Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What Republicans Want

As a lot of my political friends are aware, I’m a member of 5 different political parties:
 • Democrats
 • Greens
 • Libertarians
 • Progressive Dane (a local party, in Dane County)
 • Republicans

There are a couple of reasons why I send my money to all these different groups. The deep, philosophical reason is that I believe in party politics as an abstract concept. Political parties are, practically by definition, multi-issue organizations, because it is their purpose in life to appeal to a majority of the population, and you can’t do that with just a single issue. Furthermore, they don’t have their very existence tied up with a particular issue, the way the special-interest groups do.

Consider, for example, a case now before the US Supreme Court, in which the District of Columbia’s strict “gun-control” law has been challenged as unconstitutional under the 2nd Amendment (which grants the “right to keep and bear arms” or RKBA). Now, if you’re a top executive at the National Rifle Association, the best thing that could happen is that the Supremes would throw out the “gun-control” law. And the SECOND best thing that could happen is that they’d uphold it. If you work for Handgun Control Inc., the reverse is true.

Now why is it, do you suppose, that being on the LOSING side in a court case is a good thing for a special-interest organization? It’s because it gives them something alarming that they can point to when they send out their next fund-raising letter (probably the very next day after the decision) to try to rally the faithful (and, not at all incidentally, persuade them to send in even bigger checks in light of this new threat to all that is good and true and holy).

In a perverse sort of way, the NRA and HCI really need each other, because then each of them has an opposite number to fulfill the role of demon.

Not so much the political parties. It used to be that the Republicans (and especially the Libertarians) were gung-ho on the RKBA, while the leftish parties were much more sympathetic to “gun control”. (I always put “gun control” in quotation marks, to emphasize the fact that it won’t control the guns of criminals, police, or the military, only of ordinary, law-abiding citizens.) But, thru the years, the Democrats at least have come to recognize that “gun control” is a loser as a political issue. It pisses off way more people way more intensely than it attracts. So they’ve just gradually let it die.

As a multi-issue organization (especially one that wants a broad range of support), the Dems can not only AFFORD to do this, they practically HAVE to in order to keep winning elections. But would Handgun Control Inc. ever adopt the same “Oh, well, we gave it a good try.” attitude? Of course not, because its very EXISTENCE is tied up in keeping that issue hot and highly visible. And by “existence”, I mean “paychecks for the HCI officers”.

There are only a very few instances of an organization having utterly lost its raison d’etre and dealing with it successfully. One is in a place you’d least expect it: the federal bureaucracy. The Rural Electrification Administration completed its work, polished off its final reports, turned them in, turned off the lights, and went out of business in an orderly way.

The only other one that comes readily to mind is the March of Dimes, which was originally set up to find a cure for polio. When the Salk and Sabin vaccines came along, and they had actually achieved what they set out to do, the March of Dimes could have followed the REA’s example and closed up shop. Instead, they reasoned that they had a good infrastructure in place and a lot of terrific good will to go with their name (ESPECIALLY after having met their primary goal), so they chose to reinvent themselves as a charity devoted to preventing and curing birth defects (something that’s gonna take a lot longer than finding a cure for polio).

Political “cause” organizations, like religions, don’t seem amenable to these 2 avenues.

But political parties, as I said, can just walk away when they feel the need. That’s one reason why I want to send my money to parties rather than pressure groups. They don’t have to be fanatics to be effective.

The other reason is a lot simpler and more mundane: It gets me on their mailing lists, so I can see what they’re up to.

Which brings me to the main point of today’s essay, “What Republicans Want”. I recently received a fund-raising letter from the Republican National Congressional Committee. Now, you have to understand that what these guys really want is your money. They don’t give 2 hoots in hell about your opinion. Nonetheless, long experience has shown them that they get MORE money if they pretend that they ARE interested in what you think, so these pitches almost invariably come with a “survey” that pretends to solicit your advice in formulating national policy.

The survey is, of course, strictly a propaganda gimmick. I doubt that they even invest the time to record the results. They probably just separate the checks from the completed forms, deposit the former, and recycle the latter unread. The REAL point of the survey is to ask you questions in a manner designed to fire up your taste for red meat.

Note that, while this particular example quotes a pitch from the Republicans, the technique is equally available to the Democrats, and they use it just as enthusiastically and shamelessly. Both sides love to haul out some demon image from the other side to use as a horror story. The Republicans for years have cited Teddy Kennedy, while the Democrats have hopscotched from Jesse Helms to Strom Thurmond to Dick Cheney. This particular letter, since its from the “Congressional” (IE, House of Representatives) campaign committee, slots House Speaker Nancy Pelosi into the role of chief demon. The one thing the Republicans have that the Democrats don’t is the use of the adjective “Democrat” rather than “Democratic”, always a sure sign of burr-under-the-saddle partisanship, guaranteed to irk the Dems.

So, without further ado, here’s what the Republicans seem to think is on the minds of their party members in early 2008, half a year before the presidential elections. The 3 options I was given for each question are “Yes”, “No”, and “Undecided”.

1. Do you feel voters in Wisconsin’s 2nd District support making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent?

2. Do you support the Hosue Democrats’ “slow-bleed” strategy to “choke-off” funding for our troops in Iraq, leading to their withdrawal and a perception of American defeat?

3. Should Republicans continue fighting for full implementation of a ballistic missile defense system?

4. Do voters in Wisconsin’s 2nd District agree with the Nancy Pelosi Democrat Majority’s decision to impose massive tax hikes on the American people?

5. Do you think that House Republicans should continue to push for pro-growth policies that create jobs and oppose tax increases that would add a burden to working families and set back our economy?

6. Do you support Congressional Republicans’ efforts to decrease domeestic government spending in order to reduce the national deficit?

7. Do you support the Democrats’ efforts to give federal government bureaucrats complete control of your health care costs and choices?

8. Should Republicans in Congress make expansion of Veterans’ benefits a priority?

9. Do you support maintaining anti-terrorism laws that give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the far-reaching powers to track detain and prosecute terrorists and their accomplices?

10. Should Republicans in the House of Representatives make securing our nation’s borders and enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, including combating the hiring of illegal workers and ending the “catch and release” policy, a top priority?

11. Do you think House Republicans should continue fighting for comprehensive education reform to ensure that every child in America receives a first-rate education?

12. Do you agree that winning back a Republican Majority in the House of Representatives is essential to stopping the Nancy Pelosi Democrats from raising our taxes, destroying our economy and endangering our homeland?

13. Will you support our Party’s campaign to defeat the Pelosi Democrats and elect a Republican House Majority in 2008 by joining the NRCC with a generous financial contribution today?

This last question was followed not by the standard “Yes”, “No”, and “Undecided” options but rather with a big “YES” box followed by a much smaller one for “I cannot pledge my support for this year, but I would like to include a contribution of $11 to help the NRCC fund this survey and its tabulation.”.


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