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The 2012 Election: A Lasting Electoral Coalition

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Despite Obama’s low approval ratings in polls, he still has a chance of getting re-elected. Politicians are often criticized for not following through on campaign promises; and Obama certainly deserves a similar criticism. Any good promise he made hasn’t been followed through on, and on the unfortunate promises he made he’s given it his all.

Something to keep in mind is that the electorate has a short memory and may let him off the hook for his early failures. Worse, as has been demonstrated in the past, even awful presidents still stand a chance of getting re-elected. Jimmy Carter, who is widely considered to be the worst president in modern history, definitely had a shot at winning in 1980 versus Reagan. Reagan won in an electoral landslide, but still only received 50.8% of the popular vote.

Carter’s term ended in an economic recession, with very high inflation and interest rates. Carter also had a number of failures including the 1979 energy crisis and the Iran-hostage crisis. So why did Jimmy Carter still have a chance? Why did he receive 41% of the vote, while having a 34% approval rating? Probably because the democrats have a consistent coalition of voters. Democrats have: unions, gays, abortion advocates, people receiving government handouts, green energy companies, blacks, amnesty advocates, the anti-gun lobby, the extreme left (communists/socialists/Marxists), Indians, the environmentalist lobby/environmentalists, Muslims, other government beneficiaries (organizations/companies receiving government subsidies/loans/grants), government employees, and most college professors/students.

Seeing that list spelled out, its quite amazing that republicans have a chance at all. The republican party is home to social conservatives, and theoretically to fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and constitutionalists; though recently those last three groups certainly have been disappointed in the republican party. So how does the republican party expand its base to capture the people its disaffected? Or even better, what elements of the democrat base can the republicans pick up?

Republicans need to get voters close to their ideology or risk a third party splitting the vote. In this case, the republican party needs to actually lower taxes, balance the budget, and visibly decrease the size of government; that’ll help regain some of the 3 missing elements. Running and speaking on the issues is one thing, actual advocacy and action is another. Independents who don’t fall into any specific group will blow in the wind and will want results: economic prosperity, more freedoms, and peace.

In order to form a “bigger tent”, the Republican party will need to capture reasonable environmentalists and conservative gays and some social moderates. Reasonable environmentalists, as in, people who advocate for a clean environment and aren’t opposed to nuclear energy and also realize that eliminating all fossil fuels in the foreseeable future isn’t a reality. I’d say that a number of the environmentalists out there actually fall within this scope. To be clear, reasonable environmentalists aren’t necessarily the people going to environmental rallies, they are just average Americans who hold that belief and have been told by the media that the republican party’s goal is actually to raze forests and replace them with burning animals and rubber as far as the eye can see. We need to articulate that we think living sustainably and buying green products is fantastic, but we oppose the government giving money for people to make those products or the government paying people to buy them. We also need to say, despite what you heard, we don’t oppose the Clean Air Act, we oppose adding CO2 to the list of pollutants in the act, and backdooring in regulations via the EPA and czars. We also need to explain that policies that Al Gore promised them would work, like Cap N Trade, will actually destroy the economy, reduce our quality of life, and enrich the politically well connected.

Gays and social moderates can also be won over by Republicans. This will require some negotiations and some understanding by the social conservatives as well as some articulation by the republican party. Social conservatives typically oppose gay marriage, gays serving in the military, legalized drugs/gambling/prostitution, and abortion. First thing is first, we don’t run on the issue of re-instating of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. If male soldiers don’t constantly rape female soldiers, chances are they won’t rape other male soldiers. There are already rules against soldiers having relations, we rightfully presume it happens anyway, but lets make it harder and enforce it if it becomes an epidemic. Let’s hold our nation’s heroes to a higher standard, requiring stricter conduct in that area. Most of our allies allow gays and none of them have experienced a homosexual epidemic.

Our party’s view on abortion and gay marriage should be that it should be decided on a state level. If your goal is to ban all abortions under any circumstance in Massachusetts or gays from marrying in Vermont, its not going to happen. You could reduce the number of abortions in 4 ways: with the fiscal/economic policies advocated by libertarians and fiscal conservatives, finding programs which have proven results aimed at reducing teen pregnancy, eliminating social programs that have caused high illegitimacy rates, and restricting/disallowing abortion in states that choose to enact such legislation. Likewise, gay marriage probably won’t be accepted in Alabama anytime soon, but if Hawaii wants to allow it, then so be it. But, Hawaiians shouldn’t make Alabamans pay for it. We shouldn’t run on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which tramples over states’ rights; but we can stand with the Defense of Marriage Act.

