According to a new Pew Research poll, only 3 out of 10 Americans trust government.
Harvey Mansfield in an interview this week in the Wall Street Journal argues for the case of limited government. Contained in that interview is a good set of quotes critiquing the current trend for conservative purity:
“The Republicans should want to recover the notion of the common good,” Mr. Mansfield says. “One way to do that is to show that we can’t afford the entitlements as they are—that we’ve always underestimated the cost. ‘Cost’ is just an economic word for the common good. And if Republicans can get entitlements to be understood no longer as irrevocable but as open to negotiation and to political dispute and to reform, then I think they can accomplish something.”The welfare state’s size isn’t what makes it so stifling, Mr. Mansfield says. “What makes government dangerous to the common good is guaranteed entitlements, so that you can never question what expenses have been or will be incurred.” Less important at this moment are spending and tax rates. “I don’t think you can detect the presence or absence of good government,” he says, “simply by looking at the percentage of GDP that
government uses up. That’s not an irrelevant figure but it’s not decisive. The decisive thing is whether it’s possible to reform, whether reform is a political possibility.
“Then there is the matter of conservative political practice. “Conservatives should be the party of judgment, not just of principles,” he says. “Of course there are conservative principles—free markets, family values, a strong national defense—but those principles must be defended with the use of good judgment. Conservatives need to be intelligent, and they shouldn’t use their principles as substitutes for intelligence. Principles need to be there so judgment can be distinguished from opportunism. But just because you give ground on principle doesn’t mean you’re an opportunist.”
Conservatism, as has been covered from time to time in this blog, requires a certain degree of pragmatism. We must be principled by simultaneously strategic on how and when we fight our battles.
Marc Caputo, from The Miami Herald, analyzes how we’re already tumbling head-long into the 2016 contest which inevitably (many would say) will involve Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. In case you missed it, there was a moderate kerfuffle over some comments made in a GQ magazine interview of Sen. Rubio. He was asked how old he thought the earth was (a curious question, as I’m sure it is never put towards a left leaning politicians). Since he did not immediately say that the earth was “X” number of billions of years old, many perceived that he was a type of evangelical extremist. Mr. Caputo, who has covered the Florida resident for years, has the following analysis:
For the record, in the decade we’ve covered the West Miami resident, Rubio has never sounded or really acted like a religious fundamentalist. But he is deeply conservative in many of his religious beliefs and he has voiced support for a modified type of Creationism, known as Intelligent Design.
As Florida House Speaker in 2008, Rubio passively supported an Intelligent Design-related bill, but allowed it to die in his chamber. He spent no political capital on it. And he didn’t suggest then that the Earth was only a few thousand years old or that this was subject to scientific dispute.
None of that was mentioned by the liberals intent on making Rubio into a right-wing nutcase this month.
Ron Long from Ricochet.com discusses in a short blog post that the GOP should reassertion itself with, and contend for, American cities. He may be onto something:
The best way to revive a sagging company is to look for new market opportunities and seize them. Which is why the Republican party needs to take on the cities. We’ve all enjoyed daydreaming about John Yoo, Mayor of Oakland — I wish he’d get the hint and really run for the office — but the larger point is: cities are where the people are; cities are where our people (Asian and Hispanic business types) are; cities are where liberalism has not only failed, but failed specularly and with tragic human cost.
It’s true that cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia will likely never vote majority Republican. However, this territory cannot be discarded or seeded to the democrats given the amount and diversity of the people that live there. In other words, if the GOP wants to reach out to Hispanics and African Americans, that is where much of that is going to have to take place.
Perhaps the GOP may have a hook on one particular issue that many south of 35 know all too well. The majority of young people between the ages of 25 and 35 remember the famous file sharing network fostered by Napster. Even today, there exists broad file sharing (much of it illegal of course) over the internet through bit torrents.
While it certainly should not be made legal to share copy written material, modernizing the current laws so they are clear and easily followed would be smart. I mean, isn’t that the hallmark of the Republican Party: Simple, practical solutions to complicated or burdensome issues? Sure, it may not be the most important challenge to tackle in light of the big ones like how to avoid fiscal cliff and enact entitlement reform, but it might be an easy issue to tackle in order to get back into fighting form.
Think of it as the Div. II team on your favorite college football team’s schedule.
In Doris Kerns Goodwin’s masterful book about Abraham Lincoln, entitled Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, she describe’s President Lincoln’s approach to persuading his fellow countryman. The following is a short excerpt where Mrs. Goodwin discusses how President Lincoln approached the most sensitive issue of that age: Slavery.
Unlike the majority of antislavery orators, who denounced the South and castigated slaveowners as corrupt and un-Christian, Lincoln pointedly denied fundamental differences between Northerners and Southerners. He argued that “they are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist amongst us, we should not instantly give it up… . When it is said that the institution exists; and that it is very difficult to get rid of it, in any satisfactory way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself.” And, finally, “when they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them … and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives.”
Rather than upbraid slaveowners, Lincoln sought to comprehend their position through empathy. More than a decade earlier, he had employed a similar approach when he advised temperance advocates to refrain from denouncing drinkers in “thundering tones of anathema and denunciation,” for denunciation would inevitably be met with denunciation, “crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema.” In a passage directed at abolitionists as well as temperance reformers, he had observed that it was the nature of man, when told that he should be “shunned and despised,” and condemned as the author “of all the vice and misery and crime in the land,” to “retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart.”
Rubio was not judgmental, but merely appealed to a higher standard. He is not the angry moralist putting others down. He is a political evangelist showing there is a better way.
An interesting article surfaced in the Washington Post this week. Jonathan Capehart points out that the Democrats may face much stiffer challenger in 2014 and 2016 when Barack Obama is not on the ballot to energize key voting blocs.
In particular, he discusses how when certain minority populations are asked about their enthusiasm in supporting Democrats if the president isn’t on the ballot, the support tumbles.
A slide from the NAACP’s battleground poll shows how real a concern about minority turnout post-Obama is. The president got 93 percent of the African American vote. But when black Democrats in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia were asked whether they would be enthusiastic about Democrats without Obama on the ballot, support nose-dives.
How precipitous is this change? Very:
Democrats are looking at a 14-point drop in enthusiasm among African Americans in their support for the party’s 2016 nominee without Obama. The drop among those described as “very enthusiastic” is 32 points, from 79 percent to 47 percent.
Certainly, Democrats will move to consolidate their gains just as eagerly as Republicans will move to roll them back. Looking ahead to 2016, when many on the left assume that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, the Republicans might be very well positioned should they (wisely) put forward an effective, young conservative like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, or Paul Ryan for president.