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Republican Middle Class Woes?

In the upcoming issue of National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru addresses the Romney defeat. He begins by offering a couple of pages of historical analysis pointing to the leftward drift of our politics over the course of the last century of so.

He concludes by noting the following about the 2012 election and the reasons, he believes, Romney’s economics/jobs message failed to ring tr…

  1. Pseudodionysius

    The Republicans always begin with Step 5 on the road to recovery and move upward to Step 10. They never explain Steps 1 to 4 — taking for granted that someone else did it — nor who, exactly, they’re talking to.

    I was once part of a massive project to reform a purchasing supply chain and had to explain/sell a new policy. At a major presentation, endless quibbling revolved around minutiae that indicated they hadn’t listened to my presentation. I blamed the participants.

    Then, on the drive home, the truth hit my like an airbag. No one had ever thought to explain Baby Step #1 to these people:

    “We are centralizing purchasing to buy in bigger volumes and buy things at a lower price than you can get in your divisional locations.”

    This was a non profit, and none of the operational people had business backgrounds. The commonplace assumptions we assume “everyone” knew, they didn’t.

    Big, big mistake. Lesson learned.

  2. Peter Fumo

    Did Ramesh offer specific policy proposals that reflect conservative principles while not increasing the size and power of the Federal government?

  3. Stephen Hall
    WI Con: … Mitt Romney could have responded to an education question like: I been fortunate as well as President Obama, to both attend and send our children to very good & exclusive schools. The President and his party will never let you send your kids to those schools. You may have heard that nearly 70% of Chicago School Teachers send their own children to private schools. They’re consistenly failing children and just received a 16% increase in wages. Right now, the Democrat Party typically get 95% of the African American vote and about 92% of Teachers Unions political contributions. Nothing is going to start to change for your kids & your community until those percentages start to change. Until they actually have to compete for and earn your support.

    This is exactly right. What needs to be made clear is that conservatism benefits 99% of the people. The only losers will be the 1% who build life-long political careers on turning free citizens into dependent subjects. Reagan had an almost supernatural gift for making this crystal clear. 

  4. Peter Fumo

    Went back and read articles. I am not a political analyst by any means but here is my two cents:1) Agree with George Will that this is a philosophically center-right country that is operationally liberal2) The country is becoming demographically less white and Republicans are viewed as the white Christian party3) Conservatives policies help middle class and other voters indirectly by increasing prosperity generally while Democratic policies benefit specific groups specifically and tangibly like affirmative action and college tuition support4) Liberals dominate press,media,colleges, Hollywood and therefore shape perceptions of the parties5) Removing so many people from the tax rolls removed taxes as a winning issue for Republicans

  5. Peter Fumo

    In addition the Federal government has been increasing in size for generations and giving benefits to people for generations. Democrats therefore as party of government has an advantage there. To me, Republicans should hold line on immigration and point out how immigration especially low skilled workers threatens jobs, how affirmative action threatens the ambitions of certain segments of the population, how the coming fiscal collapse threatens the economy and therefore everyone, how college tuition support merely inflates tuition and adds to student debt (same with health care). On social issues they need to take advantage of situations like Chick-filet and the threat to the Boy Scouts by LGTF that show how radicals threaten businesses and traditional American institutions that we all revere

  6. Sumomitch

    Republican success over the last 30 years in promoting free market principles has ironically undermined the electoral viability of the Party.

    Free trade (leveraged enormously by the internet and container shipping) has lowered the prices of many consumer and business goods, but at the price of eliminating huge numbers of middle class skilled manufacturing and mining jobs, and small businesses in the communities that depended on them. Prior to 1980, the Republican Party was the champion of tariffs and protections for American manufacturing back to its origins. 

    The defacto open borders policy (nonenforcement coupled with regular amnesties) has lowered labor costs for agriculture, construction and hospitality/recreation industries and their consumers, but at the cost of declining real wages for blue collar workers, to the point that family formation is increasingly impossible, for new immigrants and native black and white blue collar workers alike.  Exploding illegitimacy rates create a growing dependent class.

    The obsession with tax cuts has lead Republicans to negotiate a tax code that shrinks the number of payers: 23% of families paid no income tax in 2000 vs 47% in 2011. With no skin in the game, appetite for increased government knows no limits.

  7. Crow
    Peter Fumo: Did Ramesh offer specific policy proposals that reflect conservative principles while not increasing the size and power of the Federal government? · 20 minutes ago

    Ramesh does not offer specific proposals in this piece, though he has elsewhere. As have Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam.

    But since he does not offer specific proposals there, it leaves us open to solicit inputs and to ask whether or not he’s put his finger on something worth addressing not merely in rhetoric, but in policy.

  8. Crow
    Joseph Stanko: As for concrete measures, how about we go into the inner city and offer parents a voucher to send their children to a school that’s safe, one that might actually teach them how to read, write, add, and subtract. · 7 hours ago

    I completely agree. This is one of the costs that has ballooned in our lifetime not only as the technology/knowledge economy demands STEM skills (a structural issue) but because the high school diploma’s value has been seriously debased by the collapse in educational standards demanded from our teachers and by them of our students. 

    This has led to parents on both sides of the political divide seeking out opportunities and spending more and more on private education to compensate for a failing school system.

    School reform is an issue where we conservatives have the upper hand–breaking the union choke hold has been popular in deep blue states: WI and NJ. It has even won concessions by democrats. We should be vigorously pursuing school choice at every level of government where conservatives can affect the debate. Happily, we control enough governorships to make this policy widespread.

