Quotes of the day

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would have won the presidency if the white and black turnout rates had stayed at their 2004 levels, according to a new analysis of 2012 election…

[T]he only group that turned out in greater numbers for the GOP were those who earned more than $100,000 per year, according to Resurgent’s analysis. That group’s turnout rose by 7 percent…

Turnout fell by 3 percent among white women, 6 percent among white men, 2 percent among Protestants, 9 percent among married voters, and 15 percent among GOP-leaning middle class voters who earn between $50,000 and $100,000.


When Democrats about cooperation and collective action, they typically mean government action. This has pushed conservatives to fly the individualist flag. That’s fine, but maybe the real rival of government isn’t individual autonomy as much as voluntary cooperation.

As Ross Douthat put it, in the context of the Obama administration’s efforts to outlaw most Catholic institutions that operate according to Catholic teaching, “When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good.”


[I]t’s pretty easy to see how the third-generation stall-out could continue, given the trends — unemployment, family breakdown, weakening communal ties — already working against social mobility in America.

These trends mean that we’re asking low-skilled immigrants to assimilate into a working class that’s already in crisis. We’re hoping that our dysfunctional educational system can prevent millions more children from assimilating downward into what sociologists have called a “rainbow underclass.” And we’re betting that the growing incomes of second-generation Hispanics will outweigh their retreat from marriage and rising out-of-wedlock birthrates…

In the end, the promise of American life is more than just a bigger paycheck than foreign economies supply. It’s a promise of social equality, intergenerational advancement and fluid lines of class. The fact that so many people around the world still find that promise appealing is a wonderful thing. But it’s also important to be sure, while we decide how many of them to welcome and how fast, that we can still deliver on it.


The new core constituency of the GOP can best be identified as the enterprise base. They include small property owners, mainly in the suburbs, those who are married or aspiring to be so. They are more suburban than urban, and likely to work for someone else or themselves as opposed to working for the state. Combine the top half of private employees, over 50 million people, add some 10 million self-employed and you get to a serious economic, and political, base…

The enterprise base is by nature not ideologically rigid. Most, if you talk to them, would generally support sensible infrastructure improvement as well as repairs; they also tilt towards restrained taxation and a lighter regulatory hold. It’s a movement for “Let’s get this fixed and get on with our lives.”

This new orientation would define the Republicans where they are strongest and the administration weakest – on the economy. The new wedge issues must be for a “level playing field” for entrepreneurs and the middle class and definitely not social issues, like opposition to gay rights, or support for old and new unwise wars.


Is there an alternative scenario where immigration reform turns out to be a net positive for Republicans instead? Sure — but only if such a reform somehow complemented a new conservative economic agenda rather than posing a substitute for one. My doubts about the design of the current bill notwithstanding, I can imagine an immigration overhaul finding a place in a broader right-of-center vision that’s geared toward reassuring blue-collar whites, enticing middle-income Hispanics, and boosting new immigrants into the middle class.

But that vision doesn’t exist at the moment, and it isn’t likely to emerge in a world where the Congressional G.O.P. can’t even manage to take baby steps toward an Obamacare alternative. And so long as that’s the case, the kind of immigration reform being contemplated is likely to be worse for the G.O.P. politically than a similar bill would have been under George W. Bush. For all his faults, Bush understood that his party couldn’t win over Hispanics — or any economically-vulnerable constituency — without substantive as well as symbolic overtures. Right now, his successors seemed poised to learn that lesson the hard way.


Asked what message he’s sending to the GOP, Bush reverted to broad descriptions of freedom. He steered clear of giving his party specifics on how to rebuild, but he said that he stands by “the principles that guided me when I was president.”

“These are principles that need to be articulated and defended as time goes on,” he said.

For Bush, “compassionate conservatism,” much derided by the party’s harder-edged tea party adherents, is still a powerful draw.

He predicted a renewed interest in the philosophy, which he described as “the idea that articulating and implementing conservative ideas leads to a better life for all.”


