacies, real and supposed. In the Republican Party, we can also deify theory because we can't get a handle around the facts anyway. We can speak about cause and effect and inevitability because we have forgotten the caveat: all other things being held constant. It's like the old joke about the economist stranded on a desert island. Suppose he has a knife. Now, I fear, we're going to suppose that government can and should function like a business.

    The major reason that conservatives complain about having to recognize "special communities" is, I think, their inability to grapple with the fact that the white majority has always enjoyed unusual privileges by virtue of its dominant status in our society. Part of that may be that (for very good reason) we so studiously avoid the idea that the majority group has definitive interests. Nobody talks about "white interests" anymore unless they are an avowed racist. Without either the humility to recognize that they have benefited from the legacies of the past — in the random, statistical sense, understanding of which defies and infuriates so many people whose only touchstone is personal experience — or an awareness of how groups form shared experiences, it becomes easy to decry "the Gay Community" for wanting "special recognition," and to get all worked up over folks who talk about "black" issues.

    I don't think the left embraces welfare to the extent that is sometimes depicted. What I think liberals are more accepting of is the idea that chance, as much as experience, is a strong predictor of social outcomes. If I am born in urban poverty, I am unlikely to escape it. Is that my fault? Perhaps, but from my point of view it makes sense to try to figure out how, with the careful application of public policy, we mighty subtly change that. From the liberal point of view, welfare and social programming isn't about giving people success; it's about leveling the playing field so that they aren't starting the race way behind, leaving them effectively second-class citizens. What Republican is fool enough to think that the poor don't value family just as much as anyone else? I think there's also room to begin expanding Affirmative Action to the white poor, who clearly need it. I also think that Republicans need to amend their thinking about who needs "stimulus," and why. It is amazing to me that they haven't perfected their message to the black community. I do now think that a lot of it has to do with persistent conviction that black people are, on the whole, socialized into a culture that is lazy and angry at white people.

  74. Jake_Ackers

    But thats the problem right there. You are thinking of equality of result over equality of opportunity. You think that welfare will work in the way you described. But the reality is much different. Give out welfare checks and it discourages people from working. Also affirmative action gives false hope for one group and none for another.

    For example, lets say a black person is admitted into a university. Assuming they didn't even have the grades to get in then they probably won't graduate either, which tends to be the problem. What is the alternative? Give them a scholarship. Okay then you give African-American scholarships or even scholarships for poor people to schools they can get into. But then that creates another problem. What about the middle class or even kids who's parents are considered "rich" but technically aren't. They are too poor to afford college but too rich to get it for free. The middle class and even upper middle class get the short end.

    The solution would be scholarships for everyone or better yet get to the root of the problem. Do people who are poor due to a cycle of poverty or racism need a special opportunity? Yes, but free college JUST for them is not the solution nor is a guaranteed job. It just creates false hope and a dependency problem. Why not instead offer more adult education so people can get GEDs? Why not offer more scholarships if they have the grades? Why not offer more tutoring and after school programs? More job training and reeducation? Now one can argue how affect all that can be. But I think that is a better method and I think more in line with what Trenacker is getting at. But free jobs and money is not the solution.

    Bill Clinton and Gingrich's welfare reform was a good middle ground as it was a step up and gave an opportunity to the poor that the middle class didn't really need. For example, Gingrich during this primary season explained that those on unemployment should be given job training and made to get a high school degree or associate during that time. Now the middle class who have degrees probably won't need to redo their high schooling nor get another associates but they would need some job training as well. Welfare is suppose to be a stepping stone. Problem is people don't step up, they just take the checks and never move up.

    I don't think Republicans are that against the programs. Especially some of the neocons (they were all former liberals who are social conservatives who became Republicans) who support several of these program , even Bush and Santorum support some of them. Republicans just focus too much the rhetoric on the abuse of these programs and how they never get people out of poverty. The thing is the programs might be great in ideas but bad in implementation. And because no politicians ever offers a solid plan during an election year they all just say no and never seem to offer how to fix it. Or that's the perception.

