Should the Republican Party Move to the Center?

That’s what a lot of pundits say.  But let’s examine the assertion a little more closely.

There is a reason why the Republican Party, and leading politicians in the Republican Party, and the bosses of the Republican Party (such as Limbaugh, Rove, Norquist etc.) take the positions they do.  They believe in those positions:

  • They believe that Medicare should be turned into an (inadequate) voucher, with the savings going to tax cuts for the wealthy. 
  • They believe that abortion should be banned in all cases, including rape.
  • They believe that if the Likud leadership in Israel wants to abandon Israeli democracy, then the United States should support them in those efforts.
  • They believe we should go to war with Iran.  (Maybe not Norquist; the rest of them do.).
  • They believe in severely cutting Medicaid and Food Stamps, and for that matter destroying the EPA and shrinking the federal government to the size of a bathtub.
  • They believe that America is being overrun with immigrants from cultures that they do not like, and want to maintain America as a predominantly white country.
  • They believe that gays and lesbians do not deserve equal rights.
  • They believe that climate change is a hoax, and that most public lands should be privatized for private mineral exploitation.
  • They believe in torture.
  • They believe that unions should be destroyed.
  • They believe that the New Deal and the Great Society are socialism.

They believe these things.  It is an indication of the cynicism of much of the Beltway media that it tells Republicans to give up their beliefs in order to win elections, as if power for its own sake is what politics is about.  It is not.

Democrats did not give up their belief in, say, universal health coverage when Reagan won and Dubya won.   That’s what political parties are for.

Media types might say that they are only asking for some sort of reframing or repackaging.  That’s a nice way of saying that the GOP should obfuscate its message and attempt to fool the voters, which of course is much of what Romney and Ryan were trying to do anyway.  This, in turn, reflects the Beltway discomfort with any arguments about substance, an obsession about tactics and horse races because policy is just too boring, and a contempt for the electorate. 

But we hope that politicians and leaders actually believe in things, advocate for them, and give the public a chance to judge them.  In a democracy, despite the cynicism that all of us dabble in, that really isn’t too much to ask.

 

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

80 thoughts on “Should the Republican Party Move to the Center?”

  1. _Democrats did not give up their belief in, say, universal health coverage when Reagan won and Dubya won._

    How about their belief in gun control?

    1. Fair enough, although as I have commented before, I think that that is more a function of the decline in violent crime than trimming for election purposes. Here in California, which is about a Blue as you get, Dems don’t push it because it just isn’t on the front burner because of crime rates.

  2. Did they always believe these things? Or have these beliefs evolved over a period of time?
    Did Pete McCloskey believe these things?

  3. The obvious counterargument is that these “leading politicians” are not necessarily a representative sample of the members of the Republican party (and most definitely not a representative sample of conservatives). That they are a instead an extremist posse that has hijacked the Republican party for their political goals.

    1. Yes, but I’m not sure that that is true. Put another way, it is not clear to me what “hijacked” means. These people ran for office, and they won. That means someone must have voted for them. Those people are called Republicans.

      1. Not necessarily called that correctly, Johathan. Ike was a Republican. Gerald Ford was a Republican. The people who voted for them were Republicans. I often disagreed with them, but they were rational and we could discuss our differences reasonably and calmly. We could each try to convince the other of the opinions we held, and we could often agree that the nation needed to compromise somewhere between our differing opinions.

        More accurately, I believe, “those people” in your paragraph — the voters, today, who believe in the propaganda of Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh — are called “gullible.”

      2. Not to put too fine a point on it, but neither Rove, Norquist, nor Limbaugh have ever held elected office, and I have serious doubts that they would have success outside the reddest of the red Congressional districts, when they would have to defend their lunatic views in open debate (see also: Akin, Todd, self-destruction of).

        They are the modern day equivalent of Cardinal Richelieu, not Margaret Thatcher.

        1. I was happy to see Akin lose by a wide margin. The pre-election polls were predicting a closer race. It was good to see that in a case of legitimate foolishness, the body public has a way to shut that whole thing down.

    2. Having spent a fair amount of time in semi-rural Missour-ah I can report that Akin’s beliefs about “legitimate rape” are neither a ‘mistake/wrong word’ or uncommon. The hard-right evangelicals have an entire taxonomy ranging from “good virtuous Christian virgins” to “sluts & Jezebels”. And in their philosophy, while it is still illegal and wrong for a man to rape a “slut/Jezebel”, it is only to be expected and very definitely _not_ a “legitimate rape”. Variations on this theme are very common in the regions that until Wednesday morning were thickly sown with Romney and Akin signs (although interestingly not a lot of Spence, which lends some credence to the rumor that Jay Nixon might throw his hat in the ring for 2016).

      Do I claim that all Republicans hold these beliefs? No. But I do claim that the Republican Party as a whole (including its libertarian fellow traveler – Brett) need to do some open honest soul-searching about how to handle this.

      Cranky

  4. There is no monolithic “They”
    Some union members vote R.
    Some Rs do not approve of torture.
    Some Rs believe climate change is happening.

    If the R leadership shifts on some of those issues, IOW move to the center, many of the R voters will follow.

