Saturday, November 24, 2012

Charles Kessler's Cautious (not Cold) Comfort

November 15th, 2012

Charles Kessler, Professor of Political Science at Claremont-McKenna University, gave a cautiously optimistic appraisal of the 2012 Election aftermath for the Beach City Republicans.

In his brief introduction, Prof. Kessler shared that his major interests include the rise and fall of Liberalism in the United States. His new book "Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism" served as the focus for his discussion. Incorporating the basic tenets of Progressivism, its hostility to the Constitution, and the challenges it will face in the next few years, Kessler made a convincing case for Republicans and conservatives to restore the more permanent optimism of limited government, individual liberty, and free-market capitalism.

Setting the stage for the presidential politics of today, Kessler submitted that "modern politics" began in 1896, the election between William McKinley and William Jennings Brian. McKinley did not actively campaign across the country. Running his race from his front porch (he was looking after his sick wife) McKinley carried the country. Bryan's progressive impulses frightened voters. The split between Democrats and Populists also assured a Republican victory. Bryan's policies of "Free Silver" and "Worker's Rights" would have hurt commerce and the working class. McKinley soared to easy victory against the same candidate in 1900, only to be assassinated by a crazed Polish anarchist the following year.

President Obama's reelection is only the second incumbent in history to receive fewer electoral and popular votes (Andrew Jackson is the first). He did not receive a mandate. Instead, the country set back the same gridlock for two more years. The Republicans kept the House, the Democrats made gains in the Senate.

One bright note in the midst of Republican soul-searching, the party has gained control of thirty governorships, the largest number since the 1920's. Those states will demonstrate the salience of conservative ideals, including budget cuts, tax reform, and economic recovery.

2014 will be President Obama's sixth year in office, and historical the party in power does terrible. If the historical trends remain constant, President Obama has another shellacking in his future.

Despite Romney's negative stats with minorities and women, the former Governor 5% more of the independent vote compared to Barack Obama. The enthusiasm bounce with Republicans were counting on did not show up to vote. A record number of Republicans and white voters did not show up this year/

The Republican brand needs to be retooled and sharpened. Romney's campaign was comparatively weak. Members of the Beach Cities Republicans shared a similar sentiment before Kessler began his talk.

The Democrats had hoped to accomplishment a comprehensive voter realignment, putting an end to "the Reagan detour" of conservatism which had taken hold of the country in 1980. On the other hand, Obama's victory may inject the much needed refocusing of the Republican Party toward their core values, many of which were heedlessly abandoned during the Bush Administration of the Naughts ('01-'09).

Progressivism emerged under the Roosevelt (TR) Administration of 1901-1909. At its core, progressives believe that human nature is perfectible. The believe in an expanded welfare state that can make people moral. The United States Constitution, and conservatism in general, recognizes that human nature is fixed and subject to failure. Conservatism wants to maintain a limited government of enumerated powers, while liberalism promotes more government to meet the needs of all citizens. "Reactionary" groups like the Tea Party Movement want the federal government to return to its Constitutional roots and restore the legacy of individual liberty and free markets.

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