    Another point is also you then get the Ryan Plans. Which get completely distorted and never allows for any dialogue or rebuilding or negotiating of the plans. Both sides get into trench warfare mode and fail to realize this is just an outline or negotiable. Gingrich was forced on the budget and forced on Bill Clinton welfare reform. They worked something out. Even Reagan did it with taxes, raised some here to lower some there. Plus the reality is that was then where the Presidency and Congress were from different parties.

    Now it's getting to be the same parties on both ends. So when there is a real leader the sides will simply become like a parliament and just force the pieces of legislation through. And when the other party gets in they will amend it. So I think the negotiations will be after the fact as opposed to before. Republicans probably won't be able to get rid of Obamacare completely but at least they will be keep what people like and remove the bad. In the end there will be moderation of policies but rather by force as compared to a reasonable dialogue. Which considering that most democracies are parliamentarian in nature it might not be all bad. I only see the parliamentarianization of Congress stopping once we get a preferential voting system in place like the Aussies or something of the sort.

  75. virgil

    Excellent points all round. If I may say regarding the theory of the Austrian school….I believe that the Austrian school takes off for the same reason taxing the rich takes off. Its taking away "their" special privileges. The current love of the Austrian school was prefigured by TARP and the stimulus, which were routinely viewed, in the public mind, to be a conglomerate of the government and the fat cats at the expense of the average Joe. Both Jefferson and Andrew Jackson premised their respective eras on a similar point, so the rhetoric rings true in the American memory.

    Meanwhile, to address Trenacker's excellent point regarding the Republican address to Blacks, I believe some history is in order. Many, if not all "whites" were not considered such 50 years ago. Prior to the 1960's any southern European was not considered to be white, so that by this definition we have not had a majority "white" country since the early 1950's. More recently, many Hispanics have identified themselves as "white" and are more apt to do so the longer they stay here…and this makes nonsense out of the census figures. These Italians, Poles, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Spanish, Armenians, etc who came in all have had the collective experience of facing initial persecution prior to success and acceptance. This effectively cut off any pitch to African Americans for anybody born before around 1958 or so since the rationale was…well I did it …why can't they? For now I think the prime difficulty is making the point and outreach without sounding horribly politically incorrect. I think that Condoleeza Rice made a good start on this since, for obvious reasons, she was able to talk about segregation and poverty.

  76. Cicero

    I'd refer you to the point I made in response to Jake's comments on the previous post.

    Your point about Hispanics identifying as white the longer they stay makes for another bit of comedy, though, since it implies that some of them might just ignore the "ethnicity" question eventually, muddying the "minority majority" numbers.

  77. Trenacker

    I am absolutely thinking of equality of opportunity. From my perspective, this is all about statistics, which mean something in the aggregate. What kind of life are these young people being born into? I'm proud to tell you that I didn't piss away opportunities that were given to me by hard-working parents. But I'm also lying by omission if I stop there. I come from a happy home, and my parents took a sustained and active interest in my upbringing. We lived in a good neighborhood, and I attended excellent schools, including a private preparatory high school known for its academic rigor. My mother was a homemaker, and literally instilled work ethic over my kicking and screaming. My parents reached into their pockets for tutors and test prep when I was in sophomore and junior years. I didn't have to take out loans for college or graduate school, which meant that I could attend the best institutions, where, despite my grades, I was never eligible for aid. It also meant that I was never obliged to divide my time between work and studies. During summers, I could afford to take unpaid internships and low-paying work that padded my resume, enhancing the probability of success on the job market. In short, my father arrived in the United States with nothing, but my childhood resembled something not too far removed from "School Ties." We might not have had a yacht, but I received identical advantages in terms of academic and professional placement. Was I a bright young student? A hard worker? Absolutely. Diligent? Honest? Yes. But none of those things would have mattered nearly as much if I hadn't been blessed with the good fortune to be born into the perfect incubator. Most Americans don't have that, and I'm skeptical that aversion to hard work is the problem.

    I don't propose to be a great leveler. I'm not for redistribution of wealth. I recognize that life is fundamentally unfair. I suspect that one of the reasons conservatives are primed to accept this to a greater extent than liberals is that so many conservative role models, encountered early in life, are religious figures whose primary experience was suffering. I think, too, there is an under-appreciation of the power of racism and sexism in the workplace, and the outright tolerance that allows it to flourish. Remember those studies confirming that "black-sounding candidates" with resumes identical to those bearing "traditionally white-sounding" names tend to do much worse when it comes to being offered a job interview?

