September 19, 2014

In Search of the Establishment Insurgent

The headline you never thought you’d live to see: “Bob Dole returns to save Kansas for Jittery GOP.”

During a favorable Republican election cycle, the party needs to recruit a 91 year old political has-been, whose 1996 presidential run remains the symbol of haplessness, in order to save an incumbent Republican from losing – in a state that hasn’t sent a non-Republican to the Senate since 1932.

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is a symbol of much of what is wrong with American politics – and the GOP in particular. The 78 year old senator has been in Congress since 1981. He may be a fine man, but is really, really, past his prime in office. Roberts’s interest in campaigning and legislating has waned, and he’s reeling from reports that he doesn’t even own a home in the state he represents.

Now that Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew from the race and his name is tentatively off the ballot, we have a real race.  Three fresh polls – PPP, Fox News and Rasmussen – show independent Greg Orman, who will likely caucus with Democrats, with a respectable lead in a one-on-one matchup with Roberts.

Roberts may very well still get reelected.  Republicans and their allies will bombard the state, and Orman’s image is set to get tarnished. The state will potentially revert to its conservative bona fides and refuse to help tip the national balance in Democrats’ favor. PPP found that Kansas voters favor GOP control of the Senate by a 10% margin.

However, even in the best case scenario for Republicans, the party will have squandered precious resources in a state that should have been in their pocket – and voters will be unhappy with their GOP senator for the next six years. Per PPP, Roberts’s approval/disapproval rating is a disastrous 29%/46% – with no more than a 43% approval among Kansas Republicans.

Why is the GOP in this position?

Because the only person ready to wage a serious primary challenge against Roberts was Milton Wolf, an amateur candidate who managed to turn many people off, particularly following his x-ray scandal. The feeble 7% margin with which Roberts defeated Wolf leaves little room for doubt that a more qualified, agreeable primary challenger would likely have defeated Roberts in the primary and kept the seat in GOP hands without any headaches.

Ditto for Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran – 76 years old and in Congress since 1972 – who cannot even count on half of his party’s voters in his state to approve of his job performance or commit to vote for him in November, and whose effectiveness over the next six years is in serious question.

Once again, it’s obvious that a strong mainstream Republican would likely have easily defeated Cochran in the primary. Cochran was barely able to defeat the erratic Chris McDaniel, whose past statements are an oppo researcher’s dream, even after the infamous nursing home photo scandal was added to the mix.

Unlike Roberts, Cochran appears to be safe in November, but the question still begs: Is this the best Republicans can do as they seek to attract and energize voters?

Herein lay the uncomfortable facts behind the GOP’s intractable establishment vs. Tea Party battle: Establishment politicians are so bent on protecting the status quo that they’ll virtually never work to unseat a weak incumbent or “heir apparent” in their party. For the most part, the only ones with the desire and chutzpa to do so are weak and/or loony candidates.

Hence, the establishment believes that Tea Party supporters and candidates are often unqualified and/or radical. And Tea Party supporters and many grassroots voters believe that the establishment is too weak, self-serving, and unwilling to move past the vanilla status quo.

Both are right.

Certainly, some level of loyalty to incumbents and others who’ve “earned their turn” is just. No party can thrive when its elected officials are thrown under the bus simply for being imperfect or because someone a tad more attractive came along. But it’s about time to lower the “it’s time to go” bar from the age old live boy/dead girl level. If you’re clearly out of touch and can’t get the approval of half your party’s voters in your state, perhaps we can all agree that you’re the wrong candidate.

Republicans champion the free market. If the GOP would eliminate the stigma and party pressure for credible mainstream Republican candidates looking to challenge incumbents and heir apparents – voters can have a real choice and make wiser decisions.

There are some Tea Party attributes that the GOP establishment is wise not to adopt. But the struggling party would do well to adopt some of the movement’s chutzpa.


-Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication. You can follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.

  4:13 pm 2014, Conservatism, Opinion, Republican Party  

May 9, 2014

The Emerging Tone Of The 2014 Midterm Elections

I noted a few months ago that it appeared that the Republican Party and its grass roots were indicating they wanted to win the 2014 national midterm elections decisively with their best candidates for competitive U.S. house and senate seats.

Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina reinforces my initial observations. Most notably, North Carolina state house Speaker Thom Tillis won enough votes to become the GOP nominee without going to a runoff. Tillis had been opposed in the primary by two so-called Tea Party protest candidates, and as they have done in recent elections, Democratic Party strategists spent money against him hoping it would elect one of the protest candidates (who would of course be easier to beat in November). Democrats did this successfully in races in 2010 and 2012, most notably in Missouri where they spent more than $1 million to defeat a strong GOP senate candidate, The result was a weak and gaffe-prone Republican senate nominee who lost in November to an otherwise vulnerable Democratic incumbent.

(There has been, incidentally, little media discussion of the political ethics of one party interfering and intruding in the candidate selection process of the other party. This has been particularly true of the biased so-called “mainstream” media, which in fact have mostly cheered this practice on, resulting in the success of their preferred candidates. After two cycles of this, however, the Republican electorate has evidently caught on to the mischief, as North Carolina and other primaries have demonstrated. Led by Harry Reid in competitive senate races, the practice continues, but it is now likely to turn out to be mostly a waste of campaign dollars that might be more needed in November. Doing this is not illegal, of course, but it might be interesting to see how loudly Democrats and their media friends complain if Republican strategists resorted to the same practice in future elections.)

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who led the fight to block Mr. Tillis’s primary win in North Carolina by campaigning for an obviously flawed Tea Party candidate, then did the right thing by immediately and strongly endorsing Tillis on primary night. Mr. Paul, who is emerging as a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, hopefully learned an important lesson from this experience, especially as he has been reaching out beyond his libertarian base to gain support for 2016. As Governor Chris Christie learned in 2012 when he “embraced” Barack Obama in the closing days of that campaign, a certain party loyalty is necessary if one expects then to obtain party support for oneself. (It will be interesting to observe how Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another GOP protest figure with national ambitions, will conduct himself during the rest of the 2014 campaign.)

As I have pointed out repeatedly, the Tea Party movement was born as a legitimate economic protest by conservative voters, most of whom were Republicans, but also included many disaffected  independents and some centrist Democrats. As their numbers grew, and their success, social issue factions began to dominate, especially in candidate selection, and the “Tea Party” brand began to acquire a negative image in Republican Party circles that were trying to win elections. Most of the grass roots Tea Party members by 2014 seem to have now rejoined the party, but some social issue partisans remain to create intraparty challenges.

More contests with intraparty challenges lie ahead, most notably in Georgia, Kentucky, Alaska and Iowa. In these races so far, the strongest GOP candidates appear to be ahead, although surprises can yet happen. On the Democratic side, the left wing of the party appears to be stirring, especially against the prospects of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in 2016, but so far Democrats are not indulging in intraparty fights against their own U.S. house and senate candidates. Democrats, to their advantage, avoided these squabbles in 2010 and 2012, and reaped rewards for their self-discipline.

Public opposition to Obamacare remains the largest issue of 2014 so far, but other issues are emerging, including President Obama’s stubborn refusal to permit the construction of the Keystone pipeline to please a few rich supporters (but not his union friends), and some pocketbook issues such as a sluggish economy and raising the minimum wage.

Although foreign policy issues very rarely affect midterm elections, the constant headlines featuring Russian aggressiveness in Ukraine, Chinese aggressiveness in Asia, North Korean provocations, and bestial murder and kidnapping by warlords in Africa, to name only the most prominent, could have an affect on voters, especially if they want to protest Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.

The curious advice by administration supporters and some Democratic strategists for candidates to “double down” by supporting unpopular and controversial Obama policies so far does not seem to be working for most of these vulnerable Democratic candidates. Those who early on have tried to separate themselves from Washington, DC seem to be having the most success. In the U.S. senate, now controlled by the Democrats, majority leader Harry Reid is becoming more and more erratic in his speeches and public comments, and thus further enabling the 2014 election to be nationalized, something which in this cycle clearly helps the Republicans.

With six months to go, and a potential electoral catastrophe for the Democrats approaching, it would seem only a matter of time before Mr. Reid, Mrs, Pelosi and other liberal hardliners are superseded or abandoned by cooler heads in their party who still want to win.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

February 4, 2014

Obama and Executive Orders

Hello, everyone! This marks my first post here at Race in quite some time – almost a year and a half!. Since then, my wife and I welcomed our first child, our daughter Emma. I’m doing my best to add her to the list of conservatives in America!

I wanted to return here to post a few thoughts regarding executive orders, which became the topic of the day after last week’s State of the Union address.

Predictably, the news reports about the President seeking to give executive orders a more central place in his second term agenda prompted exclamations of disapproval from Tea Party-affiliated Republican elected officials and figures. Amid all the heated rhetoric, as is my wont, I got to thinking, what do the data say? Has Obama really turned to executive orders more than his predecessors?

To investigate, I consulted the American President Project, of the University of California at Santa Barbara. This handy resource lists the numbers of executive orders for each commander-in-chief in the nation’s history.

In order to make the administrations analyzed as comparable as possible, I limited myself to presidents after WWII, due to the degree to which the government’s size and scope increased during the war (to make a long story short, I figured you couldn’t exactly compare pre- to post-war administrations). I started by charting the total count of executive orders by term (click to expand):


At first glance, a couple points jump out: Carter and LBJ “lead” the way, by large margins, and our two most recent Presidents score relatively low, in contrast to what we’ve heard from members of their opposing parties.

However, simple total order counts by term overlook an important factor of their differences: lengths of terms. For example, remember how LBJ “won” first place in the previous chart? Well, the American Presidency Project and I counted his entire administration, which lasted over five years, as one term. On the other end of the spectrum, Gerald Ford looks rather tame in the first graph, but he only occupied the Oval Office for about two and a half years. So, in an effort to somewhat normalize the numbers, I divided the totals by the years of each term:


This perspective pulls Carter into the “lead” and makes short-term presidents like the aforementioned Ford and JFK appear more active with their powers.

But what if we simply want to compare across presidencies at a high level? To enable this, I just added up the total order count for each president and then divided it by their total number of years in office. I would argue that this provides the “most normalized” perspective of the three in this post. The results:


So, what final takeaways does this exercise provide? Well, first and foremost, Obama and Bush have the lowest numbers of all! I’ll say that again: even though we’ve heard partisan Republicans and Democrats respectively affix terms like “imperial presidencies” to our 44th and 43rd commanders-in-chief, they each signed fewer executive orders than every recent predecessor in their parties! Now, one can certainly argue that executive order totals fail to encompass the breadth of the expanding powers of the presidency. For example, a recent Politico article cited estimates of the economic impacts of the regulations enacted by the Obama administration, which far outnumber those of Bush 43 and Clinton. However, specifically on executive orders, the data paint a far different picture than we’ve been led to believe.

Secondly, executive orders have actually become less, not more, prevalent in recent decades; after topping out at an average of 80 per year under Carter, the number declined to 47.6 under Reagan, down to 33.6 under Obama. This, too, conflicts with conventional wisdom.

Now that we’ve walked through some of the cold, hard numbers, I’d like to add my take on the topic.

With the Obama administration’s frustration at perceived obstructionism by Republicans in Congress, punctuated by last year’s partial government shutdown, it should come as little surprise that the president would choose to unilaterally enact as much of his agenda as possible, for both personal and political reasons.

On the personal side, this is a man who quite clearly views himself as an agent of change, as a progressive in the modern sense of the term.

