Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wishful Thinking? 

On Greg Mankiw's Blog
So what does the Republican Party need to do to get the youth vote back? If these Harvard students are typical (and perhaps they are not, as Harvard students are hardly a random sample), the party needs to scale back its social conservatism. Put simply, it needs to become a party for moderate and mainstream libertarians. The actual Libertarian Party is far too extreme in its views to attract these students. And it is too much of a strange fringe group. These students are, after all, part of the establishment. But a reformed Republican Party could, I think, win them back.Can the Republican Party move in this direction without losing much of its base? I have no idea, but for the GOP, that seems to be the challenge ahead.
Well, I hope it does, but I suspect 'values' voters and their turnout will continue to be a major factor. One of the more difficult aspects of voting is predicting the following balance:
  • turn out your party's whackos to win,

  • ignore your wackos to govern wisely and not alienate swing voters

I do hope Mankiw's tiny sample turns out to be predictive of youth. My oldest son is something like a 'South Park Republican", while the middle guy is..eclectic. They are both emphatically secular.

UPDATE: I've left my definitions of "whackos" unstated and people in the comments are deciding what I mean. I don't mean anti-abortion, as I completely respect that view. I do mean extreme protectionists/isolationists; socialists, pacifists, racial separatists and those who would like to restrict liberty and property for religious or quasi-religious reasons. I'm sure this is still open to interpretation, but these ideas exist at the extreme ends of both the left and right.


By Blogger Paul Zrimsek, at Thu Nov 06, 12:49:00 PM:

How many times are academics going to have to see social conservatism reported as a scary new trend before it dawns on them that there's nothing new about it?

The GOP has been socially conservative for a while now. All that happened this time is the the Democrats nominated someone the kiddies got all excited about, while the Republicans nominated The Old Guy Whose Turn It Is.  

By Blogger davod, at Thu Nov 06, 01:14:00 PM:


When has the Republican party not been a party of religion. For that matter, when did the Democratic party turn secular.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 02:13:00 PM:

I agree, social conservatism has got to be one of the major reason there is so much dislike for the republican party, and an easy target for opponents. I often prefer republican ideas when it comes to money, but I really dislike voting for a party that has to pander to religious fundamentalism. My father, a long time republican did not vote for McCain because of Palin (who I now call "bible spice"). By now it's pretty clear many other long time republicans also made the same choice. (my Father lives in Indiana btw ;).

I agree that it may not be possible for republicans to win without the social conservative voters, but maybe they'll come up with something interesting....  

By Blogger Jeff Hawkins, at Thu Nov 06, 02:22:00 PM:

I think Prager said it best "the only thing Libertarians have ever accomplished is getting Democrats elected to office"  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 02:28:00 PM:

Keep calling social conservatives "wackoes", keep telling yourself how we can win by running Democrat-lite (see McCain), and we will keep geting our collective asses handed to us come election time. As for those Harvard grads...yeah, I'm so sure they would ever contemplate voting Republican. Oh, btw tiger, guess you missed the whole overwhelming support for those pesky social conservative ballot measures. Must be a bunch of conservative "wackoes" living in California.  

By Anonymous sandefur, at Thu Nov 06, 02:29:00 PM:

Social conservatism does not equal religious fundamentalism. You just equate it based on broad brush stereotype. For example, here is my argument against abortion on demand. Do you really think it stems from a fundamentalist mindset?

a. It is prima facia wrong to kill an innocent human being.

b. The unborn is an innocent human being from conception.

c. The express purpose of almost all abortions is to kill the unborn.

Therefore, abortion on demand is wrong.

To support premise b - a new being is formed when the ovum and sperm combine. It has a unique genetic code different from it's mother's. Moreover that genetic code is human. It respondes to stimuli. It grows. It reproduces. It metabolizes. It is alive. It is human.  

By Anonymous Kristopher, at Thu Nov 06, 02:31:00 PM:

What in the world is he thinking?!

The reason McCain lost is that he was not a true lover of conservatism.

The "whackos" of the party make up the majority of the party-- The Republican party was founded by "whackos"-- & if you don't get them fired up and out in droves, you'll just be the other liberal party-- and why would people vote for "Liberal Lite" when they can have the real thing in the Democrat party?