    1. I accept your premise, but disagree with your conclusion and Jonathan’s.

      I’ve always viewed the Rs as a band of losers. They’re not homogeneous. The Talibans really don’t like the plutocracy all that much, and hate the neocons. The plutocracy despises every other group (they’re culturally quite blue, y’know.) The neocons have these weird Straussian fantasies with regard to the plutocrats, and view the others as untermenschen. Etc. But they’ve all decided to band together, each giving up everything but their own true love. The plutocrats get more plutocracy, even if they have to accept Taliban sermons. The Talibans get to re-regulate gender (or so they think), but get shafted by the plutocrats. The neocons get hard over manly men doing manly things to each other in foreign lands, and give up on the Enlightenment. Etc.

      Most Republicans believe in two or three absurdities on Jonathan’s list, but reject the rest. But they know that pretending to accept the rest is the price of their own absurdities.

  5. Don’t forget. They also believe that the biggest problem with our voting systems is that it’s too easy to vote.

    1. That’s right. And if the Republican party is willing to support Likud while they turn Israel into a de-facto apartheid state, it’s because through all of these voter suppression schemes, the Republican party has demonstrated that they are willing to let America become a de-facto apartheid state as well.

  6. Again it’s on display: The conviction that your political opponents agree with you about the relative merits and dis-merits of various policies, and adopt policies different from yours’ because they have evil motives.

    That’s a lot of evil up there, so let’s just take one of them:

    “They believe that America is being overrun with immigrants from cultures that they do not like, and want to maintain America as a predominantly white country.”

    Yup, that’s why I, who want the borders enforced, married a woman from the Philippines, who wouldn’t pass as “white” after a year hiding in a cave: Because I want to maintain America as a predominantly white country. Further, I’m totally ignorant of genetics, I expect my son to someday turn pale, and carry on the family complexion.

    It couldn’t be that I want America to remain predominantly an English literate country. It couldn’t be that I want America to be a doesn’t show contempt for the nation’s laws by their very presence country. It couldn’t be that I think it’s sheer madness to be importing huge numbers of unskilled laborers into a country with high unemployment among the unskilled.

    No, I’ve got to want the borders enforced, and high levels of selective, legal immigration, because I’m a racist. And why does it have to be because I’m a racist?

    Because it makes you feel better to think the people who you’re fighting against are evil. You don’t have to take seriously any arguments they raise. You can use any tactic, secure in the knowledge that you’ll always be on the higher ground. You don’t have to assess the merits of your own position, if no other position has any merits at all.

    Hey, who wouldn’t want everybody who disagrees with them to be a demon from the pits of Hell? That conviction has everything going for it.

    Except maybe sanity…

    1. I actually agree with you – (except for the evil part) –
      Jonathan Zasloff is way to glib in tarring Republicans as all the same.

      But I do wait with bated breath at what the Republican Party as a hole will change.

      (sorry, meant whole, but ‘a hole’ was an Freudian slip I felt honesty required me to preserve.)

    2. i hesitate to respond to this comment but i just don’t get what you’re saying here unless you’d have felt more comfortable if mr. zasloff had prefaced his list of republican positions with the words they appear to believe in these positions instead of just that they believe in them. to me this seems to be a list of republican politicians’ beliefs based on the things they say in public and the legislation they try to pass. besides which, the point of the post seems to be about crediting the republican party with the sincerity of their beliefs and not making the mistake of thinking that their positions are cynically derived and can be washed away at a moment’s notice. i understand that you may be feeling angry that the candidate you thought might possibly be the least awful lost the election but this post seems a poor punching bag for the venting of your rage. i’m certain there will be posts and talk among the comments to those posts that will be a more suitable target for you than this one.

      keep calm and carry on.

      1. I don’t have any particular rage to vent. It’s not like the election was stolen, after all, Obama won fair and square, and if he’s going to destroy the country, well, Romney would have just destroyed it a bit slower. I’m not really a rage sort of guy, anyway. I’m just going to try to buy my few acres in the country, so I can have a garden and a few chickens when inflation really hits, and lets me pay off my fixed rate mortgage with green toilet paper.

        At most I’m a bit irate about Zasloff so publicly indulging in this common liberal vice. Because that’s what it is: Reveling in the belief that people who disagree with you are monsters is a vice, a kind of moral masturbation. Fun, but ultimately unproductive, and not particularly enjoyable to watch.

        You know, this sort of thing is probably why Obama had such tough sledding in the first debate: He went in expecting to debate a fantasy Republican, instead of Mitt Romney. Now here’s Zasloff constructing an entire fantasy Republican party. That’s really going to help you guys cope with the real one, isn’t it?

        I suppose I should, for that reason alone, just let you spin your fantasies. Except that they’re just so annoying.

        1. Brett, your most often relied upon argument these days is that the Rs, or at least you, don’t really believe the awful things they believe (and put in their policies).
          Wwhenever we call you out on anything, you say you don’t believe that even tho all the other Rs may, or that you didn’t like Bush, or Romney, or McCain, or anyone who manages (are we deluded here) to crawl to the Topeka of the ticket or gain the reins of power in your party.