Politically, he owes a significant amount of his support to voters who profess a desire for the government to act, regardless of historical or constitutional precedence. Well-versed in details of constitutional law they are not (neither am I!); emotionally frustrated (with the current state of affairs in America) and/or ideologically passionate they are. Of course, these are generalizations, but I think we can safely say the Americans who voted for President Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 would allow, if asked, that they want the government to “do something” to address the issues important to them. As such, in order to serve these individuals, it makes rational sense for the President to “go it alone”, if possible, to “get things done”.

As for my opinion? I accept that the structure of the United States government naturally leads to slow changes and processes. Indeed, the founders likely wanted it this way, as many right-of-center voices have explained. And as someone inclined toward pragmatism and incremental change, I know I prefer it this way. Thus, any reversal of the downward trend in executive order frequency would concern me.

So, in the end, I’ll hold out hope that the aftermath of the President’s tough talk in his State of the Union comes to resemble what we typically hear about executive orders – more bark than bite, more rhetoric than reality.

This article originally appeared on Anthony’s personal blog, You can find Anthony on Twitter, at @DatabyDalke.

June 3, 2013

America’s Problems Have a Simple Solution: A Right-Sized Government

The past few weeks have brought to light several troubling incidents of federal abuses of power. New information about the Benghazi affair and a string of revelations about secretive, overreaching policies by the IRS and the Justice Department have put the Obama Administration on the hot seat. But as our nation weighs the political ramifications of the trifecta of emerging scandals, they should also serve as a much-needed reminder about the unintended consequences of unchecked government power.

The discourse surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi has revolved primarily around the culpability of major figures in the Obama Administration, especially the president himself and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the political argument should not obscure the fact that the attack may never have taken place at all were it not for our imprudent intervention in what should have been seen as an internal conflict in Libya. Conservatives warn constantly against the recklessness of social engineering domestically — and rightly so — but they seem to be strangely divided on the question of social engineering abroad; that is: whether military force can somehow fundamentally change the direction of a foreign nation, with its own unique history and culture. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has proven so far to be less than friendly toward modern democratic ideals, and if the past decade has taught us anything about the nature of war and peace, it should be that there are limits to the capabilities of military power — and that the imprudent use of that power can easily backfire.

The scandalous behavior of the IRS, which singled out hundreds of conservative groups for absurd levels of scrutiny on their tax returns, is chilling, but it can hardly be considered surprising. The president rightly called the revelations “outrageous,” but they did not spontaneously emerge from the ether: they are the natural result of a self-parodying tax code that is so convoluted and complex that government agents can easily manipulate it at-will to further an ideological political agenda. The core lesson here could not be clearer: a simplified, accessible tax code empowers citizens, but a complex, obscure one only empowers Washington bureaucrats. The average citizen should never need a team of lawyers to successfully complete their tax returns. Our tax system is a national disgrace, and this scandal should serve as a reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive reform.

The revelations that the Justice Department was secretly wiretapping the Associated Press as part of a crackdown on leaks is similarly outrageous — yet, unfortunately, equally unsurprising. If the federal government fully respected the Fourth Amendment and its limits on state power, the practice of warrantless wiretapping would be simply unheard of. But these violations of privacy in the name of national security have become distressingly commonplace since the Bush Administration launched the War on Terrorism. The previous administration — no stranger to warrantless wiretapping — ushered in a disturbing precedent, and the Obama Administration seems intent on cementing it as a bipartisan policy. Genuine threats to national security deserve a serious and committed response from the federal government — but only one that takes place within the full confines of the law. It is not enough for a government official to believe that he has a ‘good reason’ to take the law into his own hands — it is a fundamental American principle, after all, that we are a nation of laws, not of men. If there is a good enough reason to violate the privacy of American citizens, then it should be one that can be justified before a court. It is not only the right thing to do: our Constitution demands it.

Government is not like private enterprise, which must respond to its customers’ needs or face the threat of losing business. Government’s distinguishing feature is its power to compel, which is why self-government requires constant vigilance by an informed society that respects individual rights and liberties. Our Founders understood this truth well, which is why checks on power are at the very heart of our Constitution. The antidote to government run amok is the reapplication of the wisdom of our political heritage. It is an enduring truth that a government with limited and simple aims will be the most effective. And a government that knows its proper role — to respect and protect individual rights and liberties — will be less likely to produce the sort of scandalous behavior that has come to light in the past week. If conservatives want to truly undermine the Obama Administration, they must move beyond trying to ensnare the president — and use these scandals as an opportunity to promote a positive agenda of limited government and individual liberty.

  4:00 pm Barack Obama, Conservatism  

May 9, 2013

Is Gabriel Gomez The Next Scott Brown?

Gabriel Gomez, the Republican nominee for the U.S. senate seat special election in Massachusetts on June 25, 2013, is suddenly being taken seriously as a Democratic poll shows him trailing the Democratic nominee, Congressman Ed Markey, by only 44-40  (16% undecided). That’s an ominous sign for the Democrats who initially thought this race would be a no-contest in the heavily Democratic Bay State.

When a special election was held in this state in January, 2010 to fill the seat of the late Edward Kennedy, Democrats also assumed the seat was automatically theirs, and were stunned when Republican newcomer Scott Brown won. This time, the seat has been vacated by John Kerry when he resigned to become U.S. secretary of state.

Incumbent Brown was defeated last year in a bitter contest, and despite being well-liked by Massachusetts voters, he could not overcome the huge Democratic turnout caused by the presidential election. But 2013 is not a presidential year, and Mr. Markey, although a long-time U.S. house veteran, is considered aloof and a relatively weak statewide candidate.

Mr. Gomez is a former Navy Seal, but his political personality has not yet been widely established, and that represents an opportunity for both the Republicans and his Democratic opponent. Cash will thus play a large role in this race, as political advertising is a major component of creating or denigrating a new political figure. It should be no surprise that Mr. Markey has challenged Mr. Gomez to sign a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from outside the state. Mr. Markey is already well-funded from within the state, and greatly fears that GOP donors from around the country could equalize the race financially.

This is, in my opinion, a major test of how seriously the national Republican Party will contest the 2014 midterm U.S. senate elections to regain control of the Congress. Mr. Gomez is reportedly a bit more moderate on social issues than some southern and midwestern GOP senators, and funding for his campaign has reportedly been slow so far.

The national Republican Party is a conservative party, particularly on economic, entitlement and defense issues. But certain regions in the nation, particularly the northeast, produce a different kind of conservative. Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are cases in point. There are Democratic incumbent senators who are vulnerable in 2014, but they could only be defeated by GOP opponents who reflect the general views  of their states on social issues, and that means a willingness
by Republican donors and officials to support their strongest candidate in each race, notwithstanding their “purity” or 100% “orthodoxy” on individual issues.

My calculation is that there are now about nine or ten Democratic-held senate seats that could be won by Republicans in 2014, but only about four or five that now appear likely to change hands (even that, as we learned in 2012, is no certainty). Republicans need to regain at least six senate seats to win control.

Scott Brown demonstrated that even in an overwhelmingly liberal Democratic state such as Massachusetts an attractive Republican candidate can win statewide office.  When Brown won a special election to succeed the late Ted Kennedy, it portended the 2010 GOP midterm landslide later that year.

But the issue is larger than one special election. The real question is whether or not Republicans are prepared to govern again. While it is true that the nation is now rather polarized between conservatives and liberals, regional and urban/rural demographics most accurately define the American voter and make political issues

Grover Norquist, a favorite target of Democrats and liberals for demonization, has recently been speaking about a more pragmatic GOP approach to the elections of 2013-14. Associated with the hard-line lower taxes issue, he has now, without compromising his primary issue, argued that the first function of a political party is to win elections. He knows that any Republican majority is far more likely to respond positively to his issue than any Democratic majority. If more conservative leaders approach 2014 as Mr Norquist has, the GOP has much brighter prospects than if those self-styled conservative leaders  who want GOP candidates to reflect their own views 100% would prevail.

That is why the special U.S. senate election in Massachusetts this year is so important.


-Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

  9:51 am 2013, Campaign Strategy, Conservatism, Senate Races  

February 21, 2013

Measuring Effective Conservatism—Statistics and Accomplishment

Yesterday, Kavon called our attention to an interesting analysis by Nate Silver in his New York Times Five Thirty-Eight column.  A few points made by Silver as well as certain aspects of his statistical results measuring “the conservatism” of past and potential presidential candidates have provoked me to offer thoughts of my own as to what these statistics actually mean and what they tell us (or don’t tell us) about candidates and their prospective success.

First of all, statistical ratings of politicians tend to be subjective in that they often reflect a covert or overt bias of those making the determination as to what to count and how.  That being said, Silver seems to have done a good and credible job of analyzing and scoring in support of his commentary.  The question is what does it all really mean and what does it tells us about the future of these prospective candidates and their likelihood of success both in an election campaign and once in office.

Silver’s table compiling the conservatism scores of potential presidential candidates (past and present) identifies a particularly glaring and illustrative point:  that being Ronald Reagan’s score of 44 compared with George W. Bush’s score of 46.  Well now, anyone care to compare the record of these two-term Republican presidents from the standpoint of successful conservative governance, of developing and implementing constructive conservative reforms?  Bush had a GOP controlled Congress for most of his first six years; Reagan only had a GOP Senate during his first six years.  In addition, anyone want to compare the overall posture of the country (including the economy) at the end vs beginning of their respective presidencies?  Or, the strategic position, credibility, and popularity of the Republican Party and the conservative movement at the end of their respective presidencies?  Hmmm.

Perhaps the respective Reagan and Bush scores, as well as the scores of the more contemporary candidates, tell us more about what passes for Conservatism and titilates Republican-Conservative activists these days who seem to focus more on rhetoric than on substance or actual net accomplishment.  Note that in the category of public statements Bush scored 47 while Reagan scored only 37.  The scoring methodologies used in this analysis may be interesting and fun to talk about, but they tell us very little at this point as to what we can actually expect from any of  the prospective candidates.  What’s missing is some measure of performance and accomplishment that can be compared to rhetoric or support from interest groups and ideological commentators.  For executive office holds that is easier than for members of the legislature, but legislators also have a track record beyond a simple voting record.  Some are able to demonstrate an ability to develop constructive reform initiatives and build support for such, even among those who might not be initial allies, and to appeal to non-traditional constituencies.  Jack Kemp was legendary in this regard.  Marco Rubio shows signs of such ability but he is only beginning his third year in the Senate while in the national spotlight, so only time will tell.  He did have a track record in the Florida State House which should be evaluated.

While I would have chosen Bill Clinton as a better example than Obama (who I consider to be arrogant and polarizing), the closing point in Silver’s article is spot on:

One measure of political talent, and something that characterized both Mr. Reagan and Mr. Obama, is the ability to sell ideas to voters across a wide range of the political spectrum. Perhaps Mr. Rubio will prove to be such a talent. Otherwise, if Mr. Rubio holds a fairly ordinary (and conservative) set of Republican positions, his popularity ratings may wind up being ordinary as well.

What Silver is saying here, albeit somewhat subtly, is that if Rubio plays only to the existing GOP base as it is currently configured he is likely to fail.  But, if he is able to create a coalition that includes those who have not recently identified with the GOP base— thus creating a new base of sorts—while holding most of the existing base, he may likely succeed.  That is how both Reagan and Clinton succeeded within their respective parties and among the general electorate.  They brought new people into the nominating process and expanded their parties’ coalition beyond what had been its traditional character.  A similar strategy will be required for any successful GOP candidate in 2016.

