"Vouchers, of course, are the rare domestic
issue where Democrats are highly vulnerable."
Although he goes on to explain why Dems are weak on vouchers, I was struck by a different part of this quote. Why is it - and I don't think he's wrong - that there are so few
domestic issues where the GOP (except in very unique times - the late 70s and during Clinton's failed takeover of America's health care system) can sell its agenda?
It seems to me there are three potential answers:
1) They're right on domestic policy
2) They sell their domestic policy better
3) The two sides' constituencies have differing views of government
I think we must eliminate the first possibility, not because it's facially wrong, but because it's a non-starter. There have been many instances where domestic issues - socialism, Jim Crow laws - have been proven so wrong that the party backing them was forced to abandon the issue or face extinction. It's certainly possible that deregulation, lower taxes, and other conservative positions will one day be proven erroneous, but if we don't believe this to be the case today, we logically can't argue that this is why these positions don't have more popular support.
The second I definitely believe is a part of the GOP’s problem. Our solutions, while perhaps better for Americans as a whole, are easily spun as heartless or good for the rich. The left wants to feed children, the right want to starve them; the left wants more money for education, the right wants less. Certainly these are gross distortions of the reality of the situation and, as welfare reform proved, real solutions to serious problems often don’t involve throwing more
money at a problem. Nevertheless, the right is still left with a much harder sell than the left on virtually its entire domestic agenda.
The central answer, however, lies in the beliefs of the two sides’ core voters. As I’ve argued before
, one of the central differences between the right and the left is their diverging views on the limit of a government’s ability to affect the shape of America - for better or for worse. Liberals, generally speaking, see the government as a potential solution to most problems, and likewise believe bad policies will have serious repercussions. Conservatives in general don’t share either this optimism or this pessimism. Therefore it is not in our nature to fight as hard for (or against) a particular piece of legislation, as exemplified by the Bush tax cut. I support the cut, but do I really believe it will be a great stimulus for the economy? No, not really. But opponents of the cut, as liberals who believe in the government’s power to change the world, believe that this cut could cause great harm. Therefore the anger I’d feel for it not passing
will be significantly less than that of liberals for it passing.
Thus elected Democrats are far more incentivized to advance the liberal domestic agenda than Republicans are to advance the conservative one, creating this unfortunate vulnerability of Republicans on virtually all domestic issues.