Becoming the Party of Change

The Washington washing machine has been set on spin cycle for the past few weeks. Spin-sters from both sides of the aisle have been working hard to make sure their party comes out of Massachusetts special election looking squeaky clean.

Many Democrats have interpreted the loss, not as a repudiation of their agenda, but as mandate to move further to the left. According to this view, Democrats are falling out of favor because they are governing too close to the center and thus alienating the liberal-minded base which got them elected. As Howard Dean put it curtly to Chris Matthews,

Yesterday the problem was that people wanted more.

On the other hand, Republicans have been quick to construe the Massachusetts race as a representation of the public’s fundamental dislike of the Obama Administration’s policies. After all, Scott Brown won in a liberal state after running a campaign based around being the 41st Republican vote in the Senate. Oddly enough, some Congressional Democrats have echoed this view. As Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said,

“There’s going to be a tendency on the part of our people to be in denial about all of this, [but] if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up. . . Whenever you have just the furthest left elements of the Dem party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country – that’s not going to work too well.”

What neither side seems to grasp is that their positions are not mutually exclusive. The national mood remains very similar to 2008 when the electorate overwhelmingly voted Barack Obama into office. Now for something shocking: this is great news for Republicans.

In 2008 people were tired of the GOP’s perceived tone deafness. They felt anger that the Bush White House consistently failed to listen to their concerns, almost stubbornly insisting on its own way. Voters demanded change and Obama, better than any other candidate, was able to tap into this sentiment. Fast-forward one year and Democrats have lost the monopoly on change. Coming face to face with the largest issues of the day, Democrats have been unable to come up with workable answers. More importantly, people perceived the administration has continued the business as usual politics of an out of touch government. Rightly or wrongly, partisan bickering, special interests, backdoor deals, pork barrel politics, and a lack of transparency are all stories that have dominated the headlines over the past year.

This has opened up the opportunity for Republicans to once again become the party of change. What we must understand is that 2008 did not represent a fundamental revolution in the electorate’s ideology, it represented a change in the public’s perception of how each party matched up with those ideals.  As a new Wall Street Journal poll shows, the electorate’s ideological stance has remained consistent, but there was nevertheless seismic shift towards the Democratic Party.

WSJ Ideology PollThe same wave that carried Obama into office could now sweep Republicans into the majority, but they must embrace the opportunity. We cannot be content to merely label Democrats as “too far to the Left” or become comfortable with the idea that people are unhappy with their policies, we must take action. To succeed where Democrats have failed we must become the party of change against the establishment Democrats. But more importantly, to have lasting effect, we must carry more than a label…we must back it with substance. As Massachusetts showed, if we can convey the mantle of change,  we can and will win everywhere.

- Brandon Greife, Political Director, College Republican National Committee

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As a new Wall Street Journal

As a new Wall Street Journal poll shows, the electorate’s ideological stance has remained consistent, but there was nevertheless seismic shift towards the Democratic Party.

Conservatives would be well advised not to read too much into such polls, though. Much of the block that labels itself "moderate" appears to be quite liberal. As I wrote, back in November, when Gallup was showing conservatives outnumbering liberals in every state,

The hard, cold political reality facing the right today--the one that's still there after the poll results, and after all that back-slapping--is that the U.S. isn't a conservative nation. What's more, that conclusion isn't even particularly controversial for anyone who has examined the matter in any detail; for the most part, it isn't even close. Public opinion is more heavily polled in the U.S. than in any other country on earth. On issue after issue, Americans are not only with the liberals, but with them overwhelmingly.

Americans are, as a rule, more liberal--often far more liberal--than congressional Democrats or Barack Obama. My little write-up from then:

The meta issue

Meta issue at work here is that in a two party system, "change" means one party or the other.  Obama promised a new style of policy and governance and has thus far not delivered.  Republican's aren't proposing anything new at all either (i.e., nothing that is actual change, it's just "not Democrats").  Voters don't have a realistic 3rd, 4th, 5th choice and we end up in the spin cycle, described in the first of the blog post, but on the meta level - business as usual with the pendulum simply swinging back and forth, rarely moving forward (or backward) for any significant period of time.  It's terribly unfortunate for our nation and its future.