  11:57 am 2016, Conservatism, Marco Rubio, Republican Party  

December 6, 2012

Bombshell: Jim DeMint Leaving U.S. Senate to Head Heritage Foundation

Whoa… All I can say is that you should read Erick Erickson’s post over at Redstate here.

  9:43 am Conservatism, Jim DeMint, Republican Party  

November 20, 2012

What Republicans and Hispanics Can Learn from the Jews

The back-and-forth carnage between Israelis and Palestinians appears to possibly be headed towards a (temporary) lull. As we reflect upon this harsh period of rockets and sorties, we cannot overlook one of Operation Pillar of Defense’s greatest bombshells: Credit where credit is due, President Obama and his administration have clearly articulated Israel’s right to self-defense and have only very tepidly urged any restraint.

This has no doubt been the most pro-Israel posture that this administration has taken during any trying period between our respective countries since Barack Obama took office. Perhaps Obama woke up after being reelected and suddenly recognized the wisdom of hawkish military operations initiated by Bibi Netanyahu, a man he implied was a liar and who subtly urged Americans to vote for Mitt Romney. But perhaps Obama’s changed attitude had –at least something- to do with American Politics 101.

Little noticed in Romney’s slaughter by minorities on November 6th was the fact that –even on a terrible night- he garnered 30% of the Jewish vote, the highest GOP share in 24 years. In the last 5 presidential elections, the GOP nominee garnered an average 18.4% of the Jewish vote.

How did Mitt Romney beat that number so significantly?

A close look reveals some crucial lessons for the GOP as it desperately attempts to gain ground among Hispanics, Asian Americans and other minorities. Jews have for long been a tough nut for Republicans to crack. A very large segment of American Jews descend from immigrants who arrived to major urban centers during the World War Two era, who saw FDR and labor unions as sacred cows to be idolized from generation to generation. Outside staunchly Orthodox circles, Jews’ outlook on life tends to lean to the left as well.

At the same time, Jews have shown a little-known openness to voting Republican in the mid-to-late 20th century. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush in 1988, all earned over 30% of the Jewish vote – but it was downhill from there. Bush 41’s share of the Jewish vote slid from 32% in 1988 to 11% in 1992 and the GOP never quite recovered from that until this year.

Yes, even George W. Bush, minority friendly and regarded by many Jews as the most pro-Israel president of their lifetime, could not get more than 24% of the Jewish vote against John Kerry in 2004. John McCain, another hawkish pro-Israel stalwart, could not get more than 22% against Barack Obama, a man with links to Palestinian sympathizers and notorious anti-Semites.

These numbers suggest that Bush 41 did heavy residual damage to the GOP brand. It is fair to say that the primary factors in this are Bush’s perceived weak support for Israel, and particularly his outspoken cool-to-Israel underlings such as Chief of Staff John Sununu and Secretary of State James Baker. Most importantly, you cannot underestimate the damage that Baker’s infamous comment, “(Expletive) the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway,” and Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” convention speech inflicted on the GOP image among Jews.

The Republicans and their Jewish allies have been playing catch-up ever since and it appears to have taken over a generation to have finally been corrected. (Jews remain overwhelmingly Democratic, but a much larger segment of them are at least open to voting for either party.) It took extensive grassroots outreach by Jewish Republicans, a staunchly pro-Israel Republican president for two terms and a Democratic president whose first term was more hostile to Israel and its leaders than any administration in memory for that to occur.

Additionally, it took a GOP ticket comprised of a northeastern Ivy League educated businessman from a historically persecuted religious minority and a soft spoken young Catholic from Wisconsin to finally make the sale. Fair or not, Sarah Palin hurt McCain’s prospects among Jews and polls showed, for instance, that Newt Gingrich fared worse than Romney among Jews despite his unflinching pro-Israel record. The ability to culturally relate to a candidate matters.

It takes a scenario as peculiar as Election 2000, when the fate of the presidency rested upon a sliver of Floridian votes, to have a swing among the Jewish vote decide a presidential election. However, even relatively mild swings among Hispanics can have an outsized influence on national elections, and Republicans would be wise to learn from their journey with the Jews to woo more of this demographic into their camp.

Like Jews, Hispanics have always voted solidly Democratic –even, as conservatives like to note, when pro-amnesty Ronald Reagan was the GOP nominee- but the GOP trajectory among the group was likewise headed upwards not all that long ago. Elections 2008 and 2012 saw the trajectory turn sharply downward, with a historic near-lethal resistance to national GOP candidates. No doubt, fierce GOP opposition to immigration reform in 2007, Arizona’s immigration law, and Romney’s heated anti-immigration stand during the primary scared off potential Hispanic GOP voters.

As Republicans scramble to win Hispanic support, they must bear in mind that it won’t be simple –or quick. Changing policy and tone regarding immigration will merely stop the damage. It can easily take a decade or more to go from Romney’s 27% of the Hispanic vote to the 40% or so earned by George W. Bush, and even longer to potentially gain parity. It will take years of aggressive community outreach and a series of culturally relatable GOP candidates –Hispanic or otherwise- to make significant inroads.

At the same time, Republicans can take heart that –like the Jews- Hispanics have historically shown a far greater openness to voting Republican than, say, African-Americans have. These voters are there for the taking. Even if Republicans will see little or no progress among Hispanics during the initial post-2012 cycles, they should not despair. Patience and perseverance will ultimately win the day.

For their part, Hispanic voters would be wise to listen to Obama’s new found courage on behalf of Israel and recognize the enviable clout they can gain if they show even a modest level of flexibility between the two major political parties.


-Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication. You can follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.

  3:00 pm 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Mitt Romney, Republican Party  

November 11, 2012

Do We Just Need to Find a Better Candidate?

Byron York thinks so:

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s loss, many Republicans say the GOP must make far-reaching changes to be competitive in future elections. White voters are a smaller and smaller part of the electorate, they point out, while Latinos and other minorities are growing as a percentage of the voting public. Unless the Republican Party reinvents itself to appeal to those voters, the argument goes, the GOP can get used to being out of power.

There’s something to that. The electorate is changing, and the Republican Party needs to keep up with the times. But the more fundamental answer to the GOP’s problems could be much simpler than that. To win the next time, Republicans need to find a really good candidate.

Mitt Romney…appears not to have excited any big group. Yes, he won the support of 59 percent of white voters, but there are indications that whites actually stayed away from the polls in large numbers. Overall, Romney won fewer votes than John McCain’s doomed 2008 campaign.

“The 2012 elections actually weren’t about a demographic explosion with nonwhite voters,” writes analyst Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics. “Instead, they were about a large group of white voters not showing up. … The reason this electorate looked so different from the 2008 electorate is almost entirely attributable to white voters staying home.”

There is a less complicated lesson to this election. Voters want to believe in a candidate. If Republicans find that candidate, they will win.

As with the piece by Heather MacDonald I examined earlier, this is all true as far as it goes, but it is overlooking something very important.

Mr. York is far too casual about the fact that Mitt Romney won white voters by such a lopsided margin. According to some exit polls, he won by the same margin as Ronald Reagan did in his landslide victory against Jimmy Carter — the election that so many conservatives were hoping that this one would resemble. But the share of the white vote has decreased significantly since then, and the share of the Hispanic vote has quintupled.

2012 was a preview of the future, not an aberration of history produced by the technicalities of campaign mechanics. This cycle was merely a warm-up. The share of the electorate held by single women and Hispanics — as well as young people, growing older, who have learned to despise the Republican brand — is going to grow, not shrink, in 2016. The implicit solution in this piece is to simply fire up more Joe the Plumbers (the hidden white vote) with the same message — just, delivered by a more articulate messenger. That can’t work as a long-term proposition. We’ve been hearing ominous warnings for several cycles now about how the Republican Party needs to adapt its message with an eye toward the future, if it is to remain viable in the long-run.  Well, the future is now — and the elections of 2016 and 2020 are really going to happen, too, and we really do need to think about these long-term trends if we want to win them.  In other words: we will reap what we sow.

More saliently, then — what are we going to sow? What would a superior Republican candidate look like? What type of Republican candidate will be able to forge an emotional connection with voters in the way that President Obama can? Simply put, he’s got to be one that doesn’t pander to those who try to create an atmosphere of intolerance and exclusion. Consider George W. Bush — the winner of Nevada, Colorado, and even New Mexico (remember when we were competitive there?) — who won roughly 40% of the Hispanic vote in his reelection campaign by championing that community’s ambitions. He spoke the language of compassion and focused on education and health-care reforms. (His strident anti-same-sex marriage stance was mainstream at the time.) The median voter of 2004 did not consider the party of George W. Bush to be intolerant and out-of-touch. Whatever Bush’s faults, he understood what a lot of Republicans don’t. His brand of politics — his family’s, in fact — places a special emphasis on people’s lived experiences — and not just abstract ideology. We don’t need a return to the Bush years, but we do need a return to George W. Bush’s tone toward minorities and their aspirations. The message, not the messenger, is the heart of the problem. It’s really not that complicated.

  12:00 am Conservatism, Culture, Republican Party  

November 10, 2012

Yes, the Immigration Issue Is the Cause of the GOP’s Hispanic Problem

Some commentators, such as Heather MacDonald (whose work I respect immensely), have argued that immigration isn’t really the problem in appealing to the Hispanic population, since polling shows that they are not only turned off by the GOP’s immigration agenda, but by the party’s (supposed) opposition to big-government handouts:

A March 2011 poll by Moore Information found that Republican economic policies were a stronger turn-off for Hispanic voters in California than Republican positions on illegal immigration. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic voters were suspicious of the Republican party on class-warfare grounds — “it favors only the rich”; “Republicans are selfish and out for themselves”; “Republicans don’t represent the average person”– compared with 7 percent who objected to Republican immigration stances.

The demographic changes set into motion by official and de facto immigration policy favoring low-skilled over high-skilled immigrants mean that a Republican party that purports to stand for small government and free markets faces an uncertain future.

This is true as far as it goes, but I think that MacDonald is missing something very important.

Back in September, I wrote this about the “empathy gap” that doomed Mitt Romney last Tuesday:

Ideology, by definition, is an abstract concern, while identity relates to people’s lived experiences. Ideals of liberty and freedom are worth fighting for — but for those who aren’t already predisposed to identify with and prioritize those values, they’re also hard to relate to, on a day-to-day level. This difficulty is compounded when dealing with people who are members of minority groups — people for whom identity traits are a constant theme in their emotional life. If you’re white, you’re unlikely to spend a lot of time thinking about your race. However, if you’re gay, you’re almost certainly going to spend a lot of time thinking about your sexual orientation, including how that factors into other aspects of your life, such as politics — which leaves less room for other values, like freedoms of speech, association, and religion.

Should that be so? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s the way it is. And it makes it significantly easier for Democrats to convince minorities to identify with their party — especially at a young age, when they are still in the process of forging an identity, still deciding what values will be meaningful in their lives. Most people — believe it or not — don’t actually pay much attention to politics. When choosing a political party, the average American simply asks himself which party best matches his personal values. Last year, I persuaded my best friend, a fellow young gay man, to become a Republican instead of a Democrat. “I became a Democrat because of gay marriage,” he explained to me. “From there, I just kind of talked myself into the rest of what the party said.” There are millions of stories just like my friend’s.

