Escaping The Party-Trap: The Liabilities of Low Information Republicans

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Cheering for the Team

Rush Limbaugh has popularized the discussion of “Low Information Voters” who dutifully go to the polls on election day to throw the levers as instructed by the talking heads of the Democrat party, but the truth is that we on the so-called “right” face a similar challenge with many Republicans, who hold with that party due to tradition, momentary fad, or simply because it’s what their friends are doing.  In many cases it simply comes down to their disgust with Democrats, an understandable feeling that would drive sane people to vote for virtually anybody else.  This is all a result of what I term the party-trap, and it causes people to defend and support candidates, ideas and policies with which they would never align had they been asked to choose from an infinite range of possibilities.  This is the intention of GOP party bosses and insiders, who wish to leave you with a narrowed range of choices among which their chosen candidate will be left standing as the only “obvious” or “inevitable” choice.  They don’t mind if you see their candidate as the lesser among evils, so long as you show up and vote for them.  It is in this way that the Republican Party has gone from a mildly conservative party to a reliably liberal one, not in its speeches, but in its actual legislative and executive endeavors, but it’s only possible because we have permitted too many of our own to become Low Information Republicans.

The whole notion of party identification is to associate candidates, ideas, and policies with a party, such that if the party is seen in a favorable light by a given voter, he will tend to choose that party irrespective of the concretes involved with the specific choices at hand.  In 1994, after the Republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich, there was an entire sea-change as many long-time Democrats saw the hand-writing on the wall, resigning that party to join the Republicans.  Did they change their firmly-held beliefs overnight, or did they simply change labels according to the shifting tide in favorability in party labels?  Here in Texas, I can certainly tell you that a large number of politicians who jumped from one to the other didn’t change their ideas in the least, and we witnessed newly-minted Republicans who continued to advance policies that looked precisely like those they had advanced when they were still Democrats.  It is for this reason that I think when a politicians switches party, he or she ought to immediately face the electorate to confirm their continuance in office. It’s not that I wish to punish those politicians who have a real change of heart, rare though they may be, but that I wish all the others to face up to the electorate and explain their change, and what views they’ve adapted or changed. Otherwise, it looks a good deal like being traded from the Yankees to the Dodgers, where the only determinate factor in loyalty is the matter of who is paying the wage.

Too often, our own ostensible support is hooked into those party labels without regard to what they mean or represent. In too many instances, this is because the labels have come to mean precisely nothing.  This is how we arrive at the bizarre spectacle of Jon Huntsman Jr. seeking the nomination for President as a Republican.  Huntsman’s disagreements with the Republican Party platform are so thorough and so deep that I cannot imagine how he sees himself as even remotely eligible, but the same can be said for other liberal Republicans like Chris Christie, or Colin Powell or Jeb Bush.  These are not Republicans insofar as the party’s platform would describe one, never mind conservatives, yet these are the sorts of people who seem to crop up as our national choices, and with increasing regularity and unfailing precision, we seem always to land on the most leftward candidate that conservatives can somehow contort their intellects to support.

From there, it’s a piece of cake.  The Low Information Republicans, easily pushed by media and political strategists, go into full-throated support mode, and then there is no stopping it.  At that point, there’s such gravity in favor of the candidate that nothing short of a colossal and all-consuming scandal can stop them.  In 2012, I watched people I had regarded as conservatives based on their prior positions go into defensive mode on behalf of Romney-care.  Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing about Obama-care’s pilot program in Massachusetts to defend, particularly if you’re even vaguely conservative.  I listened to self-described “conservative Republicans” explain to the electorate with unabashed loyalty to the party, but not their purported principles that Mitt Romney’s more liberal decisions taken as governor owed only to the liberal environment in which he was operating, as though this would be some sort of assurance that once he landed in that statist Mecca that is Washington DC, he would somehow there find reformation to something approximating conservatism.  It was gob-smacking.  Worse, all through the country among Low Information Republicans, I watched as people desperate to unseat Barack Obama abandoned all reason and actually concocted some formula by which to call Romney a conservative!

Those of us who had thought Romney the worst possible choice (excepting only Huntsman) dutifully went to the polls with the singular motive to oust Barack Obama, but we were not fooled about who Mitt Romney was, and we certainly had no intention of carrying water for him.  In point of fact, many of us were on the fence as to whether we would vote for him at all.  I don’t believe there was more than one chance in one-thousand that Romney could defeat Obama, and I said so all through the long primary season during which he was consistently portrayed as the “inevitable nominee.”  The problem is that for Low Information Republicans, this “air of inevitability” became a sort of self-fulfilled prophecy to which at some point, most Republicans inevitably surrendered.  This is why we mustn’t adhere to the notion that to get somebody out of office is our most pressing objective.  If we had succeeded in pushing Obama out and getting Romney in, what would we have gained?  A slightly less-virulent big government?  Electoral success cannot commence with the self-deceptive idea that a candidate can win by default.

Ladies and gentlemen, if party labels are to have any meaning, the candidates, ideas, and policies of that party must be firmly rooted in some sort of ideological bedrock from which we will not retreat.  The dangerous phenomenon of Low Information Republicans must be demolished, not by name-calling or brow-beating, but by a real and thorough effort to educate our target audience.  So many who vote Republican cannot tell you why they do except in terms of their opposition to Democrats, and when left in the position of defending one of the liberal or so-called “moderate” Republicans, they engage with the same fervor as their Democrat counterparts who defend Obama, and from the exact same ideological vacuum.  Ideology is a dirty word to many, but ideology is merely an expression of the fundamental principles underlying one’s proposals.  If one cannot describe his or her ideology, they’re offering a blank slate onto which anything conceivable may be drawn, and it is by this method that the Republican Party has moved unmistakably leftward.

