District of Columbia

Who's the Party Base? (Or, "It's My Party, Damn It")

Mike Warren: Let's get this debate started.

This came about because Katherine and I had a disagreement about who makes up the GOP base, though I guess it would be more accurate to say that the discrepancy came from the question of who should make up the GOP base.

I think the answer to this question really answers the question about who a GOP presidential candidate should appeal to. It may seem like a moot point now that we've had our maverick Johnny Mac in the saddle for months, but, just like the fellas at The Next Right, we're looking toward the future of conservatives and the Republican Party, two groups that, for better or for worse, are intertwined.

Conservatives make up the base of the party, to put it simply. What is a conservative in this sense? I am not speaking strictly in the academic or philosophical sense. Nerds like me read Buckley and Sowell and D'Souza and worry about the philosophy, but normal, everyday GOP voters think in terms of themselves and their families.

What do these people want? They want less government in their lives, national security protection from terrorists and enemy nations, a society that values family, and the chance to be successful in life. These desires just happen to be the very tenets of a successful conservative political group.

If a Republican candidate wants to be president, he must indicate to this base of voters, which populate mainly the South and the West (though not entirely), that the aforementioned values will influence how he will govern. I argue that moderate Republicans rarely get elected unless they appeal to the conservative base.

I've got an altered theory on why moderates have trouble winning. By definition, moderates of any party are not particularly close to the base on average. Moderate Republicans in Congress are such because they often fall into the spending culture of Washington. John McCain, John Warner, Chuck Hagel, Chris Shays, these are the paragons of moderate Republicanism.

They have been in Washington for a while, and they have a Beltway mindset approaching issues. Tax money becomes government's money to be spent with little abandon. Working across the aisle with Democrats makes sense because, after all, they are your friends (how many times have we heard a senator call another "my friend"?). The problem is that Washington is a government city, and liberals are government people, so Republicans working with liberal Democrats nearly always results in caving into their assumptions (e.g. global warming, comprehensive immigration).

Regular people don't live in Washington and don't think like Washingtonians think. They have other things on their mind besides government, if they can help it. That's why conservatives that shun government and praise the free market, the church, and national defense can win; it's about the people, not about the government.

The Republican base that any Republican presidential candidate should seek to appeal to are regular Americans of all races and regions that want to hear solutions that don't involve government. But if given the option of government from the Republicans and government for the Democrats, these voters will either stay home or pick the party that has a better track record running government (even if it ain't that good anyway). To paraphrase Patrick Henry, the GOP base shouts "give me liberty or you might as well give me the Democrats." 

Katherine Miller: Apologies for the delay in debate post; I am fighting off a cold/allergies like a circus person with a chair against a lion. Full disclosure: I will begin by admitting my Washingtonian existence, politically moderate disposition, and subsequent exclusion from the so-called "party base." This entire debate derived out of a disagreement more about what the base should be, so my assertions will be tempered by champagne dreams of mine, I suppose. As Mario says, here we go.

Despite erosion from social conservatives, the actual base remains as traditionally Republican as ever, and against Mike's family-centric model, I will dub mine the Wall Street & Washingtonian base. That's a relatively small group of people -- a small group of people that keeps the economy and politics running. The WS&W is comprised, first, of individuals who identify as Americans, and the guiding principle behind them involves: maximizing individual freedom, while minimizing physical danger. This manifests itself in several ways:

  • A free market, free trade economy
  • A hearty national defense
  • A scientific, metric approach to national issues (healthcare, climate change, etc.)
  • A robust educational system
  • A removal from faith-based focuses on policy (gay marriage, stem cell research)

This is a very policy-based approach to a base, admittedly (strange...I usually don't have too many thoughts on policy). I imagine these people asking themselves two questions: "What must the government do?" and (this is where education comes into play) "How can the individual best be equipped to excel?"

The WS&S is never caught up in this populist hoo ha about outsourcing, the way some in the Republican party have drifted dangerously close to unions and uncomfortably nativist sentiments. Free trade reigns supreme with the WS&S. As does privatization of healthcare and a more metric approach to education (as NCLB began). I know that's a contradiction in terms almost, but superior education for the individual no matter the circumstance, and superiority of American education are critical parts of this base. This is a group of people who sees climate change as an opportunity for American enterprise to advance technologically and develop alternative energies, like nuclear power, in a modern sort of space race of American exceptionalism for private corporations and research groups to develop. "What must the government do?" The government handles the standards of safety, and the courts and justice system maintain a strict, transparent order when the law gets broken.