          That’s just squiggly. It’s not even a colorable political argument.

          Your annoyance /rage /whatevs is with the R policies that you hate so much, not with the libs who call you out on them.

          That’s why you find everyone beating up on you all the time. Because there is a strong element of bad faith in most everything you say.

          Enjoy your acres in the country and the roads to get there that represent a massive subsidy to rural areas from urban taxpayers (amirite Matthew Kahn?).

          Oh but I forget, YOU won’t be living on one of THOSE roads, you will carefully choose one that is entirely market-based or some such nailing-jello-to–the -wall nonsense.

          1. “Brett, your most often relied upon argument these days is that the Rs, or at least you, don’t really believe the awful things they believe (and put in their policies)”

            No, that’s not my argument at all. That’s just you persisting in this vice, constructing a fantasy Brett to argue with, when the real one is available.

            I agree, that’s not a colorable political argument, it’s not even coherent. Good thing it’s not the argument I advanced. Rather than restate which, I’ll simply invite you to go back and read what I wrote again.

          2. OK, I read it again. You said, you don’t feel rage. OK, whatever, I don’t care about that. . You also said, the things Zasloff said are a fantasy and he made you out to be evail. OK, so you don’t buy those things. The rest of your party did, and I assume you voted for at least some of your party’s nominees. My point stands.

            “Evil” is: racism, misogyny, discrimination, voter disenfranchisement, theocracy, and cooking the planet.

            I’m willing to call those evil positions out for what they are. Are you some kind of MORAL RELATIVIST?

          3. OK, I read it again. You said, you don’t feel rage. OK, whatever, I don’t care about that. . You also said, the things Zasloff said are a fantasy and he made you out to be evil. OK, so you don’t buy those things. The rest of your party did, and I assume you voted for at least some of your party’s nominees. My point stands.

            “Evil” is: racism, misogyny, discrimination, voter disenfranchisement, theocracy, and cooking the planet.

            I’m willing to call those evil positions out for what they are. Are you some kind of MORAL RELATIVIST?

        2. Brett, your most often relied upon argument these days is that the Rs, or at least you, don’t really believe the awful things they believe (and put in their policies).
          Wwhenever we call you out on anything, you say you don’t believe that even tho all the other Rs may, or that you didn’t like Bush, or Romney, or McCain, or anyone who manages (are we deluded here) to crawl to the top of the ticket or gain the reins of power in your party.

          That’s just squiggly. It’s not even a colorable political argument.

          Your annoyance /rage /whatevs is with the R policies that you hate so much, not with the libs who call you out on them.

          That’s why you find everyone beating up on you all the time. Because there is a strong element of bad faith in most everything you say.

          Enjoy your acres in the country and the roads to get there that represent a massive subsidy to rural areas from urban taxpayers (amirite Matthew Kahn?).

          Oh but I forget, YOU won’t be living on one of THOSE roads, you will carefully choose one that is entirely market-based or some such nailing-jello-to–the -wall nonsense.

        3. Obama won fair and square, and if he’s going to destroy the country…

          Did you see what you just did there, Brett?

        4. Obama won fair and square, and if he’s going to destroy the country…

          Do you see what you just did there, Brett?

        5. Brett –

          I regularly read your comments on this and other sites. From this I can see you are both well-written and posses a fair amount of intelligence. It is for this reason alone I’d like be able to take what you say honestly and at face value. And yet the numerous exchanges I’ve read between you and other commenters makes this an impossibility for I do not believe that these efforts are approached by you with an attitude that bears any semblance to good faith. This is really laid clear above when you (I’m assuming unironically) castigate Jonathan of painting folks on the right with a tremendously overbroad brush via this:

          At most I’m a bit irate about Zasloff so publicly indulging in this common liberal vice. Because that’s what it is: Reveling in the belief that people who disagree with you are monsters is a vice, a kind of moral masturbation. Fun, but ultimately unproductive, and not particularly enjoyable to watch.

          emphasis mine

          Obviously this is my personal opinion but the ‘tell’ is always your unrelenting condemnation of leftists/Democrats, sometimes but not always peppered with an a brief aside about the GOP also being problematic. All that was needed in the above example was the substitution of “partisans” for “liberal” as the adjective to modify “vice”. I’d inquire why you deliberately made that word choice but experience suggests the response would be composed more or less of equal parts dissembling and sophistry.

          I wish I this wasn’t the case…

    3. It couldn’t be that I want America to remain predominantly an English literate country.

      You may want to make sure you’re not tied to the Tea Party, then.

      Because it makes you feel better to think the people who you’re fighting against are evil. You don’t have to take seriously any arguments they raise. You can use any tactic, secure in the knowledge that you’ll always be on the higher ground. You don’t have to assess the merits of your own position, if no other position has any merits at all.

      Hey, who wouldn’t want everybody who disagrees with them to be a demon from the pits of Hell? That conviction has everything going for it.

      Indeed.

    4. Hey, there is not necessarily any disconnect between supporting white supremacy politically and dipping one’s pen in a nonwhite inkwell. Just look at Strom Thurmond’s history. Or Thomas Jefferson’s.