On the federal level, drugs should be decriminalized. I don’t use drugs; if it were legal I still wouldn’t. Likely, the reason you’ve chosen to not use drugs is because they’re dangerous, unhealthy, and you want to be successful in life. Just like with driving and working, performing those activities while under the influence of the drugs would still be illegal. The reason this is important isn’t just ideological, its because our prison system is too expensive, ineffective, and crowded. Legalizing drugs would require gangs to become profitable through other measures besides selling drugs OR cease to exist. Gangs would cease to exist because there’s not an obscene profit margin in manufacturing widely available products, such as tables, in your house to sell on the black market. In turn, there would be less violence, higher test scores, and less dropouts. Now, a good argument against legalizing drugs now is because our government is so heavily involved in healthcare and will be even more so under Obamacare, and it is wrong to make productive members of society pay for the constant medical bills of drug addicts. States should individually choose to allow or prohibit the substances in question. A good start would be preventing the federal government from suing states who want to allow medical marijuana.

Summing up, the Republican party will have to champion the 10th Amendment again. Allow the states to make decisions you may agree or disagree with. Just don’t make the people in other states pay for them. Social conservatives often are staunch in their ideology, so this will take convincing, but when this argument is articulated they’ll see that it’ll produce favorable results. In SC for example, its quite likely that gambling, prostitution, drugs, and gay marriage will all remain illegal; which would appease the social conservatives. However they’ll also now have more restrictions on abortion which should make them even happier… and the best part? Accomplishing all that by expanding the base of your party. In fact, by adopting this approach you may pick up more single issue voters or other unexpected bonuses. For example, you may even pick up some pro-abortion people if you propose letting the states decide, or anti-death penalty folks, and so on and so forth. A number of the younger youth vote goes to the democrats because they view the republican party as overbearing and preachy (and they don’t really understand the more pressing economic issues). Explaining the states’ rights approach is the best hope for the conservative cause. It would get the results you want, + more voters to help you elect the politicians you want ,+ their prosperous economic policies will create even more voters. Sometimes you have to give a little to get a lot.

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About Nick Croucher

  • Harry S. Truman is the first modern president. He said, “All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.”

    In that regard it seems to me that any argument about the presidency with regard to best or worst may be an interesting exercise in superlatives but of very little value other than for the sake of the argument itself. No one really cares and it makes no difference.


  • Arch Conservative

    “Jimmy Carter is not the worst president in modern history. That title belongs to Dubya”

    That honor belongs to Barry Sotero.

  • Rather broad statement, Nick and the standard you’re using is of course “extreme libertarian,” something of a strawman, don’t you think?

    I was under the impression that Kevin’s point was less broad in scope — suggesting, rather, that the so-called “democratic coalition,” especially when it comes to voting, is a loose one in a manner of speaking, reflecting a variety of interests and concerns, and brought together not necessarily by any uniting idealogical principle they all share in common but by the “moment of truth” that faces on in the ballot box of having to vote (for the lesser evil).

    I’m speaking of individual persons of course, ordinary people, that is, not the self-proclaimed liberals.

  • Nick Croucher

    Democrats aren’t individualists, their philosophy is based on collectivism. All the groups I mentioned, specifically want something from the government (the rest of the population). I don’t consider Woodrow Wilson a modern president, so he was disqualified from the title. He was undoubtedly, one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had. Though, I would argue he wasn’t to the right at all, unless you are referring to his neoconservative foreign policy, which I consider a bastardization of actual conservativism.

  • “It has been my experience that Democrats fracture much more easily because they place an emphasis primarily on individual political expression, not on group solidarity.”

    You’re speaking of individuals, of course, not the Democratic Party establishment.

  • I find it interesting how much faith you give to the Democratic coalition. The reality is somewhere along the lines of what Will Rogers said: “I don’t belong to any organized party. I am a Democrat.”

    It has been my experience that Democrats fracture much more easily because they place an emphasis primarily on individual political expression, not on group solidarity.

    And as for Carter, the reason the election was close until the end was because voters were very suspicious of Reagan. He had been a candidate in 1976 that ran far to the Right of Gerald Ford, and many saw him as an extremist.

    But after good showings in each debate with Carter, voters set aside their misgiving. They had never had much faith in Carter after a while, but wanted to make sure they knew enough about Reagan to make the change.

  • Cannonshop

    #10 True, Teddy wouldn’t have got us INTO that war, and if we were already there, likely would not have tried to bury the Flu Pandemic-he’d have taken it on the way he took on Malaria during the building of that big ditch in Panama.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No. The worst president was Woodrow Wilson who, while the H1N1 pandemic killed nearly a million American in less than four months (our population was about 100M), never once mentioned it in public for fear of demoralizing the war effort.

    And for those who want to point out that he was a Democrat, Wilson was in many ways so far to the right that he made Joe McCarthy look like Abbie Hoffman. None of our modern-day presidents even come close to how bad Wilson was.

  • Clavos

    …or Carter.

  • Anthony

    Jimmy Carter is not the worst president in modern history. That title belongs to Dubya.

  • Nick Croucher

    Goldwater didn’t support abortion until the 1980s, before then he was against it. He was a states’ rights guy regardless of his social views.

    Jews overwhelmingly support the democrats, and even though they are leaving Obama; they the democrats still will receive 51%+ of the Jewish vote. You’re correct though.

  • Baronius

    Oh, I didn’t really make the closing point to the first paragraphs of my last comment. Sorry. I wanted to point out that the composition of the union vote has changed. Unions are now much more white-collar. The middle-class blue-collar worker who would have been in a union in 1964 or 1980 is much less likely to be a member. Republicans may not be successful in reaching out to the white-collar unions, but the blue-collar non-union worker is very much the successor of the Reagan Democrat.

  • Baronius

    Well, you were willing to draw lessons from the 1980 campaign for your article. Based on the book you chose to link to, you’re familiar with the 1964 campaign too.

    Let’s compare Reagan and Goldwater. Reagan was a fiscal, defense, and social conservative. He won two terms. Goldwater was a fiscal and defense conservative, and a social moderate/liberal. He got crushed. Yes, I know there were differences between 1964 and 1980, and certainly between those years and now, but for the life of me I don’t remember a successful social-lib fiscal-con.

    On a different point, you forgot to include the Jewish voter in your Democratic coalition. I think you could see some alienation this upcoming election.

  • Obviously a constitutionalist can support amendments. A marriage amendment wouldn’t negate the rest of the Constitution. I agree with the Full Faith and Credit challenges being an issue.

    Back to the intent of my article, you will have a harder time getting conservative/moderate gays if you prevent them from marrying anywhere. This is a hypothetical coalition. As a libertarian, the republican party takes advantage of the fact that I “have nowhere else to go” with my voting in a 2 party system and puts up across the board social conservatives with fiscal conservatism being seemingly option, here in SC. My goal wouldn’t be to turn the table on social conservatives, but in some ways I believe they sort of deserve it.

    There are plenty of religious people who are socially conservative and liberal in other areas. If the Pope were president (ignore the fact he’s inelgible), the republican party would go nuts with his liberalism, aside from the fact that his daily agenda would include proposing abortion/gay marriage bans.

    A statist, by definition, is someone who wants power to be taken away from states/provinces/territories/localities and transfered to a centralized government. Statism has a negative connotation to it, because it is negative. Statism is the key philosophy for far left economic systems like fascism, socialism, and communism.

    My point is that I don’t care what happens in Maine. Maine could mandate naked pagan rituals while allowing only polygamist marriages to occur and that wouldn’t bother me at all. It has no effect on my personal/economic position in SC. Hell, it may improve it, because no one in their right mind would want to stay in such a bastion of insanity. My 10th amendment focus emphasises that social conservatives here in SC, under my proposal, can sleep well at night knowing gays can’t get married here and that abortions couldn’t occur.

    I’m 24, I was 2 when Reagan left office. The Reagan democrat seems like a fairy tale. Moderate democrats seem like a myth as well. Every union guy I’ve met tends to make Nancy Pelosi look like Michelle Bachmann. I’m not saying thats the way it is, but thats the way the ones are who I’ve encountered wearing their union’s shirt.

  • Baronius

    Nick, a constitutionalist can support constitutional amendments. A marriage amendment wouldn’t negate the rest of the Constitution. In fact, since there are going to be full faith and credit challenges in states that don’t recognize gay marriage, there’s a good argument for constitutional clarity on the issue. I wouldn’t need a state to “recognize” my abortion when I cross the border, but inconsistent marrige laws could get sticky.

    There are some social conservatives who are liberal on other issues (which is true of all types of conservative), but you do your argument harm by assuming that anyone who disagrees with your article is a statist.

    Remember the Reagan Democrat. He was a moderate, maybe a union guy, who wasn’t scared off by Reagan’s social conservatism. He actually agreed with Reagan on the importance of the family, and he saw the connection between social decay and the safety net. Those are the independents of today – they walked away from both parties because neither one was telling a coherent message. Fiscal and social conservatism is a coherent message.

  • Nick Croucher

    2 Things: Fiscal conservatism is more popular than social conservatism. As President Bush would say, “Fiscal conservatism is a uniter, not a divider”. Its popular with libertarians, social conservatives (sometimes at least), constitutionalists, independents, republicans (theoretically), and such.

    Secondally, in the end social conservatives get what they want: less abortion, gay marriage unrecognized in states that want it that way, and “vice” activities still prohibited in states that want it that way.

    Social conservatives who oppose the 10th amendment are more accurately described as “Statists who love Jesus”. As they aren’t really conservative at all, with their desire for centralized power for “moral reasons”.

    For the record, I’m fairly pro-life, and Catholic. I’m just a realist and a constitutionalist.

  • Baronius

    OK, I’m generalizing here, but this seems a little bit like a list of things that fiscal conservatives need to explain better or social conservatives need to forfeit. That hardly seems fair, or strategically wise.