    I also don't propose that one group of people should "atone" for the sins of the past. I'm not interested in historical apology, and I don't see that there is any compelling argument for reparations in this context. However, I am concerned that women, blacks, and other minorities in this country are severely underrepresented in our society. In essence, they risk being "written out" of the national dialogue. In some areas of endeavor — e.g., education — the problem also applies to poor whites, especially in the South.

    The "answer," insofar as one may exist, seems to me to be investing money in replicating the infrastructure and support networks available to more fortunate populations. More money for after-school programs to "stand in" for working (or missing) parents. More money to attract and retain qualified teaching staff. More money for scholarships to help high-performing students advance as far as their wealthier peers. I think you see that I agree that the answer isn't to move unqualified applicants through a system.

    Let me just add that with respect to welfare, food stamps, and other social programming, whites are the predominant users of food stamps. I would also be very interested in seeing some of the projections of what would happen if the government ended those support systems. My primary reason for supporting the bail-outs was the thinking that some of the recipient businesses had simply become too big to fail, sobering and unwelcome as that conclusion was. Do I want to pay unemployment for tens of thousands, or invest in a company that might turn around? Do I want to force underwater homeowners to suffer the consequences of bad decisions, or will I just end up footing the bill anyway once they get evicted and drown in other debt?

  78. Jake_Ackers

    I agree with your points. To be honest I come from the other side of the economy scale (ie: poverty line and multicultural and mixed race). Though I agree that there needs to be more opportunities, I just feel the main pitfall of these programs is that they all create a dependency problem. That's why like I said before and you in turn agreed that the solutions are better if put in early. Scholarships over affirmative action. Job retraining instead of affirmative action, etc. etc.

    In respect, to the bailout. The free market would of made it stronger. Wachovia was forced to be bought out when Wells Fargo could of waited and bought them out for pennies on the dollar. But by being forced to buy them out the banks had to restructure the mortgages at a higher amount. Compared to if they bought the banks at a cheaper price thus being able to restructure at a low dollar amount per home. There have been GM plants have closed anyway. The entire company was too big and it could of been sold off for parts and got rid of the big union contracts. Meaning with the same amount of money they could of employed more people. I'm sure BMW, Honda, Toyota or Ford would of loved to buy off some parts of GM and made it profitable (plants, factories, equipment) GM would of had a true restructure and would of came out stronger.

    Weak bank need to fail and need to fail completely. What the worst that happens? Free homes or a cheaper mortgage? Stronger banks will pick up the assets for cheaper thus saving us from any further economy meltdown. Look at what was it Chase? They lost $2 billion in bad investments, AGAIN. That's not even considering the fact that many refinanced homes have been foreclosed anyway because the new mortgage was still too high. If the banks and companies like GM were forced to do a true restructuring the market would of recovered. And I point to companies like Delta and Ford. Especially Delta which now is one of the largest if not the most profitable airline in the USA. They went completely bankrupt a few years back but came back stronger. Plus too big to fail? Companies will simply break apart of get taken over. Rockefeller was forced to break up and then it got stronger. Same with ATT, ATT broke up and now the communications industry is stronger.

  79. Jake_Ackers

    Wait until 2040 or so. There will be the first Millennial President, the first generation raised in a true post-racial society. The word minority will be kind of weird to us and thus race politics will be a thing of the past. Maybe even by the next turn around of politics (2020 or 2025). Lets face it, on social issues Hispanics and Blacks are ultra conservative, especially blacks. And since most people vote based on that, I can see there being a true realignment in a truly post racial election. Especially if the GOP is able to fix Social Security and Medicare all the points the Dems have to attack the GOP will be gone. Well most of them anyway.

    And one more key point I would like to make about the GOP and race. The GOP (well some) are libertarian or at least on a federal level. You have an entire party founded for the main purpose to get rid of slavery and then it voted along with LBJ to pass Civil Rights, Eisenhower was big on Civil Rights too. I think the GOP just finds that it cannot force anymore social laws without being authoritarian. Slavery? Check. Civil Rights? Check. Lawsuits for discriminating? Check. What else is there? Now it's mostly welfare programs and the rest that is needed to address the gap. And all of those social programs the GOP views as economic. And since most of these programs are run by the state or the GOP feels it should, then there is little that the federal gov't can or should do without making iy one size fits all.

