May 8, 2016


Trump Fallout Is Alienating More Conservatives from the GOP (Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, May 8, 2016, Washington Post)

The extraordinary resistance of many figures on the right this past week to Trump has not been prompted merely by objections to his temperament and fears about his electability in November. At the core has been a calculation by self-identified "movement conservatives" that they would rather preserve their entrenched ideological project than promote a nominee whom they believe would violate their creed and ethos.

"It's a crisis," said Al Cardenas, a former chair of the American Conservative Union who is withholding support for Trump. "If we do away with the fundamental strength of the conservative movement, which is our ideas and values and principles, then you don't have anything left but politics. A movement can survive the loss of an election cycle, but it can't survive the loss of its purpose, and that's what we're battling here."

...and the reality of Anglospheric elections for the past forty or so years is that the candidate most closely associated with the rejection of the Second Way and the embrace of the Third has won.  It does not really matter which party they represent.  Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are just as acceptable as W and Margaret Thatcher. Moreover, it is the alternating willingness of the two major parties--at the leadership level, at least--to run on the Third Way that he obviated the need for a third party.  Even a figure who tends to be cast as a "progressive" like the UR, is more aggressively neoliberal than say Ronald Reagan (an unreconstructed New Dealer) was.

This leaves HiIlary Clinton with a huge opportunity in this election if she runs for Bill's third term (actually, his 7th). Here are a few easy things she could do, that would not alienate her base too badly while making conservatives more comfortable with the prospect of her presidency:

* Talk more about the role of religion in her life and her politics:

  Clinton was recently asked in Iowa what her faith meant to her. She summarized, "My study of the Bible ... has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do."

She outlined a few of the ways she felt commanded to love others through her own life: "taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up, to find faith themselves."

* Ignore Trump and eschew attacks in favor of a W-esque inclusiveness even with people she disagrees with:

When asked about her thoughts on abortion Tuesday morning, Hillary Clinton may have surprised some by taking the stance that being "pro-life" and a feminist are not mutually exclusive.

During an appearance on ABC's "The View," co-host Candace Cameron-Bure asked Clinton if she thinks it's possible to be a feminist while identifying as "pro-life."

"Yes I do, absolutely," Clinton said.

"They're not mutually exclusive?" Cameron-Bure asked.

"No, absolutely," she said. "Look, I've been, and I'm sure that Whoopi and Joy have been, we've been in these conversations now for, what, 40-plus years, right? And I respect the opinions and beliefs of every woman."

* Acknowledge the shortcomings of Obamacare and propose reforming it in ways that will make it more universal, more generous and more of a wealth-building program:

Enroll everyone in an HSA/catastrophic from birth, means-tested and funded by government where necessary

*  Revive Paul O'Neill's idea for universal savings accounts (which could really just be combined with the HSAs)

If we decided as a society that we were going to put $2,000 a year into a savings account from the day each child was born until he or she reaches age 18 -- and if we assume a 6% annual interest rate -- each child would have $65,520 at age 18. (The worst return for a 25-year investor in the stock market from 1929 before the crash to 2004 was an average of 6% a year.) With no further contributions, again with a 6% interest rate, those savings would grow to $1,013,326 at age 65.

* Revive the partial privatization of SS that both her husband and W backed (and let them be the salesmen):
According to three former top administration officials, President Clinton was strongly considering the partial privatization of Social Security prior to his impeachment in 1999. The revelation was contained in a paper delivered by David Wilcox, an assistant treasury secretary, Douglas Elmendorf, a deputy assistant treasury secretary, and Jeffrey Liebman, an aide with the National Economic Council, at a Harvard University conference last month.

According to these officials, the Clinton administration spent nearly 18 months secretly studying issues surrounding individual accounts and concluded that:

Individual accounts were administratively feasible and would likely cost $20-30 per year per account to administer. However, to hold down costs, individual investment choices would have to be limited until accounts accumulated some level of minimum balance, perhaps $5,000.

Market risks were not a sufficient reason to oppose individual accounts. Administration analysts found that long-term investment was, in reality, relatively safe. The administration also noted that the current Social Security system contains political risks that may well be worse than market risks.

Concerns over redistribution could be addressed through the adjustment of benefit formulas, matching contributions or other means.

* Embrace the free trade crusade of the last 5 presidents, especially the current occupant of the Oval.

* Embrace the free immigration crusade of the last 5 presidents, especially the prior occupant of the Oval.

* Resume the transition to Pigovian neoconomics begun under the prior occupant.  Gas taxes are particularly popular with her base and with conservative economists.

* Propose putting Bill and W in charge of a commission to examine the viability of a Universal Basic Income.

* Take up conservatives on their call for prison reform.

* Pledge to renominate Merrick Garland to the Court, as moderate a nominee as Republicans can hope for.

* Express support for Janet Yellen, to assuage fears of fed radicalism.

* Riskier, but worth considering : pick Jon Huntsman for vp. Or, at the very least, name some Republicans to serious cabinet positions.  This is something W desperately wanted to do, but after Bush v. Gore the candidates for such posts were scared they'd end their careers in Democratic politics.  She'd have no trouble finding Republicans willing to serve under current circumstances.

At the end of the day, conservatives can not be permanently brought into the fold because of social issues.  Nor can the Left be permanently silenced.  So there will be a backlash against Third Way politics--see under Gore v. Clinton or Corbyn v. Blair--and Democrats will run a Second Way candidate next time.  Likewise, chastened by defeat, the GOP will return to the Third Way, nominating the next Jeb rather than the next Trump, and conservatives will resume leadership of the GOP.  But, in the meantime, Mrs. Clinton can run a winning campaign and have a reasonably successful presidency.


Posted by at May 8, 2016 9:11 AM