As the midterm elections draw ever nearer, the Democrats have fallen back on the banal talking points that they have employed for decades. As a Republican victory becomes increasingly likely, Democratic leadership has clung all the more desperately to the demographic politics they have taken for granted for years. In a matter months, the Democrats have resurrected the condescending argument that women require government assistance to succeed in their careers and (once having that irrational point undone by their own hypocrisy on the matter) they have revived the debate over minimum wage legislation that will most hurt the people to whom Democrats most excitedly sell it (e.g., youths and the poor).
The Republicans, for their part, have done little to oppose the Democrats’ political blitz, preferring instead to uphold one of the GOP’s most longstanding traditions: staying silent and letting the Democratic Party say what it will, hoping that they will not have to take a strong stand on the issue.
The real question is “why?”
Certainly, the Republicans continue to buy the failed political models of their pollsters and strategists, believing that the best way to win an election is to stand for as little as possible. But after two failed campaigns conducted on that premise, political ineptitude only explains so much. Even if the Republicans do not grasp the moral nature of their policy prescriptions (to the extent that they have any), a failure to so much as offer the feeblest of objections to the Democrats’ arguments is indicative of something far worse – their implicit agreement with the Democrats on those points.
Resulting from years of philosophic default and pragmatist decay (a topic worthy of its own discussion), the Republicans are now so intellectually disarmed that they are unsure of the few rational points in their own policy agenda. Beyond voting against anti-capitalist wage laws in Congress, Republicans are otherwise afraid and ashamed to seriously challenge the Democrats in public. They have accepted the narrative that the Democrats are the guardians of the poor, of minorities, of women, etc. to the extent that the Republicans feel too guilty to explain themselves as if they have somehow personally injured such people. Rather than facing the terror of explaining themselves, most Republicans simply write off such constituencies altogether.
Philosophically, this hesitancy is derived from the fact that the Republicans have accepted the same basic moral premise of the Left – that it is a sin to act in one’s own self-interests. Amongst all the unjustified smears of sexism, racism, and classism levied against the Republicans by the Left, it is the accusation of “selfishness” (the one label the Republicans should bear with honor) that the GOP most fears. And it is an appeal to selfishness – to man’s right to pursue his own happiness for his own benefit – without which the Republicans cannot hope to authoritatively make their case. Thus, they would prefer not to make it. As time goes by, this unwillingness to defend free market policies morphs into an unwillingness to vote for them altogether, as the Republicans’ steady march leftward in the last several decades clearly demonstrates.
Meanwhile, the Democrats reap the rewards of their unopposed media crusade. They excite their base and drive voters to the polls in the name of morally unjust and economically harmful policies without challenge. The constituencies to whom the Republicans refuse to make their case are left with but one party campaigning to them. Thus, the Republicans’ acceptance of the Democrats’ game of collectivist demographic politics becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The groups that the GOP considered not worth the political effort because they would vote Democratic then vote Democratic because the GOP refused to put in any political effort by campaigning to them.
Or this is how politics used to be. Fortunately, there is a new crop of Republican statesmen willing to openly challenge the Democratic Party on issues where the GOP had offered no serious front before. This is especially true of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who, refusing to buy the Left’s demographic politics, frequents traditionally minority universities and communities and makes a case for free market reforms there as he would to anywhere else. Recently, he spoke in western Louiseville, Kentucky on the issue of the minimum wage, demonstrating the utter falsehood of the Democrats’ claim that their policies help minorities. “It is a fact,” he stated, “an economic fact, that when you raise the minimum wage, the people that are hurt the worst are minorities and kids.” Though it is not the moral defense that capitalism deserves, it is a step in the right direction. That Paul managed to also argue for lower corporate taxes, for lower personal income taxes, and against eminent domain in the same discussion is all the more impressive.
However, Paul’s unique willingness to be open and honest about the benefits of free market policies is and will continue to be a rare feat from the Republican Party for the time being. Despite all the truth in Paul’s arguments that free market policies spur economic growth and benefit all individuals by allowing them to pursue their own interests, Republicans still lack the assurance in the moral righteousness of their cause (again, where they have a rational cause). The fear of being called “selfish” still lingers in the back of their minds, forcing them into silence the moment the Democrats threaten them with the label.
Instead, they should own it. Republicans should proudly declare themselves to be advocates of self-interest and of the ability of all men – not just black men or white men or rich men or poor men or young men or old men or males or females – to pursue their own happiness free from force. Additionally, they should treat with contempt the very values that the Left upholds as a mark of esteem – subservience and the self-sacrifice of one’s own happiness and life. It is not a stain on the character of Republicans that they should oppose statist legislation like wage restrictions – rather, it is an honor of which they should be proud.