The United States Needs a Strong Opposition Party
As I go through the results of the 2012 election cycle from a wide range of sources across the political spectrum, including The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and The Center for American Progress, I am getting … concerned.
We need an opposition party in the United States. It creates debate so only the best ideas win, it keeps politicians more honest than they would otherwise be, and it keeps the boat in a narrow center lane so we don’t veer off into extreme in either direction. The Republican party has been taken over by radicals, resulting in a catastrophic demographic and values problem that is now causing it to fail at that vital mission.
That is not good for the country. Whether you are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, no good can come when the entire government is controlled by a single party or ideology that is blind to the needs of those who fall outside of its constituency. That is not the case now, but it certainly looks like we are on path for that to happen.
Republicans weren’t just beat in the 2012 election, which they truly thought they were going to win in a landslide despite the figures showing otherwise. They were destroyed. They lost the White House. They lost Senate seats. They lost House seats. They lost ballot measures. They lost judicial retention races.
How did they lose? Which demographics and voting blocs were responsible? Let’s take a look.
The Shocking Demographics of the 2012 Election
Consider that in the election held less than 48 hours ago, the Republican Presidential candidate:
- Lost 8 out of the 10 richest counties in the nation
- Lost 9 out of 10 of the richest states in the country
- Lost 53 out of 100 college-educated voters
- Lost 55 out of 100 women voters
- Lost 60 out of 100 18-to-29 year old voters
- Lost 71 out of 100 Hispanic voters
- Lost 73 out of 100 Asian voters
- Lost 80 out of 100 gay and lesbian voters
- Lost 93 out of 100 African American voters
A few pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, seem to think that this because Barack Obama is a “Santa Claus” figure. They are wrong. It is that kind of wishful, lazy thinking that led to this result in the first place. It makes self-reflection unnecessary and can only result in even worse results in the future.
Consider Asian Americans. As a group, they are much more likely to have far higher educational attainment, work in high prestige jobs that require niche skills, enjoy larger household incomes, and amass higher net worths per family than their counterparts. Likewise, looking at demographic data, the Hispanic community contains a significant Catholic majority that has an amazing work ethic, even when struggling in low-end jobs. Historically, those traits should have correlated with the Republican Party. They don’t anymore. That is a failure of the Republican party.
The Libertarian Streak of the 35-and-Younger Crowd
The Republican party has also alienated the next waive of parents and business owners. Hang out with 18-35 crowd that represents that youngest half of the median population. I am not a libertarian but I do have a very significant libertarian streak. For me, personal freedom is the single highest moral objective of a government.
I am not unique among my generation. We’ve grown up in a time that is all about individuality. Broadly speaking, we don’t listen to the radio, we have individual iPhones with playlists on them. We don’t watch one of three television stations, we have the option to check on hundreds of networks. We don’t read one newspaper, we can browse thousands of online publications and millions of blogs. As a general rule, there is a very significant libertarian streak in today’s youth because we are, in many ways, the most individual generation to ever be born. No matter how weird, quirky, or bizarre you are, you can find a group just like you and connect with them over thousands of miles.
That has an influence on politics. It results in a deep-seated “live and let live” attitude. Yet, the Republican party gets further and further away from libertarianism. It claims to be about small government but it’s not. It’s base wants: Restrictions on birth control. Restrictions on abortion in the case of rape or incest. Restrictions on marriage rights. Restrictions on immigration. Restrictions on personal medical freedom. Restrictions on constitutional rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Restrictions on privacy. An expansion in the size of our already unsustainable military expenditures at a time when the middle class is falling apart. It’s nothing but more power and more money. It wasn’t always this way.
The only area in which the GOP has done a good job supporting individual freedom is in the realm of gun control. That loses a lot of its relative luster when you realize that Obama has done very little to try and curtail gun rights, to the point the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a lobbying group that tries to push through restrictions on gun ownership, gives him an “F” on every issue it scored.
If Both Parties Offer Big Government, The One That Includes the Most People Will Win Every Time
And you wonder why young voters vote the way they do? If you’re going to get big government either way, it might as well be for medicine instead of bombs. If you are going to get big government either way, it might as well be one that is going to allow a woman the right to get birth control. If you are going to get big government either way, you might as well go with the one that will let your friends and family get married. If you are going to get big government either way, it may as well be for the party that doesn’t have a base that treats all brown people like they are criminals and instead welcomes immigrants with open arms like the days of Ellis Island.
Many people, when polled, do not want big government. If both parties are going to give us big government, we are going to go with the one that at least does it in a way that makes life better for more people.
In my lifetime, I’ve watched the Republican party go from the exciting days of Reagan’s “Morning in America”, fighting a righteous cause against communism and revitalizing an economic system stuck in malaise to a group of extremists so pure in ideology that not even Reagan himself could survive the primaries. The Republican party of today is defined by what it is against. You cannot live your life that way, nor can you run a party that way, because it is doomed to fail. You have to be for something. You have to work toward something.
The Focus Should Be on Individual Freedom, Smaller Government, and Balanced Budgets
There should be a genuine alternative to the Democratic party but the demographics and moral values of the nation, dominated by the rich Northern states, will never allow that to be one based upon restricting freedom or taking away rights. If they ever hope to win, the libertarians need to take back over the GOP, kick out the religious extremists, and start running on a platform of individual freedom, smaller government, and balanced budgets.
Although I did not vote for him, I never criticized Mitt Romney personally during the election, even defending him against attacks I thought unjustified. I think he is probably a good man, who loves his family, loves his church, and loves his country. Had he taken the White House, I would have done just fine, despite some small policy differences, and I would have hoped he had a very successful term. Mitt Romney did not lose because America hated him; it doesn’t. Mitt Romney lost because he spent years defining himself in a primary process where he had to alienate massive portions of the electorate in order to clench the nomination, supported a party platform that was one of the most evil documents to ever come out of a political committee, was on the same ticket as radicals like Todd Aiken, and wasn’t allowed to be himself for fear of having the American Taliban turn on him.
The typical younger voter is a combination unthinkable to older generations: Fiscally conservative and socially liberal. There is no party to represent that now. Either the GOP changes, or it dies as its base goes to the grave with each passing year and more voters celebrate their 18th birthday. The first step to making any change is to recognize reality, even when it is painful to do so. The GOP needs to do some serious soul searching or they are going to lose an entire generation.
The same, it should be said, goes for the churches. In my generation, a staggering 1 out of 3 people now consider themselves atheist or agnostic. That’s the harvest you reap when you’ve sewn nothing but Pharisaical divisiveness for decades. If the religious community really wants its influence to grow in the hearts of Americans, it should spend more time in the soup kitchen and less time trying to draft laws.