    I think if the GOP changed it's rhetoric rather than its policies then it would have a greater success in when it comes to Hispanic and Black voters. Especially since the GOP and minorities line up on social issues. And economic issues are always just a matter of presentation. Can't really argue with more jobs over more food-stamps (as long as the jobs are delivered). Bob McDonnell did quite well on that in his run for the Governorship in Virginia. Bush and Schwarzenegger did well too when reaching out to minorities.

  80. Trenacker

    Virginia's economic situation owes far more to the high concentration of federal employees and defense contractors than to any policies implemented by the state government. Consider, too, that a comparatively enormous share of federal money is spent in Virginia each year on federal installations and contractors alone.

    The GOP's bad image on issues of race has much to do with Nixon's "Southern Strategy," which essentially wrote off black voters in a cynical bid for the white working-class vote in the American South. Today, many conservatives profess to take issue with civil rights, especially the party elite. Even if most Americans don't take issue with gay marriage, the official platform takes a rather different view. As far as many conservatives are concerned, folks ought to be allowed to discriminate if they so wish, and Civil Rights legislation amounts to Thought Policing. Look at the primary debates: when asked about how they would appeal to Latino voters, the Republican candidates almost uniformly began talking about their stances on illegal immigration. It made a mockery of the argument that Republicans are simply trying to take a "race-blind" approach to politics, however unsatisfying that might be to certain segments of the population. It's hard to argue that Ronald Reagan wasn't crafting a very particular racial message when he invoked the spectre of the Welfare Queen. Or that the Willie Horton ads didn't smack of racism. Today, a significant segment of Republican voters is convinced that Barack Obama is a Muslim who was born in Indonesia or Kenya. They refuse to be persuaded otherwise. Leaving aside the fact that it is impossible to verify a man's religion in this country, or the fact that Obama has been known to attend church occasionally, the real problem here is the axiomatic assumption by so many that it impossible to be both a Muslim and "a good American," whatever that means. We haven't even talked about the result of GOP drives for special voter laws, which have been acknowledged by some officials as an easy way to rid the rolls of people who would otherwise probably cast votes for Obama. Consider how it is talked about by the leadership in Pennsylvania.

    Economic issues are more than just a matter of presentation. My point, writ large, is that Republicans by and large disagree that welfare serves any useful purpose. Rather, they insist that it always erodes willingness to work and unfairly rewards people for laziness. At times, this seems to have more to do with the fact that it is compulsory redistribution than that it is charity without responsibility, given how much social work is done privately through the Church. It is also remarkably tone-deaf, inasmuch as Republicans tend to think that blacks have a much stronger culture of dependence than is actually the case.

  81. Jake_Ackers

    Again it goes back to my point before. There are a lot of people who seem like they are GOP or conservatives but are independent. That is because the GOP and conservatism is such a big tent in the USA that it includes a whole lot of crazies. Polls show that self identified Republicans support gay marriage and civil unions by 60%. So its not a majority that dislike gays there. Are there a lot? Yes but not as much as people go around thinking. I don't believe that the positions of either party is due to hate or racism or the like. How these issues are phrased go along way. Even Reagan wanted to push for gay rights but didn't because you know it was the 80s and the economy and the Soviet Union was on the front burner.

    Plus you just made my point about Bob McDonnell a lot of jobs in Northern Virginia especially is due to gov't contracts. So Bob won with perception (unless he was talking about getting more federal gov't spending). You said there is little the state gov't of Virginia can do. Thus then doesn't that mean Bob won because he had a good message regardless if he and the GOP are personally able to bring jobs or not. Obama did the same with "95% of working Americans will get a tax cut." 95% of working Americans is not 95% of all Americans but he let people believe that. How many people actually sit around and do the math and analysis the different schools of economics? Very few. Most just listen to "job creators" or "tax the rich" or "tax cuts for the wealthy" or "on the back of the middle class" kind of rhetoric. It is in large part perception but that is only to an extent cause eventually the state of the economy talks louder than any political dialogue.

