Monday, September 1, 2014

Breaking down the Republican Party

Many people criticize the two-party duopoly in the American political system with claims that the political parties do not accurately represent many people’s views.  These views are often accompanied by anecdotes of people who are not accurately represented.  I agree with this view.  I do think that the two-party system does not accurately represent all potential voters.  I also think that it is a little overblown.  While the two-party system does allow a number of people to fall through the cracks, the two parties have done a fairly good job of building coalitions to maximize the number of voters they reach out to.  This will serve as an introductory piece to introduce you to the subsections of the Republican Party.  I will write a longer piece examining the subsection in greater detail and picking a representative politician from each category for whom I will cover their tenure and relationship to the subsection.  The subsections do overlap.  It is helpful to think of all of them as a series of Venn diagrams.  In fact, most politicians are not caricatures of each of these but rather a combination of two or more of the subsections. 

The libertarian wing: The Libertarian wing of the Republican Party has gotten additional media attention over the last few years with the emergence of Rand Paul. 
Distinguishing features: For the most part, the libertarian wing of the Republican Party endorses a combination of traditional libertarian beliefs such as fiscal conservatism, limited government, isolationist foreign policy, love of the free market, and de-escalation of the war on drugs with the fervent beliefs of the religious right including pro-life, anti-SSM, etc. beliefs.  This is not a hard and fast rule.  There are many Libertarians who are pragmatic and believe that since we have a two-party system that they would rather vote for the political party with limited government and fiscal conservatism than the Democratic Party.  Additionally, some Libertarians may believe that some of the issues of Libertarianism are more important so their weight will push them to join the Republican Party. 
Percentage of the total party: The Pew Research Center found that about 11% of Americans self-identify as Libertarians.  The highest percentage that we could reasonably assume that the libertarian wing consists of is about 15%.  In the 2012 Republican primaries, Ron Paul, the libertarian wing candidate received 10.89% of the popular vote.  I would say that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party is about 12% of the total Republican Party.
Politicians: Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Mike Lee, and Justin Amash

The Religious Right: While it may be wrong, I have decided to lump the religious right in with social conservatives.  It is certainly possible to be a social conservative without being religious but usually they go hand-in-hand. 
Distinguishing features: Typically politicians affiliated with the religious right are vehemently pro-life, anti-same-sex marriage, and anti-LGBT rights.  They voice their opposition to these things as defending traditional families or traditional values.  A common refrain from those on the religious right are to ask, “what about the children?”  For reasons expressed in a longer essay about the religious right, they have allied themselves with fiscal conservatives.  Some arguments have been made that the religious right rose because of opposition to integration of private schools.  Many times those in this group will refer to the Founding Fathers as either founding a Christian nation or one based on Judeo-Christian values.  They are also pretty consistently against the teaching of sex education at the local level.  They believe that the federal government and the country as a whole is always becoming too secular and trying to take over the impact of the church in everyday life.  They will also consistently refer to America as a Christian nation.
Percentage of the total party: This is a very hard number to commit to.  Almost every Republican politician who holds ambitious dreams have to be both against abortion and same-sex marriage (right now).  This makes it very difficult to determine how much of the Republican Party is made up of the Religious Right or just how the coalition has coalesced around the Religious Right.  Polls consistently show that about 25-30% of Republicans oppose same-sex marriages in their states and Rick Santorum only received 20.44% of the popular vote in Republican primaries in 2012, so it would be irresponsible to assume that the Religious Right takes up more than 30% of the party.  On the high end, you are looking at 30% of the party but I think it’s closer to 20%. I’m saying 22%. 
Politicians: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Trent Franks

Endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce:  If you have seen The West Wing, the perfect example of this politician appears after Aaron Sorkin left, in Arnold Vinnick. 
Distinguishing features: These politicians may be referred to Republican in Name Only (RINO’s).  The biggest distinguishing feature of this type of politician is that they are the friends of businesses.  They are in favor cutting taxes (usually by misusing the phrase Laffer Curve) and doing whatever they can to appease businesses.  A lot of these Republicans will have a very favorable view of the free market/capitalism and believe that hard work will lift people by their bootstraps.  They typically do not favor a raise in the minimum wage and do not believe that the social safety net should be expanded.  They, also, do not believe that there should be increased government regulation.  However, they are usually the pragmatic politicians in the Republican Party.  They believe that the government can be an effective tool for businesses.  The social issues are not the most important thing for them although they still, for the most part, hold the same beliefs on social issues as other sections of the Republican Party.  Issues are largely decided upon by looking at will impact businesses the most.   They are willing to compromise on a number of issues as long as they can be perceived as having a win.  Because of their pragmatic nature, they are more likely to hold positions of power than the other sections. 
Percentage of the total party: 21%
Politicians: Mitt Romney, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Marco Rubio (somewhat), John Kasich, and Chris Christie

