Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016: The Four types of Republicans

As the Republican party looks as divided as it has been in quite some time, with speculation of a brokered convention or even a political realignment, one should consider why this is happening. The Democratic Party is more uniform in its ideology and interests, where as the Republican Party is not. I believe there are four different types of Republicans in today's GOP, and the rise/fall of each of them is having a significant impact on the party. They are: fiscal conservatives, defense hawks, religious/ social conservatives, and blue collar populists. The former two tend to make up the so called establishment, the latter two make up the outsiders, with the last one the most recent phenomenon, having largely replaced Libertarians as the 2nd relative outsider group. There is some overlap, and the most politically successful Republicans, such as Reagan and Bush can appeal to all of them. However, candidates with too much overlap sometimes end up with no real base, being too many people's second choice prevents one from being enough people's first. Lets examine them in detail.

Fiscal Conservatives

Prior examples: Bob Dole, Mitt Romney, and John Huntsmen

In 2016 : Jeb Bush,  John Kasich, George Pataki and Chris Christie

Fiscal conservatives promote low government spending, low taxes, and free trade. They tend to have more moderate views on social issues than religious/social conservatives. The ones furtherest to the left on social issues, such John Katich and especially Jon Huntsman Jr, tend to have less success than ones that adapt the views of other parts of the party. This is because low taxes, free trade, and low government spending aren't as obviously in the interest of many members of the party, it alone only appeals to relatively few voters.

Defense Hawks

Prior Examples: George H. W. Bush, John McCain, and Dick Cheney

In 2016 : Lindsey Graham

Defense Hawks are often the most moderate on other issues, believing in immigration reform, more government spending than other Republicans (especially on the military), and are the most liberal on social issues. Especially with Reagan's military buildup, this group gained prominence in the GOP, becoming what was then the third leg to the GOP stool. However, they are no longer as unique as a group, for two seemingly paradoxical reasons. The first reason is the Iraq War, afterwards direct military intervention, especially troops on the ground became unpopular. Many defense hawks lost prominence in the GOP, and 7 years outside the White House meant that there were fewer active Republicans involved in military decisons. The 2nd is the rise of ISIS, which has created a sense of fear in much of the Republican party. As a result the policies of a true defense hawk, such as ground troops, is unpopular. However, moderately hawkish views are common enough that defense hawks do not stand out among the candidates in their rhetoric. Lindsey Graham's campaign ended up without much purpose, his positions on defense were held to a lesser extent by several others. Therefore his moderate views on social issues, such as immigration, became a greater liability.

Social Conservatives:

Prior Examples: Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum

In 2016: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Bobby Jindal

Social conservatives generally focus on religious issues, like gay marriage, abortion, and the role of religion in society. These often appeal to evangelical voters, such as in Iowa the southern states, and some western states, giving theoretically them a strong and consistent base. It is these voters, especially the more fiscally conservative ones, that were the backbone of the Tea Party wave in 2010.  There is significant variety on economic issues among social conservatives: Huckabee and Santorum were both quite moderate or even liberal on economic issues, such as Social Security, while Cruz is very fiscally, conservative, even proposing a flat tax.

Despite their strengths, true social conservatives have never actually won the nomination. Additionally, the influence of the these voters seems to be in decline, as gay marriage becomes increasingly accepted and America becomes less religious. The result is a shift among Evangelicals to the last defined group and the most recent phenomenon, blue collar populists.

Populists appealing to blue collar voters

Donald Trump(but probably many more in the future)

These candidates appeal to blue collar workers, angry about trade and immigration driving down their wages and causing them to lose their jobs. Rather than pointing out the immense benefits of both and that the manufacturing jobs that have been outsources are not coming back, they channel the anger. Populists appealing to blue collar voters only pay lip-service to the religious right, fiscal conservatives, and defense hawks, and sometime not even that. Economically, these candidates have significant similarities to Buchanan, Huckabee, and Santorum economically, and therefore are able to bring in large amount of evangelical voters who might have otherwise voted for a social conservative. Blue collar populists have large potential voter bases in the mid-west and northeast, but less so in western states that are religious and don't have large manufacturing bases. Another potential voter base is in the south and southwest for voters who are concerned about immigration. These candidates do especially well among voters without a college education.

As a result, these candidates have a potential voter base across nearly all states geographically, which provides a huge advantage in the primaries. However, this message, being so against the traditional Republican orthodoxy, will also fail to resonate among many conservative voters. Therefore, these candidates are high floor but relatively low ceiling. As a result, there could be significant resistance, although whether this will mean taking longer to rally around a nominee, staying and home, or actually voting against him/her in a general election is hard to say.

The hybrids

Prior examples: Ronald Reagan and George W Bush

In or was in 2016 Race: Scott Walker and Marco Rubio

These candidates try to appeal to more than one group. Every candidate does this to an extent, but these do it to such an extent that they can not be classified into any one group. Reagan and Bush appealed to fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and defense hawks. This can work well in a small field and/or when there is not another strong candidate appealing to the other groups. In a best case scenario, the result is a united party behind a strong candidate.

However, the approach can also go very wrong, especially in a large field. There is a risk of being acceptable to everyone, but not being anyone's first choice. Scott Walker's early demise in a way foreshadowed Rubio's. Rubio was a stronger, more charismatic candidate, but each had the same problem, one foot in the establishment, one foot in the Tea Party. Rubio's best hope was to become the default anti-trump candidate, but after his horrible performance in Nevada it was clear this would not occur. After Super Tuesday, the writing was on the wall for a Rubio campaign that had only won one state, Minnesota, and did not have a clear path going forward. Ted Cruz was not going anywhere, and Kasich knew that he had a better chance winning his home state than Rubio did with his. The hybrid candidates are high ceiling but low floor.

What this means:

Trump almost certainly will have the most delegates by the time of the convention. He likely will be the nominee, eventually, but it will not be pretty. At the very least, he will not clinch it until after California votes on June 7, at the latest it will not be until after multiple ballots at the GOP convention in July.  There is even a chance that another candidate could be chosen, whether it be a Cruz-Kasich unity ticket, Kasich pulling off a huge upset (highly unlikely), or even a candidate who has not run yet, such as Paul Ryan.

Regardless, the likely result will be a divided party. If Trump does not win with a commanding delegate lead just short of a majority, these voters will be incensed, possible leading to a Trump 3rd party run. Trump at the head of the ticket would isolate many more moderate Republicans, possibly leading to a 3rd party option. And even if the party could untie behind him, Trump would be one of the most unpopular nominees among the general electorate in history.

As a result, Clinton will probably be the next president. It certainly did not help in having 16 other candidates besides Trump, and many strong "establishment" types. While in 2012 the party establishment rallied around Romney early, in 2016 it has remained divided for the entire primary, leaving it with two plausible options (Trump and Cruz). Neither are appealing to the establishment nor have a good chance at winning of they become the nominee. While some thought at first that having so many qualified candidates was a strength, it actually proved to be a profound weakness. Whether the party will learn its lesson, and do a better job narrowing the field early on, or whether it will continue to disintegrate is anyone's guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment