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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The GOP and Ideas

Gladden Pappin at American Affairs:
[With] voters not motivated by the top-line branding, the ability of realignment policy to mature into a governing approach is thwarted. On this score, much of the Republican Party has been plagued by well-intentioned half steps that are difficult to translate into a com­pelling national message. The Republican Study Committee is one such example. After several years of heightened discussion around the need for fiscally generous policies to support the American family, the RSC released its “Family Policy Agenda” in September of 2022. Any move­ments in the direction of robust family policy are praiseworthy. But as the political scientist Darel Paul has observed, the RSC’s agenda “is largely another collection of more savings accounts, more tax cuts, more privatization, more work incentives and less regulation.”7 With abortion now a motivating left-wing issue, the Republican Party knows on some level that it must become a pro-family party. Filtered through the GOP’s typical policy levers, though, the result is often halting and insufficient.

For the inside track of policy change to harness the outside track of voter interest, policies have to be translated into simple and compelling messages. At the overall level of voter messaging, however, the Republican Party has made few shifts. Seeking a message for addressing persis­tent inflation in the country, the GOP settled on blaming Biden and the Democrats’ “reckless spending”—a phrase it hammered in advertisements throughout 2022. Among voters concerned about inflation, 47 percent cited the cost of groceries as their chief concern. These voters tilted Republican by a twelve-point margin. Yet 25 percent of the electorate despaired above all of price increases in health care, prescription drugs, housing, childcare, and miscellaneous other purchases. These voters voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party—by twenty-four to forty-one points, depending on the issue. A message of decreased government spending makes working-class voters more rather than less afraid of the increasing costs of goods. Among voters overall, 53 percent hold the view that “government should do more to solve problems,” whereas only 46 percent judge that government does “too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” Here again, getting to 51 percent in states that count will require Republicans to modulate its messaging—not losing government-skeptical voters but governing in a tangibly conservative way. Yet two months before the election, the Heritage Foundation’s new president was once again out promoting the message, “Government is not the solution, but the obstacle, to our flourishing.”8