A Coalition I Can Believe In

Megan McArdle talks about how Republicans need to keep its coalition together:

As long as social issues dominate the Republican Party, they will continue losing their north–I had a lot of relatives who at least considered voting for Obama.  Ironically, I wonder if the tea parties won’t help bring the two wings of the Republican party together:  guns and lower government spending are the two things all members can agree on.  But if the south wants to keep its northern Republicans–and the congressional seats that come with them–it’s going to have to back off trying to make the northern party look like a miniature version of itself.

Having grown up in a heavily Republican political culture in the northeast, she’s right about this. The great genius of Bill Clinton was the realization that by capturing a few important Republican economic issues, and making the switch to fighting culture wars, he could split the Republican Party by wedging apart the coalition. A lot of people in my area, including me, chose to become independent voters in the late 90s, early 00s because we did not like the direction the Republican Party was headed in. George W. Bush only made it worse. That drove a lot of people to the Democratic Camp.

Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, by running the country far to the left on economic issues, may very well be destroying what Bill Clinton accomplished in the 90s, and giving the GOP back their unifying issue.

10 thoughts on “A Coalition I Can Believe In”

  1. The governmental power level to regulate the social issues are abhorrent to small-government conservatives. The question is; how many of us are there?

  2. I think this is why it’s brilliant of the democrats to drop gun control as a major issue. They don’t care if individuals are anti-gun, but they’ve quite pushing it as a party. That helps them capture/hold a lot of seats.

    I did a post on this recently, but didn’t make my point well. My point being that Republicans should accept that Gay Marriage/legal gay unions are unstoppable and too large a part of our population will absolutely NOT vote for an anti-abortionist. So in some manner the Republicans need to figure out a way to dance around those issues and keep them from being planks of the party.


  3. And that worked awesomely in NY-23. And in 2008. The focus on social issues sure kept Creigh Deeds neck-and-neck with Bob McDonnell!


    An abandonment of social issues by Republicans will lead to many of their former voters sitting on their hands or actively working against them. McArdle’s advice is going to lead not to successful runs by folks like Giuliani but third-party runs or even Democrat running candidates not too different from Huckabee.

    Why not look at two of the larger groups, Catholics and Evangelicals. When they’re conservative on social issues, Republicans have finally started wresting some Catholic votes from the Democrats. At the same time, socially squishy candidates tend to risk losing Evangelicals.

    McArdle’s plan implies that if social conservatives don’t go along, they’ll wind up powerless; is this really that effective for a group raised on stories of wandering in the wilderness, exile, and martyrdom?

  4. Wolfwood:

    I probably wouldn’t go so far as suggesting the Republicans need to totally abandon social issues. I don’t think Megan is going that far either. But religious conservatives do need to understand that they too are in a coalition with people who might be a little uncomfortable with their positions.

    To that end, what did fiscal conservatives have to feel good about in the Bush Administration? Why haven’t Republicans yet learned to run socially liberal fiscal hawks in states like California? The GOP won in New Jersey because they finally fronted a candidate that could win.

    In short, GOP is a coalition, and everyone gets a little bit of action on their issues, but the unifying principle of the GOP has to be fiscal restraint, smaller government, and individual liberty. There’s a lot of room for disagreement within that, but you can’t assemble a winning national party on a handful of social issues.

  5. Sebastian,

    “Fiscal restraint, smaller government, and individual liberty” are nice, but to me that sounds more like “Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness definitely; Life…maybe. If we can afford it.”

    I do agree that it’s a coalition, but there are some things that rise to sine qua non status. For social conservatives, abortion tends to be one of those, just as lower taxes tends to be one for fiscal conservatives.

  6. ET, they don’t, and you’re ahead of the majority of the population in realizing that.

    Now, what are you going to do about it? Because BOTH parties play the power game by doling out goodies from the public purse.

    But Megan is wrong.

    This country’s problems don’t stem from racial or social division, so much as they do from two major parties ignoring the Constitution and pitting different segments of the populace against each other trying to “win”. This group is holding you down. That group is getting more than you are. Those evil dudes are yada yada yada. And the sheep follow along, oblivious.

    Every time someone like Megan writes a “we have to get rid of the noisy Christians” or “we have to get rid of the noisy Hispanics” or “we have to get rid of the noisy gun nuts”, the pols sit back and chuckle…

    and continue running the scam that our fedgov has become.

  7. Yes, there is a worldview problem as well. But that’s a topic for another day ;-)

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