    On the Muslim point. Considering only 11% of Americans think Obama is a Muslim and 18% of Republicans. That is quite a bit but not as much as the media would like us to think. Again goes back to my point that conservatism accounts for a larger part of the voting public than liberalism. My overall point is this, is there problems in the US, and in both parties? Yes but I don't believe that Democrats hate America nor that Republicans are racists and the sort.

    I do agree with all the points you have made to be honest. Just I don't believe it is that the main reason Democrats oppose defense spending is because they hate America. Nor do I believe that the reason Republicans dislike social spending is because they are racists. Again not saying you are saying that but the media creates this perception about both sides. However, rather they both believe that their approach is better. Whether it's to stop dependency or it's to simulate the economy or whatever reason. I could nitpick and find examples of Democrats saying the rudest things too. Again, I don't believe that the positions of either party is due to hate or racism or the like.

    Do people vote based on hate or racism? Yes but it is not that many as the media would like us to think. There is a way to go on stopping discrimination but we have made great strides in all areas. And a great percentage of Americans simply do not vote like that. Rather voting believing that their ideology or political position is best for the country. Take for example gay rights. If it wasn't for the kind of way each party portrays their positions I really believe more and more people wouldn't mind giving gay rights nor some form of social programs. The problem in this, how politics is phrased. If there was a better dialogue between both sides we would see more civil rights and better economic improvement. Both Reagan and Clinton were able to achieve for better or for worst bipartisanship legislation that made progress on social and economic issues because of their ability to talk and lead.

  82. Drew

    "So its not a majority that dislike gays there. Are there a lot? Yes but not as much as people go around thinking. "

    Then why don't they stand up and take back their party, instead of letting themselves be fully associated with the hate and racism of the Tea Party and social conservatives?

    "Even Reagan wanted to push for gay rights"

    I'm sorry, but I'm going to require actual evidence on this one. There's nothing in the historical record to indicated that RR thought that gays were anything other than an inconvenience that had brought god's judgement on themselves. He wouldn't even say the name of the disease they had for most of his time in office!

    "Both Reagan and Clinton were able to achieve for better or for worst bipartisanship legislation that made progress on social and economic issues because of their ability to talk and lead."

    And because both parties in Congress were willing to negotiate and work together. That's not the case at this time.

  83. Jake_Ackers

    Reagan was against banning gay teachers. It's all sourced. This was just one of the examples. And he did this right before the 1980 nomination too at the height of the anti-gay movement.

    On the last point about the parties. Gingrich hated Clinton and they still made it work. A lot of the same politicians today were in office when Clinton was President. Yet they made it work. Obama cannot lead like Clinton did, nor did Bush lead like Reagan did. Good leaders overcome party politics and get the job done.

  84. Drew

    "Reagan was against banning gay teachers. It's all sourced."

    I'm glad he was against it. That's hardly a stunning reveal of Ronald Reagan — Gay Rights Supporter.

    "Gingrich hated Clinton and they still made it work. A lot of the same politicians today were in office when Clinton was President. Yet they made it work. "

    Which, therefore, leads one to recognize that the GOP today does not want to make it work.

  85. Jake_Ackers

    I disagree. Obama needs to lead. He hasn't changed course. He lost massively in 2010. Bill Clinton did what Obama did in 1992 to 94 and got hammered so he changed after 1994.

    He hasn't moved to the center. He instead of wanting to extend the Bush tax cuts he has rather wanted to raise taxes. His policies were repudiated in 2010. Even if he believes raising taxes is best he won't get it. He needed to change course. At least support Huntsman idea of closing the loopholes without raising the rates. Thus more income but no his ideology in using the taxes as a tool for social punishment instead of economic growth.

    This article covers it pretty well:

  86. Drew

    Obama can't move any closer to the center. He's been occupying it since the start. The GOP simply refuses to work with him. They decided that it was more important to win than it was to govern.

  87. Cicero

    "He wouldn't even say the name of the disease they had for most of his time in office!"

    While I am fairly certain that I know what you're referring to (namely the AIDS mess), the phrasing there seems rather unfortunate.