      Some of the slaves most prized by their owners were high yellow females.

  7. These beliefs are different than supporting the right for gays to marry. The moderate American BELIEVES gays should be treated equally. I mean i really don’t give a flying frack if the GOP come around or not at the end. Their bigoted, yes bigoted, views are what cost them this election and America said overwhelmingly no more. But if you guys want to keep sticking your heads in the sand and deny the facts presented to you, then to quote Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Your antiquated views will go by the wayside, and I will get full equality even faster.

  8. On issues like immigration, all the energy within the Party, [i]especially[/i] in light of Tuesday’s outcome, is in the direction of [i]further[/i] rightward movement. For millions of Republican voters, the story of the election is explicitly one of white racial dispossession. (Have you listened to Fox News & talk radio in the last couple of days?) Party managers may see that the only way to get to a majority is to reach some kind of accommodation with non-white constituencies, but what are they supposed to do, dissolve their primary electorate and elect another? I suspect we’ll see a further Arizonification of the national Party if, as seems likely, the Administration moves on immigration reform early next year.

  9. Brett, too many wealthy people benefit from the presence of low-paid undocumented immigrants for
    the Republican party to do anything serious about stopping it. What would be serious ? Imposing
    heavy fines on businesses caught employing undocumented workers; and spending a ton of money
    enforcing that. The talk about fences and “securing the borders” is just for the rubes – you’ve
    got too much border and too much coastline and way too much trade to expect to physical interception
    to work.

    It also works pretty well politically for the Republicans: those undocumented immigrants don’t get
    to vote, the wealthy who employ them vote R, and the US workers who compete with them can be
    persuaded to blame everything on the foreigners.

    1. He does have a good point that they do drive down wages for many workers. As you point out, I keeping them out is probably not realistic or even desirable. But the effect is a real problem and I don’t hear the Dems trying to address that. What happened to card-check?

        1. Thanks for the links.

          The NPR article seems to make the argument that although they do depress wages in some sectors, it’s not the sectors we should care about. High school drop-outs don’t deserve a living wage?

          The argument that illegal immigrants would simply be replaced with automation if they were to leave is a little shaky I think. A lot of the unskilled work they do is “unskilled” precisely because there’s already a lot of automation involved. One could argue, as much automation as is currently cost effective. The next step to complete automation means sophisticated robotics. This is certainly feasible today in some areas but it involves large capital investments and bringing in a skilled workforce at higher wages (albeit fewer of them). I’m not convinced it automatically means savings compared to paying higher wages to workers with access to legal protections. At least not in the time horizons many businesses are willing to consider. Most employers of illegal immigrants that I’m aware of are small or mid-sized operators who can’t make these investments.

          Furthermore in the area of construction for example, which seems to be a big market in Georgia, complete automation is quite a ways off. We’re not going to have robots building homes and apartment complexes any time soon. (But maybe in 10 years?)

          The concern I have — that I don’t want us to lose sight of — is that illegal workers diminish the already diminished power of labor: wages, working conditions, benefits. We can’t just find a compromise on illegal immigration alone without also addressing this.

          1. The point is that the effect of illegal immigration on wages is minimal, even if we could (hypothetically) deport every illegal immigrant overnight. (It would also take a sizeable chunk out of our GDP overnight — Matthew Yglesias explains why it isn’t a zero-sum game.)

            In practice, even aggressive policing of illegal immigration will only reduce it by a fraction. The Obama administration has actually deported immigrants fairly aggressively, but still only at a rate of a few hundred thousands per year. The effect that has on the wages of the most affected part of the population — highschool dropouts — is maybe a fraction of a percent.

            Policing illegal immigration is also not cost-free. Whether it’s the whole E-Verify mess or more traditional police operations: There ain’t such a thing as a free lunch. E-Verify checks are paid for by businesses, for example, and thus the costs eventually come out of your paycheck.

            That doesn’t mean that it’s best if we were to turn a blind eye towards illegal immigration — it has its share of associated problems. But in the end, we need to prioritize the use of our resources so that any measures taken are actually effective, make sure to take humanitarian factors into account, and ensure that measures against illegal immigration aren’t just a thinly veiled pretense to harass Latinos and other non-whites.

            More importantly, we could address many of the problems in other ways. For example, that highschool dropouts are more affected by illegal immigration than other parts of the population really should lead us to develop solutions that help their job prospects that work regardless of the immigration situation, e.g. by making it easier for them to obtain additional qualifications. The underlying problem here is largely that we do have a lot of poverty in America; removing the root causes for poverty would also fix a number of other things.

          2. Basically agree on all points. Personally, I would favor some kind of amnesty/path to citizenship. But I certainly don’t have all the answers.

  10. There are plenty of overtly black-hating racists left in America—probably enough to win a primary election here and there—but there hasn’t been an overtly white-power candidate since David Duke. They’re presumably sucking it up, muttering condemnations under their breath, and pulling the lever for people like Cornyn or Chambliss or, holding their noses, Scott Brown. Sure, they’re a big voting bloc, but that doesn’t mean they get candidates that stoop to their level. Not any more.

