Tuesday, April 06, 2010

GOP as OSWF (Old Straight White Folks)

From a disillusioned Republican:

I am an old Republican. I am religious, yet not a fanatic. I am a free-marketer; yet, I believe in the role of the government as a fair evenhanded referee. I am socially conservative; yet, I believe that my lesbian niece and my gay grandchild should have the full protection of the law and live as free Americans enjoying every aspect of our society with no prejudices and/or restrictions. Nowadays, my political and socio-economic profile would make me a Marxist, not a Republican. ...

Now, we have became the party of the Old Straight White Folks. We should rename the Republican Party the OSWF rather than the GOP.
And if you have a hard time believing this guy and just want to write him off as an old crank, just click here and take a look at the picture of LA Congressional District 1 Congressman, conservative Republican Steve Scalise, at a town hall meeting in his district. OSWF indeed.


eric said...

Yeah, a picture of 12 white people (out of 80 attending) in a district that is 80% white... that tells a lot.

I've seen enough ethnic diversity at Tea Party rallies I've attended in OKC to not be too worried about the race issue. Minorities will continue to trend toward the Democratic Party as long as the Dems continue to promise them special treatment based on their skin color, but as it becomes harder and harder for the Dems to justify such behavior (President Obama has gone on the record as saying his daughters don't need affirmative action) many of these voters will start to drift. In the meantime, there are conservatives of all colors, and in some places (such as with Hispanics in Texas) conservatism is making great strides.

What I do worry about though is the age gap. I see all colors of people at Tea Party rallies (and honestly, even here in Oklahoma we are part of a society where it is increasingly difficult to guess somebody's ethnicity just by looking at them), but what I don't see is a lot of people under 30.

Huck said...

Eric - I concede some racial/ethnic diversity in the Tea Party movement, but it's pretty paltry, especially when one recognizes that the country's population is becoming exponentially more racially/ethnically diverse. Given that, one would expect much more diversity among the Tea Partiers than currently exists.

I do want to challenge you a bit more forcefully on one point, though. You write: "Minorities will continue to trend toward the Democratic Party as long as the Dems continue to promise them special treatment based on their skin color." That's one way to look at it, but I think it misses another (and to me much more probable) explanation of why minorities are "trending" democratic. As I see it, it's not so much the promise of special treatment (even you concede that things are changing such that even Obama doesn't buy into the affirmative action meme so thoroughly), but rather the perception that the GOP/conservative movement is hostile to them because of their race/ethnicity/language. It could very well be that minorities are attracted to the Democrats precisely because they believe (or perceive) that their race/ethnicity/language is less a discriminating feature of the relationship than with the GOP/conservative movement.

eric said...

" It could very well be that minorities are attracted to the Democrats precisely because they believe (or perceive) that their race/ethnicity/language is less a discriminating feature of the relationship than with the GOP/conservative movement."

I have no idea how one would go about quantifying whether it is that or the fact that the Dems traditionally offer minorities cash and prizes for having the right skin color, but here's what I do believe: To the degree that the concepts of liberty, personal responsibility, and small government continue to shape and define the conservative movement, and to the degree that its leaders govern with integrity in relation to those concepts, minorities will be increasingly drawn to the part. To the degree that conservatism rejects and neglects those concepts, it will shed voters of all ages and colors.

Huck said...

Eric - Part of the myopia of conservatives is that they believe they have a corner on the market of liberty, personal responsibility, and small (i.e. responsible, unobtrusive) government. It is a critical failing of conservatives to underestimate liberal Democrats in this way. I agree with you that liberty, personal responsibility, and small government (the way I described it above) is appealing to people. But liberal Democrats are no less committed to and embrace these values than conservatives claim to be. If I believed that being a liberal Democrat was anti-thetical to these values, then I wouldn't be one. I would go so far, then, as to claim that folks (including minorities) are attracted to the Democratic party because they don't see the party (nor do they see liberalism, per se) as somehow contrary to these values. They acknowledge that liberal Democrats embrace and live these values as much as anyone does; they just aren't attracted to the conservative cause because they're probably not interested in being in a room with people who share their values of liberty, personal responsibility, and "small" government, yet who also convey a dislike of them for who they are ethnically, racially, or linguistically. Like it or not, Eric, embracing liberty, personal responsibility, and "small" government aren't enough: people also need to feel welcome as the people they are - which includes their identities as black, hispanic, non-native English speakers, or gay Americans, etc. And rock-ribbed liberty loving, personal responsibility advocating, small government promoting conservatives like Pat Buchanan or Tom Tancredo or Michelle Bachmann or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck still give heartburn to minorities who share these values with them.

eric said...

Huck, if you truly believe liberal democrats are committed to those ideas and issues, I really don't know how to continue the conversation. Nearly every political argument you and I have boils down to you describing to me how government needs to use its coercive power to force more people to do more things they don't want to do.

Huck said...

But, Eric, surely you're not saying that liberals are supportive of bondage, personal irresponsibility, and government control of every little detail of our lives? That's a bit extreme to me. It's exactly this kind of extreme attitude that comes across as characteristic of tea partiers.