  9. Crow
    Sumomitch: Republican success over the last 30 years in promoting free market principles has ironically undermined the electoral viability of the Party.

    Free trade (leveraged enormously by the internet and container shipping) has lowered the prices of many consumer and business goods, but at the price of eliminating huge numbers of middle class skilled manufacturing and mining jobs, and small businesses in the communities that depended on them.

    The defacto open borders policy (nonenforcement coupled with regular amnesties) has lowered labor costs for agriculture, construction and hospitality/recreation industries and their consumers, but at the cost of declining real wages for blue collar workers, to the point that family formation is increasingly impossible, for new immigrants and native black and white blue collar workers alike.  Exploding illegitimacy rates create a growing dependent class.

    The obsession with tax cuts has lead Republicans to negotiate a tax code that shrinks the number of payers: 23% of families paid no income tax in 2000 vs 47% in 2011. With no skin in the game, appetite for increased government knows no limits.

    Sumo: I think you’ve concisely hit upon several important points here that need to be part of our policy re-tooling.

  10. Rachel Lu
    C

    Funny! I just wrote a lengthy essay on this topic, so I’ll shamelessly post the link here.

  11. Xennady

    I think this analysis is spot on- and so is that by Sumomitch.

    The democrats offer cash on the barrelhead to groups who vote for them. The GOP offers nebulous blather.

    I recall- barely- a thread a while back involving Gov. Susana Martinez and illegal immigration. I remember that I left some run-of-the-mill comment opposing illegal immigration. But what I really recall was a quote from her that said (roughly) “we’ve got to offer people more than blather about opportunity”.

    Yep. Blather doesn’t cut it- but blather is what we get.

    This is failure. There is no reason why the GOP should merely offer endless shinola to its voters- none.

    To pick one example- Michigan had a proposal to ditch the requirement for buyers of handguns to get permission from local police departments, instead relying on the instant background check from the feds. It failed, because- I was told- the GOP governor “didn’t want to deal with it”.

    This is a tiny and trivial example- but these sort of things ad up, and result in people who just aren’t willing to waste their time voting for a party that does nothing for them.

  12. Fredösphere

    Ramesh’s analysis had better be right. It’s the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t rely either on wishful thinking or abandoning principles, and offers a concrete task for policy people to get to work on.

    If you believe any of the other explanations, I think a conservative’s only recourse is to find a ditch, lie down in it, and wait to die.

  13. Joseph Stanko
    Pseudodionysius: The Republicans always begin with Step 5 on the road to recovery and move upward to Step 10. They never explain Steps 1 to 4 — taking for granted that someone else did it — nor who, exactly, they’re talking to.

    The commonplace assumptions we assume “everyone” knew, they didn’t.

    Big, big mistake. Lesson learned. · 5 hours ago

    Precisely so.

    We’re all in despair and tearing our hair out because we think the voters rejected our core principles, but I assure you a large chunk of Obama voters wouldn’t know a conservative principle if it walked up and bit them.  They’ve never once, in their lives, heard our principles or policies coherently explained from a to z.

    You can’t reject an idea you’ve never even heard.

  14. Joseph Stanko

    As for concrete measures, how about we go into the inner city and offer parents a voucher to send their children to a school that’s safe, one that might actually teach them how to read, write, add, and subtract.

  15. LowcountryJoe

    We’re screwed unless we brand ourselves as folks who, as a default position, want government limited and even when we feel strongly that something ought need a law, reject the initial impulse to legislate beyond our county levels of government…if at all.

  16. WI Con
    Joseph Stanko: As for concrete measures, how about we go into the inner city and offer parents a voucher to send their children to a school that’s safe, one that might actually teach them how to read, write, add, and subtract. · 2 hours ago

    As an example of how easily this point could have been made in the campaign, Mitt Romney could have responded to an education question like: I been fortunate as well as President Obama, to both attend and send our children to very good & exclusive schools. The President and his party will never let you send your kids to those schools. You may have heard that nearly 70% of Chicago School Teachers send their own children to private schools. They’re consistenly failing children and just received a 16% increase in wages. Right now, the Democrat Party typically get 95% of the African American vote and about 92% of Teachers Unions political contributions. Nothing is going to start to change for your kids & your community until those percentages start to change. Until they actually have to compete for and earn your support.

  17. Crow
    Rachel L.: Funny! I just wrote a lengthy essay on this topic, so I’ll shamelessly post the link here. · 7 hours ago

    Very good! All of you should take a moment and read Rachel’s post.

    Then you can come back here to talk about the policy prescriptions.

  18. mark alesse

    A conservative outlook on life is inherently, naturally appealing to adults and mature young people because it makes sense. It reflects the reality on the ground, and as such rings true when it is explained clearly, but it takes great  communication skills to get this across in a society conditioned by the press to believe that conservatives are selfish people who carry water for the rich. 

    When I was a working man I had occasion to do press events on complicated labor and economic issues and I learned early on that you have to put away the notes and talking points, and just tell them what you believe about the issue and do so in the simplest of terms. No jargon, no acronyms, and don’t ever assume that the audience understands what you’re saying; ask them if they get it. 

    If you do that, you get good press; even if you represent the business community, and if you can throw in a few funny quips to lighten the atmosphere, you’re on your way to a win. 

    But I rarely hear politicians on our side do this effectively. 

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