A Warning to Republicans Nationwide

 

voteOn Tuesday, as I reported, the voters in Michigan went to the polls to vote on a sales tax increase aimed in part – but only in part – at repairing the state’s disintegrating roads. The turnout was far larger than I expected. Something like one voter in four actually showed up – and the results were a sharp rebuke to Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican establishment in Michigan. Although the Republicans scheduled this vote at a time when only those guaranteed to profit from the measure were apt to be paying attention — and although the road-building lobby outspent the opposition by more than twelve-to-one — the voters rejected the initiative four-to-one. This was the most resounding defeat for a ballot initiative since the current Michigan constitution was adopted in 1963. If Snyder and his not-so-merry men were up for reelection tomorrow, they would be voted out in a landslide. That is what happens when a political party betrays its base.

Of course, Republican voters are used to being betrayed. Republican candidates nearly always tout their conservative credentials. They oppose abortion, they criticize tax increases, they whine about government regulation. But when push comes to shove, very few of them ever do anything for their constituents.

The ballot measure we voted on yesterday was a bipartisan measure supported by the establishment in both parties. Its defeat is a rebuke to Rick Snyder and the Republican leaders in the legislature. But it is also a defeat for the Democrats. It is, in fact, a rejection of the politics of compromise – in which the Republicans get a little something for the business community and the Democrats move us further down the road of total government control. The thing to keep in mind is that the hand in your pocket is not just there for money. That money is the means for micro-managing your life. As I have pointed out frequently in the past, the public provision of medical care will bring with it a requirement that Catholic hospitals perform abortions.

Michigan’s Republicans can take this as consolation. They are not up for reelection right away. They have time to set things right. Whether they will do so remains, however, unclear. I wrote to my state representative and state senator (both Republicans) this morning as follows:

Gentlemen:

I voted for you both when you were up for election. Like many of your constituents, I am not happy with what you tried to do on Tuesday. If you want to know why the Republican Party in this state is apt to go down in flames the next time the voters have an occasion to exercise their judgment, you might want to read the blogpost I put up yesterday: http://ricochet.com/taxing-time/.

The good news is that you have enough time in which to redeem yourselves. But to do so you will have to cut programs less important than roads. The Democrats will scream bloody murder if you do, but that might attract voters to your party. Otherwise, you are toast.

Best, Paul Rahe

From the latter, I received the following reply a few minutes ago:

I respectfully reject your notion of having to ‘seek redemption’.

There was no ‘doing to’ anyone. One of the wonderments of our nation, the right and ability to vote, especially on big issues, is precious.

[Name removed] had nothing to do with the ballot proposal, so your admonishment to him is inappropriate.

As for me, I did vote to put this on the ballot.  Not ashamed of that effort at all.  Frankly, the best solution for affecting sustainable long term infrastructure funding will include both reprioritizing spending AND the need to find road specific revenue sources.

We can disagree on how much of each (I Believe it’s about half and half).

The most efficient and effective solution should include some changes in what we citizens have enshrined in our Constitution. Those can only happen with voter approval.

A strict legislative solution will not be perfectly designed. It will be subject to the ebb and flow of our ever changing legislative make up.

But it can be done. This problem has existed for over 15 years and it is our current legislature who is pressing to not kick the can down the road.

Toast? Not a word of fear for me. I’ve taken enough tough stands to be a bit used to the heat. I can only do my best and it won’t be perfect because I’m not.

As this suggests, you can outspend the opposition twelve-t0-one and then lose four-to-one and learn absolutely nothing. Some Republicans in Michigan are now arguing that another ballot initiative – one in which every dollar raised by new taxes would be earmarked for roads – would pass.

This is foolishness. What the Republicans did on Tuesday was craven. Instead of passing legislation, which they have the votes to do, they tried to effect a change while dodging responsibility. The voter initiative was adopted by the outgoing legislature after the November 2014 elections. It was aimed at slipping something past the voters while they were not paying attention. To try this trick again would only redouble voter ire.

If the Republicans in Michigan want to survive, they will have to do what they were elected to do – which is to improve the efficiency of the state government without raising taxes. To do this, they will have to bite the bullet and cut. The polling data, for what it is worth, suggests that cutting the programs favored by the Democrats will be unpopular. But I can tell you that allowing the roads to deteriorate further will be even more unpopular.

Voters admire courage and forthrightness – even in those with whom they disagree. They despise cowardice. If the Republicans cut the fat – and there is a lot of it – there will, initially, be outcries. But when nothing much changes in the lives of ordinary Michiganders as a consequence of these cuts, the fury will subside – especially if a massive effort is underway to bring our roads up to snuff.

There is in this a warning to Republicans nationwide – for a great many of the state governments are in their control. There may be a state or two in which raising taxes is justified. But there are not many. The task for the Republicans is to prune. Their task is to eliminate programs that do harm. Their task is to cut back on income redistribution.