Rush is right-- when conservatism is truly championed it wins.  

By Anonymous JSF, at Thu Nov 06, 02:34:00 PM:

I am stil trying to get my simple brain around Davod's comment implying the Democrats are not secular. Huh?  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Thu Nov 06, 02:36:00 PM:

"The reason McCain lost is that he was not a true lover of conservatism"

Republicans couldn't get a "true conservative" to win the Republican primary much less the presidency. I think that speaks volumes about Americas view of "true conservatism".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 02:44:00 PM:

Sandefur: I'm not sure why the unique genome is involved in your reasoning; is it OK to abort n-1 of identical n-tuplets?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 02:48:00 PM:

Sandefur: it's clear you personally would not want someone you were involved with to have an abortion. Fine. Why do you feel the need to make that decision for other people as well?  

By Anonymous sandefur, at Thu Nov 06, 02:48:00 PM:

Anonymous, no it is not. I bring up the unique genome to differentiate it from the mother. In other words, it is not "a part of her body".  

By Anonymous sandefur, at Thu Nov 06, 02:50:00 PM:

To the other anonymous, for the same reason I feel the need to make the decision for others to not kill their one year olds (or at least the gov't should decide for them). I thought my logic was pretty straightforward.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Thu Nov 06, 02:53:00 PM:

You want the youth vote? Then how about campaigning on the promise to legalize file sharing free music/movie downloads on the internet? Bet the kids would vote for you in droves and you would be sticking your finger in Hollywood's eye at the same time.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 03:42:00 PM:

Attract the youth vote? Lets see, how about someone who is compelling and inspirational? Now, wasn't it just recently that Democrats were trying to figure out how to talk to the religious? I'm Catholic, which means that I'm pro-life and that marriage is a sacrement. I don't believe that's an extreme position. I don't wear my religion on my sleeve, but I don't expect to be persecuted for my beliefs. Any party that can't handle that will not get my vote.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 03:54:00 PM:

McCain lost because he got ~ 6million fewer votes than BHO. It is that simple.

If you want to win an election, you have to get more votes than the other guy. That means you have to have a broad appeal to different people.

You can do that two ways:
1) Factionalism ( the root of "New Deal"/ Democrat politics of the 20th century). Promise everybody a slice of the pie, especially the slice that they want. Delivery after election is optional. Repeat every four years as necessary.

2) Appeal to an overriding idea, or set of ideas that is national in nature, or transcedant. This is how Ronald Reagan got elected (twice). This is supposed to be the root difference between Republicans and Democrats.

The parties mix and match with this, but the difference is not necessarily "conservative" and "liberal" or "Left" and "Right", which is a reference to French parliamentary politics of the 19th century.

Example: In Alaska, the oil companies take a lot of wealth out of the ground. Alaska is by and large a rather expensive place to live with rather low per capita income; the extremes of the seasons do not lend themselves to profitable agriculture, such as in Ohio. So the state government engages in a bit of "socialism" in taxing the oil companies on oil extraction and rebating the tax to the citizens. It keeps Alaska from being a howling empty land. So in Alaska, a Republican can engage in what is thought to be "leftist" politics (taxation/re-distribution), yet espouse a strong, broadly popular state-wide idea because of the unusual circumstances of that state (e.g., Sarah Palin).


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 04:17:00 PM:

Seems to me what everyone always dances around is States' Rights. Since the republicans seem incabable of getting more than 5-10% of the African-American vote anyway lets go back to that. Run against Washington power - espousing a flat tax or value added tax and leaving the values, educational, and a whole host of other decisions to the states. My values here in rural Texas are not the values of folks in NYC or LA.

This is entirely consitent with conservative strong defense free trade issues the Libertarian party is against. This promotes competition among states. It is much easier to hold your statewide candidates to account when the national power structure does not give them cover. It is easy to see the array of "powers that be" who would be against this. It would truly take a grass roots effort and could only come from a party in the dirt. Which perfectly describes the Republicans at the moment.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Nov 06, 04:21:00 PM:

Traditional social conservatism is fading in the newer generations. Even mine, and I'm not really young anymore. I vote Republican, but it's not because of my stance on social issues. On social issues, I think that the Republicans are often backward and close minded. ('abstinence only' education in schools, for instance) For people who care more about social issues than I do, that's a good enough reason to sit out or vote Democratic.