Additionally, and in some ways, most importantly, my model holds no pretenses of social values. This is such a critical part of what divides the two existing bases in the GOP today. And, while I've heard Mike argue time and time again that Washington somehow strangles politicians with its money-spending culture like a lady of the night, I'm more inclined to look towards "compassionate conservatism." The so-called base includes too many groups and politicians who, at the end of the day, find social policy of greater importance than all else. Values, unlike metrics, are relative.

Perhaps this is an elitist picture of Americans, and capitalist success stories that bundle and trade don't always represent the best of Americans; but the old black-tie, martini image of the GOP isn't exactly dismal, either. It still exists, just amongst a lot more grassroots.

How does a leader relate to and relate this in Washington? Mitt Romney in his governor days came hairline fracture close until he hit the presidential nomination expressway. Rudy Giuliani didn't do too bad of a job in New York. You just need the right ideas and a little charisma, and you can go a long way. The most important thing is to keep the country running like a business: efficient, cost-effective, and capitalist.

Cross-posted at Right-Wing Vitriol 

Sad Stories Do Not Justify Federal Legislation

-By Warner Todd Huston

The horrible accident that befell Kaitlyn Lasitter, well it rips your heart out. A bubbly, well-liked Kentucky teen girl just at the beginning her life suffers a grievous, life-changing injury in an accident at an amusement park, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. In January of 2008, some cables fell loose from the Superman Tower of Power ride and this malfunction ended up costing the girl both her feet when they were severed as the ride continued despite the girl's screams of horror.

It is a sad story and Kaitlyn certainly deserves to have her day in court to force the amusement park to explain itself to all involved. If the park violated safety rules, then the park should pay. But, whatever the legal ramifications, the story just makes you cry out at the injustice of this fate.

Yes, it's a sad, sad story. But heartrending stories do not call for Federal government intervention no matter how outrageous or gut wrenching they are.

Sadly, regardless of the proper role of the Federal government, we have here yet another grandstanding Congressman trying to feed off this poor girl's horror so that he can get his name in the paper and garner some undeserved attention for "doing something" for this victim of circumstance. Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has chased this ambulance from Massachusetts all the way to Kentucky and back again to Washington D.C. to propose unnecessary legislation to "fix" something that isn't broken -- at least as far as the Federal government is concerned. Naturally, Last month he introduced more unnecessary legislation.

Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA) will call attention to a loophole in the law that prohibits federal safety oversight of rides that are permanently located at amusement parks. On Wed., May 14th at 11 a.m., Rep. Markey will hold a press conference to urge passage of his legislation to close this loophole, H.R. 2320, the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act, and highlight the safety risks for consumers under current law.

Yes, it is an absolute horror that this young girl is living with now and for the rest of her life. But the accident or malfeasance that led to her mutilation has nothing whatever to do with the Federal government. The Federal government does not and should not have a role to address this situation. This is the State of Kentucky's problem, not Washington's.

And the media is making matters worse by reporting this saying that this perceived lack of Federal legislation is a "loophole" that needs closing. In truth there is no hole because there should be no jurisdiction.

Certainly no one wants unsafe park rides. But the Federal government has no role to assure the safety of amusement parks and should have no such role. It is the various states' duty to assure the safety of their own citizenry.

There was once a time when presidents and Congressmen realized that the Federal government was limited by the Constitution to certain prescribed areas. Unfortunately, today we have one Congressman after another, one Senator, one Supreme Court, one president after the next that seemingly has no knowledge of the Constitution, nor any interest in learning about it.

Patrick Henry once said that, "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government -- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." And this is the sort of unnecessary legislation that he warned us about. In this case, those advocating for this so-called "loop hole" to be closed are merely attempting to take away one more areas of state power and to "restrain the people."

This is a state issue. Period.

This ambulance-chasing Congressman from Massachusetts should be ashamed of himself for using this poor girl's cruel fate so that he can get his pandering mug in the news, too. If he doesn't know better that this is no situation that warrants the involvement of the Federal government, than he is a stupid man who should be eliminated from Congress. If he does know better, he is a demagogue and a creep. Either way, he comes out as a lowly creature.

We all wish for Kaitlyn to heal as best as she can and to find a way to cope with her injuries. But, Kaitlyn, please do not force ever more government down our throats. We can't blame you for being infuriated at your fate. But it has nothing to do with Washington D.C. Petition the capitol at Frankfort, Kentucky if you will, but leave D.C. out of it.

