Friday, November 28, 2008

Myths of moderation

John Hawkins addresses the false arguments for a more "moderate" Republican Party:
After a GOP beating, there is always a debate between the people who want the party to become more principled and those who want to turn the GOP into a poll-driven pile of mush that they believe will be more appealing to centrists. . . .
One of the most surreal aspects of the post-2008 campaign is listening to moderates pretend that the last eight years never happened.
You say that the GOP can't win as a small government party. Well, we've already tried being a big government party for the last 8 years and it failed. You think running a moderate, pro-amnesty candidate who eschews social issues is the key to winning elections? Well, that's who we ran in 2008 and he received even less votes than George Bush did in 2004.
The big-government approach -- whether you call it "national greatness" or "compassionate conservatism" -- is not a fighting creed, because it does not offer a meaningful alternative to Democratic Party liberalism. Republicans were able to win elections in 2002 and 2004 on national-security issues, but ultimately it was failure to pursue a politically effective domestic agenda that undid Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority."

More to the point, as I've previously noted, independent voters are not "centrist" or "moderate" in an ideological sense. Independents are actually "low-information" voters whose political ideas are an ill-informed hodge-podge that conforms to no ideological template. There is no coherent middle-of-the-road agenda to which they subscribe.The moderate argument that Republicans lose independents because of specific conservative policy stances -- on immigration, abortion, gay rights, etc. -- simply does not fit the reality of who these voters are. (And there is plenty of evidence that independents tend to be conservative on social issues.)

Low-information voters often can't name their representatives or senators, but they usually know who the president is and which party he belongs to, and if they don't like the president (Bush is at 26% approval), his party will pay the price. The Republican Party's electoral problems, then, are more simple than some would have us believe. The simplicity of the problem doesn't mean the solution will be easy, but "moderation" -- chasing a centrist will-o'-th'-wisp -- is unlikely to be part of the solution.

(Cross-posted at AmSpecBlog.)

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