What Republicans Lack

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Some people say that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats. Whether that is said because of being too lazy to examine the differences or because it makes some people feel exalted to say, in effect, “a plague on both your houses,” it is a dangerous self-indulgence.

When Republicans were in power, they acted too much like Democrats, with big spending and earmarks, lending weight to the notion that there is no real difference.

Among the differences between the parties is that Democrats are more articulate.

Admittedly, the Democrats have an easier case to make. It takes no great amount of thought, nor much in the way of persuasive powers, to sell the idea of government handing out benefits hither and yon. It is only when you stop and think about the consequences, for this generation and generations to come, that some grim questions arise.

But if Republicans don’t raise those awkward questions, and don’t take the trouble to explain what is wrong with government playing Santa Claus, then the Democrats can soar on a cloud of euphoria. Sometimes it doesn’t matter that you have a better product, if your competitors have better salesmen.

Republicans lag not only in the articulation department, they also lag in seeing the long-run importance of the federal bureaucracy. When the Democrats load the federal bureaucracy with liberals, those liberals stay on during Republican administrations and in many cases can shape the perceptions that reach the media and the public, by the way they present data, hire consultants and make grants.

The Bureau of the Census is a classic example. The tendentious way that data and pie charts are presented provides a steady stream of material for a political and media drumbeat about “disparities” that call for government intervention.

Data on income differences, for example, are presented in a way that suggests that the different income brackets represent enduring classes of people over time, when in fact other studies show that the vast majority of people in the lowest income brackets as of a given time rise out of those brackets over time.

More people from the bottom fifth end up in the top fifth than remain at the bottom.

Household income data are presented in ways which suggest that there is very little real improvement in the American people’s standard of living over time, and innumerable editorials and television commentaries have elaborated that theme. But per capita income data show far more improvement over time. The difference is that households have been getting smaller but one person always means one person.

Just by deciding what kind of data to present in what way, the Census Bureau has become, in effect, an adjunct of the liberal establishment, even when conservative Republicans are in control of the federal government. This is not necessarily deliberate political sabotage, just liberals being liberals.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has for years repeatedly exposed the fallacies of the inferences drawn from Census data. Yet when Republicans controlled the federal government— as they did for 12 consecutive years, beginning in 1981— did they try to appoint someone like Robert Rector to a position where they could put an end to tendentious statistics that promote misconceptions with political implications? Not at all.

Too many Republicans don’t even know their own party’s history. One painful consequence is that too many Republicans act as if they have to apologize for their party’s civil rights record— which is in fact better than that of the Democrats.

A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was Republicans whose “Philadelphia Plan” in the 1970s sought to break the construction unions’ racial barriers that kept blacks out of skilled trades.

Just as boxers have to do training in the gym and roadwork before they are ready for a boxing match, Republicans need to do a lot of homework before they are ready for their next match against the Democrats.

  • johncarens

    I realize that I am running the risk, as Elliot Ness was reported to have once said, of bringing a knife to a gun fight in responding to Thomas Sowell (-I should not even be on the same page with this great man), but I cannot help but add a few "huzzahs" of my own to his extremely cogent sentiments.

    As for the "Articulation Gap": Republican office-holders (and seekers) FIRST AND FORMOST need DESPERATELY to stop listening to campaign consultants. Most of them are hacks with communication degrees, ex-staffers, and are either air-heads or liberals, or both. They allow (and even insist that) conservatives enjoin liberal issues, and, rather than allowing conservatives to scoff at the latest liberal cause du jour, these consultants insist that conservative candidates talk about The Environment, Health Care, Green Energy, torture, and so forth. Conservatives, instead, need to blow these issues off in a sunny way, and redirect the debate to things like liberty, individual sovereignty, the role and scope of government, and private property.

    Instead, conservatives candidates need to deconstruct the liberal political framework, and say things like "Well, your focus of creating Green Jobs is interesting, Mr. Democrat, but I would like to know what is your stand is on defunding the United Nations?" and so forth. Too often, we allow liberals not only to pick the fight, but the venue, the color of the uniforms, and what kind of hot dogs will be served.

    Conservative traditionalists sadly use the same phraseology as leftists, the same focus-group tested jargon (with polling conducted by airhead consultants), and even use the same production values in their electronic media. This has to stop. We need our own brand and culture, one that scoffs at liberalism as the lightweight, mealy-mouthed emotionalism it is, and recognize that the American people are much more sophisticated than they are often given credit for. In as sense, Rush Limbaugh has used this formula with great success for twenty years, but, for reasons that escape me, Republicans refuse to understand this.

    Reagan's best answer to liberal rhetorical feints was "Well, there you go again!" he would then shift the focus of the debate back to his causes, his concerns, his goals. Liberty-loving conservative Americans need to get back on this sunny side of the tracks.

    • http://www.linkedin.com/in/williamsjl Jeff Williams

      Excellent addition John. We do need to do our homework and study as Mr. Sowell recommends in order to form a strong foundation to build on. We need to recast, not a new foundation but a refurbished foundation in the mold of our founders, reinforced with the strict constructionist view of the Constitution and begin to tear down all of the overgrowth that has sunk its roots deep into the mortar.