It's one thing to think that abortion is wrong. It's another to try to force your belief on others through the vehicle of the state.

Similarly, to pick on the other side, it's one thing to want to give to or otherwise help the poor, and another to force such 'charity' (in quotes because if it's obligatory, it's no longer charity) on others through the vehicle of the state.

Smaller government, individual liberty, strong defense. These are core ideas that most everyone supports. Such core ideas need to be adopted and proselytized.

Get rid of ideological litmus tests. "I can't vote for him, he's pro-choice," is retarded. That takes one tiny aspect of a person's politics and makes it the be-all end-all of his or her suitability for office. People love General Petraeus, and a Republican wet dream is that he'll declare his candidacy for 2012 on their ticket. He's smart, he's competent, and he's a serially victorious general. Wow. But what if he turns out to be pro-choice? Would people really scuttle his candidacy (esp. in the primaries) because of that one single issue?

The Republican Party of today would.

Roe v. Wade has been in effect for decades. It has been digested and absorbed by the population and the legal system. Hoping to turn it back now is a false and empty hope.

The Left will be in similar straits with gun control. It's been proven to not be effective as a means of reducing crime, and Heller has enshrined the individual right to arms in the nation's legal code. They might beat that horse for another 20 years, but they won't win. If they were smart, they'd let it go.

Republicans seem to be stuck in the battles of the 70s. Nobody younger than 30 really identifies with that anymore. It needs to modernize.

Oh, and start practicing what they preach. When "Mr. Family Values and Integrity" politician gets caught with his hand up an intern's skirt, or accepting graft or bribes, can his ass. Expel him from Congress. Shut him out of caucuses. Whatever. That would do f'ing WONDERS for public perception of the party.  

By Anonymous sandefur, at Thu Nov 06, 04:54:00 PM:

Dawnfire, you seem to me a bit defeatist. I prefer the perseverant philosophies of Lincoln and Wilberforce instead.

If abortion is in fact murder, as I've argued above that it is, then it most certainly is not "another thing" to try to force that belief on others through the vehicle of the state. I see no reason to "let it go".  

By Blogger Elise, at Thu Nov 06, 06:13:00 PM:

For people who are absolutely opposed to abortion it's not a "social" issue, it's a moral one. They can no more say, "Well, I think abortion is wrong but it's not my place to tell others what to do" than they can say, "Well, I think murdering your spouse is wrong but it's not my place to tell others what to do."

For people who are not absolutely opposed to abortion, it is a social issue lumped in with other social issues like gay marriage and prayer in schools.

It may be possible for Republicans to work out accommodations on issues like gay marriage, prayer in schools, sex education, and hanging the Ten Commandments in courtrooms but I do not see any way to work out an accommodation on an issue that one side sees as murder and the other side sees as not.

At the same time, there is reason to believe an awful lot of Americans do not support totally unrestricted access to abortion. This means the extent to which the Democratic Party supports abortion is probably about as unpopular as the extent to which the Republican Party opposes it.

I suspect anti-abortion Republicans would get a lot more traction with public opinion if they pushed for abortion-restriction laws (no 3rd trimester, e.g.) that are palatable to the majority of voters rather than insisting on laws forbidding all abortions. The problem, of course, is that changing their focus to such a more achievable goal is probably morally impossible for those who believe all abortion is murder.  

By Anonymous John, at Thu Nov 06, 06:31:00 PM:

First ... the college children this thread is written around will learn about the tax issue once they start working. And they'll learn quickly.

Second ... Obama won not only because he got out the vote and 90%of the black vote (or more), plus the ACORN 'votes', plus the illegal votes, but he got Blacks to actually show up and vote. I'd wager the data will eventually show huge turnout for one of their own.

I've been screwing around in the market this year, and trying to offset what I'm losing with the "professionals" managing my 401K, etc. I'm up a lot, and realizing that it's more than many people work their butts off to make in an entire year.

Meaning, as much as I hate paying taxes, I can understand the frustration, anger, and need for change. We've been at war a long time, and spending too damn much in DC.

