Conventional wisdom tell us that the two major political parties in the United States are so much alike, so resistant to real change, that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between most of their focus group-driven candidates. Thus, voter apathy is born. Why bother voting for one candidate over another if either will go to Washington and do the same exact thing?
In a wonderfully written 2010 piece in The American Spectator, Angelo Codevilla describes the collusion between the leaders of the two major political parties and how the country’s political leadership is monolithic. Gone are the days of ”the Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis” holding sway over their geographic regions’ political worlds. Instead, our political class (a problematic distinction in and of itself for small-government conservatives, libertarians, or certain elements of the uncorrupted left) has become a Washington-centered ruling class which, “from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints.” Written during the advent of the Tea Party’s arrival on the political stage, Codevilla captured the galvanized emotion of the electorate which, by and large, felt that no one was advocating for the average American in Washington.
Kudos to Dr. Codevilla!
While the premise of his thesis is spot on, it is important to address the pragmatic electoral challenges that the Republican Party faces in this regard. If one accepts George Wallace’s oft-used “dime” analogy of the two major parties, then it becomes very easy and almost impossible not to vote Democrat: liberal policies promise all sorts of goodies in return for votes, tend to appeal to the path of least resistance that is human nature, and are excluded from any critical assessment of their value or worth simply because their intentions are “good.” The Republican Party will continue to lose elections, while occasionally getting lucky in “wave” years such as 2010 (and maybe 2014), unless it distinguishes itself in the public’s mind from the Democrat Party. The distinctions are already there, they just need to be made clear to the public. The generous part of my nature wants to believe that Republicans aren’t good at identity politics because it runs contrary to the core principles of the party: self-reliance, capitalism and individualism.
With an apology to my colleague John Plucenik, who earlier this month admonished us to stop reading online lists, I would like to offer a few examples of the people that the Democrat Party has left behind, and who the Republican Party ought to be speaking directly to all of the time, not just when there are votes to be won. There are a few groups in particular that the GOP might start playing the identity politics game with in order to distinguish itself in the minds of voters as something other than wannabe Democrats.
The American Worker. Labor unions are faced with dwindling membership and court rulings such as Harris v. Quinn which are hostile to the union cause. Public sector unions in deep blue states such as Illinois and New York and private sector unions alike will no longer be able to shake down management or politicians for favorable contracts as public sentiment continues to turn against inefficient work rules, free Cadillac health insurance policies, and generous defined benefit pensions that teachers and cops are accustomed to receiving in many parts of the country.
While their natural base of labor unions is under assault, the Democrat Party is busy advocating for amnesty for the roughly 12 million illegal aliens living in this country, looking to bring them “out of the shadows” and into the legal job market. Progressive hero Cesar Chavez railed against illegal immigrants, calling them “wetbacks” and complaining that it would be difficult to win strikes in California with the free availability of cheap labor right over the border. Unfortunately, any economics professor will tell you that Congressman Charlie Rangel is wrong when he tweeted that immigration reform will “will create jobs, fuel innovation & small business, raise wages & reduce deficit by ~$1T”. If anything, illegal immigrants will take jobs away from American workers. Republicans should exploit this developing rift between two very important groups of Democrat base voting blocks.
African Americans. Despite an unemployment rate more than double the white population, the fact that the top 25 most violent neighborhoods in the nation are all black communities, and that roughly 67% of black households are single-parent, blacks still continue to vote Democrat in overwhelming numbers. Excepting the 2008 and 2012 elections, where a black candidate was on the ballot, blacks consistently and overwhelmingly voted Democrat from the New Deal Era through 2004.
Liberal stalwart, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, produced a watershed study on the problem of increasing black poverty in the 1960s, despite the nation’s numerous anti-poverty programs:
In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation’s business.
“The Negro Family: A Case for National Action,” U.S. Department of Labor, March 1965. http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/webid-meynihan.htm.
Granted, it is difficult for the Republican Party to make inroads to the black community when the GOP is regularly vilified as the “party of white supremacy” by the liberal commentariate. Even when Republicans like Rand Paul make the effort to reach out to the African American community, they are criticized by the left. Despite this, the work in the vineyards has to start sometime. In the groundswell of reaction to the illegal immigration problem, the Republicans can find a political opportunity to distinguish themselves from the failed policies of the Democrat Party and exploit the abysmal 75-year record of the American left’s anti-poverty agenda.
Women. In a recent letter to Long Island, New York’s Newsday, a former director of education of a regional Planned Parenthood office exposed some of the illegitimacy of the Democrat’s “war of women” narrative. She did this through her criticism of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, which affirmed a closely held corporation’s right to opt out of elements of the Affordable Care Act that conflicted with its religious beliefs.
By stating that “99 percent of American women who have had intercourse have used birth control at some point,” Suzanne Witzenburg acknowledges that there is no problem with access to birth control in this country. Republicans aren’t standing at pharmacy doors looking to prevent women or men from buying birth control. Conservatives just happen to take the Bill of Rights more seriously than Sandra Fluke’s desire to have her good times paid for by her health insurance policy. Birth control is readily available in a variety of forms both over the counter and through prescriptions from doctors.
Needless to say, abstinence is the best and most cost effective method of birth control. However, this doesn’t fit the Democrat narrative of the “war on women.” But with an unwillingness to hit back against this false Democrat narrative by pointing out that politicians like Bill Clinton, Jonathan Edwards, Ted Kennedy Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer (Democrats all) truly perpetrated wars on individual women (including their wives and daughters), or by failing to point out that leftist heroes like Margaret Sanger dreamed of birth control as a means to produce a “cleaner race,” the Republicans fall victim to the charge that there is, in fact, not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.
Angelo Codevilla’s assessment of our current crop of political leaders is brilliant. This new “ruling class” represents a real threat to freedom and prosperity in American. It is important, though to refute the conventional wisdom that there aren’t real differences between the two parties. While the leadership may be indistinguishable at times, the grass roots of each party stand for very distinct things. Just ask the nation’s unemployed, African Americans, or objectified women that the left sees as incapable of making their own decisions. I would also suspect the 50 million plus aborted fetuses who have been victims of abortion since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade might favor the one party whose platform has consistently supported and affirmed the right to life.
That’s a bit more than a dime’s worth of difference.