Of course, this would require backbone and a grasp of first principles. If the only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is the pace in which we increase the size and scope of the administrative state, the latter are doomed. The problems that we face as a nation are not at the moment chiefly a function of bad management. They have to do with the fact that we are advancing rapidly in the wrong direction.

Rick Snyder and the Republican leadership in Michigan have no idea of the direction in which we should go. They are problem solvers. They listen avidly for squeaky wheels and apply the grease. Sometimes that is enough. But that is not true today.

There are 36 comments.

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  1. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    Thus always to traitors.

    The modern GOP is a joke.

    • #1
  2. user_348375 Inactive
    user_348375
    @TrinityWaters

    Mike LaRoche:Thus always to traitors.

    The modern GOP is a joke.

    You are 1000% correct.  I quit the party, but will still directly support candidates I believe, like Cruz.

    • #2
  3. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    That reply was exceptionally arrogant.

    • #3
  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Who are the worst treated groups among the voting class? Blacks and conservatives. We are both the “Where ya gonna go?” groups of the two major political parties.

    Shorter answer: Screw you. But could you please answer the 30 fund raising emails I send you every day?

    • #4
  5. user_519396 Member
    user_519396
    @

    Perhaps the larger problem is we are still captive to the idea of “government roads.” Kevin Williamson had a piece at NRO on this topic recently. Since the demise of private turnpikes in the 19th century, we’ve come to accept that highways (and increasingly “transportation” writ large) are government responsibilities. So, it’s small wonder that the transportation network has all the hallmarks of a government operation: high cost, regional inequities, political manipulation, gross inefficiency and general bureaucratic lassitude. And there’s rationing–just like government health care. Road-building and maintenance have to live within a politicized budget process, and if more capacity is needed and there’s no money, well that’s just too bad.

    Some states are doing better than others. Virginia has become a leader in Public-Private Partnerships. While they are imperfect, and often carry default exposure for the state, PPPs were used to build tolled express lane freeways in Northern Virginia. We’d have to wait decades for the commonwealth to build those extra lanes. Another example: Indiana sold off its principal toll road.

    It hasn’t been that long ago that transit companies–bus, streetcar and subway–were privately owned. And of course most railroads–except for perpetual ward-of-the-state Amtrak–are to this day. Why not at least some significant portion of the highway network?

    • #5
  6. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    That is a “primary me, I dare ya!” response if I ever saw one. What an ass.

    If he is so sure that taxing is necessary, let him vote for it in a bill that also does the cutting he thinks is necessary. Instead he wants to get voters to take the blame for taxes while he pays lip service to the idea of doing some cutting he will never have the [CoC non-compliant term] to propose or vote for.

    Please do something to turn this man out.

    • #6
  7. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    I’m making a list, and checking it twice.

    Gonna find out who’s been naughty or nice.

    Come the revolution.

    • #7
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    The King Prawn:That reply was exceptionally arrogant.

    No kidding. I cannot imagine responding to any voter that way.

    I have sent more than one unhappy letter, and never have I gotten back something like that.

    • #8
  9. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    The King Prawn:That reply was exceptionally arrogant.

    No kidding. I cannot imagine responding to any voter that way.

    I have sent more than one unhappy letter, and never have I gotten back something like that.

    I was not the first to get a snippy response. My guess is that he really is toast. I left his name out, however, for a reason — to give him more of an opportunity to rethink. Nonetheless, I doubt that he will. The fact that he thinks that this heavily taxed state needs more revenue for this and more revenue for that is really telling.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Paul Rahe for governor!

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    (Don’t let that scare you, Paul, it’s just so a few years later we can run you for President. At least you’ve read the Constitution.)

    • #11
  12. S Inactive
    S
    @S

    Dr. Rahe,

    I believe our political system’s ability to respond to external stimuli is completely broken. I do not think these kinds of issues will be resolved until we face total fiscal collapse. I think we’ll have to rise from the ashes, not “fix” the current political class. They cannot be fixed or “voted out.” Only the Fed’s massive market intervention and massive deficit spending (and state/local borrowing) is holding up, albeit temporarily, our economy. These issues will be dealt with at some point because there will be no money at all and priorities will have to be made. In some ways I am looking forward to the crash. It will be a clarifying moment for all of us.

    • #12
  13. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    That old saw “Republicans think Democrats are stupid, Democrats think Republicans are evil?” They’re both right.

    Citizens for limited government are Republicans In Name Only, and our first task is to wrest the party from the knaves. I don’t say “take back” because it hasn’t ever really been ours.

    • #13
  14. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Arahant:Paul Rahe for governor!

    He is too old, and he is impolitic.

