The Republican Party’s Image Problem

It’s time for another installment of Uncle Anarchist explains politics. Yesterday I mentioned that the Republican Party is solely responsible for its failures. Today I’m going to delve into more detail. Robb Allen made an excellent observation in a comment on yesterday’s story:

The Democrats make it sound like the GOP is all about forcin’ Jesus into your house and preventing the gays from having fun. They’re the ones who bring it up over and over and over.

So now, the Republican has to waste time fighting false charges or ignore it, which then people claim “Well, he’s not DENYING it so he must support it!”.

This brings me to one of the Republican Party’s biggest problems: image. If you look at the history of Democratic and Republican candidates you will notice that the former are far less prone to saying stupid shit in public. Furthermore they’re far better at countering accusations made by the latter. Both of these combined lead to a far better overall public perception for the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

Let’s consider social issues, which are often brought up by both parties. The Democratic Party usually brings up social issues to make its Republican competitors look stupid and Republican candidates are often unable to resist the Democrat’s temptation. A big part of the problem is that most of the Republican candidates either have a poor understanding of their religious beliefs or are poor at orating them. I know many deeply religious people. When somebody challenges their belief they are able to articulate very reasonable and intelligent counterarguments. Why? Because they’ve invested a great deal of time into researching their religion. Most people seem to have a mediocre understanding of their own religious, philosophical, and political beliefs. This is truly saddening because volumes of material are available on all three subjects regardless of your personal religious, philosophical, or political beliefs. Christianity has such a long history that the available material written by brilliant theologians is vast and covers almost every topic under the sun.

Being able to exploit the weaknesses of a political opponent is a necessary strategy for winning elections. The Democratic Party knows this and exercises it effectively. Democratic candidates going against social conservatives know what to say to incite an idiotic sounding response from their competitors. Abortion and gay rights issues are the easiest to exploit. Failing to articulate an intelligent response to the question of legalizing abortion and gay marriage makes one sound as though they hate women or gays respectively.

When challenged about abortion one of my deeply religious friends is always able to respond in well thought out and reasonable sounding manner. His intellectual opponents never come away with easily exploitable soundbites or text. Why? Because he has read and internalized the writings of great theologians. He has an intimate understanding of his religious beliefs and can articulate them to others.

Positioning one’s self as an advocate of small government lends itself to an effective response to the issue of gay marriage: get the government out of the marriage business. Religious opposition to gay marriage stems from religious issues. If marriage is moved from a state institution back to a private institution the religious organizations are free to perform marriages in a way they choose. The worry about the state mandating that religious organizations perform gay marriages is eliminated and same sex couples are still free to enter contractual arrangements involving the sharing of property, adopting children, and other common issues involved in the marriage debate. Getting the state out of the marriage business is a response that is compatible with most religious beliefs, a principled position for advocates of small government and personal liberties, and far more difficutl for opponents to exploit.

This advice isn’t applicable only to religious issues. I used religious issues as an example because it is one of the more effectively exploited weaknesses. But Republican candidates tend to suck at explaining their position on economics, personal liberty, small government, and other issues. Much of this ineptitude stems from their lack of understanding and internalizing what they preach. If you want to advocate free markets you should read the works of heavy hitters such as Ludwig von Mises, Frederich Hayek, and Murray Rothbard. A proper understanding of free market principles transfers to a proper understanding of personal liberties and reasons to keep government small. Other good sources can be found by looking at the history of the United States. People like Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Adams wrote a lot of material in their journey to advocate for a small government. Making arguments based on Christianity can be far more successful after reading the works of Thomas Aquinas.

My point is that image problems are something the Republican Party is plagued with but can be overcome with work. Doing so will require the party to nominate exceptional candidates, which is something I don’t think it has the resolve to do. But it will remain the Democratic Party’s play toy until its image problems are overcome or it fades into history.