    Likewise, yeah, there’s a big anti-Latino bloc in the current GOP. The GOP is currently pandering to them … and losing close elections as a result. Nobody is suggesting that those voters are going to vanish, or change their minds … but at some point, the GOP will ask them to start holding their noses and voting for people like Mel Martinez and Rick Perry who disagree with them on this point. Ditto for the anti-gay bloc—in purple states, they’re going to have to suck it up and vote for some Scott Browns.

    I would guess that the “anti-latino” and the “anti-gay” planks collapse first. Why? Well, suppose that there are two sets of purple-state GOP primaries—one set where the racist/theocrat bloc outleverage the moneybags, and another set where the moneybags outleverage the theocrats. I’d guess that the moneybag-primary-winners have a shot at winning their purple-state general elections, and the theocrat-primary-winners really don’t any more. So, by natural selection, and no particular GOP central planning, I think you end up with a system where the anti-Latino theocrats routinely hold their noses and vote for social moderates. And that’s how the GOP moves to the center.

    1. = = = but there hasn’t been an overtly white-power candidate since David Duke. = = =

      Sorry; they use far more sophisticated marketroid-speak and corpro-speak but the message is the same. “Moochers”, “47%”, “Obamaphones”, “Trevor Martin punched first”: it all boils down to the lazy, smelly, unhygienic, criminal poors and blahs coming to empty your wallet of hard-earned dollars and rape your good virtuous daughter.

      Cranky

  11. I’ve noticed no anti Latino block in the GOP. There’s certainly a major anti-illegal immigrant block, to be sure. And for the obvious reason that our immediate neighbor to the South is Mexico, the majority of illegal immigrants are Latinos. But where’s the evidence of a major block in the GOP of people opposed to legal Latinos? Does Bobby Jindal get attacked when he enters Republican gatherings, maybe? Marco Rubio is widely hated by conservatives? Why the heck are there so many Latino Republican office holders, if Republicans hate Latinos?

    Granted, it’s quite convenient to pretend opposition to illegal immigration is some kind of anti-Latino bias. As I remarked above, assuming people who disagree with you are evil has all sorts of advantages.

    1. Have you looked at the various immigration statutes passed by conservative states, and considered their likely effect on Latino communities?

      No, the Republicans aren’t yelling anti-Latino slogans. But their behavior, in practical terms, tells the story. I have a friend who lives in one of the states with a stern immigration law. He tells me that on his way to work every day he drives through an area of town that is heavily Latino. The police, my friend says, park outside apartment complexes and stop every car that leaves the lot to check papers. I suppose you call that law enforcement, and make all sorts of arguments about it. But it’s not. It’s legal harassment of Latinos. Are you surprised that they don’t like it, and tend to vote – yes, they are mostly citizens – against the party that thinks all this is just hunky-dory?

      1. So, what are you suggesting? That we can’t enforce immigration laws, just because most illegal immigrants are members of a particular ethnic group?

        And actual polling of Latinos indicate they’re not voting Democratic because they oppose enforcement of immigration laws. Quite the contrary, like almost all ethnic groups, they support such enforcement.

        They’re voting Democratic for the usual reason: They like getting stuff that’s paid for with somebody else’s taxes. That makes them a natural Democratic constituency. But they vote Democratic in spite of the Democratic party’s position on illegal immigration.

        1. You there do exactly what you accuse Zasloff of doing: assuming your political foes have evil motives.
          Sloth and Greed. (2 / 7 deadly sins)

          Immigrants know which party views them with scorn, and vote accordingly. Scorn you show right here.

        2. Brett: “So, what are you suggesting? That we can’t enforce immigration laws, just because most illegal immigrants are members of a particular ethnic group?”

          The problem I have with the tea partiers in this regard is the schizophrenic nature of their commitment to law and order. When it comes to “others”, they support it with a fervor that would have done Wilhelminian Germany proud; when it’s about themselves, their attitude is “get your dirty government hands off my Medicare” and rhetoric revolving around guns being taken from cold, dead hands. Underlying it is a strange vision, a caricature of a bipolar society with only good and bad citizens; where it’s somehow easy to magically identify the good ones and for government to leave them alone (aside from building roads for them and ensuring the other amenities of a developed country are easily available) and to come down on the bad ones with all the force of the law. It is characterized by them both having a sense of entitlement (where it is fine and good, because they are good and deserving people) and decrying a perceived sense of entitlement in others.

          I would agree that the notion of disliked “others” is not necessarily racist, by the way. As with much of the tea party’s ideas, it’s vague and ill-defined. It seems to be founded on a notion that there is a group of human leeches (to wit: “They like getting stuff that’s paid for with somebody else’s taxes. That makes them a natural Democratic constituency.”) that lives off the hard-earned cash of others via corrupt government taxing and redistribution schemes. It is, of course, still a philosophy that only a caveman could be proud of; it is grounded in a sad mixture of tribal selfishness and paranoia. It is scapegoating taken to a new level.

        3. Maybe you could point us to some actual polls where Latinos say, “Hey, I vote Democratic because they send those big welfare checks around.” They don’t want to work? Ask the farmers in some of those states what happened when the anti-immigration laws were passed.

          And since you make law enforcement a big part of your argument, let me ask you what you think about a situation where a law cannot be enforced, as a practical matter, without seriously infringing on the rights of a great many innocent people. Are those sensible laws? Add that the law-breakers involved are quite likely doing no actual harm, and may in fact be benefitting the country. Now what?

          1. You don’t have to ask – he’s already claimed, at another blog, and which I’ve quoted here previously:

            Yes, it really does come down to that: Shall we enact a law to moderately inconvenience a comparatively small number of evildoers, at the cost of moderately inconveniencing a vastly larger number of innocents?

            . . . Whatever the object, I say, “No.”

            Of course, he obviously doesn’t believe it, since he never answered me on voter ID laws, and told Mark explicitly that he has no problem with laws passed making it more difficult for certain groups to vote. But there it is anyway.

        4. [Latinos are] voting Democratic for the usual reason: They like getting stuff that’s paid for with somebody else’s taxes.

          No racism there.

        5. or how about they’re voting against a party the heckles one of its own members at the presidential nominating convention because they look hispanic. and if that doesn’t represent a moment of anti-latino attitudes what does it represent?

          1. But that’s NOT BRETT! And he’s disavowing it right here and now!! Damn, why is Brett stuck with this shitty party of racists! It is so very sadz!!

    2. Republican grief over the election, and the earlier urgency to defeat Obama, are connected to fear of the dispossession of “traditional, white America,” which few mourners lay entirely at the feet of undocumented immigrants — who didn’t vote. Demographic anxiety about pullulating Latino voters, the idea that Latinos as an ethnic group are the “natural” political enemies of Republican constituencies, the lady on Fox News who blamed Romney’s defeat on the Immigration Act of 1965 — none of these things only bear on undocumented immigrants. Wherever hostility towards the undocumented immigrants runs hottest, it ineluctably bleeds over into enmity towards Latino legal aliens and native-born Latinos, as well. (By “bleeds over,” I don’t mean to take a position on which way the causal connections run.)

      I recently spent several months in Arizona, and found an atmosphere of rank anti-Latino — not just anti-immigrant, but anti-Latino — bias amounting almost to a moral panic. It utterly dominates the state’s politics, and what’s happening in there resonates with millions of Republicans across the country. I say this is a bad thing.

    3. Do . . . Do you not know what ethnic background Bobby Jindal comes from? Or do you just figure, hey, he LOOKS Latino?

      Perish the thought that you might be just a teeny bit racist.

    4. = = = Brett Bellmore @ 5:55 PM: “I’ve noticed no anti Latino block in the GOP.” = = =

      Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

      Cranky

    5. Brett,
      There is indisputably a strong block in the GOP that is anti-Latino without regard to immigration of any sort. They are opposed to Latino culture; they pass laws in Southwestern states banning the teaching of Latino cultural heritage in the public schools and even in the public universities. They rant conspiracy theories about La Raza and a Mexican takeover of California and Arizona from their massively popular shows on Fox News. And more …

      1. But warren! Brett does not BELIEVE that! Brett himself, along with at least 3 or 4 other Republicans, do not BELIEVE what you just said! See, they have their own little pure subset of the party, that always pushes back so hard against the rest of the party and its platform! And works from within for fairness and equality — just like Andrew Sullivan!! And would never, ever vote for any of those Neanderthals on the actual ticket! Brett is a peacenik who only wants to have chickens and berry bushes in the backyard!

        Plus he has a Filipina wife, so he could NEVER be racist or ethnicist! Just like the rest of married men in the Republican Party could never hate women, because they live with one. What don’t you get?

    6. um… Bobby Jindal isn’t Latino?

      But hey, he’s got brown skin, so you’ll lump him in with “Latino Republican office holders” on that basis?

      See, that’s the same thing that seems to go wrong when people have such an intense, overheated focus on immigration – it may be principled and reasoned in the minds of those who hold that as a priority, but in practice (especially with those who accept the slogans and the rhetoric as a way to shortcut thought, ie a large majority of people on all sides of any issue) it works out in widespread harassment of a lot of people who are not breaking the law but who do share that easily identifiable physical trait. Living in LA, I can see that happen on a weekly, if not daily basis.

      Do we need to address the flaws and weaknesses in our immigration system? Sure, but engaging in stereotyping and demagoguery doesn’t help with that process, and may actually (I would argue definitively does) move us farther away from an effective solution.

    7. “I’ve noticed no anti Latino block in the GOP.”

      And I’m sure you never will – notice, that is.

    8. Who was the last Republican to advocate building a fence at the Canadian border?

      I wonder how long it will take the xenophobes to drop the pretense and go ahead and kvetch about darkies.

        1. Canadians and others come here for cutting edge medical care and shorter waiting lines. Americans go to other countries for by-the-numbers, but expensive here medical care.

  12. I haven’t got anything intelligent to add, but just wanted to offer my agreement with the original post. There’s an assumption – both on the right and the left – that we ought to support our team, and that policy doesn’t matter, except to the extent that taking certain policy positions helps our team win.

    People say that the Tea Party hurt the Republican Party – and they probably did, but so what? They advanced their causes. Tea Partiers lost some elections, but they won some, too, and they scared the hell out of current officeholders, who don’t want to be subject to primaries. That is (from their point of view) progress! Four years ago, questioning the legality of contraception was laughable, today, it’s part of the political dialog. That happened because people held to their convictions.

  13. “Democrats did not give up their belief in, say, universal health coverage when Reagan won and Dubya won.”

    Bill Clinton abandoned the party orthodoxy that was against the death penalty. (This was part of a mostly successful effort to remove the “soft on crime” stigma.) The primary voters were tired of losing, so they got behind Clinton, who won. Since then, every Democratic nominee has supported cap punishment at least in some circumstances. That’s an example of how the Democrats have “moved to the center” or “abandoned their beliefs” in order to win the White House. (The most recent successful Dem nominee prior to that was Jimmy Carter, who also backed the death penalty.)

    “They believe that abortion should be banned in all cases, including rape.”

    Mitt Romney didn’t (or at least his position was sufficiently muddled), George W. Bush clearly supported a rape exception, as did his dad, as did John McCain when he was the nominee. So every GOP standard-bearer going back some years supported a rape exception, but “the bosses” did not? Karl Rove was the architect of W.’s campaign, so I’m going to assume he was okay with it.

    “They believe that gays and lesbians do not deserve equal rights.”

    If by that you mean they oppose same-sex marriage, then they are in alignment with the Barack Obama of just a couple of years ago. The younger Bush was the first president to endorse same-sex civil unions during his term in office.

    1. I don’t believe there was a Democratic “party orthodoxy that was against the death penalty”, not remotely.

      1. Sorry, I’m talking about at the presidential level. For state and local officeholders, there was a diversity of views.

        And I might have been wrong about Carter — even though as Governor of Georgia he signed a bill restoring the death penalty to GA in 1973, by 1976 he seems to have come out against it. If so, then the Dems nominated a whole series of death penalty opponents — McGovern, Carter, Carter (again), Mondale, Dukakis — a pattern that was broken by Clinton in 1992. Since Clinton, all the nominees have supported cap punishment — Gore, Kerry, Obama, and Obama — as have most of serious primary contenders.

        Today, Mr. Carter is outspoken against the death penalty and speaks out on other human rights topics.

        1. Basically your argument seems to be that from 1972 to 1988 (four people) the Dem nominee at least had qualms about killing people. An interesting run, but hardly compelling proof – especially as I doubt any of them ran on this fact per se.

  14. I don’t think conservatives believe in all those things equally. It’s not cynical to step away from a less fervently held belief (or one you deem less important) in order to promote a policy you strongly believe in. That’s coalition politics on all levels.

    1. = = = I don’t think conservatives believe in all those things equally. = = =

      I travel around to manufacturing facilities in semi-rural areas of the central Midwest (the ones Bain Capital hasn’t managed to close). I typically spend 6-18 months at a location; not long enough to be trusted (that would take 3 generations, and would probably be impossible for a college “boy”), but long enough that ‘the guys’ start speaking semi-openly in front of me. There are many decent people in these places, and very very few hold _all_ of the beliefs that Jonathan listed in the OP. But a high percentage of these Republicans do hold a significant number of the beliefs on that list as _core beliefs_ (many of which really boil down to hatred/fear of the Other). Apologists can pretend that’s not so, but it is. Given that this poses a significant challenge to the very existence of the Republican Party I would think the more thoughtful Republicans[1] who post here would want to consider it, well, thoughtfully, but apparently not.

      Cranky

      [1] Yeah, I know: you’re not a Republican. You’re a Libertarian. Or an Independent. Or a Conservative, who has been serially failed by Not-a-Conservatives George HW, George W, and Willard Mitt. I know, I know.

      1. So imagine three different Republicans (and we’ll use stereotypes to make things easier): a young wall st. banker, a 40-something Midwestern male trucker, and an older evangelical woman from S. Carolina. These three will each support some fraction of Jonathan’s list and if you asked them outright, they may say they agree with all of them – indeed it’s good coalition politics to agree with your allies. But if you asked them to rank order the positions, they would come up with very different looking lists.

        When a coalition loses an election and determines its policy list isn’t a winning combination, there’s a fight among the members to determine which items get left off the list. The stuff everybody has at the bottom goes first. But when there’s divergence in support for a given policy agenda (my number 8 is your number 2), I’m going to want your item off the list and not mine. My point is that no individual has to be cynical for this to happen – it’s a dynamic of coalitions and Jonathan is incorrectly, in my view, attributing the views of segments of a coalition to the entire group.

        1. Not disagreeing with your analysis, but you have to factor in who the median _primary_ voter is and what the rank ordering of the list is by those on his right. The median Republican primary voter in Iowa is far different from the median Republican – even the median primary voter – in New York, yet generally it is the Iowan who will determine the choice set of Presidential candidates. And thanks to gerrymandering the same thing is playing out in the US House and the statehouses.

