What the GOP Did Wrong in 2018

By Richard Morris & Eileen McGann

November 15, 2018 5 min read

The Republicans lost control of the House largely because they had the wrong campaign strategy. Democrats like to think that President Donald Trump's unpopularity was a key cause of their victory in retaking the House, but the true fault lies in the GOP's approach to the elections.

The party entered the races on the defensive, proudly citing Trump's incredible achievements in turning the economy around. In the early going, the GOP recited the growth statistics proudly and asked for re-election based on voter appreciation. But then, wiser heads realized that gratitude does not motivate voters, and Trump decided to double down on the policies that animated his base — immigration, tax cuts and crime.

But the Republicans missed a bet. The Democratic Party has evolved — over the past two years — into a new left-wing version of itself, advocating major new policy initiatives that go far beyond what mainstream voters are willing to tolerate. Democratic House and Senate candidates generally hedge when asked if they embrace the new agenda, but their own base voters won't let them abandon it. The Democratic base is so energized by the new platform, first articulated by Bernie Sanders, that the party's candidates must embrace it wholly or partially.

The GOP should have waged its campaign in opposition to this new leftist agenda. Its candidates should have hung these new radical proposals around the necks of their Democratic opponents. Even those Democrats who tried to run as "moderates" would have been hard-pressed to abandon the new "progressive" agenda and still keep their base of supporters and donors.

The new Democratic agenda is filled with self-destructive policies that posed — and still pose — fat, attractive targets for Republican criticism.

"Medicare-for-all" really means Medicare-for-none. The trust fund, already running short of money, cannot possibly be expected to assume the burden of health care for all American adults, even those under 65. If forced to pick up that new burden, Medicare will cease to be funded by a trust fund into which beneficiaries have paid during their working lives. Instead, it will become a hand-to-mouth welfare program, like Medicaid. And along with a Medicaid-style program will come strict government utilization controls, required approvals, waiting lists and health care rationing.

An increase in the minimum wage to $15 is really no increase at all. Data from cities that have adopted such increases indicate that the number of hours worked dropped as the wage per hour rose. Faced with a high minimum wage, retailers and fast food joints are automating, cutting dramatically the work available to hourly employees. Carried to its extreme, low-wage entry jobs would be entirely eliminated.

Free college for all would mean no college for anybody (except for those rich enough to attend elite private universities). The dumbing-down process began with open admission in the '60s, when standards dropped so that everyone could go to college and get a degree. This dumbing-down process will accelerate. The prestigious state universities would become factories where students are passed on, through social promotion, learning little and remembering less. A college degree from such a mass school would soon come to mean nothing.

Open borders would create so large a labor pool for downscale jobs that workers in blue-collar industries would face job insecurity at best and wage stagnation at worst. In contrast, under Trump, the pyramid has turned upside down. The poor are getting richer and the rich poorer, for a change. In 2018, median weekly wages for workers who only finished high school rose 6.5 percent while college-educated workers' wages rose 5.3 percent. Graduate school workers' incomes rose only 1.6 percent. Immigration restrictions and curbs on imported goods are helping this trend along. Open borders would reverse it.

Decreasing prison population would reverse the progress in lowering the crime rate we have made in recent decades. Doubling the prison population has halved the crime rate. With more in prison, fewer criminals are on the streets. Policies aimed at releasing "nonviolent" offenders inevitably lead to the release of drug dealers and sexual predators whom the judicial system puts in that category.

The Republicans should have run against the new "progressive" Democratic agenda. We hope they remember to do so next time.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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