Can GOP's Local Success Translate to Federal Level?
The Republicans are doomed. Conservatism is over. President Obama is conducting a mop-up operation at this point.
That's the basic consensus in places like
And let's be fair, liberals have every reason to gloat -- a little. The
But here's the weird part. That's all true of presidential politics, but less so when it comes to state politics or even other federal races. In 2010, the
There are a lot of possible explanations that are not mutually exclusive. Obama is more popular than his party.
This last one is definitely true when you compare who voted in 2010 and who voted in 2012. The 2010 electorate was older and whiter. The Obama coalition of 2012 included younger voters, minorities and so-called "low-information voters."
No matter the merits of these observations, they don't fully explain why Republicans are doing so well on the policy front. In states as diverse as
In pro-Obama Wisconsin, Gov.
I think an overlooked part of the story is the fact that Americans tend to see federal and local governments differently. At the local level, people seem to have a better grasp that it's their tax dollars at work. They are far more sensitive to tax increases and more easily outraged by spending boondoggles. They understand the importance of sustainable economic growth.
At the local level, this fact benefits Republicans, although state-level Democrats tend to be more fiscally responsible as well. (
Meanwhile, what gets Republicans elected at the local level gets them in trouble at the federal level. Again, there are many reasons for this. But I think one of them is that we've come to see the federal government as some sort of mystical entity empowered to right all of the wrongs in society. If there's a problem, there "should" be a federal response, the costs or feasibility of that response be damned.
While Romney's infamous riff about the "47 percent" was profoundly flawed, the simple reality is that millions of people who do, in fact, pay federal income taxes do not care about those tax dollars the same way they care about their local tax dollars. This is true of people who get more from the federal government than they pay in, but it's also true for millions of affluent voters as well.
Our presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, talk about their "visions" for America, as if being a president requires you to impose some quasi-religious vision on the country.
But the Democrats are simply better at talking about government in spiritual terms. Indeed, such testifying is Obama's one indisputable gift. They talk about the federal government doing things we'd want God to do if God dabbled in public policy. They use the logic of religion, which holds that there is a unitary and seamless nature to all good things, and therefore no good thing government does should come at the expense of some other good thing government might do. And, worst of all, they castigate anyone who opposes more spending on, say, "the children" or "the environment" as morally retrograde and "against children" and "against the environment."
The challenge for Republicans is to convince the American people that the government isn't magic, and that all of its money is your money, its debts your debts. I don't think the
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Can GOP's Local Success Translate to Federal Level? | Politics
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