LISTEN TO ARCHIVED broadcast of Coffee Party Radio
Our topic: "Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative."
UPDATE: Michael Charney's conservative response to the below.
UPDATE 2: Byler response to Charney response.
"I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative."
I hear that so often, I’m tempted to say "Who isn't?” before the speaker adds: “That’s why I hate politics,” or "That's why I feel like I have no political home."
The self-ascribed label is often used to set the speaker apart from society, and yet, especially in younger and more urban demographics, it has become the norm. This is not a kumbaya essay, this is a wake-the-heck-up essay because if you describe yourself this way, you have NO REASON to feel disenfranchised or disconnected. There are countless avenues for you to participate and have impact on our country’s future whether as a third party member, a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent. (Joining the Coffee Party is one of many avenues I can recommend.)
Let’s examine the assumptions often implied in that statement:
- There is no room for a socially liberal person in the Republican party.
- There is no room for a fiscally conservative person in the Democratic party, and
I can’t have impact outside the two-party system
Republicans love tax cuts but hate immigrants, women, gays, and minorities?
If you are under this impression based on news/entertainment products created by corporate media, or, by the behavior of consumers of such products, please remember that television is a warped and manipulated lens; not a window to the world. Also, the influence of corporate media is waning as more and more Americans migrate to the Internet, and the demographics of our country shift toward a more diverse and more inclusive society.
During a recent Coffee Party Radio broadcast, former Republican D. R. Tucker blamed conservative media empires for the hostile environment that has pushed him, and other moderates, out of the GOP. Tucker pointed out that partisan media products are scripted and produced by corporations that have a vested interest in fomenting extreme, fanatical views. This creates a reliable marketing demographic that can be exploited for profit. And for oligarchs who decide to use their media power to shape political outcome, extremism and hyper-partisanship are designed to alienate everyday Americans and push us out of the deliberative process, increasing the influence of extremists and, thus, the media products that motivate them.
Much will be possible as America heals from the cultural fissures of the previous century — disagreements about race, gender, and other "social issues" that are exploited in order to divide our country. People who remain resentful about the gains made by women and minorities during the civil rights era are a powerful constituency today, but as time goes on, moderation and even unity on social issues becomes inevitable.
Michael Charney — my radio co-host on The Middle Ground, our Tuesday evening Internet radio show — describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. He is a Republican, and there are many other Republicans, including some who hold or have held public office, who could only be described as socially liberal on the issues so often used to prevent us from working together.
Democrats love debt and deficits & hate cutting spending?
I recently heard Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio ask Maya Macguineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget if it is true that fiscal responsibility is a Republican issue. She said no; it’s the issue for whichever party is not in power. Perhaps so, but if fiscal responsibility is a Republican principle only (or at all), why was their no mention of deficit or debt on Fox “News” during the George W. Bush administration, when we turned Bill Clinton’s record surpluses into record deficits, when open-ended occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan added $1.38 trillion (and counting) to our national debt, when we implemented a wasteful prescription drug program without paying for it, and when we initiated the Bush Tax Cuts which, if you count ONLY the benefits afforded to the wealthiest 5% and exclude the rest, have added $1.15 trillion to our debt? How is it that our federal deficit and mounting debt suddenly became the centerpiece of political entertainment on Jan. 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama was sworn in as president?
In the summer of 2011, while watching an expertly-staged and beautifully-acted miniseries called The Debt Ceiling Hostage Crisis, I learned that Senator Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006 in order to embarrass President Bush. I didn’t hear about it at the time. Did you? Perhaps that is because, in order to penetrate mainstream consciousness, political theater requires a massive and constant distribution mechanism. The perception that “fiscal responsibility is a Republican issue” is little more than a plank in the GOP campaign platform. Supporting that platform is the design of media empires who spend vast amounts of money to have you believe it. That doesn't make it true.
We've been told for decades that Democrats are rarely fiscally conservative. But when I travel the country, I get a very different impression. There is a strong constituency of fiscal conservatives in the Democratic party. In fact, I find that Americans across the political spectrum are very comfortable saying “I am a fiscal conservative.”
