What Political Parties Teach Voters
November 24, 2015
Part of the fallout from the recent rebellion of contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination against the CNBC moderators and debate format was the discovery that Republican National Committee (RNC) was largely irrelevant to the process. Many commentators jumped to the conclusion that the RNC, and by extension, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), are irrelevant to the political process. The CNBC kerfuffle was cited as the last vestige of national committee power loss that included financing by mega-donors, volunteer coordination by campaigns, and campaign decision-making by political professionals.
This perspective on national committees ignores one of the most important functions of political parties: educating voters. Over the last 30 years the Republican Party has taught its constituents at least four lessons: Washington is the seat of ultimate venality; the moral superiority of business; the primacy of belief over facts; and the acceptability of deceit to counter immoral adversaries [who have an unfair advantage].
The Seat of Ultimate Venality
From Ronald Reagan’s dictum that “government is not the solution to your problem; government is the problem,” modern Republicans have run against the [federal] government and by extension, the seat of the federal government: Washington, DC. Moreover, when inveighing against taxes and regulations, Republicans have used Washington as symbol of their dislike for them. Surprisingly, even politicians who were serving in Washington, ridiculed and belittled the very Washington government of which they were a part. Now, as more than 50 percent of Republican primary voters turn to candidates who have not held office in Washington, these very politicians, often referred to as the establishment, feign surprise that their constituents no longer trust them.
The Moral Superiority of Business
Somewhat related to modern Republican disdain for government and government officials is their esteem for business, as the instrument of capitalism and the foe of communism. As the Republican Party championed lower taxes and fewer regulations and business became associated with and donors to the Republican Party, the Party has even more fervently sung the praises of businessmen. In singing their praises, however, the Republican politicians have, in effect, denigrated their own worth. How many times can Republican politicians admonish government officials to act more like businessmen and to run government more like businesses before voters come to believe that government officials ought to be replaced by businessmen. Now, the Republican establishment seems surprised that businessmen and a woman are surpassing their politicians.
The Primacy of Beliefs over Facts
Another lesson the Republican Party has taught its voters is that facts serve belief rather than beliefs following from facts. Because the Republican constituency believe their funds are being used for the health care of the undeserving poor, then Republican politicians agree with those voters despite the evidence that shows the advantages of adequate health care for the nation as a whole. Because major segments of the Republican Party such as those in the energy sector (e.g., coal and petroleum) don’t want to address the consider the possible impact of fossil fuel on the global climate change, then the Party simply refuses to recognize climate change. And, when Republican voters become angry with politicians who seemingly change the legislation they support with maturity in office, the Party repudiates any advantages of expertise and experience and calls for term limits. Now, the leading Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination, much to the chagrin of the establishment, lack the experience that seems needed to win the general election.
The Acceptability of Deceit to Counter Immoral Adversaries [Who Have an Unfair Advantage]
The final lesson the Republican Party has taught its constituency is the acceptability of deceit to counter immoral adversaries. The Party has proposed laws that disenfranchise likely Democratic voters because of either extant or impending voter fraud. Republican voters are well aware of why the Republican Party needs to disenfranchise as many voters of color as possible. However, because they are also aware of how demographic changes in the country will disadvantage the Republican Party and its white voters, the deceit is acceptable tactic to “get their country back.” Some of the Republican contenders for the Republican nomination promise immigration legislation and enforcement that will stop illegal immigration and remove 11 to 12 million immigrants from this country. Now, the Republican contenders who make these outrageous promises are leading the establishment politicians who make somewhat more prudent, if equally unachievable, promises.
In light of what the Republican Party has spent years teaching its constituents, it is almost unbelievable that they are surprised at where the Party is now. The question is where will the Party be in November?