Thursday, April 30, 2009

Republicans as a Minor Party and the Need for Due Diligence

There are roughly 142 million registered voters. According to USA Today, there are 55 million registered Republicans and 72 million registered Democrats. Not long ago Republicans were ahead.

Arlen Specter's decision to become a Democrat coupled with Al Franken's conversion of the Minnesota Senate seat gives the Democrats a 60-40 Senate seat lead. In the House, there are only 177 Republicans, or about 41% of the total. Thus, in January the "stimulus" bill passed in the House without a single Republican vote.

On April 27, pollster Scott Rasmussen asked the million dollar question in an article: "Is the Beltway GOP Irrelevant?". Rasmussen argues that Republicans are on the path to irrelevance because they lack formal power and because people are not interested in following them. Rasmussen argues that the decline began with the first Bush, but I contend that the real reason for the decline is attributable to Ronald Reagan, even though he remains sacrosanct in most conservatives' minds.

Reagan was elected on a platform of reducing government and ending inflation. He made some small cuts in government early in his administration, but the supply siders won the debate within his administration. Their argument was to spend heavily as taxes were cut. This contributed to the high interest rates in the early 1980s. But the effect was to encourage the Fed to re-inflate. Thus, the legacy of the Reagan administration was a confirmation of Richard M. Nixon's claim that "we are all Keynesians now." In effect, successive Republican administrations reversed the monetarist approach that Paul Volker had adopted under Democratic President Jimmy Carter. While monetarism may have failed, monetary policy was not tight through the past thirty years. The result is the current sub-prime meltdown.

Credit expansions inevitably result in collapses. This is because wasteful investment is made due to loose money. The 1980s and 1990s saw one financial bubble after the next, and the waste accumulated. Perhaps the modicum of economic deregulation that occurred during the Carter and Reagan years coupled with the Carter-imposed monetary conservatism of 1979-1983 was able to absorb the following two decades of economic mismanagement.

In any case, the Republican revolution of 1980 was supposed to have been against big government, inflation, and regulation. But the Republicans, starting with Reagan, have not been interested in any of these strategies.

The failure of the Reagan model is not allowed to be discussed in Republican circles. In fact, I have not heard a single talk radio personality mention monetary issues. I have not heard Sean Hannity mention monetary issues. I have not heard Rush Limbaugh mention monetary issues. I have not heard Mark Levin mention monetary issues. Yet a party that rode to power on concerns about inflation in 1980 might consider that monetary issues have some importance.

The Republicans' failures go further. The federal budget has mushroomed since 1980 and the Republicans are largely to blame. In 2008 federal outlays were $2.9 trillion. In 1980 outlays were $591 billion. Prices from 1980 to 2009 increased by 158%. The federal budget increased by 391%. Much of that increase occurred during Republican administrations and Congresses. Certainly there were no cuts during those years. The absurd bailouts and stimulus bills that have been passed under George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama were as much a Republican as a Democratic response. So matters have gone from the fire into the nuclear blast.

Rasmussen is correct that there has been a disconnect between the Republican grass roots and Republicans inside the Beltway. But it is worse than that. In order to win an election, the Republicans must rely on moral or religious conservatives, who have become as much as 36% of the electorate. But Republicans cannot get to 50% without economic conservatives.

Donald J. Devine of Conservative Battleline notes:

"Even the broadest classifications of voter types do not find a majority supporting any single one. Political scientist par excellence, Aaron Wildavsky, identified four very broad political types: so called individualists, deferentials, egalitarians and fatalists. Based upon the Time Warner data, the first (which corresponds to economic conservatives) represented 34 percent of the population, the second (social conservatives) equaled 22 percent, egalitarians (liberals) were 27 percent and fatalists 17 percent. On the basis of this division, Wildavsky concluded that all politics must be coalition politics, with no single one able to mold a reliable majority."

Under George W. Bush, and more gradually since the Reagan years, the Republicans have increasingly acted as though they aim to reject economic conservatism. In doing so they have created additional problems for themselves of an ethical nature. George W. Bush and other leading Republicans never publicly renounced economic conservatism. Rather, Bush spoke in code, referring to "compassionate conservatism". This sleight of hand has led, at least in my mind and probably others', to the feeling that the Republicans lack a moral core. A Republican who says he favors economic conservatism might as well be "compassionate" about it as not--and why should he let on how compassionate he or she is? So why should I believe him? Just because a talk show host says so? But where was the talk show host in '04 and '00?

Talk Radio poses a viable organizing tool, and the audiences are large. Rush Limbaugh draws 13 million listeners, more than any network or cable news broadcasts. But many of his listeners are not Republicans and not voters. Moreover, there is far from perfect overlap with the economic conservative segment among those who are Republican voters. Hence although talk radio can influence results at the margin, it cannot overcome serious alienation of large numbers of voters.

Many voters actually have concluded that Barack Obama is more conservative economically than any of the Republican candidates.

It appears that the Republicans are damaged goods. They have not fulfilled public expectations about their performance and, have been, in a word, dishonest. A coalition of economic conservatives and religious conservatives can present a winning coalition. But there needs to be documentation and evidence so that economic conservatives can do due diligence. Without the possibility of due diligence, there is no hope for the Republicans. Alternative strategies will be necessary.

What do I mean by due diligence? There needs to be a fixed program. The candidate needs to have a track record of implementing similar programs. But are there candidates among the Republicans who fit this profile? I doubt it.

The Republicans might well become a third party or be overtaken by a new second party, just as they overtook the Whigs in the 1850s. Given current patterns, there is reason for both religious and economic conservatives to consider that the Republican leadership demonstrably lacks common sense and has a track record of deception and implementation of government bloat.


Ă„tlasHugged said...

Is the Republican party de facto - defunct?

Per (since the OED is not free):
conserve - to prevent injury, decay, waste, or loss of

What the republicans wish to conserve is gone.

The Republic is injured, decayed, wasted, and lost.

So of the 142 million registered voters there are only 15 million who are not Demopublicans.Yes indeed, a second party is required!

Does it need a name? How about the Legalize Freedom party? Or the Founders' Principles party?

Does it need a diligence to become due? Does it need a declaration of establishment of clearly defined terms and purposes? How about Ron Paul's statement of defense for the Founders' principles that he issued on February 2, 2000? He titled it, A Republic, If You Can Keep It and it can be found here:

Please pay particular attention to goal number 9 as it will be necessary for any successful "grass-roots" propagation to disarm the Establishment's weed killer. It states, "Competitions in all elections should be guaranteed, and the monopoly powers gained by the two major parties through unfair signature requirements, high fees, and campaign donation controls should be removed. Competitive parties should be allowed in all government sponsored debates."

Does Legalize Freedom need a theme song? How about a little diddy from Herbert Kretzmer:Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will [confirm that your right is] to be free!

Brent said...

I like to think that we have only begun the job of firing the Washington establishment. It takes about three election cycles to finish the job.