Those millions of stories translate into a solid foundation of public support for Democrats. The paradox of appealing to “minorities” is that the majority of us fall into one of those categories. Between blacks, Hispanics, feminist women, gays and lesbians, Jewish people, Muslims, and niche constituencies like labor unions, there are a whole lot of people who can properly identify as a member of a minority group — and the Democrats, not the Republicans, are the ones who appeal to them on a visceral, emotional level. Democrats reach out to them on the basis of identity — on the basis of their lived experiences. When it comes to raw, emotional reactions, lived experiences always beat abstractions. This is why Republicans are consistently trounced on the question of empathy — and why Obama is still in a commanding position to win reelection.

Condoleezza Rice gave an interview on CBS’ This Morning yesterday in which she said this: “If you get the identity issues out of the way, then you can appeal to Americans on the broader issues that all Americans share concerns for.” That’s exactly right. The social issues serve as a barrier to persuasion. New voters — young people, immigrants — tend to learn to identify with one of the parties on a ‘big picture’ basis — not by going down a checklist of issues and comparing the party platforms. Not only are the social issues the easiest for the uninitiated to understand, but they have the most emotional impact, too. It’s one thing to argue over the merits of adjusting the capital gains tax rate — most people will submit that it’s an issue about which reasonable people can civilly disagree. But when Hispanics hear that the Republican presidential nominee has openly advocated making life so miserable for illegal immigrants that they won’t even want to live here anymore (that’s what “self-deportation” means, people), then an enormous wall has been created. When you’ve lost the trust of a minority group, they won’t listen to a word you have to say about Medicare, tax reform, or deficit-reduction. There’s nothing inherent about brown skin that makes a person hostile toward capitalism. But if people with brown skin think that the party of the free market hates them, then they’ll run into the arms of the party of statism. And why not? People need to feel assured that you view them with dignity and respect, not with contempt and loathing. There’s nothing that should be surprising about that.

We don’t need to win the Hispanic vote — we just need to increase our share back to levels more like George W. Bush’s. Changing our policies and tone toward immigration issues is only a first step to achieving that — not only because it is practical, but because it is the right thing to do. Once that issue is out of the way, then we can go about the vital task of reaching out to Hispanic voters on the basis of the timeless American values of upward mobility, economic freedom, and individual liberty.

  1:50 pm Campaign Issues, Conservatism, Republican Party  

November 9, 2012

November 7, 2012

Election 2012’s Winners and Losers

Now that everything is said and done, it’s time to figure out the truly important stuff: Who benefits, duh! (Gotta embrace the new national ethos, right?)

WINNER: Nate Silver, Public Policy Polling, and Pollsters Generally: Surprise! It turns out that professional pollsters know how to do their jobs! Nate Silver and Public Policy Polling especially deserve credit, given the crap that they’ve had to put up with. Many conservative bloggers erupted at them for not telling them what they wanted to hear — but they were right. Mr. Silver’s modeling was highly accurate for the second cycle in a row, and the dreaded PPP nailed this election, calling every state, including Florida, correctly. Marist and Quinnipiac, also slammed by conservatives, were also highly accurate. When I predicted last week that Obama would win reelection and that we’d lose ground in the Senate, almost every single commenter on this site told me that I was buying into the awful biased pollsters and Nate Silver’s nonsense. The lesson here is simple: If you want to criticize a pollster, you need to understand how polling works and then make a specific criticism about the pollster’s methodology. If a poll shows a strong Democratic turnout advantage, it does not mean that the pollster is conspiring against Republicans — it means that more people are telling pollsters that they are Democrats and that they are also likely to vote. Weighting for party ID — ie; what so many people wanted the pollsters to do — is what would have really skewed the polls. Polls showed consistently that Democrats were just as enthusiastic, if not more enthusiastic, about reelecting the president as Republicans were about defeating him — and there’s more Democrats in this country than Republicans. The math is quite simple.

WINNER: Social Liberals: Ballot questions about same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization passed in almost every state that had them. (Oregon rejected a more extreme version of marijuana legalization.) Prominent social conservatives Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost Senate races that should have been easy GOP pick-ups. Is social conservatism viable? Perhaps, but at the very least, it will have to be repackaged. As a 22-year-old, I find it impossible to have conversations about politics with friends who barely follow the news: “Doesn’t Mitt Romney want to ban abortion? Wasn’t there a Republican talking about how he supports rape? Why would anyone vote for someone who doesn’t support gay people?” They won’t even listen to me try to explain the conservative position on a complicated issue like Medicare — they’ve already closed themselves off to the GOP, because they think it tolerates bigotry. Conservative activists need to learn that young people do not choose a party based on a checklist of issues — they examine the parties, usually in their late teens or early 20s, and try to get a general sense of what they stand for. The social issues are the easiest to understand and are the most emotionally-loaded. If the Republican Party is seen as harboring extremists, it will lose young people’s votes — possibly for a generation. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are not representative of the GOP mainstream — but too many young people look at the party and say “Well, I’m not sure where I am on all the issues, maybe, but I just know that I don’t wanna be in the same party as the guy talking about legitimate rape.” For your average voter, choosing a party is often no more complicated than that. If we want to make gains among young people, we have to actively suppress the candidacies of social-issues extremists.

LOSER: Rasmussen Reports: Scott Rasmussen can no longer be considered a credible pollster. His projections were disastrous. Furthermore, Rasmussen Reports polls should no longer be included in the RealClearPolitics polling average. If Rasmussen wants to win back his reputation, then he should demonstrate in 2014 that he is not just a partisan hack. But in this cycle, every single one of his state polls — both in the presidential race and in the Senate races — showed a pronounced bias toward the Republican candidate, just like they did in 2010. Rasmussen helped create a counterproductive echo-chamber environment amongst conservatives in this cycle — even as credible pollsters like PPP, Marist, and Quinnipiac showed the president gaining, for instance, conservative activists always were able to point to an inaccurate Rasmussen poll as a reason to believe that Mitt Romney still had a chance and that Rasmussen was catching something that the other pollsters, with their flawed turnout models, were missing. But Rasmussen showed a systemic Republican bias, and he needs to be held accountable for it in some way.

WINNER: GOP Up-and-Comers: With the Romney-Ryan 2016 question out of the way, the field is cleared for a new generation of leaders to truly assume command of the national conversation. Expect to hear more from Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and others — and for a dynamic 2016 primary race to unfold. Despite last night’s wipe-out, it’s an exciting time to be a Republican — for the first time in quite some time, it’s our party that looks like the party of the future. If we can fix our little demographic problem, that is…

LOSER: The GOP, Among Hispanics: Here is the fact that will tell you everything that you need to know: Romney won whites by the same margin that Ronald Reagan did in 1980. He still lost in an electoral landslide. There’s no way around this problem anymore: the electorate was only 72% white this year. We are running out of Joe the Plumbers. We cannot continue to be the party that Latinos perceive as hostile to their race and culture. We can complain all day long about whether that’s fair or accurate — but the problem exists whether he want to acknowledge it or not. It has cost us a variety of races in the past few cycles in states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. George W. Bush was on the right track, earning nearly 40% of the Hispanic vote. If his immigration reform bill had passed, we might have a considerable share of the Hispanic vote right now. But we gave into the Tom Tancredos of the world in 2006, just like Mitt Romney did in 2011 when he ran to the right of Rick Perry for short-term personal gain at the party’s expense. He laid his own trap for the general election. Now this problem persists. Obama is going to tackle immigration reform in his second term. If the Republican Party revolts against it, we may lose the Hispanic vote for an entire generation, and with it, the party as we know it. I anticipate a full-on civil war about this issue in the party within the next two years.

WINNER: Bill Clinton: The rehabilitation of William Jefferson Clinton is complete. There is no more beloved Democrat in the entire country. His excellent convention speech was widely credited with launching Obama into his comfortable September lead, and his preferred strategy of painting Mitt Romney as a heartless plutocrat rather than a flip-flopper paid off. Romney bested Obama on questions about the economy and deficit — but when pollsters asked whether Romney understood the problems facing the middle class, he was absolutely blown away by the president. Clinton helped Obama to embrace a truth that few politicians truly understand: That most people don’t vote for ideology. They vote for politicians who they think “get” them. Bill Clinton will also be a tremendous asset to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign — both in the primaries (should they matter) and in the general election. If she decides to run, that is…

NEUTRAL: Paul Ryan: Nobody is blaming Paul Ryan for any part of last night’s outcome. He performed admirably as Mitt Romney’s running mate and has seen his national stature elevated. He finds himself in a position much like John Edwards four years ago. Hopefully he can make a bit more of the opportunity — he is an exceptional politician and he deserves to be one of our party’s leaders.

WINNER: Establishment Republicans / LOSER: Tea Party Republicans: The Tea Party continues to rack up losses in the Senate. In the past two cycles, they have cost us Delaware, Indiana, Colorado, and Nevada. (Full disclosure: I supported Mourdock over Lugar. I did not expect him to self-destruct; I will never again support a Tea Party insurgent against a popular incumbent.) Tea Party favorites Allen West and Mia Love both lost; Michele Bachmann had a scare but managed to hang on. Republicans retain control of the House, though. As Obama’s second term begins, I expect Boehner and Cantor’s influence to grow against the more hardline Tea Party elements of the Republican caucus. The country has voted, and elections have consequences. Boehner and Cantor — as well as Ryan — recognize that. My advice to the Tea Party is this: When qualified, articulate, conservative establishment-types like Rubio, Cruz, and Toomey are nominated, they win. When radical ideologues like Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock, and Christine O’Donnell are embraced, they lose. It’s not too hard to figure out what to do with such information.

OVERALL: I’m trying to find a silver lining for Republicans, but I just don’t see one. Last night was an utter massacre. Yet, this is no time to whine (or to shoot the messenger). It’s time to figure out why we lost — and what we can do about it.

Obama’s Victory in a Nutshell

Allahpundit lays it out for us:

The story of the election: Obama turned out his base. As a percentage of the electorate, young voters (18-29) actually increased by a point. So did turnout among Latinos. And turnout among blacks matched 2008. O’s ground game was simply amazing.

I should add, the electorate is growing younger, more secular, more urban, and is increasingly less likely to be married and have children. It is also becoming less socially conservative. Traditional marriage went 0-4 yesterday, and there is no reason to conclude anything other than this is indicative of a trend line that leads to support for gay marriage being majority opinion of the 2016 electorate by a solid margin.

Now please do not misconstrue what I am saying here. I am not arguing that the GOP should abandon its position as the political home for socially conservative voters. What I am saying is that if the GOP does not figure out a way to makes it policies more appealing to young, secular, and minority voters, we can expect more election nights like this one.

  11:03 am Conservatism, Election Results, Poll Analysis, Republican Party  

October 6, 2012

The Irony of Romney’s Support

Republicans, at least to some rather large degree, were hopeful of a Romney candidacy because of one key aspect: the appeal to independents. A Romney candidacy was a chance to rebrand the GOP, after the stereotype of Republicans as unintelligent southern hicks culminated in the Bush 43 presidency. Independents, the theory went, would not be afraid or ashamed to support the GOP any longer.

Well, here we are less than a month away from the 2012 election, and… the theory was proven correct. Perhaps even more correct than anyone could have hoped, actually. Political nerds who read past the topline results have long commented on Romney’s standing with independents throughout the last six months or so. In fact, he is doing extraordinarily well with them.