I Disagree Somewhat

The recent election results that have signaled a Republican resurgence definitely does have as much to do with anger at Democrats as happiness with Republicans. Nevertheless, I don't think we are preempted from actually becoming the "change" people seek. Republicans have proposed some actual changes, they've just been easily swept over because they could never command a minority. The pendulum will inevitably swing back and forth - but it doesn't have to be at a regular interval. Republicans have been given the opportunity and the momentum - they can hold that for as long as they embody the change people expected in 2008.

Nevertheless, I don't think

Nevertheless, I don't think we are preempted from actually becoming the "change" people seek.

Moreover, it's not true you can't win by simply being against the other side. That is, in fact, virtually the only grounds on which Republicans ever win. Their, broadly speaking, agenda has little popular support--it's why they've always benefited from low turnout, and have worked to perfect techniques aimed at repressing turnout. In a time of anger at Democrats, a Republican who merely appears sane can win as an alternative (the reverse is true, as well). The problem Republicans face, at present, is that they aren't appearing sane. They're dominated by a faction made up of reactionary kooks who believe Barack Obama isn't a U.S. citizen, is trying to kill old people via his health care plan, and is only president because ACORN stole the 2008 election for him, among other baseless--and cretinously idiotic--notions. As bad as it is already, the party has intensified its efforts, in the past year, to rid itself of anyone and everyone who is less nuttier, moving itself even further to the nut right, and away from the public (which is, in general, even more liberal than the Democratic party).

is that a feature or bug???

business as usual with the pendulum simply swinging back and forth, rarely moving forward (or backward) for any significant period of time. It's terribly unfortunate for our nation and its future

but is that a feature or bug though???

In my life, that's been the feature for the 2 party system.  But, now there are larger issues, so there needs to be more then a polite shove.

You're Not Giving the Right Enough Credit

There is not enough room to explain here (for that I encourage you to continue reading my posts) but I think Republicans can win on their own merits. Polls show that conservatives is far and away the number one ideological brand - its just a matter of getting Republicans to once again parrallel the conservative values.

Second, I have a theory about the reactionary kooks that are currently filling the ranks of the Tea Party movement. I like to think of it this way - these were people previously unengaged in politics who have been moved to action by a divisive figure like Barack Obama. Their current agenda, although misplaced, is the result of simply being new to the world of politics. Nevertheless, as they learn inevitably are driven to learn more they will eventually settle into a key part of the Republican base. Basically I'm just saying that with a little grooming they can become a political force that the Right would be wise to harness.

Two thoughts on your follow ups, Brandon...

 ...first, thanks for civil follow up posts.  Oftentimes the commenters here are, well, less than civil.

Regarding Republicans representing change, I just don't see it.  What policies, specifically, are they proposing that are in any way different from what the voters rejected in 2008?  If none, then they should be running on "let's change back to what we had" instead of claiming to represent actual change from the failed polices of either party in the past.  Maybe I'm missing something, but on the policy needs our nation currently faces, their answers have ranged from "no" to "tax cuts".  Neither work, of course, the way the Republican Party has told us they will.  Been there, done that.

Regarding moving the tea-partiers into the mainstream of the Republican party over time.  Well sure, I suppose, but do you want them?  They're by and large warmed over Birchers.  Generally they demonstrate such a miserable understanding of policy and represent such ludicrous ideas that I'd think, similar to what Buckley espoused, that you're really best to leave them in the dust.  Like the Democrats did to the Dixiecrats in the 60's (pretty much all of whom were absorbed, and for only temporary electoral success by the Republicans), I think the Right should be running away from the Tea Partiers as quickly as they can.  (And yes, I'm overgeneralizing, but I think you get my point).

My Cont'd Thoughts

As to the civility compliment, thank you. I am admittedly young and new to this wonderful world of politics and thus view discussions and comments like these as a great way to achieve a well rounded picture of the issues. I've found that most people who resort to anger do so simply because they have few answers.

I'll approach my answer to your argument by saying that I disagree with the premise. I don't believe that voters rejected conservative policies in 2008. I think it all goes back to the sad divergence of the Republican party from conservative principles. In 2008 people were mad at the Republican party because it was a party that had lost its way. However, conservatism doesn't go out of style and if Republicans return to this tried and true set of principles I think they will succeed. I will say however, that many of the current Republican ideals are recycled. That said, Reagan could be accused of doing the same thing with great success.

I'll also say that I'm torn over the Tea Party movement. Whether or not their obvious strength and enthusiasm can be channeled into an effective voting force is questionable. Nevertheless, I think we would be unwise to give up in our attempts to harness their energies into something beneficial. This is not to say we manipulate them, so much as provide them with the tools to gain the "better understanding of policy" that we accused them of lacking.

