Liberals have been excited ever since the November 2012 election; they seem convinced that Republicans are destroying their own party. The evening shows on MSNBC are filled with ridicule of the latest conservative’s statement and celebrations of the imminent demise of the Republican Party.
In my opinion this celebration is misguided.
I believe liberals would be much better off spending their time explaining why the country would do better with liberal policies than conservative ones. It’s so much easier to trash the Republicans—and it has more entertainment value.
But just because the Republicans have lost some elections, and are having trouble finding new voters, doesn’t mean the party is going to disintegrate. As many people have pointed out, the Democratic Party went through a similar experience in the 1970s and that party is still here.
Perhaps the main reason I believe liberals need to focus on communicating their message is because conservatives have been winning the national political debate for decades now. After the 2012 election David Frum wrote that conservatives shouldn’t despair, because “Whatever you think of the Obama record, it's worth keeping in mind that by any measure, free enterprise has been winning the game for a long, long time to this point.”
Mr. Frum compares our current economy with that of 1962, and writes glowingly about all the wonderful things that are the result of decreased regulation and lower taxes:
In 1962, the government regulated the price and route of every airplane, every freight train, every truck and every merchant ship in the United States…It regulated the interest on every checking account and the commission on every purchase or sale of stock. Owning a gold bar was a serious crime that could be prosecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The top rate of income tax was 91%.
It was illegal to own a telephone. Phones had to be rented from the giant government-regulated monopoly that controlled all telecommunications in the United States. All young men were subject to the military draft and could escape only if they entered a government-approved graduate course of study…
Even if you look only at the experiences of white heterosexual men, the United States of 2012 is a freer country in almost every way than the United States of 1962.
In Mr. Frum’s world less regulation means more freedom. I see a different world. I see a world where decreased regulation led to a global financial crash. I see a country where lower taxes have produced a collapsing educational system and a crumbling infrastructure—our roads and bridges are in such bad shape they get a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. I see a country where the rich own everything (the top 10% own two-thirds of the wealth) while middle-class wages stagnate because the unions have been thoroughly busted.
I see a country where everything is for sale. Where the only criteria for success is money. Where the only measuring stick of value is profit. A country where everything is market-based; even schools, hospitals, and prisons are turned into profit-machines.
Yes Mr. Frum, the conservatives have won and it’s not pretty.
There are other reasons why liberals should be a little more cautious about their celebrations. Republicans still have a lot of power nationally via their ability to both obstruct popular legislation in Congress and influence people’s thinking via the propaganda of FOX News and talk radio.
In addition, in 2013 conservatives control 27 state legislatures (that is, Republicans have majorities in both houses) and 30 governorships. Restrictive anti-abortion laws have been passed in North Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas, and other states. Many states are still attempting to make it more difficult to vote.
I live in North Carolina, where for the first time in more than a century Republicans control the legislature and governorship. There are some wacky bills coming out of this group, including one that would create a state religion. Jamison Doran chronicles the wackiness in an “Open Letter to the NC Legislature,” in the Huffington Post.
The Democrats are so weak they can’t even pass gun control legislation after the horror of the multiple mass shootings in 2012, culminating in a massacre at an elementary school. Over 90% of Americans support background checks for gun purchases and the Democrats can’t even get that through Congress.
Last week President Obama released his budget in which he suggested cuts in Social Security and Medicare. It doesn’t matter that this proposal is dead in the water because of Republican obstructionism; the point is he’s still compromising liberal positions for no obvious reason or gain.
The “538 Blog” at the New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago that Obama’s post-election advantage over Republicans on the issue of “who do you trust with the economy” has been slipping:
In December 2012 and January 2013, polls found that roughly half of Americans had more faith in Mr. Obama’s economic stewardship, while just over a third of respondents said they had more faith in the economic stewardship of Congressional Republicans. Since December, however, Mr. Obama’s standing has declined by roughly 10 percentage points, while Republicans in Congress have gained 4 or 5 percentage points.
Polls show that a majority of Americans support the liberal worldview, particularly when issues are explained to them. But liberals are not as good at articulating their views to the voters as conservatives are, so the Republican Party keeps winning.
Tell me again liberals: what exactly are we celebrating?