Over the past 6 years, Republicans ruined their brand.
In the 1980s and 90’s, you knew what you were getting when you voted for a Republican: smaller and limited government, lower taxes, some type or another of “social conservatism,” restricting the courts’ power to their proper role, and a stronger America at home and abroad. You might not agree with every plank in the Republican Platform, but you pretty much knew what you were getting when you voted for Republican control of government.
Sure, there were tensions in the Republican coalition; social conservatives and libertarian-leaning Republicans often disagreed on specific issues, but the ties that bound the coalition together were much stronger than the disagreements over these issues. Despite predictions that social issues would tear apart the Republican coalition, I see little evidence to support that belief.
Grover Norquist has named this alliance between social conservatives and libertarian-leaning voters the “leave us alone coalition;” we may not all agree on what exactly the best society would look like, but we tend to agree that smaller and more limited government will get us there. Big government has proven to be both the enemy of freedom and of traditional values, an activist court offends both groups just about equally, and both groups tend to agree that a strong American military is a good thing.
What fatally wounded the Republican Party this past election was not a breakdown of the “leave us alone” coalition. And it sure wasn’t an ideological rejection embrace of liberal principles by a majority of the country. In fact, according to a poll by McLaughlin and Associates nearly six in ten voters said they want a smaller government with fewer services.
What destroyed the Republican majority was abandonment by the politicians of the coalition that put them in power. Far from being too pure or conservative for the moderate voters, this batch of Republicans looked too self-interested and smarmy to stomach. In fact, they looked too self-interested and smarmy for most conservative voters too.
What were Republicans running on this year?
Reducing the size and scope of government? Republicans had become the Party of big government. The explosion of earmarks was only the tip of the iceberg. Who can forget that George W. Bush and the Republican Congress passed the largest expansion of the Welfare State since LBJ, Medicare Part D?
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