May 5, 2009

A friend writes:

My dad sent this to me, and I have to share it.

I’ve been looking for these words for several years now. I agree in most part. I’ll have to read it a couple more times to find where I differ.

OPINION | May 05, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist: The Long Voyage Home
Republicans are so much the party of individualism and freedom that they are no longer the party of community and order.

)))))))))))))))))  I reply:

I was all set to disagree with Brooks even before I read the article. After all, a man who holds truth as a core value better well acknowledge his prejudices. But this paragraph struck me as correct:

“Then they will have to explain that there are two theories of civic order. There is the liberal theory, in which teams of experts draw up plans to engineer order wherever problems arise. And there is the more conservative vision in which government sets certain rules, but mostly empowers the complex web of institutions in which the market is embedded.”

I see the repeal of Glass-Steagall was the first really major step along a slippery slope of Republican abdication of their responsibility to set the right rules. No one will remember Bill Clinton was President when that happened.

That said, before reading his editorial I had already formulated what I thought would be a counter-point to his thoughts. I don’t really know how I did that, but I spend a lot of time thinking about my response to potential things that may happen in the future. So, I suppose it’s not that unnatural for me to think about how I would respond to something that I haven’t yet read.

Regardless, perhaps these thoughts are more a complement to his thinking than a counter-argument. So here goes.

That the Republicans can still be seen to stand for anything is somewhat of a miracle at this point. Noonan wrote three years ago or so that Bush had destroyed the Republican party. I tend to agree.

The Republican’s electoral defeat problem seems to have its origin in three basic areas:

Iraq: It was harder than we were expecting and what we ended up fighting for isn’t what we were initially sold, even if it ends up working out in the end.

Government Excess: Medicare prescription entitlements, no child left behind, rampant pork-barrel spending eroded any Republican claim to be the party of responsible. limited governance.

Corruption: Jack Abramoff and all that.

In Stephen Baker’s book, the Numerati, he describes how Democrats have analyzed the country household by household to identify voters who can be swayed. They look at donations and what we read to get a sense of our politics. This information is readily available from companies like ChoicePoint and Acxiom. This is why when you give to the USO, for example, all of a sudden you get a deluge of solicitations from similar organizations.

The gentleman behind this effort is Josh Gotbaum, who first entered politics working in the Carter administration. If you are skeptical, then read pages 67 – 95 of Stephen Baker’s book and then make your judgment.

So, what’s this got to do with David Brooks?

Let’s put the Republican losses in perspective. The margin of error in many of these campaigns is razor thin. Keep in mind with all the mistakes the Republicans have made and the press solidly behind Obama, he still received only 53% of the vote. Part of that was message and part of that was due to superior organization skills, like those spearheaded by Gotbaum.

Gotbaum devoted a lot of energy to the swing voters. Think of it this way. Getting the party faithful to show up gets you one vote each. Getting a swing voter to your side essentially gets you two net votes. So, while the Republicans are figuring out what they want to be when they grow up, they need to also work on their mechanics.

Because unless we get this country to move in a different direction, my fear is we’re going to look more and more like Argentina as time goes on.

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