As a follow up from yesterday's post, I'd like to note that I think the Republican base has been very clear about what it wants. It wants a candidate to provide a viable plan that will allow American's to plan for their old age when they can't work, obtain medical care without being forced into bankruptcy, compete in business with wealthy elites with middle class starting capital, and help their children compete with elites in school without government intervention.
The Republican base's attitude comes out rather strongly in a New York Time's article "Even Critics of the Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It":
This pretty much sums up what I think is animating the right wing and is being expressed in the Tea Party movement. There is a feeling that the need for government has been produced by flawed policies and that there must be some combination of policies that will allow us to reduce the role of government while still allowing us to live as Americans.“I don’t demand that the government does this for me,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need the government.”How about Social Security? And Medicare? Can he imagine retiring without government help?“I don’t think so,” he said. “No. I don’t know. Not the way we expect to live as Americans.”
All of the Republican candidates have been sensitive to this need, perhaps the most forceful expression of it was Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan. Very radical suggestions have been made that the candidates promise will allow us to return to the kind of growth and upward mobility that marked earlier phases of our history.
Despite the grandiosity of these claims, the Republican base eventually becomes disenchanted with each one. A candidate can promise the moon but once the initial enthusiasm is over the hollowness of these claims is understood. None of the candidates have so far made a convincing case that there policies will provide what the base is demanding. The base deserves credit for recognizing the weakness of these arguments and for rejecting each proposal in turn.
As I said yesterday however, I don't believe there is any combination of policies that will provide the base with what it wants. Social mobility in previous eras was provided either by a sectoral shift out of agriculture towards higher productivity sectors or by a vast expansion in educational obtainment (and this was the result of government intervention). Neither option is available today.
This makes me strongly doubt that there is any policy solution that will fulfill the base's desire. But they can't be faulted for not having accepted this, we all grew up being indoctrinated in the idea that the market will naturally provide greater mobility if we let it. We also hear the same thing from candidates on both sides of the aisle. Despite the rhetoric, however, I just haven't seen a convincing case made that the rhetoric matches with observable results.