It’s our job to explain the ideology we conceive as being “conservative,” because left to others, the entire question will be abandoned, dismissed, and evaded in order to continue the process by which voters are subsumed into the party without any identifiable, rational cause.  This party-trap is fueled by people who have no actual interests in policy discussions, but are instead motivated by such faulty drivers as “popularity” or “prestige.”  They speak in riddle-like terminology about “compromise,” “moderation” and “flexibility” without explaining what these will mean in concrete policy implementation.  The more troubling part is that too many ostensibly on our side will accept it.   These are the same Republicans who cannot really explain why they dislike Sarah Palin, except in terms of leftist attacks in the popular media culture. They’re like the cheerleader section of the Republican Party.  They don’t know why they’re cheering, except that “their team” is involved so that whatever that team does, it must be good, right?  I think this business begins in High School, where no person would consider publicly supporting a rival team, or even contemplating the nearly unlimited alternatives.  One team.  One. That’s all they’ll permit themselves to see. It will be up to us to show them something different.

I realize that many of our Low Information Republicans are simply people who are too busy in their lives to take on much more, trying to keep businesses afloat, keeping the family farm alive, or merely concentrating on local politics where statism is likewise on the march, but the truth is that much of it is intellectual laziness predicated on the false hope that somewhere, somehow, some one else is fighting on their behalf.  You might be astonished at how many Low Information Republicans actually exist, and how dependent the GOP is upon their votes, but as you may have guessed, not nearly all of the people consumed with the idiocy in our popular culture are liberal, leftwing Democrat Low Information Voters, although admittedly, that number is embarrassingly high.  What I hope is that we who study the issues, make the arguments, and engage in the political discourse are willing to make our case, not merely to one another, and not only to our friends, but particularly to these Low Information Republicans because if we are to avert the rise of faulty candidates, we’ll need greater numbers of those who by sheer ideological immunization against them are no longer persuaded by superficial cheer-leading.

The elections season of 2014, and just beyond it, the next presidential cycle in 2016 are racing toward us, though with Obama in the driver’s seat, it seems torturous and slow. It’s time now to give some thought to where we have been racing, and and whether the lame horse that is the GOP can be rehabilitated, or instead should be put out to political pasture.  We won’t be able to accomplish either if we’re outnumbered by Low Information Republicans, but as we stumble around in search of a viable course of action, we’re in danger of being led into another losing effort, and it will be made with the voting support of those least aware of our current predicament. If we’re not careful, they will overwhelm us by the sheer force of their numbers. How many conservatives spent some of the last primary season scratching their heads over the absurd pronouncement of fellow Republicans?  If we’re to avert that sort of catastrophe, we must begin now, advancing our position by making our arguments and refusing to defend bad decisions and policies of the past on the basis of supporting the team.  One unmistakable message of the primary season of 2012 is that we ought not spend so much time worrying about Democrats’ legion of Low Information Voters.  We have enough of our own to keep us busy for a long, long time.


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4 Responses to Escaping The Party-Trap: The Liabilities of Low Information Republicans

  1. mymati says:

    I could not agree more, Mark. This is a tough spot we are in and you have done a wonderful job of clearifying the issues that confront us. It seems impossible to select a Republican, no matter how good they look at election time, that has the fortitude to make a stand on any principle for which they were elected. My own Congressman Steve Southerland seemed like a tough principled guy and he was heartily supported by those of us who believe in limited government has been a disapointment and now seems weak. It is just impossible to know anothers heart before they are elected. It seems we need to aim farther right to get somebody that won’t slip into what is best for them and not what is best for us.

  2. Guest says:

    I agree 110% with every thing here. But will we conservatives be willing to oust or go the third route? Or will we once again “cave” and “get back in line” for the next McRomney candidate. Will we finally call out the pseudo conservatives like Rove, Coulter and gov. Butter Bean in NJ and about 99% of FOX new? Will anyone finally stand up and say to the so called conservative media support like Hanniety who on the off election years (e.g. 2010) preaches out of one side of his mouth, “conservative principles, etc. otherwise we vote you out”, then on Presidential years out of the other side of his mouth when a McRomney comes along – shifts his language ever so subtly to “the most electable Republican” (aka a liberal rep)? Will someone say to Rush, a true conservative, “Buddy I know you are having an existential crisis & attempting to keep the republicans together, but even Reagan said he didn’t leave the Democratic party it left him. Perhaps the same is now of the Republican Party”?

    I wonder if this will happen?

    • Mark America says:

      GC, I don’t know if it will happen, but that shouldn’t stop the rest of us from working toward it. Like you, I’m getting sick of the Fox News schtick, because of the factors you’ve mentioned. I fear people who get all their news from any single source because they’re easily manipulated. What bothers me most is the basic lack of curiosity among many who seem unwilling to do any reading, research or much of anything that would replace the vast voids of information with facts. In another thread, a decidedly lefty commenter was harping on “death panels” vis a vis Governor Palin, but at this late date, if you’re not aware of the IPAB(Independent Payment Advisory Board) in Obamacare, it’s either because you’re too intellectually lazy or evasive to see what is plainly in the law. The bad part is, there undoubtedly exists some range of moderate Republicans who join in the laughter.

      Those are the people we must shake to consciousness.