  88. Trenacker

    There's a world of difference, unfortunately, between being a good politician and being a good policymaker. If Bob McDonnell has been able to make hay out of his state's peculiar position as first in line at the federal trough, that is well and good for Bob McDonnell. I understood you to be praising McDonnell's supposed achievements, not his strategy for engaging minority voters. I agree that most issues having to do with politics, and especially campaign rhetoric, are grounded in perception.

    From the points of view of many people most closely affected by the gay rights issue, and from the points of view of an increasing number of political liberals nationwide (even worldwide), bigotry is the only plausible explanation for opposition to gay marriage. On a personal note, I must admit that it is incomprehensible to me that so many people profess to be standing up for "Biblical principle" in this case, but not others. The widespread belief that there is a "Gay Agenda," and that gay people want to use the fulcrum of government to force others to accept them personally rather than merely to obtain what they believe are their Constitutional rights, suggests to me that there is a substantial element of aversion to "the other" at work here. Homophobia is one of the last "legitimate" forms of bigotry, if you ask me. For their part, I think many religious conservatives do tend to see gay rights as a litmus test for a wider clash between religiously-inspired values and those derived from "public consensus." Look at how Romney approaches the issue: he explains that his interpretation of the Constitution is based on original intent, which was informed by religious values.

    Eighteen percent is no small potatoes. That is close to one in five Republicans. And how do you disabuse those people of that awful misperception? Or the deeper, more terrible belief, which is even more widespread, that one cannot be a Muslim and also a "loyal" American? The problem isn't just that people believe Obama is lying about his religion — it's that they believe his actual religious and cultural values are fundamentally incompatible, or, worse, explicitly averse to, "American values."

    I think that racism, much of which is passive, but all of which is ugly and backwards and wrong, informs a lot of conservative perceptions of how social programming works and whether or not it is effective. There is a great deal of highly selective learning that goes along with maintaining such views even when many of these people themselves collect unemployment benefits and Social Security.

  89. Trenacker

    Reagan and Clinton led during different times in this country. Even during the 1990s, the political echo chamber was smaller. The Internet was just becoming an ubiquitous part of our daily lives when Clinton entered office. By the time he left, many Americans were still not using it to obtain news and views. Today, nobody can really escape their voting record. It becomes very hard to try to lead your party in one direction and to take steps in another.

    The real problem is that, by many accounts, the Republicans committed to opposing Obama from Day One. While Obama did make certain missteps in building bridges, criticizing his approach as inadequate or disingenuous would be unfair. Republican operatives were very frank: they wanted to prevent Obama doing anything effective so that one of their own could be back in the Oval Office as quickly as possible. By 2010, you had guys like Rush Limbaugh coming out and declaring their total opposition to Obama's success on grounds that his agenda would radically alter, and radically hamstring, the American way of life. While that might play well with some voters, it conveniently redefined "success" to mean "changes America for the worse" rather than "changes America for the better." You also had politicians stepping forward who were deeply averse to facts. That "American Conservative" magazine was right: Republican kingmakers are increasingly wedded to ideology over outcomes, with the same result as Marxist-Leninism. The Bush tax cuts led us, in part, to where we are today. So did a lack of regulation on how banks could move money. Ditto the relentless message that everybody should — and could — own a home. Slowly but surely, I've come to wonder whether part of government's job is to protect people from themselves. But that's a very unpalatable, even unamerican, notion. Who died and voted me king? I didn't like it when some liberals had the chutzpah to suggest to me that maybe there ought to be death panels, if people don't know when to say goodbye to grandma. But the worst part of the Tea Party is that it is avidly religious, with a firm sense that it is doing the work of a majority. It purports to speak for me when I am not of it. It also holds out the only plausible promise of victory to most Republican politicians, who then sell their political souls for a spot on the bandwagon. And that power explains the ultra-conservative platform, and why nobody of importance speaks out — because to do so is heresy. What people really want to hear are the hyper-partisan repudiations of the other side by people who seem sure of themselves. That's how you get politicians pledging to go to Washington and stand fast against any kind of compromise, which would mean admitting either (A) that their vision was somehow flawed, or (B) that they were trying something other than orthodoxy, which is, by definition, all bad. What tripe!

    Sad to say, but I don't see anything redeeming in the Republican Party this election cycle, with the sole exception of Romney's apparently affable personality (minus the cluelessness about how ordinary Americans live).