For comparison sake, in 2008 Obama won independent voters by an eight-point margin over John McCain. In 2004, George W. Bush and John Kerry essentially tied among independents, with Kerry having a slight edge. This year, Romney has consistently, on a national level, held an average of around a 5-point lead with independents.

If that’s the case — if he is doing 13+ points better than McCain with that key voting bloc, and five to even ten points better than George W. Bush did, then why has a lead in the topline results been so difficult to come by for Governor Romney?

The answer may seem a little counter intuitive at first glance, but the problem is with Republicans.

Every Presidential candidate in modern history who has won their election has done so with the backing of around 90% of their respective party. For example, Bush pulled in 91% of Republicans in 2000 (and just 47% of independents); he upped that to 93% in 2004; Obama got just under 90% of Democratic votes in 2008.

On a national level, Romney has struggled to maintain the support of 85% of Republicans this year. That’s a losing proposition. Currently in Rasmussen, he sits at 86% of Republican support — compared to 89-90% of Democrats who support Obama. The only reason he is close to Obama is his six-point lead among independent voters (a fourteen point swing from four years ago).

In the crucial trio of swing states affectionately known as FLOHVA, it’s the same story. In Ohio, Romney leads among independents by 15%, in Virginia by 7%, and in Florida by a massive 22%. Those are ridiculously absurd numbers. If someone would have read those margins among independents to me one year ago, I would have told them Romney was headed toward a landslide of 1984 proportions.

Instead, Romney is barely ahead in Virginia and Florida, and still losing Ohio.

Why? Because he is lacking the support of Republicans. In Ohio, only 83% of Republicans are supporting Romney. In Virginia, it’s only 85%. And in Florida, just 76% of the GOP plan on voting for Romney. In each state, Romney is running well behind even John McCain, who lost all three (McCain got 92% GOP support in OH and VA and 87% in FL).

So what’s going on here? Most all of it, I suspect, can be attributed to the fact that the GOP is currently so divided into so many factions — many of whom are lukewarm toward Romney at best. Within the “tent” of Republicanism, for instance, we now house the Paulite wing and Tea Party wing of the party — and those are on top of the more historical splits between neo- and paleoconservatives, as well as between fiscal and social conservatives. In fact, the traditional divide between fiscal and social conservatives has been magnified by the Tea Party movement — a movement which began based on fiscal issues and was then hijacked by the social conservative wing of the party. The Tea Party has given voice to and amplified the debate and the divide between the two.

It’s no wonder Romney is doing so poorly among Republicans. After all, when Ronald Reagan ran on his vision (given in his now-famous 1976 CPAC speech) of uniting the various wings of the GOP together, all he had to contend with (mostly) were two groups: social and fiscal conservatives. That coalition began cracking when neo- and paleo-conservatism began splintering off with opposing views on foreign policy, and with the Paulite and Tea Party factions now gaining prominence the Republicans are now the most splintered they’ve been in over thirty years. Or perhaps ever.

So far, Romney’s lopsided victory in the first Presidential debate has done little to move the needle with his fellow Republicans. But if he’s to win in four weeks, he’s got one of two options: run up even larger and more unheard of margins with independents, or find a way to get the GOP base behind him. Because if Romney loses to Obama, at this point it appears the Republican Party would have no one to blame for the loss but themselves.

September 22, 2012

Where’s the Leadership on Social Security?

In 2010, the Social Security Trustees Report said Social Security would be able to fulfill all current obligations until 2036.  In 2011, that estimate was bumped to 2035, and this year it was changed to 2033.  Clearly, the program must be reformed, yet many Washington politicians think like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who said in January 2011 that “Social Security is a program that works and is fully funded for the next 40 years” and that “the arithmetic on Social Security works.”

Any politician who thinks Social Security “works” for the American people is either dishonest or not paying attention to the facts.  This was starkly outlined recently by Charles Blahous, a trustee for Medicare and Social Security.  In a paper published through George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, Blahous explained the bleak situation Social Security finds itself in. From the paper:

Social Security’s future, at least in the form it has existed dating back to FDR, is now greatly imperiled. The last few years of legislative neglect … have drastically harmed the program’s future financial prospects. Individuals now planning their financial futures … should be pricing in a substantial risk that the federal government will not be able to maintain Social Security as a self-financing, stand-alone program over the long term. If Social Security financing corrections are not enacted in 2013, or at the very latest by 2015, it becomes fairly likely that they will not be enacted at all.

And later:

Had across-the-board price-indexing been enacted in 2005, it could have kept Social Security fully solvent, left those over 55 untouched, and generated additional funds to provide for faster benefit growth on the low-income end. Enacted last year, however, such across-the-board price-indexing would no longer be enough; costs would be substantially higher and the trust funds would be depleted in 2040 unless further measures were taken. And if re-scored under 2012 assumptions, this proposal would fare still worse.

What is to be done?  Blahous notes that compromise is absolutely necessary (emphasis added):

A solution requires substantial compromise by one or both sides. If one person (or a unified political party) commanded total political power and was willing to use it, they could impose their preferred solution on those who disagree. The last such opportunity was probably 2009-10 when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House. … Today no one expects that either party will single-handedly control the White House, the House, and 60 votes in the Senate within the next few years. Thus if Social Security finances are to be repaired, someone must dramatically compromise. … Unfortunately … we are already long past the point where there is precedent for a compromise of this magnitude.

Blahous also notes that tax increases alone will not solve the problem, despite what Democrats in Washington often say:

The efficacy of tax-increase solutions is also fading with delay. Advocates on the left sometimes argue to increase the amount of Social Security wages subject to the payroll tax. The most extreme version of this proposal would be to raise the amount of wages subject to the full 12.4% payroll tax — $110,100 today – up to infinity. Yet even this drastic measure would now fail to keep Social Security in long-term balance as well.

There are two parties to blame for this financial situation: first, obviously, are the politicians who dare not touch the “third rail” of politics.  However, the American people have also failed to hold their politicians accountable for failing to make Social Security fully solvent.  I hope that the fiscal conservatives in the Tea Party can revive interest in the shared sacrifice necessary to make sure that middle-aged and younger Americans receive anywhere close to the level of benefits they have been promised.

What are the consequences of this lack of political will by the people and Washington?  Here are several:

  1. The Social Security Trust Fund will start going bankrupt in 2013.
  2. Several recent estimates of the life of Social Security have overestimated the length of time until full Trust Fund bankruptcy, meaning that the fund could easily run out of money prior to 2033.
  3. Blahous’ June 21 testimony to the House Ways & Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security stated that the Social Security Disability Fund will need an annual $30-billion cut in 2016 if no changes are made.
  4. Blahous also said the Social Security Trust Fund as a total would require an annual cut of over $600 billion annually by 2033 — the 2012 equivalent of $367 billion every year.
  5. Finally, Social Security was started and sold to the American people as a self-funding program.  In an exchange with Representative Kenny Marchant (R-TX) during his testimony, Blahous noted that if no changes are made and no cuts to Social Security take place in 2033, the program will have to take money from the general fund of the Treasury, meaning the program will never again be self-funded.

Unfortunately, the lack of political courage to reform Social Security is a bipartisan phenomenon.  A number of Senate Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to stop a partial privatization effort in 2005, and as Blahous noted, no reformation of Social Security was found in 2009 or 2010.  Additionally, the House Republican budget proposal for 2013 — which famously reforms Medicare — fails to propose even the most basic reforms to Social Security.

There isn’t much time left to make meaningful reforms to Social Security that won’t financially devastate a generation or two of Americans.  And as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) noted in an interview with me not long ago, despite what many in Washington say, reforms are not a matter of compromise.  They are a simply matter of fiscal necessity.


-Dustin Siggins is the online content coordinator and blogger for Tea Party Patriots. He formerly worked in the Washington, D.C. office of Representative Marchant as a staffer. This post was originally published at American Thinker. The opinions expressed are his own.

  7:05 am Conservatism  

September 21, 2012

Is the Farm Bill Worth Passing?

This week, a number of House Republicans and House Democrats are trying to force action on the so-called “farm bill” the House Agriculture Committee passed in July. The bill, which includes billions in direct farm subsidies, will cost $100 billion per year for five years if made into law. Approximately 80% of that cost is related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

The good thing is the farm bill appears to lack the support to get the votes necessary for passage through the House this week. As such, the House will go to its seven-week recess and not consider the farm bill for passage until after the November elections. Considering that the farm bill is far more about welfare than farm support – both of which are constitutionally and financially challenging – the House leadership should be commended for not rushing its passage without a full House debate and input from grassroots activists.

However, not all conservatives believe the bill should be held up. In a statement to me earlier this week, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) stated the bill’s $35 billion in savings over ten years was worth supporting. Noem is one of the Republicans pushing action on the bill:

Ensuring we can produce our own food is a national security issue. That is why the Farm bill is so important. However, nearly 80 percent of the Farm Bill goes to food stamps. This program has exploded in costs, and it needs to be reined in. The bill I support would reform the food stamp program to make it more accountable to taxpayers, repeal or consolidate more than 100 programs, and save more than $35 billion. This bill is by no means perfect, but it promotes agriculture’s role in our national security and provides certainty for farmers and ranchers so they can continue investing and feeding America and the world.

Herein lies the major problem for supporters of the bill, who are primarily from states with large farm populations: according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the food stamp program has gone from spending $18 billion in 2000 to $78 billion in 2011 – including a growth of $40 billion between 2007 and 2011. Looking at the math spelled out by the CBO, this means only 43% of the program’s growth in the last 12 years can be attributed to the recent recession and the current weak recovery.

Other problems with the bill include the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has advertised for people to consider the food stamp program for their families – which begs the question of whether the USDA considers government dependence a positive for society. There is also a measurable amount of trackable fraud and improper payments in the food stamp program, which combined totaled approximately 4.9% in 2011 – though Noem’s office says oversight is better in the 2012 farm bill than in the one about to expire. There is also some amount of corporate welfare for companies like JPMorgan Chase.

Unfortunately, the farm bill is not the only overly expensive, constitutionally-challenged social program in the federal government. Data compiled by Just Facts President Jim Agresti shows that $19,316 of average household income consisted of federal social spending in 2010. Compare this to the Federal Reserve’s estimate that the average American household income in 2010 was $45,800.

And this is why Tea Party activists are outraged by the farm bill – it will spend more money we don’t have and create more dependence on the federal government. Again, 80% of the bill is food stamps; which leads me to conclude it’s not a farm bill, it’s a welfare bill. With Monday being the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, one is reminded to ask: where in the Constitution is federal welfare allowed? Nowhere, and that’s the problem.


Dustin Siggins is the online content coordinator and blogger for Tea Party Patriots. Tea Party Patriots is a national grassroots coalition with more than 3,500 local chapters and more than 15 million supporters nationwide. This piece was originally published at the Tea Party Patriots blog.

  2:29 pm Conservatism  

September 9, 2012

Explaining the “Empathy Gap”

It’s striking to me how few people actually argue with the intent to persuade. Every day, political junkies march into battle in the war of words taking place in the blogosphere and on social media websites — yet, it is difficult to imagine many people emerging from these exchanges feeling compelled to change their opinions, let alone reexamine their ideologies. Mostly, people just assert, and when their assertions are challenged, they assert some more, without bothering to examine their opponents’ assumptions about the world — which, right or wrong, are very different than their own.

I joked on my Facebook feed earlier this week that the Democratic Convention reminded me of why I dislike Democrats even more in practice than I do in theory — that, in the abstract, I usually agree with the party about one-third of the time, but that as soon as one of their leaders opens his mouth, I’m reminded that our agreement is basically an accident. I support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, for instance — yet, in my mind, I am not framing that support as a vindication of my own kindness, empathy, and compassion. Despite our mutual support for the bill, I could not recognize myself in the pro-Dream Act speakers, who discussed the argument in terms of heroes and villains — open-minded, compassionate liberals against racist, selfish conservatives. Why is this?

The answer can be found in the makeup of the parties. The essential nature of the two parties’ coalitions is this: the Republican argument is geared fundamentally toward ideology, while the Democratic argument is geared fundamentally toward identity. The Republican Party is a collection of ideological factions — capitalists, defense hawks, and religious traditionalists, all of whom identify first and foremost with their chosen ideology — and the Democratic Party is a collection of identity factions — women, gays, Hispanics, union members, etc., all of whom identify first and foremost with that identity. It’s not a perfect split, of course, but I think, as a general rule, this is true.

Ideology, by definition, is an abstract concern, while identity relates to people’s lived experiences. Ideals of liberty and freedom are worth fighting for — but for those who aren’t already predisposed to identify with and prioritize those values, they’re also hard to relate to, on a day-to-day level. This difficulty is compounded when dealing with people who are members of minority groups — people for whom identity traits are a constant theme in their emotional life. If you’re white, you’re unlikely to spend a lot of time thinking about your race. However, if you’re gay, you’re almost certainly going to spend a lot of time thinking about your sexual orientation, including how that factors into other aspects of your life, such as politics — which leaves less room for other values, like freedoms of speech, association, and religion.

Should that be so? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s the way it is. And it makes it significantly easier for Democrats to convince minorities to identify with their party — especially at a young age, when they are still in the process of forging an identity, still deciding what values will be meaningful in their lives. Most people — believe it or not — don’t actually pay much attention to politics. When choosing a political party, the average American simply asks himself which party best matches his personal values. Last year, I persuaded my best friend, a fellow young gay man, to become a Republican instead of a Democrat. “I became a Democrat because of gay marriage,” he explained to me. “From there, I just kind of talked myself into the rest of what the party said.” There are millions of stories just like my friend’s.

Those millions of stories translate into a solid foundation of public support for Democrats. The paradox of appealing to “minorities” is that the majority of us fall into one of those categories. Between blacks, Hispanics, feminist women, gays and lesbians, Jewish people, Muslims, and niche constituencies like labor unions, there are a whole lot of people who can properly identify as a member of a minority group — and the Democrats, not the Republicans, are the ones who appeal to them on a visceral, emotional level. Democrats reach out to them on the basis of identity — on the basis of their lived experiences. When it comes to raw, emotional reactions, lived experiences always beat abstractions. This is why Republicans are consistently trounced on the question of empathy — and why Obama is still in a commanding position to win reelection.

If Republicans want to win over minority voters, they have to do so by appealing to their lived experiences — not to abstract ideology. We can’t persuade simply by doubling down on idealistic themes like liberty and free enterprise. These are values that are worth fighting for, to be sure — and they remain our ultimate goals — but in electoral politics, different tactics must be used to appeal to different constituencies. We have to explain to the black urban voter how conservatism, not liberalism, will help his child obtain a better education, become financially independent, and encounter less discrimination in the world. We have to explain to gay voters that capitalism, not socialism, has made life easier for sexual minorities all around the world. These voters are not predisposed to agree with the Republican Party’s values, and they can’t be won over with the same rhetoric that we would use at CPAC. They want to hear language that relates to their lived experiences.

Perhaps in an ideal world, we’d be able to explain our values to left-wingers and moderates in the same way that we do among fellow conservatives and libertarians. Maybe, maybe not. But we’ve already tried asserting. We do that all the time. When it comes to winning over minority voters, it doesn’t work. If we want to close the ’empathy gap,’ what we need to do is start persuading. And that means meeting other people on their terms. That is, after all, the very definition of empathy.

August 15, 2012

A Choice Election

Yesterday, longtime reader Thomas Alan penned a piece suggesting that Gov. Romney’s selection of Rep. Ryan as his running mate will be potentially damaging to Republican prospects this fall due to the ticket’s imminent focus on entitlement reform. I couldn’t disagree more. Unfortunately, Alan is joining a hodgepodge of voices on the Right vocally opposed to the Ryan pick, with these renegade Republicans serving only to undermine the Romney-Ryan team as the ticket dares to approach Americans with ideas and issues instead of cultural cues and colloquialisms.

First, Alan’s attempt to analogize the issue of entitlements to issues like abortion or gay marriage in terms of its relationship to the number one issue of the day — the economy — is simply a bad analogy. While social issues like abortion, and (most) foreign policy issues have little to no impact on the state of the economy and job growth, government programs and government spending are absolutely related to the health of the economy, and that goes double for the major entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, whose costs are projected to eat up all federal tax revenues by 2045, thus resulting either in draconian benefit cuts, massive tax increases, or a debt bomb like this country has never seen. As such, entitlements are joined to the hip with the health of the American economy, and failing to inform the American people of this reality is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.

Secondly, Alan argues that if Romney and Ryan make entitlement reform a component of their campaign, they will lose simply by virtue of having to explain their plan, because “explaining is losing.” This strikes me as wrongheaded. If this were indeed the case, pretty much every idea and policy proposal put forth by every campaign for every office in the nation would be a losing proposition, because all ideas and policy proposals need to be explained, or sold, to the voters. This is the sort of reasoning that leads to the cynical and base strategies of building campaigns around questioning whether the president was born in this country, or calling on candidates to release every tax return they’ve ever filed in their adult lives, instead of making campaigns about the issues.

Third, even if one agrees with Alan that entitlement reform shouldn’t be a part of the fall campaign, the very act of Romney picking Ryan as his running mate makes a conversation about entitlements inevitable due to entitlement reform being Ryan’s signature policy issue. Ryan’s very presence in the race is going to make entitlement reform into an issue because even if the Republicans don’t bring it up, the Democrats will. So since the Ryan selection has forced entitlement reform into the spotlight, it makes very little sense for Romney/Ryan to spend the rest of the campaign playing defense on the issue, and it makes a lot of sense to approach entitlement reform from a position of strength, and to play offense on the issue.

Fourth, there is no good reason for entitlement reform to be a losing issue for the Republican ticket. Ryan’s original proposal of turning Medicare into a premium-support program for seniors to use to purchase a health plan has already been moderated in order to bring Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden on board. Moreover, the Romney/Ryan plan will be moderated even further, meaning that whatever comes out of the Romney camp as the ticket’s proposal for Medicare reform will be to the left of a plan that liberal Democrat and health care guru Ron Wyden was able to approve. Such a plan will likely be crafted in a manner that will make it seem reasonable to the sorts of swing voters who decide elections.

Finally, the Ryan selection absolutely transforms 2012 from a referendum on the president to a “choice” election between competing visions, and that’s a good thing for Republicans. The GOP was simply not going to win an election that was all about the economy and jobs, largely because Americans, and especially the media, have spent four years focusing on those issues and have already reached a verdict on the level of blame that should be apportioned to Obama for the economy. The fact that Obama was leading Romney fairly steadily prior to the Ryan selection shows that a majority of Americans had yet to decide to replace Obama based solely on the weak economy, and probably never would.

But an election about the economy, government spending, and reinventing major government programs like entitlements, with the Republican ticket led by two smart, wonky, highly educated and well-spoken candidates, has the potential to result in some unusual political bedfellows, and perhaps bring certain groups of young voters, white professionals, and suburban women back to the Republican ticket. Americans under 40, who believe that the present economy is the new normal, who don’t expect to ever achieve their dreams, and who strongly suspect that their parents will be the last generation to ever receive any Social Security or Medicare benefits, will have the choice between a ticket that will allow those programs to go bankrupt and fiddle while the economy dies, and one that will bring mobility back to America, restore the middle class, and give young people a shot at having a better life than their parents. That’s a choice election that Republicans can win.

Wherever one stands on all of these issues, though, one thing is clear: Romney/Ryan is now the Republican presidential ticket for 2012. That means that Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan are the party’s leaders until at least November 6th, and that any public criticism of the ticket from fellow Republicans potentially provides Democrats with fodder to use against the ticket and to help re-elect President Obama. As such, it’s time for Republicans to come together and shelve our pet peeves until the election is over, and until Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan are named President-elect and Vice President-elect on the evening of November 6th, or more likely, the morning of November 7th.

  12:35 pm Conservatism, Mediscare, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan  

August 12, 2012

Team Romney Rocks the Ryan Rollout

While watching Mitt Romney’s announcement of Paul Ryan as his VP choice and the Congressman’s subsequent address, it became quite clear that they seek to move the perception of the ticket – and, consequently, the Republican Party – in a new direction.

Of course, our always-insightful Dave Gaultier already has expanded on this notion, so I won’t venture into his territory; rather, I’ll cite aspects of the speech that I considered particularly effective.

First and foremost, Mitt began his portion of the rollout with Ryan’s personal background, making it a point to discuss the challenging circumstances the Budget Committee Chairman’s family faced during his youth. Romney then proceeded to highlight Ryan’s character, integrity, and honesty and praise his bipartisan efforts, optimism, and leadership. Words cannot express the importance of this, as Team Romney must do everything it can to get out ahead of the Democrats’ Mediscare tactics by defining Ryan in a positive light.

The Governor also didn’t just talk about Ryan’s favorite issues – the debt and budgetary reform, he also branched out into the all-important topics of income growth and economic revitalization. This provides a strong signal that the Romney campaign intends to fold Ryan’s specialty into a broad, comprehensive vision they’ll offer as an alternative to President Obama’s.

Also in the realm of messaging and defining the ticket, Mitt brought up the fact that Obamacare cuts Medicare by $800 billion and pledged to “strengthen and preserve” Medicare and Social Security. While this may offend some of our ideological sensibilities, a campaign that figures to get hammered on long-term entitlement reform must frame the issue on their favored terms. The aforementioned verbiage takes care of that.

During his speaking time, Ryan took care to describe himself as a solutions-oriented problem-solver. This is music to the ears of Independents, including my fellow suburbanites (especially those of the non-ideological variety). This also suggests to voters that while Romney-Ryan’s proposals will undoubtedly have foundations in conservative philosophy, the ticket does not consist of ideologues.

Along these lines, Ryan threw down the gauntlet to address the big issues and problems facing America. As DaveG has noted, many campaigns have paid lip service to these lofty ambitions in the past, but none have pushed them as one of the key tenets of their platform.

The Congressman took Gov. Romney’s attempts to resurrect Americans’ collective spirit to another level, specifically challenging the notion, widely embraced within the Beltway, of the “New Normal” and arguing that current conditions have dampened our sense of optimism and confidence in the future.

He reminded us that the Democrats enjoyed supermajorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Obama administration, helping to counter the false narrative of Obama’s reform attempts getting stymied at every turn. He contrasted the pettiness of the Obama campaign and other Democrats with a vow to take a positive message of growth and opportunity to “every corner of the country”. He defended risk-taking and entrepreneurship (“If you have a small business, you DID build that!”). He repeatedly talked about income growth. And he definitively proclaimed, “We CAN turn this thing around!”

