Recently, pollster Tony Fabrizio has been asking Republican voters whether their most important goal "is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens" or "to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and the life of the unborn." In his most recent survey, 34 percent of Republicans take the freedom position and 49 percent take the values position. "Every time I've stratified out the Republican Party, we've come up with roughly 45 to 50 percent of the party that falls into the category of being theocrats," he says. That's right, half of Republicans are Republicans not because they want to reduce the size of government but because of gay marriage and abortion. (And Fabrizio reports that the 49 percent is far more homogenous in its views than the 34 percent.)I suggested a few days ago that the ruling coalition is collapsing. This is nice empirical data supporting that claim. Basically, the libertarians and small government conservatives are being marginalized by the half of the party which wants a big, intrusive, religious authoritarian government. That leaves the former two groups in a position to shop for alternatives.
Iraq is unpopular and getting more so. Everything Bush touches turns to mud, more so lately. Sam Brownback will be carrying the authoritarian flag in the primaries while the rest of the Republican field tries to grab the voters he and Rick Santorum naturally appeal to as religious authoritarians. Harriet Miers is a battle in that war, but expect stem cells, gay marriage and Third World trafficking in women to become more prominent issues in the Senate.
Mean while, Josh Marshall is right. Democrats can't just wait for the liberty driven voters to come looking for a new home. It's time to step up and offer a real platform that appeals to people. Surveys are consistently showing that Iraq and health care are the big worries, and you can expect to hear a lot about the latter in 2006. Iraq is an issue that a lot of elected officials are scared of because they don't want to be portrayed as flip-floppers. Never mind that public opinion has flipped since the invasion.
And encouraging trend is that public support for a wholesale reform of American health care is growing. People no longer seem to want tacked on solutions to the employer based insurance, they want to be able to keep their plans across jobs and in between employment. That's good, but it's a trap if Democrats want to attract small government conservatives, and it's a minefield for the liberty based.
Considering that liberty and liberal share an etymological root and a philosophical bent, the solution to bringing liberty oriented voters and opinion makers into the fold is a return to the party's liberal roots.
If Congressional Democrats are smart, they'll spend some time pushing a big, bipartisan measure on medical privacy. Encourage doctors to digitize their records and establish strong regulations on how the government can access medical data. It's a small thing, but it'll improve health care and show that Democrats care about protecting people from the government's spying eyes.
DIgitizing the records will mean that it will be easier for people to switch doctors, easier for doctors to consult with specialists, and if handled properly, more secure against government intrusion or other sneakiness. It also simplifies centralizing the management of health insurance no matter what the details. Rather than having a bajillion different forms for different companies, the standardized medical information platform would provide a way for insurance companies to query a record for the necessary billing information.
That sets the stage for a major congressional debate on health insurance between 2006 and the next set of presidential primaries, when the Democratic candidate will have a public ready to listen to ideas on a major reform of health care and health insurance.
Nathan Newman has another idea, long-term care health insurance (think nursing homes or hospice care) administered through Medicare and funded by – wait for it – the estate and gift tax. Good stuff.