How the Republican Party Can Defeat Democrats
The path by which Republicans can defeat Democrats is clear and consists of three issues: comprehensive immigration reform, repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, and economic populism. These three issues are supported by major elements within the Republican Party, although rejected by others. However, the inconsistent support may, in fact, be beneficial to the long-term welfare of the Republican Party.
Fourteen Republican Senators, generally characterized as “establishment,” voted for S.744, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Some of these Republicans had announced that they were not going to run for re-election, although they are conservative and generally respected. For the arguments that efforts to reform immigration has not sufficiently attended to border security or cannot be accomplished now because President cannot be trusted, as House Speaker John Boehner advances, to be valid, the conservative credentials, respect, and general ability of these 14 Republican senators must be impugned. While Speaker Boehner has refused to bring this bill to the House for a vote, Republicans, generally, have not attacked these Senators for supporting this bill.
In fact, one reason for acceptance of what might be described as a violation of conservative principles may be that these Republican Senators voted for comprehensive immigration reform following President Obama’s 2012 second re-election. An “autopsy” of the election commissioned by the Republican National Committee found that one reason for the unexpected loss was the failure of Mitt Romney to garner at least 40 percent of the Latino vote. Following this loss, but before those in the Republican Party who were opposed to immigration consolidated and focused their determination to prevent comprehensive immigration reform, more tolerance was permitted. A fairly large percentage of the Republican Party seem to be in favor of comprehensive immigration reform if for no other reason than its necessity if they are to capture the White House in the near future.
Nonetheless, a large percentage of the GOP, Tea Partiers, including Senators, officeholders, and the base, are adamantly opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. They variously argue on talk shows that this opposition is rooted in suspicion that the [southern] border is not and will not be adequately secured; that immigrant workers will take jobs from U.S. workers at a time when our economic recovery is still precarious; and that President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce the immigration laws. In other venues, Congress members Michelle Bachman and Steve King have questioned the lawfulness of [Latin American] immigrants, the adequacy of their education, and their worrisome (perhaps contagious) health status. A report by the Heritage Foundation has questioned the cost of “illegal immigration and amnesty” to this country .
So, those Republicans who want to win the White House, presumably the majority of the GOP, have the opportunity to both purge the Tea Partiers and to appeal to an essential part of the electorate. If the Republicans fail to act on comprehensive immigration reform in light of how much it benefits them to do so, one must ask why? The reasons commonly expressed for not doing so pale in comparison to the reasons for acting.
A second issue that Republicans could turn to their advantage at the expense of Democrats is health care. Although the Democrats are beginning to feel that, at least with better messaging, they may be on the brink of reaping the benefits of having championed the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), Republicans could steal this issue and use it against Democrats. While the full range of arguments that various Republicans have used against the ACA are too broad and contradictory and, in some cases, too crazy to discuss here, two stand out: economic and health care detriments.
The logic of the ACA’s economic detriment is based on its supposed high cost for employers and incentives to reduce full-time workers to part-time to offset these costs. While the ACA was designed to bolster the economy by providing incentives for more employees to change their jobs for what they think may be more lucrative activities, it is true that some employers may face higher costs, most employers will benefit from the ACA because of lower health costs.
The deleterious health care argument is based on the ACA’s presumed strain on the existing pool of medical providers as more people will now be able to have access to them. (I assume that “establishment” Republicans do not really believe that “Washington bureaucrats” will be called upon to provide medical care.) In its earliest days, this was a problem in Massachusetts for Romney care, but was quickly overcome and pales in comparison to the idea of people needing medical care but are unable to receive it.
Neither of these two disadvantages outweigh the benefits of the ACA nor will they prevent the firestorm Republicans will face if they are in fact able to repeal ACA without a replacement. There are two obvious approaches for Republicans. The first is to implement a single payer system, financed in part, by the health care costs that businesses pay now or paid in the recent past. While a single payer system would clearly provide benefits to businesses who compete against companies that operate in countries with single payer systems, the ideological turn around that this approach would involve may be too much for Republicans. The second option, however, is the expansion of Medicare to include those who would suffer from the repeal of the ACA, and this is a reasonable approach that would be assuage these potential sufferers and allow Republicans to trumpet the simplicity of their governing style.
Either of these approaches to providing health care to those who cannot otherwise afford it might still be an ideological stretch too far for Republicans. Again, we must ask why Republicans can not snatch victory from the looming jaws of health care defeat.
The third area that Republicans could leverage against Democrats is economic populism. No less a figure in Republican circles than “Morning” Joe Scarborough has declared that the economic populism is a vehicle that could restore the sinking fortunes of the GOP. Specifically, the Republican House and Senate could follow the path of several Republican governors and increase the minimum wage. In addition, Republicans could also offer some student loan relief, perhaps tied to national security.
Despite the clear political advantages that could accrue to Republicans if they championed these issues, it is unlikely that they will. Ideological barriers, both general and specific, prevent them following what is surely a winning path. And, to be clear, if cynical, once these issues have been used to elect “permanent majorities” of Republicans and capture the White House, the tactics that Republicans are now using to slowly roll back social programs, in the face of sometimes fierce Democratic opposition, could be used to roll back these programs with no opposition.
The reason Republicans are now against immigration reform (not withstanding earlier support from some prominent Republicans) is that at least one wing of the party, now most prominently represented by Jim Dement and the Heritage Foundation has revived virulent racist sentiments against immigration. A co-author of a Heritage Foundation publication, Jason Richwine has argued that Latinos are generally not suitable immigrants to the U.S. because of their low educational and intellectual attainments. While the Heritage Foundation publication purports to address the costs of “unlawful immigrants and amnesty to the U.S., its methodology is so poor as to raise questions about its true intent.
Despite both the economic and moral benefits of health care for all U.S. citizens, the underlying reason that Republicans now oppose the ACA, although first proposed by the Heritage Foundation as a free market alternative to a single-payer system is its redistributive income effects. Health care for all means that the rich are taxed to pay for health care for the poor. Just as other forms of infrastructure spending benefit society as a whole, Republicans have recently been against societal benefits that depend on taxes that must be logically paid by the rich.
Since Ronald Reagan was governor of California, the Republican Party has been uneasy about the students with so much time on their hands they could be concerned with civil rights, social justice, and war and peace. Enabling the young to obtain education and freeing students from overwhelming debt might be good for the economy, but it might also foment the kind of social upheaval and change that occurred in the sixties. Few Republicans seem willing to take a chance on that kind of collateral damage.
Taken together these issues strike at the heart of what George Lakoff calls the moral frame employed by most Republicans. Specifically, Lakoff explains that this frame argues that providing these kinds of benefits to people who have not earned them, rewards people who are morally inferior and not deserving of them. If Lakoff is right, then the Republicans will not defeat Democrats, perhaps because they are on the wrong side of morality.