Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why Democrats are Winning

As I write this, three days remain in the Presidential campaign. The race is not over, but Obama is ahead in polls in Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada, which means he is likely to win.I find this sad not only because I am a staunch Republican, but because I have long been a great personal fan of Mitt Romney. Based both on his sterling carrier and his great character, he is the candidate most qualified to become President running in either party since Reagan.

The Obama presidency has been a failure. Sure, the economy was terrible when Obama was elected four years ago. However historically the economy always recovers after a recession, and it has failed to do so this time due to his leftist policies. During Obama the American economy has declined in terms of employment and stagnated in terms of GDP growth. The Bush-deficits were already bad, yet Obama managed to triple them. Rather than fix the problem as he promised, President Obama made things worse.

The President blames Republican “obstructionism” for not fixing the deficit. Yet during his two first years in office Obama enjoyed massive majorities in both the House and the Senate, which he used to increase rather than decrease the deficit.

Despite all of this, Republicans are losing. At the very least we can use this occasion for a frank self-examination. I think there are two fundamental and preventable reasons why Romney is behind:

1. The lingering memories of the failed Bush-Presidency.

Romney has not forcefully distanced himself from Bush. As Brit Hume pointes out "The Republican brand name is in terrible shape". According to Gallup 44% have a favorable view of the Republican Party and 50% unfavorable (many polls find worse results). This is not the natural way of things which we should accept. Prior to the Bush Presidency 52% had a favorable view of the Republican Party. 

During the convention instead of giving a standard speech Romney could have created an electric moment by turning to the Republican crowd and acknowledging the mistakes of Bush. He could have assured voters that President Romney wouldn’t pursue foreign adventures, wouldn’t support deficit-financed tax cuts, wouldn’t try to enact Amnesty and wouldn’t tolerate incompetency in disaster relief and other matters. Most of the base would have understood and supported him. (The standard line about Bush spending too much is not a strong enough signal enough, that’s not what center is angry about).

President Bush hurt the Republican brand deeply. To make matters worse following Bush we were privy to a seemingly endless list of clowns who further hurt the Republican brand among independents and centrists. These in various ways unattractive candidates included Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney could also have had a Sister Souljah moment by distancing himself from these loser. Instead he played it safe.

2. The left is winning the culture wars.

Republicans are narrowly winning of economic issues, but gay marriage, contraception, creationism and abortion for rape victims are killing us, especially among the young , the college educated, Asian-American, Jewish-Americans and single women. According to this AP-poll Romney beats Obama on the budget and jobs. But when voters are asked who they trust in “Handling social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage” Obama wins 54% to 33%.

The problem is getting worse as the salience of social issues is rising. As Samuel Huntington pointed out the central struggle is no revolves about economic philosophy, its about cultural identity. The cold war is further over (as is its short post 9/11 echo), reducing the traditional Republican advantage and at any case making the foreign policy dimension less prominent.

In 1988 Republicans won college-educated voters 62% to 37%. We are now tied among this growing demographic. Educate voters increasingly decide based identity issues rather than pocket-book issues, and social issues are toxic for Republicans. This group is not only important because of their votes. They also control commanding heights such the media, universities and popular culture and use them to indoctrinate voters in tribal hatred toward Republicans.

As Katrina Trinko pointed out on The Corner: “Here is another sign of the cultural bias that favors Democrats: late-night comics made far more fun of Mitt Romney and Republicans than they did of President Obama and Democrats during the general election.. Romney was joked about 148 times, while Obama was only the subject of 62 jokes….You can bombard the airwaves with Romney ads, but it’s this sort of cultural influence that makes it difficult for conservatives to win in the current environment.”

Politics runs downstream from culture. If voters abhor you because they think you are Taliban who want to take away women’s birth-control pills, they are not going to listen to your arguments about deficits undermining the economy no matter how well-reasoned they are.

The advantage of the left among the elites is not cut in stone. Many of them are persuadable about economics, foreign policy and illegal immigration.  It’s a small number of social issues that are poisoning the well for the right.

The right can easily defend popular and more fundamental elements of social conservatism. This includes the family, work ethic, faith, personal responsibility, law and order and patriotism. More than 70 percent of Americans still describe themselves as having “traditional values”. Those are winning ideas, while Rick Santorum saying: ”the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” is a losing idea.

I know I am offending some conservatives here. But if you believe America is slowly slipping through your fingers and want to stop the left, you don’t have the luxury to defend losing ideas.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. As a center right winger who I am a fan of your blog, I do agree with your post other than you being a fan of Romney and Republicans.

    The Economist article on picking Obama over Romney shares most of my views, but to further explain myself:

    Enormous flip flopping
    A country with very powerful military, where another war at this point is unwise, with high military spending will increase its budget highly even though the wars have ended to the point where the spending it used to pay on wars will go to other unrelated to war military spending. Furthermore the Bush issue you mentioned above is another factor, the risk of starting a war when you shouldn't had done so even if minor is a negative in comparison to less chance of doing that.

    Highly unclear economic pollicies on tax rates and on what deductions Romney will cut. Likely to hurt more poor and middle classess that way in combination with cutting spending and also taking in mind the increase of military spending.

    I favor a mixed healthcare system and Obamacare provides people with preexisting conditions healthcare at least.

    On the counter I dislike the anti-capitalist and class warfare rhetoric found among both Obama supporters and to an extend with Obama and Democrats in general, I don't think dividing society and focusing the attentions of the public on the rich as a scapegoat is a good thing for the US either short or long term, but Romney's 47% comment is even worse.

    From my point of view I wish for a somewhat more right wing on some issues Democrats, even if it does not happen than Republicans being any close to my views. Republicans are further apart than what I like.

    And you add to that the social conservatism parts I don't like. I do agree with certain issues like immigration policy should fit the needs of the nation and state and not any sense of feeling to help the people of the world without putting the interests of the state first so I disagree with amnesty but overall Obama is not too much on the left on that either.

  3. Using a friends account:

    The Republican Right---racist paranoids, fundamentalist Christians (who are a vulgar subset of evangelicals), and voodoo-economics enthusiasts---control the primaries, and so any Republican able to win the primaries has problems.

    The Republican nominee has to appease the Right by picking a rightwinger as a VP, or lose a fight in the convention. To win in November, the nominee must moderate their positions, which makes them look spineless, like Romney.

    //American-Swedish perspectives on the American election

  4. "voodoo-economics"

    Kurgman/Obama Voodoo-economics:

    * Taxes are irrelevant
    * Deficits are irrelevant
    * The key to entrepreneurship is a welfare state
    * The debt crisis in Europe has nothing to do with debt

    The U.S has 40-60% higher per capita income than Western Europe. The U.S has 3-4 times more entrepreneurship per capita as measured by VC-investment or share of large firms which are startups. Obama-Krugman believe Western Europe is a great role model for growth and entrepreneurship.

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