    • #14
  15. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    S:Dr. Rahe,

    I believe our political system’s ability to respond to external stimuli is completely broken. I do not think these kinds of issues will be resolved until we face total fiscal collapse. I think we’ll have to rise from the ashes, not “fix” the current political class. They cannot be fixed or “voted out.” Only the Fed’s massive market intervention and massive deficit spending (and state/local borrowing) is holding up, albeit temporarily, our economy. These issues will be dealt with at some point because there will be no money at all and priorities will have to be made. In some ways I am looking forward to the crash. It will be a clarifying moment for all of us.

    I hope that you are wrong.

    • #15
  16. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    There is in this a warning to Republicans nationwide – for a great many of the state governments are in their control. There may be a state or two in which raising taxes is justified. But there are not many. The task for the Republicans is to prune. Their task is to eliminate programs that do harm. Their task is to cut back on income redistribution.

    “Prune”?  No.  The task for Republicans, or SOMEBODY is to take a friggin’ meat-axe to it.

    • #16
  17. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Mike LaRoche:Thus always to traitors.

    The modern GOP is a joke.

    The modern GOP is the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. It’s gotta go.

    • #17
  18. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Barfly:That old saw “Republicans think Democrats are stupid, Democrats think Republicans are evil?” They’re both right.

    Citizens for limited government are Republicans In Name Only, and our first task is to wrest the party from the knaves. I don’t say “take back” because it hasn’t ever really been ours.

    This is why you shouldn’t even try to “take it back”. Doing so is impossible. The only solution is another party. It’ll be hard, and it’ll take some time… but not as much as you might think. When new parties really come into popularity, they tend to do so quickly after that hump has been gotten over. The Republican Party went from getting the dregs from the dying Whigs to being the prime challenger to the Democrats in less than a decade. Nature abhors a void, and politics is a part of human nature. If conservatives leave the GOP, something is going to fill that void, and quickly.

    • #18
  19. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    EJHill:

    Who are the worst treated groups among the voting class? Blacks and conservatives. We are both the “Where ya gonna go?” groups of the two major political parties.

    Douglas:

    If conservatives leave the GOP, something is going to fill that void, and quickly.

    What do you think about the viability of a fiscally conservative, socially permissive new party? Conservatives alone cannot carry the day, we can’t afford to bolt the GOP unless we can fracture the Democratic Party by the same action.

    Oh, sweet Jesus, I just figured out what to call it. No, no, …

    • #19
  20. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Barfly:

    1- What do you think about the viability of a fiscally conservative, socially permissive new party?

    2 – Conservatives alone cannot carry the day, we can’t afford to bolt the GOP unless we can fracture the Democratic Party by the same action.

    1 – It’d die a quick death. Very, very few people are truly mixed in their politics like that. They may be more conservative in their economics than their social beliefs, but if their social beliefs are liberal, then their economics tend to skew that way too. Maybe their economics aren’t as liberal as their social stuff, but it still probably falls mostly on the liberal side. Vice-Versa for the Right. The great socially liberal-fiscally conservative voter is a lot like Bigfoot; often reportedly seen, but with little real evidence he exists. Chasing him is chasing a mirage. The closest you’re going to get are true-blue ideological Libertarians, and they’re a relatively small bunch.

    2 – Among most, ideology is flexible, like putty, and most people really are sheep-like and easily influenced by style, zeitgeist, peer pressure, and social forces like the media. One of the reasons that opinions on gay marriage have so suddenly changed is almost certainly partly attributed to the sheep effect…. “me too!”. Some of that is fear of being on a losing side. You change that by arguing, strongly, that your side is right, and give a clear difference in politics. Not “The Other Guys-Lite”.

    • #20
  21. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Barfly:What do you think about the viability of a fiscally conservative, socially permissive new party?

    It might attract voters. But in the end, I think, its policies would be suicidal. Social permissiveness produces out-of-wedlock births, and single mothers demand social services that break the bank. The libertinism championed by our friends at Reason magazine has socialism as its consequence. Am I wrong?

    • #21
  22. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Time for a reality check.. Politicians are very good at understanding the signals the public sends. Do not tax me, but I demand roads, schools and services of all kinds. When confronted with  problems, they go for the least painful approach.

    For all the hoo- for- rah this generated, after the tax was raised, they know the furor would pass. They also know the roads would only marginally improve at great cost.

    It did not work. This was exactly the signal they needed to get. So they now can try the next least painful approach.

    But the real problem remains.

    State infrastructures cannot be sustained with current approaches.

    State pensions cannot be sustained as contracted.

    State Schools cannot be reformed from within.

    I see no politician on the horizon today who will state the situation as it really is and then proceed from there. Each state will come to a Detroit class crisis and then face the future.

    The best we can do is be in the right state when that happens.

