Too much Coolidge, Obama

I am all for doing nothing. I personally live up to the Second Foundation maxim of “Never act  unless you must. And then — hesitate.”

Then a friend sent me this article. It’s a Jonah Goldberg piece, incidentally. I actually hope we never get that time machine. I shudder to think what would happen if Obama went back in time to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Look, I can understand why you might not want to go toe-to-toe with Russia. But you won’t even act when hordes of Islamic terrorists retake Iraq with barely a struggle? When Iran is the fucking voice of reason?

You got your second term. People already increasingly dislike you. What on earth do you have to lose? Are you so terrified of appearing to be George W. Bush for even one tenth of a second that you will only do the exact opposite of what he did? Worry less about your damn legacy and worry more about your damn country.

Are Republicans Interested In A Libertarian Candidate?

Rand Paul thinks so.  If Rand Paul wants to be a serious libertarian candidate (rather than a grandstander or clown), I’m all for it.  Even if I end up preferring another candidate in 2016, I want there to be a thoughtful, libertarian-minded candidate on stage at debates, keeping the other candidates honest and pulling off at least a couple of victories.  Ron Paul was not that candidate—instead, he was the crank that everybody picked on (for good reason) back in 2008 and most people simply ignored in 2012.  I had hoped that Gary Johnson would have done better, but that campaign didn’t work out so well, either…

Going back to the question in the subject of this post, I think the answer is “Maybe, if there aren’t any foreign policy crises.”  That’s usually when libertarian-minded candidates start putting their feet in their mouths in the eyes of the Republican base.

Random conspiracy theory of the day:  Ron Paul has gone to cloud cuckoo land on purpose, in order to make his son seem more reasonable in comparison.

Searching For The 47%

James Pethokoukis notes that Republicans really need to get back into urban areas.  To some extent, there’s brand damage, but to an even larger extent, there’s a lack of brand awareness.  Ask your typical urban type what the Republican Party stands for and you’ll get a fairly inaccurate stereotype (at best).

The solution for Republicans is not to move to the left as a whole or try to elect centrist candidates in these areas.  Instead, as Pethokoukis notes, conservatives in these areas (what few there are)  should find common ground with persuadable individuals.  More importantly, advertise better.  A thirty-second ad run fifty times on TV two weeks before an election isn’t a going to persuade very many people, especially people who don’t have an understanding of conservative and Republican arguments.  There are two simple reasons:  first, the shortcuts an advertisement must necessarily take will necessarily reduce the ad’s efficacy in non-target audiences; and second, these people will watch the ad (at most) once and switch channels the other 49 times.

Culture doesn’t happen once every four years.  As always, Pete Spiliakos is a must-read on this topic.

Baby Steps

Yesterday, I pointed out that there are two large structural problems for conservatives and Republicans at this point in time.  Those are multi-decade problems which require multi-decade solutions.  In the meantime, here are some ideas for the next few years that conservatives should debate.

First, conservatives need to explain their ideas.  We have some interesting policy proposals (including this one about health care), but many people (even many conservatives) don’t know what they are, and unfortunately, Mitt Romney did not use Paul Ryan to his fullest and let him explain in the way he knows how:  five-minute videos, lots of charts.  Get people out there, not just in election season and not just to a few people in a few swing states.

Next up, let’s talk spending cuts.  Conservatives have been loathe to cut the defense budget, but Tom Coburn has broached the topic.  Danielle Pletka disagrees, but honestly, I’m going with Coburn:  of course defense budget cuts can’t solve the entire deficit problem, but we’re at a point where we need across-the-board cuts in entitlement programs, welfare spending, and even defense.

To fix the deficit, we may see tax increases.  John Hinderaker argues for letting all Bush-era tax rates expire.  I’m intellectually inclined to support Grover Norquist and oppose any tax increase anywhere (plus I agree with his point that this needs to be done in the public instead of behind closed doors), but a “balanced approach” which is spending cut-heavy might not be a bad idea.  My main opposition is that Republicans will likely get snookered:  “I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.”  Republicans have regularly taken that offer with respect to things like amnesty, taxes+spending, and increases in the debt ceiling; unfortunately, when Tuesday rolls around, the payment is nowhere to be found.  In other words, any “balanced approach” must have immediate, meaningful spending cuts (and not just slow reductions in the rate of growth).  Taking us back to 1998 levels of spending would be nice; at this point, even 2006 levels would at least reduce the growth in the deficit.  Raising taxes without serious spending cuts, however, is a fool’s game, and Republicans should fight that tooth and nail.  And they certainly shouldn’t go with the President’s silly idea of a “balanced approach.”

I also think that Republicans should abandon big business.  Big business is at least as supportive of Democrats as Republicans (after all, they want big government so they can take out the opposition; most “progressive” regulations were written by the big businesses in part because they could stifle competition)  We saw Mitt Romney do this somewhat during the campaign, but let’s get Republicans to toe the conservative line on corporate welfare:  get rid of it.  Make that part of an actual balanced approach.

On immigration, Republican politicians seem to want to cave.  Mark Krikorian is making the best of it, but expect major infighting.  Unfortunately, given John Boehner’s proclivities, I don’t know if another grassroots riot would actually stop this, given that a Democrat would get credit (and thus Democrats in the House would likely vote for such a bill).

Next up, social issues.  I don’t agree with the idea of moderating on abortion (given that the average American agrees with the average Republican politician on abortion), but it’s a dead issue.  I’d love to see 5 Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade and send the issue back to individual states to make their own policies and get this entirely out of the federal government’s purview, but that won’t happen.  Actually, I’d say that the Republican policy is probably a good one given current constraints:  oppose partial birth abortion, try to limit 3rd trimester abortion, support parental consent laws, and outlaw federal funding on abortion.  Also, considering that social issues motivate a very large bloc of Republican voters, a major about-face could have catastrophic electoral consequences:  Republicans could easily turn off a big section of their base while simultaneously not gaining anything with non-affiliated types.

One area where Republicans might make headway is decriminalization of certain drugs.  This could help Republicans with younger and libertarian-leaning voters, who might have cost Republicans several close races.  Simply making that shift without a longer-term strategy of informing said voters on conservative beliefs and ideas won’t win much, but it could be effective as a way of opening people up to a conservative message.  Do note that this is probably something that I’d still personally oppose, and I’m rather ambivalent about whether it would actually work.

Another issue that might help is pushing back against onerous and outdated copyright laws, something the RSC sounds like it’s starting to do (or at least tried to do until that report got spiked).  This is a good example of where conservatives, libertarians, and relatively apolitical younger people can find common ground, and where Democrats are the party of big business (the RIAA and MPAA).  But it doesn’t help to make this shift if the types of people who might gain more respect for the Republican brand don’t know about it.

Finally, something that conservatives should agitate about and fight to repeal racial and class preferences.  Racial and class preferences are a wonderful mechanism for getting large groups of people to vote for Democrats.  Getting referenda to prevent these would be a long-term boon for conservatives.  There was an unfortunate setback in this fight the other day, but perhaps the Supreme Court could see through the silliness of that ruling.  Of course, I thought the same about Obamacare and look where it got us…

Oh, and one last thing:  no more Bushes.

Scooped By 40 Years

So apparently, Ronald Reagan beat me to the punch.  By 35 years.  His message is salient; its importance is as a meta-message:  don’t look necessarily at the specific policies Ronald Reagan espoused, for those were tied to his particular point in time.  Instead, look at the unchanging ideals and apply those ideals to problems of our time.  Furthermore, go out and convince people.

Where To Go After 2012?

There has been a lot of back-and-forth in Republican and conservative circles after the 2012 election.  I consider this a good thing and hope it goes on for a while yet because there’s a lot to talk about.

First, the bad news:  this is not an easy fix.  The problem was not Mitt Romney.  Nor is it something that just an ideological shift can change:  all sorts of Republicans got trounced this year, and it wasn’t the fault of one particular group (especially social conservatives).  It wasn’t just losing winnable races through stupid comments (Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock); even good candidates in good districts lost.

Our resident Penguatroll has his own thoughts on this.  I disagreed with one of his main points:  that Republicans should adopt gay marriage (or at least take it off the board as a federal issue).  John Hinderaker has some long and weighty thoughts on how Republicans and conservatives should move on social issues:  downplay abortion except to highlight leftist policies out of the mainstream (such as partial birth abortion), and leave gay marriage to state legislatures.  Hinderaker’s conclusion is the same as Tony’s (and Paul Mirengoff’s response is quite similar to mine), but honestly, I think we have another generation before there’s mainstream acceptance outside of a few states.  In the meantime, that would give us a chance to see if Stanley Kurtz’s fears (and mine) are reality.  Is gay marriage an end in itself, or a waystation toward polyamory or even pederasty?  There’s a definite moral delineator that exists at present with regard to marriage:  one man, one woman.  Changing that to just “two people” might make it easier for the next group to change it to “three or four or more people.”

So I don’t think that conservatives should go down that route.  The other route that they should not go down is to become the me-too illegal immigrant party.  You’d think that Republican politicians would have learned their lesson after a number of beatings they took throughout the Bush years (particularly in 2006), but apparently they haven’t.  Here is a funny story version of the topic.

Many Republicans and conservatives have thought for years that Hispanics are “natural conservatives” or “social conservatives” at heart, and just vote for Democrats because Republicans need to show they care.  And naturally, the way that they care is by giving permanent residency to millions of illegal immigrants.  Mark Krikorian argues that this isn’t such a good idea.

The solution isn’t focusing (like a laser) on this or that demographic; instead, there are two broad-based sources of failure:  the inability of conservatives to reach out to large swaths of the population, and the State’s overwhelming of society.