Now, watching Pelosi and her people talking about 100B for the auto manufacturers, and Bambi's desire to pay the union health insurance coverage, I realize that we're going to spend a whole LOT more, and perhaps two years from now we'll see a conservative return. Maybe. That'll happen with the right messaging, and campaign, since there'll be no one to blame for the mess but the Dem controlled District.

God help us if there's a new rash of terrorism, or Bambi's fecklessness gets Israel or some other ally nuked.  

By Anonymous John, at Thu Nov 06, 06:32:00 PM:

... and as for whackos ... for every 'right wing' kook I see at least a 1-to-1 ratio of 'left wing' kook.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Nov 06, 06:55:00 PM:

"Dawnfire, you seem to me a bit defeatist."

Recognizing that in the 35 years, the generation and a half, the 16 Congresses and 8 Presidents, since Roe v. Wade that 'victory' has not been achieved and the population is *still*, quite literally, split 50-50 on it is not 'defeatist.' It's a recognition of reality.

Putting pro-life on the agenda is fine. But it shouldn't be so very high on the agenda if you ever want to have a hope of attracting more moderates. And it certainly shouldn't be the defining characteristic of whether a politician is acceptable or not.

More of the same is only going to get you more of the same; which, it turns out, is a string of defeats at the hands of radicals. Obviously, the radicals seem more palatable. I'm sure there are reasons for that.

"For people who are absolutely opposed to abortion it's not a "social" issue, it's a moral one."

Socialists feel the same way about 'redistribution of wealth.' And that term churns some stomachs among rightists.

You can't legislate morality... it only makes you look like a bully and drives away voters who don't agree with you.

In Saudi Arabia, forcing women to wear hijabs and move around with a male escort is a question of morality. Plenty of people see efforts to ban abortion the same way; a group of people forcing another group of people to conform to their view of good and evil. Reinforcing that view through unrelenting pursuit of it just makes you look like a fanatic.

"This means the extent to which the Democratic Party supports abortion is probably about as unpopular as the extent to which the Republican Party opposes it."

Good observation. This implies that if the Republicans seem more reasonable on the issue (and you gave an example in your next paragraph) then they could steal away moderate votes.

"I'd wager the data will eventually show huge [black] turnout for one of their own."

From 11% of the total to 13%, according to prevailing data.  

By Blogger Joe Clark, at Thu Nov 06, 07:51:00 PM:

Ask any young person what conservatism means, and they will probably answer "war-mongery" or "racism" or "something about oil". And who can blame them? I am frankly exhausted from arguing conservative principles like limited government, when even my President seems not to have gotten the memo.

We need a new Reagan who can give a new "the Speech". We need to stop letting the media define us; we cannot attract people to conservatism unless we can tell them WHAT conservatism really means and WHY we believe in it.

I hope that Sarah Palin can be that spokesperson. Her life story itself shatters a lot of the preconceived notions people hold about conservatism. Maybe she can get people to sit still and open their minds to learn what it's really all about.

The pendulum has swing back and forth many times in US history, and it will do so again. We can recapture the young and the middle, but it won't happen if our party platform is just "disagree with the Democrats".  

By Anonymous JC, at Thu Nov 06, 08:23:00 PM:

Conservatism is a "way of living", a culture and a tradition. Republicanism is a brand like it is for the Liberals in Australia or the National Party here in NZ.

By that rough definition probably 70-80% of all of us are conservatives.. and any time we lose a political battle it's because we are no longer seen as conservative but some aberration of the culture.

Conservative culture doesnt alter much.. or perhaps I should say quickly, but brands date, get tired, corrupt and corrosive.. they also get captured by extremism, or lethagy and/or the desire to be popular. People also lose confidence in brands.

In short, it's difficult to stuff up the conservative culture but easy to stuff up the brand by which it's known.. and just how did conservatism somehow fail to capture Catholicism, the most conservative religion in the West?

No matter where you go in the West, conservative brands have become divorced from small government because they fear the public reaction.. yet this is surely one of their defining characteristics and one which should lead any political discussion. Better to be out of government than sacrifice a core belief.