    • #22
  23. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Barfly:What do you think about the viability of a fiscally conservative, socially permissive new party?

    It might attract voters. But in the end, I think, its policies would be suicidal. Social permissiveness produces out-of-wedlock births, and single mothers demand social services that break the bank. The libertinism championed by our friends at Reason magazine has socialism as its consequence. Am I wrong?

    Regarding the consequences of libertinarianism (and Reason‘s adolescent excuse for political philosophy), certainly not.

    But government is not how we came to the modern celebration of the adolescent. That contest was lost in the culture, that precedes and determines our government.

    We will therefore not fix our social problems with government. If that means we have to edit “under God” from our Pledge and divorce the institution of marriage from law, then so be it – our society has already done that for us, as a matter of practical fact. There’s no hope in pretending otherwise.

    The social damage is done, and accelerating. We won’t reverse our decay with social conservative government. We need, first, prosperity to give us space to address the decay of institutions. We can’t get the whole loaf at once, and we must advance on the fiscal front first. Yes, material plenty has bred plenty of bastards, but they’re out of the womb and we can’t put them back.

    • #23
  24. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    If you give up on what is called social conservatism, you will give up the people who have most to lose & on whom the eventual victory depends. Social conservatives cannot be told to give up or wait a generation & then be expected to keep fighting. Winning elections while keeping promises to them to make it possible for them to preserve their communities has got to be the way.

    • #24
  25. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Titus Techera:If you give up on what is called social conservatism, you will give up the people who have most to lose & on whom the eventual victory depends. Social conservatives cannot be told to give up or wait a generation & then be expected to keep fighting. Winning elections while keeping promises to them to make it possible for them to preserve their communities has got to be the way.

    Who’s giving up? Government is a hindrance to social restoration, not a help. The best we can hope for is to get it out of the way.

    • #25
  26. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Barfly:What do you think about the viability of a fiscally conservative, socially permissive new party?

    It might attract voters. But in the end, I think, its policies would be suicidal. Social permissiveness produces out-of-wedlock births, and single mothers demand social services that break the bank. The libertinism championed by our friends at Reason magazine has socialism as its consequence. Am I wrong?

    Better health care results in an older population.  An older population inevitably demands more Social Security and Medicare.  Hence, better health care has socialism as its consequence.

    • #26
  27. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OmegaPaladin

    Here’s an idea – look at the Left’s approach to the Democrats, and use it.  FDR would not be able to win the Democratic nomination now, same with Truman and maybe even Kennedy (who was a Neocon).

    First of all, get young people on board.  Rebrand federalism as “local control” – there’s a lot of attractiveness to letting people decide things close to home.  Local control means you can keep Austin weird, and you don’t need to boss people around to do what you want.  Also, talk debt.  Government is broke and it’s taking out more loans – which you will pay back.  Also, start working with the EFF and going after government control of the net, and tech issues.  Telling the RIAA and MPAA to take a hike is a great start.

    Second, go after the groups that are your opposition.  Government unions hate you, so why not work to reduce their power?  Hollywood is not your friend, so put your taxes on them.

    Finally, keep on primarying the establishment.  Even if you don’t win, they have to try and argue for conservative votes.   Some of them might start building a conservative record.

    • #27
  28. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    The King Prawn:That reply was exceptionally arrogant.

    Not for a RINO defending a tax raise. They know better than you how your money should be spent. If you don’t believe me, just ask them.

    • #28
  29. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Ditto OmegaPaladin #27.

    ‘Course, those recommendations are for conservatives – not real Republicans. Real Republicans don’t want local control, they want it centralized so they get their cut. They envy Hollywood’s acclaim and status, and want to share in that glow themselves. Would any of us be surprised to find an autographed photo of Jack Valenti in our Republican congressman’s office?

    • #29
  30. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Barfly:

    Titus Techera:If you give up on what is called social conservatism, you will give up the people who have most to lose & on whom the eventual victory depends. Social conservatives cannot be told to give up or wait a generation & then be expected to keep fighting. Winning elections while keeping promises to them to make it possible for them to preserve their communities has got to be the way.

    Who’s giving up? Government is a hindrance to social restoration, not a help. The best we can hope for is to get it out of the way.

    I’m not sure who can persuade voters to get gov’t out of the way.  That sounds like a phrase in Reagan’s first Inaugural Address–gov’t is not the solution, it is the problem. If you’re looking for his kind of gov’t, well, you cannot find it just now, but I do not disagree or disapprove. Would that there were such a choice.

    The question is, people who will vote in 2016–can you persuade them to vote for Mr. get gov’t out of the way?

    I think the man who can get himself elected is the guy who can persuade social conservatives that the people & themselves can get along. I think it’s the man who can persuade the electorate–the people–that social conservative America is ok, & better than that even.

    • #30

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