The first issue is something that Pete Spiliakos has been dead-on about.  There is an entire generation of people who know almost nothing about conservative ideas except for the caricatures they see on the West Wing or what they get from their teachers.  With the proliferation of the Internet, there are certainly a lot of opportunities for conservatives to make their voices heard, but unfortunately, the news fragmentation has made it that much more difficult for conservatives to get the message out to those who don’t already know some part of the message.  Yes, Fox News is very popular, but it’s popular among conservatives; in other words, it’s an avenue for people who already have some knowledge of right-leaning ideas or who share in the general philosophy to discuss amongst themselves.  Honestly, I’d say that William F. Buckley’s Firing Line probably reached out to more non-conservatives than all of Fox News combined does today.  Part of that is that there was a lot less choice in media at that time, but the bigger part is that Buckley was on a left-friendly network (PBS).  He was able to reach people who might not have heard a serious conservative argument in their lives.

This is something that more conservatives are starting to get.  Outreach is important.  Liberals spent decades freezing conservatives out of institutions:  newspapers, television, academia, churches (though that didn’t go so well for the Left), charities (the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, for example), civic societies (like the ACLU), and most other parts of everyday life.  This is what gave rise to John O’Sullivan’s First Law:  any organization not explicitly right-of-center will eventually become left-of-center.  And the corollary is that any left-of-center organization must remain left-of-center or else.  Conservatives spent the last couple of decades trying to cope with that by forming their own conservative institutions:  conservative academic groups, conservative television, a conservative Internet.  The upside is that at least there are conservative institutions; the downside is that we’re preaching to the choir.

Conservatives need to get back into these organizations and institutions.  Unfortunately, that’s not an easy task; the Left has politicized them and they hold the power to exclude.  When more people get their news from the Daily Show than actual news, you need to start getting the message out a different way.  That doesn’t mean capitulating to the Left on issues or offering “free” stuff; why vote for Democrat-Lite if you can get the real thing?  Instead, it means that you change the game.

What would be nice is if somebody who really gets it (were that Andrew Breitbart could still be here today!) would set up a series of foundations to organize “guerrilla conservative” movements in areas which have not been conservative-friendly.  Yeah, there are things like FIRE and the IHS, but I’m talking about subsidizing conservative artists and finding ways of getting their works (Youtube videos, television shows, songs, movies) out there.  Some of it will be treacle—after all, a lot of explicitly left-wing art is—but some should be good, and more importantly, it’s a way of explaining to people not interested in politics that what they’ve heard about the Right is simplistic and often outright wrong.  Get the money that otherwise would be wasted on political consultants and spend it on actual education:  5-minute tutorials, 2-minute TV advertisements, 60-minute lectures, 3-day seminars for students.  Lay out the conservative message as it is:  complex, multi-faceted, and incomplete.  Explain it in terms that somebody who has never heard a conservative idea in his life could understand.  The hundreds of millions of dollars conservatives and Republicans spent in advertisement during this campaign were, in large part, a major waste.  You can’t explain Washington’s structural problems in a 30-second ad, and you can’t expect somebody who gets all of his news from Jon Stewart to understand the ongoing problems with our welfare programs, or why 99 months of unemployment insurance means that more people will be unemployed for 99 months.  This is the kind of stuff that conservatives need to do between elections, instead of spending so much on college football (though I do respect Steve Sailer’s point that we would all be better off if people of all political stripes spent their money on college football rather than politics; we’re in a prisoner’s dilemma here is all).

So, aside from that, I see one other structural problem hindering conservatives and Republicans:  the State overwhelming society.  The Life of Julia shows just how dependent so many people are on the State, and people on the Left rejoice in this.

In the meantime, we can see the importance of the marriage gap (which Steve Sailer was onto eight years ago).  It’s this rather than the gender gap which is problematic for Republicans.  Married people tend to be less dependent upon the State:  they have lower welfare rates, lower unemployment rates, higher likelihood of living in their own homes, etc.  Part of this is that being a parent is expensive, and being a single parent even more so.  So what does this have to do with the State?  The short answer is that the State has given us incentives to break down social structures.  For a long time, there were incentives not to be married:  AFDC (old-style welfare) promoted out-of-wedlock childbirth and more children; naturally, some important people in the Obama administration are trying to get this back.  They also promote food stamp usage and other forms of dependency on the State.  The older institutions—charities, families, communities—break down in part because that help came with strings attached:  you had to work, help others, and remain above-board enough to keep receiving aid.  But when it comes from Uncle Sam, there are many fewer strings:  it’s free money and (nonexistent) Obamaphones; all you have to do is vote for the right people once every few years.

On top of that, the State has made it more difficult to help by doing things like banning food donations to homeless shelters except in certain specific cases.  In the olden days, restaurants and grocery stores would donate leftover food to homeless shelters; now, they can’t do that.  Combine that with the way that they’ve aggressively pushed for the dissolution of the extended family and how their strongly anti-business policies are still causing job loss, and you get the modern problem of a populace dependent upon the welfare state.

This has gotten quite long, and so I’ll save for tomorrow my thoughts on a few specific policies and issues that Republicans can push for in the meantime.

The good news, according to Jay Cost, is that we’ll have another chance.