Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In which I Attempt to Actually Influence Votes

There's a number of reasons to be a Republican. Bear with me as I start with the bad ones:

You resent just about anyone who's not like you (racially, linguistically, geographically, economically, physically, sexually).

You can't differentiate between morality and legality.

You believe that the primary purpose of taxation is to take money from you and use it to benefit somebody else.

You are a Social Darwinist.

You are easily frightened.

Then there are the defensible reasons:

You believe that a free market lifts more people out of poverty than does government assistance.

You believe that having and using a strong military is the best way to ensure a stable globe.

You believe that the advantages of free trade outweigh the disadvantages.

You believe that every argument that is made claiming some market regulation is better than no market regulation can be made equally well to defend the notion that some cultural regulation is better than no cultural regulation.

You believe that government is inherently incapable of providing the optimal level of public services.

I tend to think of those whose political affiliation depends on some combination of the first set as the GOP base. The question is not who those folks will vote for, just how many will vote. For those people whose affiliation is primarily due to the second set, what will it take to convince them to vote Dem this fall?

When I think about it at any length, I have to conclude that I'm a really ineffective campaigner. I preach to the converted, but I tend to prefer facts to emotional appeals, which dampens that base-revving enthusiasm. I tend to think of the GOP base as unreachable, and those who can remain undecided even this far out from the election as people who are not heavily influenced by facts or principles, and thus fairly immune to my brands of persuasion.

But perhaps there is a group I can make an appeal to: Intellectual Conservatives. So let me take a shot here.

1) Democrats can be persuaded by evidence. You'll have an easier time convincing Democrats to liberalize trade than we have had convincing Republicans that Global Warming is real.

2) Democrats are more firmly committed to your civil liberties than Republicans are to 'economic freedom'.

3) Loud mouths and pre-emptive intervention are not the pillars of a conservative foreign policy.

4) Just like welfare reform could only be accomplished by Democrats, Medicare and SS reform won't happen unless led by Democrats.

You're not going to win all of the high-level arguments, and there are still some fundamental differences in philosophy that will exist, but seriously, over the last twenty years the Democratic Party has accepted the validity of more Conservative arguments, while the Republican Party has rejected more Conservative arguments. In the long term, hyper-religiosity and nationalism are going to do more to harm freedom than regulatory bodies and estate taxes, and you've got a better shot at convincing Dems that the latter two should be scaled back than you've got trying to convince Republicans that the former two should be.

You've seen John McCain pick a pork-gobbling hyper-evangelical to be a heartbeat away. You've seen Pat Tiberi talk like you but then vote like them. Some day, you'll get your party back, and we'll have some nice vigorous debates. If you do want it back, and you want a country worth debating over when it happens, you'll strongly consider voting Dem this fall.


Paul said...


Why do you do this?

This divisive stereotyping is what's killing our country. You're registered as a Democrat, and I'm registered as a Republican, yet I bet we agree on just about everything except partisan politics.

I believe the civil rights movement is not over. In fact I think we've regressed in many ways. But we're not going to fix poverty with taxes and welfare. You fix poverty with jobs.

We have to quite whining about how our country isn't producing enough engineers and scientists to compete on the world market. The Chinese aren't kicking our butts because they have more engineers (who come here for an education by the way), but rather because they have millions of folks abandoning their farms for manufacturing jobs, just like Americans did in the early 20th century.

I think free trade is a good thing, but we're not so good at it any more. I had a professor who defined a "less developed country" as one who exported natural resources and imported manufactured goods. Go to one of our seaports sometime. You'll see containers full of goods being offloaded for distribution in our country, and railroad cars filled with coal from WV and Wyoming being dumping into ships headed overseas. There are so many containers coming into our country vs going the other way that many are being shred for their scrap steel content rather than being shipped empty back to their sources.

I read a book this summer called "The Box" that describes the ways in which the shipping container has fundamentally changed world economics. The primary one of these is that shipping costs have been lowered to the point that it makes the cheapest labor in the world accessible.

I'm looking for a national leader who knows how to solve that problem. Could be that what we need are some old-fashioned trade tariffs to neutralize labor cost difference. That doesn't sound very free-market-Republican, but it could be the kind of measure we require. It certainly would piss off the rest of the world though. And harm American exporters.

We Americans have to accept the fact that we dominated the last half of the 20th century not so much because we're good at capitalism, but because we're good a fighting wars, and bombed the competition out of existence in WWII. Once Germany and Japan and everyone else recovered, our gap started to narrow.

When trade is truly global, so are labor rates. It would be nice if everyone was a PhD in engineering or biosciences and could crank out wonder products. But we'll always have a component of our population which needs to make their income from manufacturing or its 21st equivalent. So we can either become a closed society, or accept that competing on the world level means having common labor rates.

So what we really need is for all those Chinese to start buying American manufactured goods. Hope we still have some left.


bonobo said...


I'm sincerely sorry to have offended you. That was pretty much the opposite of my intent. I was trying to say that I recognize that there ARE good reasons one might want to identify as a Republican, namely that you understand the tradeoffs that come with freer markets, but you believe that the benefits outweigh the downsides, or on the other hand, because you believe that the government should be just as active in regulating the cultural environment as they are in regulating the physical environment. If you're in the second camp, you probably shouldn't be voting Democrat. If you're voting on gay marriage, I'm not going to convince you to vote Democrat. And if you're the type of person who is swayed by the color suit the candidate is wearing, I'm just as likely to persuade you without trying as I would be if I explicitly tried. So what's left for me to do, given that I personally think that voting Democrats into office at the federal level is a good thing? I can try to reach people like yourself. Like you said, we agree on most things. I am sure there are parts of the GOP platform you disagree with, just as there are parts of the Dem platform you disagree with. The point I was trying to make was that I think it will actually be easier in the long term for thinking conservatives to resolve their differences with democrats than with the harder core base of the GOP. Y'all have almost got me on board with a voucher system of sorts... :)