      Our speech and language must address the defunding not only of the UN but anything not firmly aligned with the Constitution. Taxes must not pay for Health Care or the Arts. A complete reassessment of our national budget needs done and before it can be done it must be understood and clearly communicated.

  • SFLBIB

    Horowitz once observed that one big difference between Dems and Repubs is where they learn their politics: Repubs learn it in debate clubs at Ivy League colleges; Dems learn it in the streets and union halls.

  • jdelaney3

    Yes, while it's always politically risky to speak the truth to voters, conservatives must do exactly that! There's something extremely elevating and liberating about telling it like it is. More importantly, it is the responsible thing to do. To prevail, conservative principles must drive the GOP message: talk about what has made America work, not what handouts should be expected of governemnt. Reps must relentlessly and proudly expose the outright lies, elitism, shameful adolescence, hypocrisy, & illogic of the Left. The trick, of course, is not to adopt the Left's self-serving policies merely to politically win. And as johncarens suggests above republicans foolishly allow democrats to shape the debate, the issues, the priorties. Exasperatingly stupid and self-destructive, for sure. No wonder many voters don't perceive a whit of difference between the parties. By now, Republicans must surely know what they have do. The question is will they have the courage, fortitude and integrity to do it. Frankly, I have my doubts.

  • USMCSniper

    Ayn Rand didn't just diagnose conservatism's condition, she also gave a prescription for reviving the political Right. What was necessary, she said, was to reject the idea at the root of the welfare state: the belief that any individual's wealth and freedom must be sacrificed to "social needs" of others. The solution, she said, was to embrace "the argument (for) man's right to exist — (for) man 's inalienable individual right to his own life."

    It is not too late for Republicans to administer this remedy; and they should start by opposing the creation of the conservative welfare state. But, alas, the Republicans have no charismatic leaders coming forward, and they are to a large extent, anti-intellectual. They also tend to "try to get along" rather then fight the good fight for individual rights and freedom. To many in Congress right now are really country club elites and RINOs and they are not defenders of capitalism.

  • John C. Davidson

    A step in the right direction was taken yesterday in Massachusetts, but we must all remain vigil by reading materal that makes sense.

    Thomas. Sowell has demonstrated the ability get his point across while leaving his personality in the background.

    I find this quite evident in the writings of Dr. Mike Adams, who like David Horowitz, use to be an indoctrinated liberal at a time it was in vogue.

  • jdelaney3

    Wow. Excellent, right-on comments here. You might want to check out this AM's post on Opinerlog.blogspot.com re "Will the GOP Finally Get It?"

    The wind is finally at our backs. Let's hope the GOP unfurls the sails.

  • Cabby – AZ

    Mr. Sowell’s articles are always so perceptive and he knows how to express his
    thoughts succinctly. I was deeply impressed with the prior comments also.
    Could we ask the question, “How dedicated are conservatives, and more
    specifically, Republicans, to the principles of our Founding Fathers and how
    passionate are they? Usually most progressives are firmly rooted in their
    beliefs, albeit wrong. They ARE passionate and determined. We on the
    other side need to get stirred sufficiently to make a difference that others will
    see.

    • johncarens

      When you put things in the context of our Founding Fathers and their dedication to a principle, vis-a-vis contemporary American conservatism, it makes me a bit squeamish. Those incredibly brave, courageous men put to paper the most radical document of political freedom ever written, and underlined it with their lives and their "sacred honor". Modern Americans, though, seem barely able to rouse themselves from their cultural stupor even when their tyrannical government is on the threshold of seizing the very air they breathe ("Cap and Trade") and the very lives they live ("Health Care Reform"). What CAN we think?

      But, there was a second earthquake in this hemisphere last night, and unlike the incredible devastation in Haiti that has spread unspeakable horror and misery, the one in Massachusetts has spread a modicum of hope that Americans can, in the final analysis, be aroused when the cause is great enough.

      Yes, radicals seem to have a passion, but, like everything they do or attempt, it is a mile wide and an inch deep. It only becomes malignant when the popular entertainments and media abet them in their passions. Then, it can become toxic (Josef Goebbels, call your office). Fidel Castro was just another unshaven college hooligan jumping about in the jungles of Cuba until Herb Matthews of the New York Times decided he'd make a good dictator. Obama himself is a product of the mass media in that there was absolutely no rigor applied to informing news consumers about who he was, what qualified him the be president, and what his goals were.

      But, again, this is where Reagan shined. He was up against the same (or worse) media in 1979 and 1980. Yes, he was passionate (certainly more so the Jimmy Carter, whose only passion seemed to be having no passion at all), but he was also quick to let his general optimism about our nation shine through his words and approach to life. No media lens can ever filter that out, and that beats drummed up, phony, anti-American passion of the Obama ilk every trip of the train. Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his race-huckster types might scream and yell about "God Damning America", but then he went home to his estate, and enjoyed a tumbler of Hennesy, and toasted the good life. Again, the passion of this America-hating "progressive" was a mile wide, and an inch deep.

      Conservatives can make it, and win big, as Senator-Elect Brown proved, the way Reagan did it: Sunny, with an undying belief that freedom, liberty, and a fundamental respect and awe of individual sovereignty of ALL people. That's all. And quite simple, actually.

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