All in all, Rep. Ryan, Gov. Romney, and the rest of the campaign team collectively hit a home run with the announcement. They kept the media (and observers like us!) guessing until the very end, they ignited the enthusiasm of the Republican base, and they boldly moved the party in a new direction, one geared toward leadership on the tough issues of the day, solutions, and reform.

Buckle up, my friends, and get your popcorn ready. We’re in for quite a show this Fall!

August 3, 2012

Paul Ryan: Still the Best Option

These ideas began as a comment on my colleague Matthew Miller’s helpful reminder of Paul Ryan’s sheer brilliance when it comes to philosophical framing of the choice we face this November. I decided to turn it into a full-fledged post, to open up some debate on one of my favorite political topics, the Veepstakes, just ahead of Gov. Romney’s final decision.

Back in April, I advocated Congressman Ryan as Gov. Romney’s best choice for VP. Despite the scuttlebutt that Tim Pawlenty has pulled into a commanding lead on Mitt’s Veep depth chart, I maintain my preference of Ryan (and this comes from someone totally in the tank for T-Paw back during the primary campaign). I also take the view that Ryan would actually help more than Pawlenty among younger voters and moderates, by improving the ticket’s – and the Republican Party’s – brand.

First and foremost, Rep. Ryan would bring enormous intellectual heft to the ticket, as evidenced once again by the videos in the aforementioned Matthew Miller post. I don’t mean this to denigrate T-Paw as an intellectual lightweight, but few, if any, can better articulate the merits of capitalism, free enterprise, and limited government than our dear Budget Committee Chairman. This would go a long way toward changing the perception of the GOP (among young voters, moderates, suburbanites, and other growing demographics) from a rural-dominated group deficient in critical thinking to a liberty-focused, philosophically sophisticated bunch – closer to the positioning the party established during the Reagan years.

Many in Romney’s corner have voiced concern that tapping Ryan would shift the conversation away from the economy and onto his budget proposals. I may stand alone here, but I would welcome this shift if it changed the target of the Democrats’ attacks from Romney’s wealth – their current topic du jour – to entitlement reform. Class warfare is very powerful politically. It plays into voters’ insecurities and jealousies. People can do scary things when their emotions take over. And like it or not, Mitt already struggles with the “empathy” test. That, along with the electoral efficacy of class warfare, largely accounts for why Democrats have trained their fire on Mitt’s wealth so often in the campaign, and they show no signs of discontinuing. If he figures to get attacked for his success, anyway, why not at least strive to extract some benefit from it, by going all-in on long-term, structural budget reform with Rep. Ryan?

And that brings me to my next point: adding a counter-punch to the Romney campaign. Mitt has drawn criticism for relying too heavily on negativity, instead of following up his critiques of the President with proposals of his own. What better way to do that than to add arguably the biggest policy wonk among Republican elected officials in Washington, not to mention one of the most persuasive salesmen of conservative reform? Instead of simply arguing, in effect, “Obama’s policies stink,” Team Romney can go on the offensive with, “Obama’s policies stink, and we can do better. Here’s how.” We must not underestimate the significance of this; voters don’t always just want to vote against someone or something, they prefer to vote for something else, if given the chance. This especially holds true if the person they would have to vote against retains strong popularity on a personal level.

Last but not least, Ryan has spent 13 years in Washington. While that in itself carries some risk, it also means he has forged valuable relationships and connections on the Hill. Recent administrations have demonstrated the advantages of a vice president well-versed in the legislative process. As such, a Vice President Ryan could prove invaluable with spearheading a President Romney’s agenda through Congress. All the executive experience in the world doesn’t matter very much if the president can’t get any legislation passed. Ryan’s ability to help in this realm adds the figurative cherry on top for his case.

In the end, Paul Ryan may not have the greatest chances of getting the eventual nod from Gov. Romney, but when we take a step back and analyze the long-term implications of this campaign, he remains the best option.

July 31, 2012

A Happy 100th Birthday to Milton Friedman

Today, July 31, marks the Centennial birthday of the legendary free market economist Milton Friedman.  Along with fellow Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman was the leading economic mentor and advisor to the Republican conservative-libertarian movement during the second half of the twentieth century as characterized by the likes of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.  He was, of course, a leading economic advisor to candidate and President Reagan.  His 1980 book and PBS mini-series Free to Choose played a not-insignificant role in the 1980 election campaign as it was an important element in the intellectual infrastructure supporting the Republican campaign that year.  [In more recent years, the role of Republican economic “mentor and advisor” fell to political action czar Grover Norquist along with “Joe the Plumber”—but that’s another story].

Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a nice tribute to Friedman written by Stephen Moore of the Journal’s Editorial Board.  Entitled “The Man Who Saved Capitalism,” Moore’s tribute includes a few points worth highlighting:

It’s a tragedy that Milton Friedman—born 100 years ago on July 31—did not live long enough to combat the big-government ideas that have formed the core of Obamanomics. It’s perhaps more tragic that our current president, who attended the University of Chicago where Friedman taught for decades, never fell under the influence of the world’s greatest champion of the free market. Imagine how much better things would have turned out, for Mr. Obama and the country….In the 1960s, Friedman famously explained that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” If the government spends a dollar, that dollar has to come from producers and workers in the private economy. There is no magical “multiplier effect” by taking from productive Peter and giving to unproductive Paul. As obvious as that insight seems, it keeps being put to the test. Obamanomics may be the most expensive failed experiment in free-lunch economics in American history.

Next to Ronald Reagan, in the second half of the 20th century there was no more influential voice for economic freedom world-wide than Milton Friedman. Small in stature but a giant intellect, he was the economist who saved capitalism by dismembering the ideas of central planning when most of academia was mesmerized by the creed of government as savior….More influential than Friedman’s scholarly writings was his singular talent for communicating the virtues of the free market to a mass audience. His two best-selling books, “Capitalism and Freedom” (1962) and “Free to Choose” (1980), are still wildly popular. His videos on YouTube on issues like the morality of capitalism are brilliant and timeless.

 Read the full op-ed here.


  9:18 pm 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Republican Party  

July 27, 2012

Birth Of A Salesman

I hope my readers will permit me a bit of hometown pride when I single out the phenomenon of Congressman Mike Kelly who represents the 3rd District of Pennsylvania (the largest city in the district is my hometown of Erie).

Congressman Kelly has just delivered a speech of the floor of the U.S. house of representatives decrying  the excess of government regulation now coming out of Washington, DC, but it was no ordinary speech. With his Irish-American passion and background as a successful businessman-turned-citizen-congressman, Kelly ripped into the avalanche of liberal regulatory fiats that is overwhelming American small businesses across the nation. “Let the tide rise for all boats!” Mr. Kelly said at the conclusion of his speech, and, in a rare action, many of his colleagues gave him a standing ovation, punctuated by cheers of “U-S-A! U.S.A.!” (U.S. house rule forbid applause and demonstrations such as this on the floor). Videos of his speech have now gone viral across the nation, and virtually every major conservative publication has taken note of it.

Who is Mike Kelly? He is, if you will, a successful car salesman from the southern part of the district which previously had been represented by Tom Ridge (later governor and then first secretary of the U.S. department of homeland security) and Phil English (Ridge’s successor and one of the brightest men in Washington). Kelly himself had defeated a liberal Democrat who had upset English in the liberal sweep of 2008, but had voted for Obamacare and other legislation unpopular in this blue collar Rust Belt district in northwester Pennsylvania. With major figures such as Ridge and English who had preceded him, Kelly might have, as is usual for house freshmen, kept a low profile, but he has been an outspoken and passionate opponent of many policy initiatives of the Obama administration, particularly those which are perceived as anti-business.

I said that Mr. Kelly was a car salesman, Actually, he took over his father’s Chevrolet business and greatly expanded it. He did serve on the Butler city council for a while, but came to Washington primarily as a businessman. A few years ago, there were few of these in Washington, but my friend Rudy Boschwitz , who had begun a very successful business in Minnesota, started a trend four decades ago when he won a U.S. senate seat, and for two terms continually articulated the value of business principles over federal bureaucratic practices. Since that time, several other successful and articulate business persons have come to Washington (Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner  are two examples), but in my opinion there are too few, especially in the current political environment when regulatory fiats are clearly out of control.

Mr. Kelly, I am sure, simply spoke his mind the other day on the U.S. house floor, and had no idea that he might touch a deep nerve in the body politic, or that his speech might make him a celebrity, But he did, and it has.

(Twenty years ago, as I have already noted, another unknown congressman from this “forgotten corner” of the Keystone State came from nowhere to become a successful governor and later, a cabinet member and major national figure in the War on Terror.)

Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is now considered by many as a classic American play. I’ve come to realize that it is much over-rated and a sentimental anti-capitalist screed, typical of many “serious” plays of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. It echoes the leftist notion that the foundation of democratic capitalism is somehow an empty ideal, and implies that a paternalistic central government is a better way. That sentiment has been revived with much fervor in Washington today by an administration that employs class warfare as a weapon.

Perhaps Mike Kelly’s impromptu words have somehow struck a long-hibernating chord. The response to his speech would suggest that it has. In any event, I think we will be hearing from him again.


-Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved. Please visit Mr. Cassleman’s personal site

  6:34 pm Campaign Issues, Conservatism  

July 20, 2012

Keep an Eye on Robyn Hamlin

Of all the congressional races in the country this year, the one with the greatest potential for revolutionary change is that of Robyn Hamlin.

Robyn is a small business owner, small-government firebrand, and Republican candidate for US Congress in Missouri’s first district.  For nearly half a century, Missouri CD-1 has been represented by one family.  First Bill Clay, then his son William Lacy Clay.  This Democratic family dynasty has gone in lock step with increasing the national debt, instituting a government takeover of health care, and slashing civil liberties.  The local GOP establishment has provided no support to any of its congressional candidates, and many believe that it has actually made an under-the-table deal to keep the seat in Clay’s hands.

Robyn Hamlin was the party nominee in 2010 and garnered only 26% of the general election vote, but there has been a sea change in the district since then.

1). Because of the 2010 US census, Missouri lost a congressional district, and so CD-1 absorbed a lot of new voters from surrounding districts, which has caused Republican numbers in CD-1 to rise by a whopping 10% or so.

2). Because of redistricting, incumbent Congressman Russ Carnahan is challenging incumbent Congressman William Lacy Clay in the same primary, and it’s shaping up to be a bloodbath.  Whichever Democrat emerges will be badly bruised amongst his own party in the general election.

3). No Republican nominee in Missouri’s CD-1 has ever been able to receive any support or resources for the local GOP establishment, but this year, Robyn went over the local party’s heads and hired David Adams (campaign manager for Rand Paul’s 2010 Senate run) and Dave Nalle (strategy advisor to Ted Cruz for Senate 2012).  Together, they have put together a strong and serious campaign.

For the first time in half a century, conservatives have a chance to flip a long-standing blue district into the red column.  Consider sending $20 or $30 her way and contributing to what may be one of the biggest upsets of the season.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am also proud to be consulting her campaign.)

June 9, 2012

Education: The Key to Winning

Sometimes people fall into a trap of looking for the next “Reagan.” Since 1992, no Republican has won more than 280 votes in the electoral college, which makes us long to return to an era of landslides akin to Reagan’s years. However, with a perceived polarized nation, there is a struggle with understanding that such landslides are still possible.

The best way to bring back Reagan/Bush I landslides, I feel, is not to look for the next Reagan, but to teach solid conservative principles to this nation. If this nation understood why these values were so important, candidates like Reagan would win much more often.