Scott the Liar, the fool, or the prophet?

As a former political appointee myself - I understand the frustration, pain, and anger that Scott McClellan undoubtedly felt (and probably still feels) after the "hangover" of getting out. You lament the opportunities missed, the things you messed up, and the things you wished you could have gotten right. The first inclination is often to write something...

I'm not a big Bible quoter, but I've found this particular passage to be instructive as a political appointee - Psalm 146:3, "Put not your faith in rulers, or in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation." Another passage, from LBJ, I also have found instructive, "You have to dance with the one that brung ya."

The bottom line is - you are always responsible for your own career - you can't put your entire hope and faith in others to fufill your career goals... but you also have to realize as a political you have a loyalty and fidelty to both the President and the party, and in order for that to work - candor has to go both ways.... your superiors to you... and you with your superiors.

McClellan's "tell all" book, in which he accuses the President of misleading America, of Scooter and Rove engaging in felonies (conspiracy to obstruct justice), and essentially claims, "I'm mad because the President lied to me!" breaks all of those rules. He stabs the President in the back - claims he was the sole voice of reason and doubt - and makes incredulous claims about his coworkers, the White House Staff, and meetings which he never attended.

The most amusing for me was that Rice was too defferential to Rumsfeld and Cheney. I can tell you from my own personal experiences - Rice was not "too defferential" and did not just "roll over" on issues but, you have to recongize that as a Presidential adviser, there are limits to what she can do when arguing with a Cabinet official and the Vice President....

... but that stuff isn't in Scott's book. Some perspective about how things work - the context in which people operated - the realities of what you can change and what you can't - none of that is in the book at all. It's all - Look at me! I know what really happened! I'll tell you the real inside story!

Now comes this prisoner of conscience and he has decided - forget everyone else - forget the President - forget the party - it's all about me. For him to do this now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional. If he truly believed what he says now, then he had an obligation to voice those opinions to his superiors - including the President. If he felt he was truly misleading the American people, he had an obligation as a pulbic servant - to protect and defend the Constitution - to make those objections known or to resign. Where is that laser like focus on his own behavior - beyond saying, perhaps, he realizes now he was mislead. If what you say is true, you weren't mislead - you just didn't care. Everything was fine and dandy while you were in the White House and drinking from the trough of power. Now that the good times are over and the hangover is left - you've all of a sudden decided maybe the party wasn't worth it after all...

Is Scott a sellout - I don't know... I suspect not. A sell out is someone who knows what they're doing is wrong and does it for the money anyways. I don't get that impression here. Scott is mad and wants revenge against the President for "misleading him."

You were one of the inner circle of the President's advisors. You had an obligation to provide the President your best advice....

... the most appicable lesson here - for Scott - is yet another LBJ quote, "You can't go to a whore house and then claim you didn't feel loved."

I have been amazed, however, at the long line of Bush appointtees who soon after leaving service either engage in ridiculous history rewriting (Doug Feith) or engage in "memoir writing" with an agenda of undermining the President (McClellan, O'Neil, Clarke, Bremmer, etc.) Don't any of you feel an obligation to keep the confidence of the politicals whom you served? I mean - at least until they're out of office? Can you honestly tell me that this type of naval gazing before the President leaves office is helpful? Does it ultimately serve the interest of the American people.

Grow up. Write your tell all book after the President leaves office so there can be an honest discussion and lessons learned about the Presidency without undermining the guy who's currently in office.... you only had to wait six more months for cryin out loud...

But remember - it's all about Scott. Scot was lied to. Scott feels pain. Scott put his faith in princes and paid the price...


The GOP: A National Party no more... and what I hope we will do about it.

All -

This is the current featured post at my blog - www.rightcommentary.com. I welcome you to visit and comment - either here or at my blogsite. I write on partisan politics and related issues every day. I am also happy The Next Right finally opened and I'm looking forward to contributing regularly.




Washington, D.C. (rightcommentary.com): I believe that the GOP is coming unhinged - for lack of a better description. I have never once been this frustrated with my party as I have been in the last 8 years. As I've said to colleagues for about the last two years - it takes guts to be a Republican partisan lately. Guts and a lot of stupidity (apparently).