By Anonymous Eric the Red, at Thu Nov 06, 09:48:00 PM:

@ Dawnfire: I agree with you. I am a recent college grad making his way in the workforce, and you have summarized most of the major issues I raise when not-money conservatives take up the banner. My personal gloss on things the Republican party should focus on:

1) Intellectual Honesty. This isn't a huge problem for most conservatives, but impugning people's patriotism or fiscal responsibility should be an avenue of third to last result. Such tactics stoke resentment and loathing, leading to widespread repudiation of the invokers. I got sick of dissent being decried as "not supporting our troops" and a massive spending increase over several years being taken up by the party of limited spending long ago. It is also unsettling when a discussion on taxes gets hypersimplified to "raise taxes" vs "cut taxes", as if "taxes" were just some number suspended from the ceiling of the Capitol. If the discussion cannot be won on the arguments, or the case can't be made to people that don't already agree, there is something wrong that needs to be fixed rather than papered over.

2) Ditch the social conservatism or broaden its appeal. Treating gay marriage as something that will cause the end of civilization undermines intellectual credibility, alienates young people with gay friends (of which there are many), and opens up antitheocracy arguments, all of which are not fun. Similarly with creationism, prayer in schools, and abstinence-only sex ed; either come up with a more open alternative, like funded afterschool programs discussing the philosophies of science (three birds, one stone,) or drop the issue.

3) Don't caricature disagreement. Liberals aren't advocating mandatory abortion in clinics on every corner, and shouldn't be addressed as if they are secretly conspiring toward murder and eugenics. Most are genuinely queasy about the government making decisions about how people can make very personal choices, which seems like a vaguely conservative principle. Concerns about where the line could get drawn, such as the woman being sent to prison or a woman who serially gets drunk and has unprotected sex (probably causing miscarriages) being deemed a manslaughterer also matter. Addressing these arguments rather than ignoring them and condemning the opposition seems tactically unwise and unnecessarily divisive.

General theme: the big tent seems awfully claustrophobic when there is little room for discussion, dissent and inclusion because orthodoxy takes up so much space. Investing in ideas, rather than lambasting disagreement, might go a long way toward making the party matter.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 06, 11:41:00 PM:

Going after the youth vote is stupid.

First they do not show up and did not show up for Obama. The turnout for youth was slightly LOWER than in 2004.

Second, they are liberals. And uber-liberals at that because SINGLE WOMEN dominate the values of youth. Single women are concerned with fashion, the "correct" opinions, and what celebutards, powerful people, and fashionistas think. Then, they ape their every words.

Single women are like this because they want to position themselves in their circle of girlfriends, and compete for the right hunky guy. Guys go along with the PC junk because it gets them sex. They will at least mouth the idiot words.

Nearly EVERY waking moment of Single young people (which is all of them) is dominated by the endless, non-stop struggle for status in the mating game. From Ipods to Apple Laptops to Starbucks to whatever fad/trend or suchlike is popular. That is what singleton life is all about and why they are uber-liberal.

What CAN be done is take more men, in their thirties and forties, and emphasize the dual advantage for them in Republicanism:

If you are single, you keep more of your money, to spend it attracting women.

If you are married, you get more of your money to spend it on your family.

MEN only succeed in the mating game by being powerful/wealthy/successful than the other guy. For most men, that means they have to move upwards. Women need only be pretty. That's it.

That's why single women, who dominate the female category, went for Obama 70-29 and gave him the White House. All they need besides being pretty is the "correct" politics for their girlfriends.

That is not going to change. But they are only half the equation. Getting guys in their thirties, finally making money, and making the argument -- hey you could get a girl if you were richer -- Obama will keep you poor, dateless, and a loser competing against guys younger than you and better looking for the same girls -- is an easy sell.

Every guy gets it. Forget the youth vote. Go with guys in their thirties and forties.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Nov 07, 09:11:00 AM:

Anon: You are making sweeping statements about very specific categories of people that are not true. Or, as it has recently been discovered that I have little or no class, you're talking out of your ass.

"The turnout for youth was slightly LOWER than in 2004."


"Second, they are liberals."

Visit Texas, or Utah, or Georgia to be disabused of that myth.

It really seems like your entire idea of what 'the youth vote' is like comes from watching 'The OC.' 'The Youth' are not all idiots. Many are capable of relatively sophisticated political decisions. They lack in experience, and many suffer from a need to rebel against their elders, but to think that their political identities and beliefs are driven by The Mating Game is... stupid.  

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