In this election, Romney is a figure that represents a broad scope of ideas. such as:

1. Free markets work and allow companies like Apple and Google to grow and raise the national standard of living.
2. We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.
3. The family, starting with a marriage between a man and a woman, does a lot of things better than the government.
4. States should have the power to experiment with new plans, rather than have Washington bureaucrats control our lives.
5. Welfare should be safe, rare, and legal. The same entitlements that help those thousands (or more) who are genuinely in need can turn into a dependency on Government for millions.
6. Abortion is wrong, but is a very sensitive issue that should be treated with great care as we work to end it in America.
7. The role of the courts is to interpret the constitution, not to make law.

Whether or not you agree with all 7 statements is beside the point of this article. The point is, we should be running on Conservative principles, because they work. And, as such, we should have conversations about principles, not candidates. If someone believes the principles above, they will vote for Romney.

So, some people are worried that we didn’t get a conservative enough candidate this year. Rather than complaining, they should have conversations about principles more than people this year. If this were to happen, then elections would take care of themselves, the size of Government would go down, minorities would live far better than they do right now and we’d finally have a president who would match Ronald Reagan in popularity– not because of what he does, but because the people are willing to support long overdue policy changes.


-Jason Jackson is a law student at a prominent Christian university. He is concerned more about principles than politicians, but is drawn to politics by the fact that public policy impacts public opinion.

  4:45 pm 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Mitt Romney, Presidential History  

May 31, 2012

The Coalition to Reduce Spending

The 2012 election is about far more than just the single office of the presidency.  The fate of our nation will be shaped more so by the hundreds of congressmen, the thousands of state legislators and other local office holders, as well as all the bills and ballot issues that will be voted up or down in November.  At the forefront of the effort to win the battle against the unsustainable national debt is a new organization called The Coalition to Reduce Spending.  There is a bit of political nepotism in my post here, as the group is founded and run by my friend and colleague Jonathan Bydlak (finance director for Ron Paul 2008 and Gary Johnson 2012), but the Coalition to Reduce Spending has the resources and the ground game to make a major difference.  You can become a part of the effort to get this country serious about tackling the national debt, by signing up at their website, and following their progress on Facebook and Twitter.

  7:00 pm 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Economy & Spending  

May 23, 2012

Thomas Massie Wins KY-4 GOP Nomination

If you haven’t heard of Thomas Massie yet, you should. He is now the Republican nominee for U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky’s fourth district. As Lewis County judge-executive, he paid for his first three year’s salary entirely by cutting waste from other parts of the budget. Endorsed by the Club for Growth, Massie opposes all bailouts and government “stimulus” bills, and supports tax reform, entitlement reform, and eliminating the Department of Education. The outgoing Congressman Geoff Davis has enjoyed a decade-long reign as a popular incumbent, but KY-4 is by no means a completely safe seat. It was represented by a Democrat as recently as 2004. If there’s a congressional candidate you send a few dollars to this season, consider helping out Massie, who certainly represents a bright future for the GOP.

  3:54 am 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Fundraising, Republican Party  

May 22, 2012

Paul Ryan at the Reagan Library Tonight

Many of our readers may be interested to know that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will deliver a major address this evening May 22 at the Reagan Library in California beginning at 6 pm PDT.  It will be webcast live and you can access it via the following link:

The Reagan Foundation will post the webcast on their website within a day or so after the event for those who may wish to watch later.


  9:03 am 2012 Misc., Conservatism  

May 17, 2012

The Tea Party Has Slumbered, But It Did Not Sleep

The upset victory of Deb Fischer in the Nebraska Republican U.S. senate primary, following so closely Richard Mourdock’s upset victory in the Indiana Republican U.S. senate primary (over 6-term incumbent Richard Lugar), indicates that the phenomenon of the 2010 elections, the Tea Party, has not been entirely sleeping in the 2012 cycle.

The Tea Party is not a centrally controlled, nor easily defined, grass roots movement. I’ve heard it said that 47 different organizations are considered part of the Tea Party. It has no official leaders or spokespersons. After its huge influence in the 2010 elections, it was expected to play a major role in 2012, especially in the GOP presidential contest. However, the Tea Party, as such, was overshadowed in 2011-12 by the libertarian Ron Paul candidacy, Newt Gingrich’s resurgency, and finally, the emergence in the later primaries of GOP social conservatives. The eventual presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, was not a Tea party figure. There was much talk that the Tea Party, a conservative grass roots economic movement, had evaporated or been put to sleep. Two prominent Tea party figures, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, had either not entered the presidential contest, or soon failed in it.

A left wing grass roots movement, Occupy Wall Street, had arisen after 2010, and enjoyed a brief notoriety, When the Occupy movement tried to revive itself in early May, its efforts fizzled. So, too, thought many was the fate of the Tea Party.

The big difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (and its various ‘Occupy” progeny) is that the former is a popular voter movement, and less an ideological phenomenon than a response to real economic conditions in the nation, while the latter is a radical ideological movement of activists who have no real voter base.

There has been much hand-wringing over the defeat of long-time U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. Mr. Lugar had many years of
distinguished service in the senate, including his time as chairman of the powerful foreign relations committee, but at 80 years of age, and holding some foreign policy views no longer in the conservative mainstream, it was time for him to retire. A seat in the U.S. senate is not a dukedom, nor is this institution similar to the British house of lords. Each election is intended to be a renewal of the right to hold office. Mr. Lugar overstayed his welcome in his own party. He will be replaced by an experienced political figure who holds views much closer to the emerging new conservative legislative philosophy.

The same seems to be true of  Nebraska state legislator Deb Fischer who came suddenly from behind to defeat frontrunner state Attorney General Jon Bruning, the candidate of the old conservative establishment.

In Utah, long-time Senator Orrin Hatch has, for now, avoided a similar fate by paying attention to Utah Tea Party issues, but he still faces a primary and a Tea Party-backed opponent.

In Wisconsin, GOP icon Tommy Thompson, long-time governor, failed to win party endorsement recently, and he now faces a primary challenge from a Tea Party favorite.

I have suggested for almost a year now that the Republicans are almost certain to win back control of the U.S. senate from the Democrats in 2012. This was based on the fact that twice as many Democrats are up for election this year, and that many of them are vulnerable. Since that time, a few surprises (such as the unexpected retirement of Maine’s Olympia Snowe) have occurred, but the basic circumstance is mostly unchanged. In fact, as of late, there seems to be even more a voter trend to the Republicans.

The four U.S. senate races previously mentioned, even if all the incumbents and GOP establishment figures are defeated by Tea Party challengers, should be in Republican hands in January, 2013. But the philosophy of the new and GOP-controlled senate would be quite different. This is what Tea Party voters are fighting for, a renewed set of conservative operating principles.

The national elections of 2010 brought the legislative momentum of the Obama administration to a halt, but it did not replace the radical Obama agenda with a conservative one. That requires both the presidency and control of both houses of Congress. The focus for Tea Party activists in 2012 is the campaign for control of the U.S. senate.

That is why, from seeming to slumber, the Tea Party grass roots movement has now reawakened.

Has this movement found in their senate candidates of 2012 more consistently appealing figures than in 2010 (when several eccentric Tea Party senate candidates lost)? Can the Tea party movement muster a strong enough subset of the GOP senate to assert their economic views during the next administration?

The answers to these questions will come from remaining primaries and the autumn election contests. It is one of the most intriguing aspects of the 2012 campaign season, hitherto preoccupied with the GOP presidential nomination, which will play itself out to an historic and momentous election day.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

  2:59 am 2012 Misc., 2012 Primary Calendar, Conservatism  

May 9, 2012

Gay Marriage and Democrats – Broadening the Conversation

The rhetoric which surrounds the issue of gay marriage should give any conservative pause before voting for or even associating with any Democrats. Pay attention to my reasoning.

The reason is NOT because gay marriage is the most abhorrent thing in the world. It doesn’t directly affect me. And frankly it frustrates me when people in the media say “abortion and gay marriage” in the same talking points phraseology as if there is no distinction in the level of culpability, because the killing that occurs with abortion is an exponentially greater threat to the moral ethic than gay marriage which does not involve a killing, but rather, a mere definition.

On the other hand, gay marriage DOES indirectly affect me, in the sense that it affects the broader culture and coincides with liberal attempts to smear, malign, and castigate Catholicism and Christianity and eliminate the Judeo-Christian ethic that has historic roots in the country. This indirect connection to my life, while still indirect, ultimately comes very close to directly affecting me as the broader culture affects everyone.

I personally oppose gay marriage. To be clear, there are many legitimate reasons for opposing gay marriage. I’ll just state the most compelling three reasons here for brevity. First, the definitional nature of procreation and child-bearing that can only exist between a man and a woman legitimately deserves special recognition in society. Second, it is certainly possible to respect gay people and at the same time oppose gay marriage, and those two principles are not mutually exclusive. Third, all arguments for gay marriage apply equally to polygamous marriage. This absurdity goes far to show how Hollywood and the news media can morph people’s minds, in the sense that the “gay lobby” has generally succeeded in labeling opposing forces as “bigots” but somehow the “pologamy lobby” has thus far failed at labeling opposing forces “bigots.” It’s still ay-okay for society to view polygamists as objectively unorthodox people, but now if you view gays as objectively unorthodox people not worthy of a legitimate marriage title rooted in procreation and child-bearing, well, then, YOU’RE A BIGOT!

And that brings me to this…the real reason that the gay marriage issue should prevent someone from voting or associating or being friends with democrats: “YOU’RE A BIGOT!”

Note that this reason is completely separate from the underlying merits of gay marriage. It is a reason based on the democrat consciously or subconsciously personally attacking and assaulting the integrity of the republican.

Why would a person want to vote for, associate with, or be friends with people that call you a bigot (or think it) based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. “YOU’RE A BIGOT!” is nothing more than an extension of their compulsive desire to call you names (or think it), insulate themselves from being labeled a bigot (in thinking others actually are bigots), and satisfy their inferiority complex to make them feel good about the notion that you are inherently inferior to them as a person (and actively thinking it).

This is the subtext that underlies ALL democrat arguments. It’s a personal attack on the integrity of the republican.


This is the entire democrat platform. Let me repeat. This is the entire democrat platform. Therefore if you are a democrat voter, by definition, your mind and your brain consciously or subconsciously views the republican voter in this insulting context. BY DEFINITION!

For this reason, the following question should occur to you. Why would any self-respecting individual desire to vote for, live with, have lunch or dinner with, have conversations with, be around, talk to, be friends with, meet on special occasions, dedicate your time to, share intimate moments with, or otherwise associate with any democrat when by definition they view you in this insulting context?

And as a brief corollary, this question: wouldn’t it make more sense to associate with conservatives who you know consciously and subconsciously respect you as a person? Not to mention the fact that you share core values and can actually entertain a conversation with them without the stated or unstated subtext of having your integrity personally assaulted. Not to mention that with conservatives, even when you disagree, you at least know they still respect you as a person.

Let me be clear. Abortion is far and away “Reason #1? because it involves an actual and real killing. Nothing can eclipse the seriousness of an actual and real killing and it remains shocking to me that an “informed voter” (rare as they are) could vote for an abortionist democrat party.

The aforementioned line of reasoning, nevertheless, stands as a pretty damn close “Reason #2.”

And I’ll take credit for this post being absolutely brilliant in seeking out and finding…truth.

  7:11 pm 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Culture  

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