 Well Brandon, coming to

 Well Brandon, coming to these "conservative" web sites have been a real eye opener. I suppose everyone means well, but as much as we don't want to see the far left, we have seen the far right in many ways. It saddens me that we cannot control our parties. It saddens me that we have seen neoconism, militarism, laissez-faire, and religionism out of the right. It saddens me that we had a vice president Dick Cheney, who said "deficits don't matter. We had a president who said "free trade is good" while we lost middle class jobs. It saddens me, that a guy who filled in for Rush LImbaugh for one day, would say some 3 years ago that deficits were good. It saddens me when you have all these talk gurus on TV and on Fox that they just come out with the same sound bites and they have no idea in what is going on in our country. It saddens me that Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and others are treated like kings when all they wanted to do is win at all costs and America in itself did not matter. To tell you the truth, I lost all respect for our political parties. 

I have heard that it is just tax cuts or it is just the constitution. I have heard Palin talk about "free market principles" and she has no idea what she is talking about. You can come to my town and see it destroyed by "free trade." And no "free market principles" will save my town. Because if you believe in "free market principles" then China and other countries with cheap labor wins. You cannot support small business in my town as the big business left. After all, if there is no gold or silver in the mine, then all the tax cuts, the constitution, and free market principles will not work.

I view the country can only be run like a business. It really is that simple, but probably hard to enact. We heard gurus on Wall Street or in Washington that this is going to be an information society. That we don't need manufacturing. Well, I can tell you that cities and states are struggling. Cities and states cannot compete with cheap labor. In any case, we have to see our wages come down to the level of third world countries. The gurus will not tell you this, but we see this everyday now. I doubt if I will ever see my hometown be what it once was. 2000 jobs lost in a small town is a big deal. It means that small business cannot survive. So while republicans talk of supporting small business-they actually do not support small business. At least their ideas will not work in my town. I have often wondered with each cycle or with a new president why it is often a let down, and now we know. They are really out of touch in Washington. All it is, is a bunch of lawyers or activists and they think they know it all or that they go by some ideology. Yeah, we saw 8 years of failed ideology.

As I said before, you can only run the country like a business. Tax cuts are fine for the right time and not overdone. The constitution is fine as a document. However, neither fixes problems. And in the case of our country, you can only do the following: invest in your country, invest in your people, and invest in the future.

All of this was missed under Bush. And if you think about it. Tax cuts for 8 years and ignoring all our problems created a lot more problems. 8 years of tax cuts and nothing to show for it, as it was money spent for the here and now. And now with the recession we had, just how do tax cuts get us out of this mess. The same holds true with the federal reserve with low interest rates. The interest rates have been so low for so long to keep the economy going that we risk inflation, and at some point the fed will have to raise interest rates. So in two areas, we lost the leverage to jump start the economy. Bush did the old "guns and butter" trick that LBJ did. And for the most part, the Limbaughs and Hannitys were mum about it. It was a decade of the roaring 20's. And now we see the downfall. And we will pay a big price for this. It will take some 10 to 20 years to get our unemployment down again to the low levels as before. And all the "good" statistics that Bush had on unemployment don't mean a hill a beans if you don't invest for the future. Also in the meantime the wages and benefits will come down. So no matter how good future statistics on unemployment will be, we will never be in the shape that we had some 20 or 30 years ago. 

We have too much debt, too much government, too much elderly relying on programs. We have too much military all over the world. We cannot be all things to everyone. It is China with 8% growth. Now they may stumble sometime in the future, but we lost a lot of our jobs and standard of living. It is China that is building new cities and high speed rail. It is China with the money. And it is China that has the contracts for oil.  As long as we have failed ideologies supported by those on the right and left, and as long as they are supported by the political parties, then we will fail. Maybe I am naive, maybe at age 61 I am too young to know or remember all these ideologies and not pragmatism. Would Eisenhower ever support any of the junk we saw for 8 years? I don't think so. 

So I wish you well. Just don't count on my vote as I fear what I had seen in the past.


Tea Party Template

Think of the current 'growing pains' of the Tea Party movement as a template of actions.  Some things work, other things don't.  Live, learn, change

center/center-right country

if ideologically, the country is center/center-right on the majority of issues, why isn't there a party that represents them.  If there were such a party, what would it's election platform consist of.

And If they're going to be bigots about an issue, then they don't need my money.