As Republicans continue to think through their (and America’s) path toward renewal, they run a very great risk of focusing on what it is they oppose about the path toward national exhaustion laid out by the Democrats in recent years, and so neglecting to offer the public a clear picture of the Right’s own vision of America. Among the greatest risks is that Republicans, in responding to President Obama’s equation of common efforts with government efforts (an equation that is in fact an assertion of an extremely radical individualism, as it sees all citizens as unconnected to one another except through politics), will offer in contrast purely a defense of individual initiative rather than a vision of society, and so will answer an error with an error. The rhetoric of last year’s campaign season contained an awful lot of this (as I worried about here) with very few exceptions—like this fantastic speech by Paul Ryan toward the end of the campaign—and it has been common since as well.

That’s why this speech delivered Monday by Utah senator Mike Lee at the Heritage Foundation was so important, welcome, and refreshing. Without picking fights or being too aggressive about it, Lee corrected the excessive individualism of some of his colleagues, and offered a sense of how conservatives should show the public what they are for. And what he didn’t emphasize—not only the Right’s version of radical individualism but the frequently oversimplified theme of dependency—was as important as what he did.


His message may strike some as “unconservative,” but that is only because the current crop of right-leaning pundits and pols too often have distorted the real meaning of conservativism and taken up bellicose and negative language, while suggesting that government is our biggest threat. Lee’s serious discussion should be welcomed in the GOP, and he joins others, including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and GOP governors as well as American Enterprise Institute’s chief Arthur Brooks (who stresses the moral case for capitalism) and other conservative heavy-weight thinkers, in trying to redirect conservatives toward governmental reform, improving the quality of life for the poor and middle class and tolerance (which Lee deals with in the context of federalism).

The next step is to put his vision into concrete terms. What sort of tax code does he favor? What kind of immigration reform would he support? If the answer is just more of the same (mostly “no” on every viable compromise), he’ll lose support and interest quickly. But if he attempts to apply conservative principles in ways designed to encourage mobility, community and equality of opportunity, he’ll be onto something.


The central challenge he may have to overcome is the Right’s tendency to decry as “social engineering” anything short of the sweeping flatter, fairer code conservatives would like to see. Achieving such a code is unlikely in the short term, and making it politically feasible may require Republicans to recast themselves as the friends of working families, not Wall Street. After so many years of being seen as the party of big business, a shift to the defense of middle-income Americans will require action from the GOP, not just words.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s idea of an American comeback from the malaise of Jimmy Carter was expressed in similarly straightforward terms: family, neighborhood, work, peace, and freedom. Today the Right talks much about work and freedom, but Reagan’s equal emphasis on neighborhood and peace have been largely neglected. And family has largely been an arena of concern only to social conservatives lately, not of libertarians who ought to recognize the family as the most powerful hedge against expanding government and its current decline as a major social problem.

The Right would do well to consider Lee’s call for a rediscovery of the importance of families, civil society, and neighborhood. Concern for individual liberty does not preclude recognition that recovery from the current national malaise will require people working together, “blowing on their hands, pitting their small strength against the inhuman elements of life, … cooperating with a purpose and a spirit that is at the center of creation,” in Alexis de Tocqueville’s words.


We say we are for lower taxes, or less regulation, or spending restraint. But those are just policies we advocate. They’re not what we’re really for. What we’re really for are the good things those policies will yield to the American people.

What we’re really for is the kind of society those policies would allow the American people to create, together.


If there is one idea too often missing from our debate today that’s it: together.

In the last few years, we conservatives seem to have abandoned words like “together,” “compassion,” and “community”… as if their only possible meanings were as a secret code for statism…

The essence of human freedom, of civilization itself, is cooperation. This is something conservatives should celebrate. It’s what conservatism is all about.

Freedom doesn’t mean “you’re on your own.” It means “we’re all in this together.”

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David Strom 12:31 PM on December 01, 2022