Hawks: This group primarily believes in an interventionist military and may also agree with the policies of neoconservatism.  For the most part, they believe that the United States should be a shining example in the world and be willing to commit troops to the building of democracy and/or keeping the world safe.  They also believe that military spending should be increased so that we have a strong national defense.  For the most part, the military should police their own with limited civilian oversight. 
Percentage of the total party: People don’t vote on foreign policy which is unfortunate.  It’s a little difficult to determine how many people.  My best guess is that the number is about 3%.
Politicians: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Bob Corker

Deficit hawks: The deficit hawks present arguments that the budget deficit is really the biggest problem with America.  Their goal is to cut the deficit as much as they can.  Unfortunately, almost the entirety of their focus is to cut spending, mainly on social safety nets.  They have a strong belief in the free market and believe that if American can reduce its deficit, the economy will somehow rebound.  The belief that America has to be deficit free to flourish is their core belief.  They oppose any spending and want to know the cost of any bill that is going to be passed.  Because of this, they are not very competent legislators by most metrics. 
Percentage of total party: 10%

Anti-amnesty bloc: This group re-emerged after the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill was passed.
Distinguishing features:  This is pretty close to a single issue voter.  This group opposes any and all efforts to pass what they refer to as amnesty.  For the most part, this includes any pathway to citizenship for those immigrants here illegally.  This includes opposition to DACA, the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill, the DREAM Act, the bill that would grant citizenship to those serving in the military, etc.  Sometimes they have contradictory viewpoints such as saying that immigrants are taking our jobs and immigrants do not want to work in back-to-back sentences. 
Percentage of total party:  A Washington Post poll found that 15% of Republicans would want to vote for a President who does not support a pathway to citizenship.  I believe that the anti-amnesty block is probably responsible for about half of that.  I blame the rest on the “reality based” party section discussed below. I think the anti-amnesty bloc represents about 7% of the Republican Party.

2nd Amendment Absolutists: Distinguishing features: This is also very close to a single issue voter.  For this group, they oppose any and all gun control bills.  The idea is that the Second Amendment of the Constitution is nearly absolute and there should not be bills that prevent people from owning a firearm.  Most of the people in this bloc will share Facebook memes and photos of how Barack Obama is taking away their guns without being able to explain any actions he has actually taken to take away their guns.  They may hold contradictory views that gun deaths are way down so we are safer but they also need guns to protect themselves from everyone.
Percentage of total party: According to a poll conducted by National Post-ABC, 29 percent of gun-owner households stated that they could not vote for a candidate even if they agreed with the candidate on other issues but not on the issue of gun control.  According to the same poll, 43% of households owned guns. According to other polls, 11% Republicans oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers (Quinnipiac, 06/30) and 15% of Republicans believe that gun laws should be less strict (CBS/New York Times, 02/23).   I blame this partially on the “reality based” party below.  I think the total percentage is about 5%. 

The “reality based” party: This is the loudest craziest section of the Republican Party.
Distinguishing features:  This group should be defined by their delusion, their willingness to be duped, and the politicians should be defined by their ability to dupe voters.  They tend to believe in large sets of various lies, conspiracy theories, etc.   They tend to fetishize Ronald Reagan and believe erroneous things about him, such as that he lowered taxes all the time.  They may glamorize the Founding Fathers believing that they were infallible.  The “reality based” party is essentially your conservative friends on Facebook who share every meme, photo, conspiracy theory that they run into that show that anything that they classify as socialism is terrible, even if the meme is about an economics professor who doesn’t understand socialism. They wear shirts that say “I’ll keep my guns, money, and country; you can keep the change.”  When pressed, they will rely on chain e-mails and complain about the liberal bias no matter how you disprove them.  In terms of voting, they value style over substance.  They classify those politicians who do not denounce the opposing political agenda enough as RINOs and intend to primary them.  Even if there is a politician that they agree with 100% of the time if they do not disagree the same way that they expect him to, they will be upset and primary him. They are frequently a part of the TEA Party movement.   They believe in the simplicity of the political system, Democrats = bad, Republicans = good most of the time.  When in doubt, socialism! 
Percentage of total party: Despite their loudness and their ability to move the Republican Party to the right, their total percentage of the party is rather low.  In a CBS News/New York Times poll, 21% of Americans considered themselves to be supporters of the Tea Party movement.  In a poll conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, 11% of Americans stated that they strongly support the TEA Party political movement and 28% support it somewhat.  I think that the percentage of the total party is about 20%.
Politicians: Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Allen West, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain

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