For lack of a better description, Republicans have had a solemn "contract" with the American people. It defined our party, our policies, and our approaches. It comprised the "negative heuristic" of the things we, as partisans, would not do. That contract, as I see it, is roughly comprised of these elements:

  1. We believe that our fellow citizens are ultimately "good" and capable of accepting responsibility and rewards for their own actions: We are first and foremost committed to seeing individuals have equal access, but not necessarily equal results. We believe government has a purposive place in people's lives, however, it is not "up to the government" to ensure everyone lives "happily ever after."
  2. We believe in limited government because it robs individuals of opportunity: We believe that whatever resources the government takes away, through appropriation and spending, means that much less resource available for the individual. This is detrimental because the market forces that act upon individuals is much more efficient than collective allocations of wealth through government action.
  3. We are more adept in the realm of foreign policy than our adversaries: We end wars, not start them. We use force when its necessary - decisively - and with clear purpose. We fight when it is only vital to the national interest. We maintain our military so that we can use it when we need it. We are strong in the face of adversity. We protect the weak when they ASK us - for those who are oppressed wanting to be free. We hold our heads high and the flag higher.
  4. We have high standards and expectations of ourselves and for the nation. Since personal accountability is a key element in our values, we expect that by giving individuals greater access to wealth and opportunity, they will capitalize on it versus squander it. We create opportunities for success - not protect people against failure. We want an equal playing field for everyone to achieve their goals.
  5. We attempt to live moral, just, lives and encourage others to do the same. We are accountable to God, our family, and our friends.

Those are the five elements of the contract we have with the American people. And how well have we done with executing those elements? In the past eight years? We have been TERRIBLE. There is no distinguishing our behavior from the Democrats:

  • We taxed and spent in the last 8 years at a pace (even if you take out war spending) that even would have made the Congress of Tip O'Neil proud.
  • We doubled the total number social welfare programs.
  • We enlarged social welfare spending by a factor of three.
  • We promoted giving tax breaks to people who didn't pay taxes!
  • We created the largest social welfare program (the prescription drug plan) ever created. It costs so much - we have no idea how much it is ultimately going to cost!
  • We got into two wars - and finished neither.
  • We reduced the size of our military at the time we were fighting two conflicts.
  • We created more ill will in the last 8 years than has ever been created.
  • We are at risk of falling behind in most of our weapon and intelligence capabilities.
  • Our GDP may be surpassed by our competitors.
  • Our adversaries hold a stranglehold on our finances, our labor, and our wealth.
  • Our party leaders have acted like drunken sailors and have tolerated immoral and criminal activity within our partisan ranks. We had Abramoff, Foley, Hastert, Stevens, and of course - Sen. "Footsie" - Larry Craig. Of course, the latest, Rep. Vito J. Fossella’s getting busted driving drunk and then admitting he fathered a love child. You can’t run on family values when you don’t practice them.
  • We've let the ideology of "stupidity" trump our own logic of how to conduct policymaking.
  • We've been willing to sell our souls on issues like immigration, welfare, and national defense, for just a few votes more in Congressional races.
  • We failed to control spending across the board.
  • We deregulated financial markets - with no sense of accountability or oversight.
  • The Congress was more than willing to sell it's soul to the President for what? Financial and foreign policy debacles? We abandoned internal accountability for our values.
  • Our fundraising has dried up.
  • Our leaders seem clueless - I mean, come on "Change you deserve?" Is that a joke? Oh and by the way - that's also the logo for an anti-depressant medication. I realize at this point we may all need it as partisans - but this is the best we could do?
  • You have Boehner crying on the floor of the Senate.
  • We failed to get free trade done.
  • We didn't expand democracy.
  • Our international credibility is shot.
  • The Public won't trust us...
  • We LOST three Red seats in the House - and we haven't even gotten to the General yet.

I could continue... but my hand is already cramping. Suffice to say - between Mr. Bush and the Republicans in Congress - the last 8 years have been "I can out democrat the Democrats!"

And now - just now - are we finally getting an inkling that perhaps the voters are ticked... I mean - it didn't occur to anyone in 2006 when we got pummeled - despite the "Grand Architect's" vision for victory. It didn't occur to anyone that perhaps things were screwed up in the 2004 election. Oh no - we took our narrow victory as a sign for a "mandate from the people" to keep marching down the idiotic path of stupidity we've been in since then.

The consequence of all of this is simple - we're going to lose at least 25 seats in the House - probably 30. Who knows - maybe even more. We're going to lose at least 4 maybe 6 or more seats in the Senate. The next President will face solidly Democrat controlled houses. Moreover, we can expect this pattern to be repeated probably across the country in terms of Governors and state races.

Peggy Noonan said the President has destroyed the Republican Brand. Well - he wasn't the only one - but the brand definitely is in BAD shape. The worst perhaps since Taft.

The voters have NO REASON TO PLACE THEIR FAITH IN US ANYMORE! We have breached every tenant of the compact.

If we have any HOPE of ever reclaiming our high ground, I am deeply hoping that Republicans collectively think about the following:

  1. Our VALUES matter. Conservatism MATTERS. Stand up for those values. We are slammed on race issues because apparently we don't remember our values of equality. We're slammed on economic issues because we decide welfare is better than making markets work. We're slammed on minority issues because we protect businesses that want to exploit workers versus demanding responsibility and accountability across the board. We're more than willing to give American wealth away without asking for anything in return? Enough.
  2. Stop the stupid gimmicks and giveways in welfare. Stop the crazy-drunken spending! PERIOD! JUST STOP! Tax holidays? Great - more borrowing... less money in the private sector. Rebates? Great - another gimmick. Bail out packages!? great - more borrowing. Prescription drug plans - great more borrowing. No reforms of banking, finance, and business practices - great - more costs for consumers. Bottom line - Republicans are for responsible government - not crazy government that gives lollipops to everyone in the hopes they get re-elected for being a "Republocrat." Enough.
  3. No more stupid-crazy wars we haven't thought through the consequences. We don't have the military and the resources for this stupidity. Defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, chase AQ down and kill them, and try and get the Iraqis to stand up. Get serious in Iraq and commit the resources we need or get out and deal with the consequences. Improve our military readiness. Improve our weapons platforms. Expand our military to a proper size so we can "walk and chew gum" at the same time. Hollow threats and stupid conflicts... Enough. Our sons and daughters demand our leadership so that their sacrifice is never in vain.
  4. Get America self-sufficient in the areas of Finance, Labor, and Energy again. We have lost ground in all of these areas and it will affect our competitiveness. Unless we're interested in someone else being the top dog - we need to get our people educated better, we need to get our financial house at both the macro and micro level in order, and we need to STOP STOP STOP this massive stupidity about energy policy. As Republicans we need to be honest with the American people - if we don't have cheap energy, you will suffer. Any policy that punishes energy inputs creates misery for Americans. Enough with the Polar bears and scare science. Enough with the "we can be green - see - we're green - see my green hat!" Get serious about getting a real energy policy that limits US dependence on foreign oil. Get Serious about ensuring we have the energy we need to function. Get serious about improving our labor force and our resource base. ENOUGH! Get serious about this stuff. We have principles and values that speak to these issues - APPLY them.
  5. Either drop the "moral values" platform or straighten up. Personally, I believe that Republicans need to straighten up and start attracting the talent needed to run the party. Enough with tolerating stupidity and nonsense because we're worried about "losing a seat." If a member of our ranks goes astray - then PUNISH HIM. Period. In attempting to keep ONE SEAT at a time - we've lost control of Congress. ENOUGH. Be accountable for your actions!

I'm sorry if this seems harsh- but enough. I've had it. This isn't the party I joined and I'm having a hard time getting excited about our party and our chances in November if we're unwilling to make meaningful changes and return to our key values. Reagan said he didn't leave the Democratic Party - it left him. Well - that's how I feel now about Republicans. If we're going to behave like Democrats and abandon our values and our "partisan faith" than we are a national party no more. It will take 20-30 years for us to recover unless we start right now to get our act together.

I fear it will take a shellacking in November for us to learn this lesson. Look at that MAP up there and tell me why Republicans are not the majority? Tell me WHY we're on the ropes? I'll tell you why - because we stopped acting like Republicans and the voters have had it too.

Winning more than one election at a time

(Great thoughts from CRNC executive director Ethan Eilon. -Patrick)

It wasn't the senior staffers to Barry Goldwaters 1964 campaign who would go on to change this party and this country.  They certainly did a great deal to set the stage, but in reality their greatest feat was to activate an army of young, engaged, thoughtful conservative activists. Young men and women who could think, who could execute, and who recognized the mission ahead.

As it stands, we are failing ourselves as a party for lack of investment in our own survival.  I'm the first to admit a bit of bias because of where i work but I think if we as a party want to pull things back together we need have a vibrant, engaged youth component.  When you look at the voter skews from 2004, 2006, and the disparity in primary results in 2008 one thing sticks out above all others. Younger generations are voting against the Republican brand.

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