Let me just note that our disagreements have never boiled down to the absolutes that you seem to indicate. They have boiled down to differences in degrees of the appropriate role of government in regulating the society we live in. If memory serves me, you yourself acknowledge the coercive power of the state as legitimate for certain things and in certain circumstances. Where we differ, then, is not in this fact, but in its degree and focus. For instance, I've never believed that the state has the right to dictate how one should believe, where one should worship, that the state has an absolute authority over personal property, that individual liberties are charades, etc. I have occasionally spoken of my "liberaltarian" inclinations. Is my opposition to warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act, hate crimes laws, a religious litmus test for the Presidency, and the Kelo decision, or my support for getting the government out of the bedrooms of gay people, legalizing Marijuana, allowing communities to decide what language to conduct their business in and to ask their government to accommodate, and the right of people to burn the flag, all of which you should well know about me, (and I could go on) indicative my advocating bondage to the authority of the government? It is no secret that liberals are often derided by conservatives for their embrace of "liberation" - whether it's called liberation theology or sexual liberation or women's liberation, etc. I am a committed advocate of liberty. 99% of all liberals are. In terms of personal responsibility, it is part of my creed. As it is for most liberals. Every liberal I know believes that we have a responsibility to ourselves AND to others. We have a responsibility to uphold our commitments to marriage, family, job, and society. I know very few liberals who don't believe in personal responsibility. And in terms of "small" government, I'd argue that I believe in a responsible, unobtrusive government. That means, to me, a government that does what I think its proper function is and does them efficiently and well with minimal interference in my daily routines of life. I don't think you'd find a liberal who would think the government has a right to just walk up to an individual and take possession of his house or his car without being contested, to tell someone which church they had to worship in, and to manage who their friends and lovers are. Do liberals accept the government's right to tax? Absolutely. But so do conservatives. And many liberals believe that the things that government does increases liberty, not constrains it. You may disagree with whether certain government policies preserve and enhance liberty, or constrain them, but you would be remiss to think that liberals believe what we believe about the government's role because we want government to bind us to oppressive conventions and not free up our potential.

Eric, I really believe that you are painting liberals with a broad brush that most reasonable observers just wouldn't think is true.

Eric said...

I don't doubt that liberals support liberty huck, but it is way down towards the bottom of their list of priorities, that is clear. It is you who supports making people buy insurance at gunpoint, Huck. It is your party that sees no problem with forcing 10% of the population to pay 80+% of the income tax, and in fact would demand more from that 10%. It is your party that seems to take offense to the very idea of liberty any time it means one person might be able to get ahead of another. It is your party that never even considers making significant cuts to government when the budget gets out of control. It is your party that believes the proper role of government involves owning auto companies, creating actuary tables, monopolizing the student loan business, and even punishing people financially for their choices of what food to eat.

Look, I'm not comfortably "at home" in the GOP. I'm not as Christian as most of them, as socially conservative as most of them, or as culturaly traditional. But there is a (growing) place and some levers of power within the GOP for people like me who put liberty first, and the Democratic party, quite frankly, doesn't hold a candle to the GOP in that regard.

Huck said...

Eric - Of course, you are entitled to think what you want about who holds what candle to whom with regard to valuing liberty, embracing personal responsibilty, and the proper role of the state; but I will tell you that many people disagree with you. I could take all your examples and explain how the "free market" and the conservative resistance to change contributes to and perpetuates a lack of freedom. But in the interest of time, I'll just take a few. You say that my party is the one that refuses to get government spending under control, and yet the only administration in my lifetime to ever work off of a balanced budget and actually produce a surplus was one led by a Democratic President with signicant support from Democratic legislators. You say that my party supports a government that penalizes people for some of what they eat; and I can say it is your party that supports not only penalizing people, but sending them to prison, for some of what they smoke. And as for penalizing people for what they eat, the health insurance companies do the same damn thing in their own way: it's called raising premiums or denying coverage for unhealthy personal consumption behaviors. And the fact is that people are still free to eat as many Snickers bars and drink as many martinis as they want. It's the GOP much more so than the Democrats that wants to restrict the freedom of people to travel to and do business with Cuba, or that wants to keep cheaper labor out of the U.S. by militarizing the border, putting up walls, and even restricting the numbers of legal immigrants from the developing world all for fear of some threat to the "American" culture. It's the GOP that wants government to force feeding tubes into people in vegetative states when disputes over end of life care don't fall their "pro-life" way. It's the GOP that wants to criminalize assisted suicide. It's the GOP that wants to pass a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning. It's the GOP that wants to erect shove the 10 commandments down peoples throats in courthouses and wants to ban Darwin's "Origin of Species" from public libraries and schools. It's the GOP that thinks it's perfectly acceptable for the government to tell a young gay girl that she can't bring her same-sex date to the prom. Where's the liberty in any of those. And I could go on and on and on. And when the government actually makes it easier and cheaper for students from more modest income backgrounds to borrow money to pay for an education, thus making education -- the key to so much freedom -- more accessible to more people, you want to claim that this somehow constrains rather than advances liberty? I'm still scratching my head on that one. People who know what liberty feels like in the bones, Eric, can decide for themselves where the best realization for that lies. You can lecture me on who's got the better "liberty" package, Eric; but when you look at the whole picture -- social liberty, sexual liberty, political liberty, cultural liberty, economic liberty, the balance is not at all what you paint it to be.