Now, if you are one of those folks for whom the word “conservative” grates on you even in this context, how about the term “fiscally responsible?” I’ll bet 90% of America would claim that label. There is, of course, a big difference between fiscally conservative (an ideology) and fiscally responsible (an approach). For instance, a fiscally conservative ideology would reject without consideration a federal rescue of the auto industry, while a fiscally responsible approach would take into consideration the cost and the benefit of this measure. Few Americans would reject the term “fiscal responsibility” regardless of their political label. I wonder if we can come together around it. If we do, I believe that a long-term view, more focused on policy than politics, and a fiscally responsible approach can inform the decisions we make about infrastructure investment, education, healthcare, taxes, and the social safety net.
President Obama has been maligned for, upon inheriting a massive deficit and an imploding economy, advocating for new spending and additional tax cuts like those contained in the “stimulus” program. Please note: these were temporary spending increases and temporary tax cuts, unlike the on-going expenditures signed into law by Bush which add to our debt each year (see chart). Of course, this fact hasn’t prevented Republican media empires and their spokespersons in Congress from blaming the entire deficit and the entire debt on Obama. People like Paul Ryan, who practically spit when they say the word "stimulus," always fail to mention that he and other severe conservatives in Congress voted for a stimulus program that was $700 billion, nearly as large as the $816 billion package that passed without them. And, if you apply a long-term view to the decision to spend this money instead of allowing a global depression to take root, you might even say that spending that $816 billion was the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Here are three examples of fiscal conservatism supported by Democrats during Obama’s presidency:
- The trillion dollars in spending cuts during the debt ceiling hostage crisis, even as the recovery was only beginning to take hold. This contributed to massive job losses in the public sector, which has undercut the economic benefit of 5 million jobs created in the private sector. (Obama proposed 4 times as much in spending cuts, but couldn't get Republicans to cooperate.)
- The draconian budget cuts contained in the bi-partisan "sequester" deal set to go into effect in 2013.
- The failure to invest sufficiently in infrastructure, education, and public safety while extending tax breaks and loopholes for trans-national corporations and the super-wealthy.
So, to social liberal/fiscal conservatives who consider themselves politically marginalized because of how Obama’s efforts to rescue our economy are portrayed on TV, I say: your isolation is self-imposed and unnecessary, and your perspective is prevalent enough to have impact with or without the Democratic party.
We the Fiscally Responsible and Socially Moderate (Liberal) People
Those who want to demonize conservatives can point to outbursts on political entertainment such as Fox News and Clear Channel (Rush Limbaugh radio). But I have many friends who identify as a Republican and almost never watch or listen to these shows. They may have been called hateful names by people who do, and they have been ordered to leave the party. But many of them, including Charney, have stayed.
If you are “socially liberal” or “socially moderate” and you want to be a Republican, don’t allow your personal identity to be defined by people who hate you. You are more qualified to lead the GOP than they are. Bending to the narrative of a powerful media empire is not leadership; it's acting, for want of a better word — it’s reading from someone else's script. The Republican party, and more importantly, our country needs Republican leaders who can stand up to the coercive effects of media empires and their angry, misinformed consumers.
Here are two arguments for why social moderates (and social liberals) in the GOP should do as Michael Charney is doing, and defy those who demand you leave the party:
- Without you, the Republican party cannot remain competitive in a 21st century America where the current targets of hate-based politics (immigrants, African Americans, Latinos, non-Christians, empowered women, etc.) will become the backbone of a dominant voting majority, when less and less of our population will be engaged by hate-based politics, and, when wealthy people who own cable television empires won't have as much influence because TV consumers will have migrated to the Internet.
- Without you, the Republican party will not be able to govern, so obsessed will they be with social issues and hyper-partisan electioneering.
In sum: if Democratic party principles appeal to you but you’re concerned about spending on both sides of the aisle, make your voice heard BEYOND claiming that you have no voice. You do.
If Republican principles suit you but you can’t bring yourself to hate fellow Americans, stay in the GOP and speak truth to propaganda.
If you are “fiscally responsible and socially moderate,” you’re not homeless; you may just be an Obama Republican.
Please call in or listen to Tonight's radio show on this subject on Tuesday Oct. 16, 7:30 pm ET, the 90 minutes leading up to the 2nd presidential debate.) Comments below and also on this Facebook thread may be read on the air.