          Cranky

  15. Brett Bellmore tells us he married a Philippina who is visibly not “white”, so how could anyone possibly think he is “racist”? Fair question, and the answer is: Brett is NOT a racist.

    But maybe Brett should ask his wife how many times the local cops, seeking out illegal immigrants, can demand to see her papers before she gets well and truly pissed off at all the non-racists who insist that “Papers, please” is merely the price of “defending our borders” — and a price that suspiciously un-white Americans should cheerfully pay.

    While we’re on the subject of “papers”, BTW, can somebody explain to me the current GOP position on a “national ID card”? The GOP, champions of showing ID to vote, may see a principled distinction between requiring ID to vote and requiring ID to live legally in the US, but I confess I don’t.

    Also BTW: I’m an American who passed a test, swore an oath, and has a certificate to prove it. How many “real” Americans can say as much?

    –TP

    1. You know, they told her that she had a legal obligation to have that green card on her wherever she goes, and she took them at their word. The police ask for her papers, unless she’s in the swimming pool, she’s got them right on hand.

      But there’s a simple solution to that problem, you know: Crack down on the actual border, and crack down on employers, and forget about asking people for ID unless you’ve already stopped them for some other adequate reason.

      The GOP is seriously schizoid on she subject of national ID, that’s for sure. You won’t get any argument from me on that.

      1. I would enthusiastically endorse a crackdown on employers. A rationally explained version of “self-deportation” would make it clear that by reducing opportunities for employers to exploit undocumented workers (and thus to not hire or to similarly exploit documented workers) you can reduce illegal immigration by reducing the pull that draws illegal immigrants over our border.

        All those people calling for a “crackdown at the border” are silly. Look at how people illegally immigrate from Central America: people leave behind everyone they know and love; the leave the community that speaks their native tongue (and many migrants speak a regional language such as Nahuatl, not Spanish); their families go massively into debt with thuggish loan sharks to enable them to leave; they traverse regions of Mexico notorious for the robbing of migrants; they hand their persons and fates over to people-smugglers who are known to be drug traffickers and murderers; they hike long distances across the desert; and then they live in fear of arrest, working for miserable wages and sleeping in slum housing. You’re not going to stop people who willingly go through all that with more fences and more patrols – you have to reduce their reason to come.

        The best way to reduce incentives for illegal immigration is to crack down on the employers; it’s the employers who have something to lose; not the impoverished and desperate workers. The undocumented immigrants have already accepted – have already endured – far worse than our government can do to them. If employers had to give their workers, all their workers, decent pay and benefits, and if systematic employment of undocumented workers were a serious and frequently prosecuted offense carrying both punitive fines and jail time, with a bounty paid to informers (including the undocumented workers themselves), you would see a sharp drop in illegal immigration that would beat anything Arpaio’s goon squads and their harassment activities could ever achieve.

        If Romney had expressed his ideas along those lines – saying he’d give illegal immigrants no reson to come, rather than saying he’d make them miserable until they left – he might have conveyed a different impression.

        1. The most effect way to greatly reduce illegal immigration is to have a deep and long recession. Works every time.

  16. Any political party is a coalition of ideologues and pragmatists. The pragmatists in the GOP like Christie have lost out recently to the ideologues, but this probably can’t last for ever. Some European Communist parties have chosen a slow death to the dishonour of adaptation, but that’s surely exceptional. The reinvention of the British Labour Party by Brown and Blair after the disastrous Old Left leadership of Michael Foot is more typical.

    My predictions: the GOP will not change till the 2014 mid-terms. It will run then against Obamacare and anything else Obama has proposed in the meantime, plus restoration of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and lose heavily. That’s when the pragmatists will bring out the knives. The GOP presidential candidate in 2016 will be a centrist and accept Obamacare with tweaks. Besides, Rupert Murdoch will have retired or died before then, and his heirs will clip Roger Ailes’ wings or sack him.

    A special factor is that the GOP relies disproportionately on money from corporations and billionaires. Some of the latter, like the Kochs, are ideologues themselves. Others are likely to be pragmatists. The lesson they will draw from 2012 is that they wasted their money, and that their intransigence – as with the legislative history of Obamacare – led to a worse result for them than compromise would have. Why should they fund another attempt to roll back the New Deal, when the demographics, the Zeitgeist, and an improving economy make the effort futile?

    1. James – As per your last paragraph: Agreeing with most of your propositions, my impression is that in this country, going back at least to FDR, there is a rabid right wing opposition to anything that does not submit to a puritanical Randian vision of the universe. And as long as this country allows and supports this delusion through massive corporate subsidies, hugely disproportionate taxes, almost complete lack of a strong, pragmatic left, and unquestioning obeisance to the bootstraps myth, I don’t see the foaming at the mouth, visceral hatred of all-things-not-us going anywhere anytime soon. People, ideas, and institutions don’t change unless they have to.

  17. They like getting stuff that’s paid for with somebody else’s taxes.

    defense contractors
    “too big to fail” financial institutions
    agribusiness
    the petroleum industry
    special tax treatment for capital gains
    patents
    tariffs
    ….the list is indeed long. Somebody else’s taxes, indeed!

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