Friday question answered
On Friday, I asked: What should each party have learned from the 2010 midterms, and what incorrect conclusion are they most likely to extract?
I was delighted by the number of responses, as well as their seriousness and intellectual heft. (And I love songs!) I could have selected any number of the answers.
I want to give special recognition to EricR1, who wrote in part, "Republicans should learn that the messenger matters as much as the message.The Tea Party message has reinvigorated the GOP, but its messengers are often too flawed to actually win general elections.... Democrats should learn that the message matters as much as the messenger. Obama is still a strong messenger, still the most popular politician in the country. But his message is so narrow, partisan and unappealing to the center that he is his own worst enemy."
But since I agree with virtually all EricR1 and many other readers wrote, to mix things up a bit I'll select the post from JMPickett, who made several interesting points, some of which I agree with and others that I do not:
The Democrats should learn that their leaders are significantly to the left of the American public. What they appear to be 'learning' is that they simply did not communicate their leftist agenda correctly.
The GOP should learn that focusing very intently on economic growth, fiscal restraint and limited government is a big political winner, and will garner a vast coalition of voters - Dem, Repub, indie.
What the GOP probably will learn is that they'll spend slightly less than Democrats, only on their own pet issues and pork. Plus, they'll push issues that offend gay people and pro-choice people. I'm generally conservative but I really think at these times, we need to stay focused on economics.
I'll take the Democrats first. I agree about the rump group of mostly liberal House Democrats who will remain in January. The recent rhetoric of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the vote for partial extension of the Bush tax cuts, and the shock and horror with which liberals such as Rep. Jan Schawosky (D-Ill.) greeted the debt commission report suggest they didn't hear the message voters were trying to convey. Last month's election was as close as one comes to a national referendum, and voters delivered a stern rebuke to the president's agenda.
The jury is still out, however, with regard to the White House's response to that message. We have seen some moves toward the center -- the willingness to extend the Bush tax cuts, the freeze on federal workers' pay, and the withdrawal of the withdrawal deadline for Afghanistan. These may be moves of expediency, reflecting a fear of a one-term presidency. And they may not be followed up with more meaningful measures. But there seems to be some recognition there that the president can't carry on in complete contravention of the voters' wishes and still hope to get re-elected.
As for the Republicans, I see, at least for now, a great deal of humility and determination not to blow it this time around, as they did following the 1994 midterms. House Republicans in key positions, especially the budget chairman, are committed to making real and deep cuts in spending and to put forth their own version of entitlement reform. The GOP doesn't control the Senate or the White House, but I see no tolerance, at least at this stage, to belly back up to the spending trough.
Social issues are a trickier matter. Social conservatives don't, of course, intend their positions on abortion and gay rights to be "offensive" to those who disagree. Like liberals, they adopt these positions based on a variety of moral. legal and public policy rationales. And, whether you agree or not, the modern social conservative movement was a reaction against what many saw as an affront to, and attack on, traditional family values. We can leave the merits of that debate for another Friday question. But for now, I actually don't see much, if any, enthusiasm for making these, or other issues like immigration, top issues. On the campaign trail, in my Va.-11 District and others, Democratic candidates have raised social issues in an apparent attempt to scare off moderate suburban voters. To the extent that these issues aren't already monopolized by the courts (to my chagrin, as a legal conservative who believes matters of public policy not explicitly set forth in the Constitution should be left to the elected branches of government), House and Senate leaders don't have much interest in dealing with these issues. Over and over again, they cite the mantra of jobs, economic recovery and spending as their main issues. I think they are serious.
I'll close with some observations about the Tea Party. Some of the ostensibly sophisticated Republicans who have long wanted to toss social conservatives from the GOP coalition turned up their noses at the Tea Partyers. They tried to hustle upstarts like Marco Rubio out of the primaries. But the Tea Party rallied Republicans and independent voters around an agenda based on limited government. That is the broadest possible foundation for Republicans to reconstruct the majorities that elected Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
We make a mistake by labeling this a purely "economic agenda," however. What started the Tea Party? A CNBC host ranting that a responsible homeowner shouldn't pay his irresponsible neighbor's mortgage. In other words, underlying the Tea Party movement is a set of values -- thrift, delayed gratification, personal responsibility, etc. Those are not what we have come to identify as "social" issues, but these are not simply matters of dollars and cents.
Again, many thanks for all the responses. We'll do it again on Friday. If you have ideas for future questions feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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