Irreconcilable Differences Among ‘Conservatives’?

Odds would seem to favor Republicans winning the 2016 election. It’s unusual in American history for one party to hold the White House for more than eight years. But victory requires a unified Republican Party and conservative movement, or at least a greater desire to win than the Democrats, and a willingness to overlook or come to agreement on differences within the movement.

Troops on the Ground in the Middle East. Candidates seem deeply divided over whether, in response to terrorism by ISIS in Europe, the US should put thousands or tens of thousands of troops on the ground to eliminate ISIS, or push Sunni Arab states to undertake such an effort, and limit our engagement to bombings and a small advisory and training role.

Path to Citizenship. A solid majority of Americans, over 60%, favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Half of Republicans, especially those connected to small and large businesses, favor such a path. But the nativist base of the Republican party vehemently opposes it. This is a wedge issue.

Minimum Wage. At least six in 10 Americans support raising the minimum wage, including more than half of Republicans, but the GOP party base that votes in primaries vehemently opposes it. “Wages are too high,” declared Donald Trump, in a statement that should come back to haunt him.

Military Spending and Deficits. About a third of Americans favor an increase in defense spending, and about a third oppose such increases. Many conservatives, especially those connected to military contractors, favor a massive increase in military spending, deficit be damned. Cut domestic spending if necessary, they suggest, though Medicare and Social Security are popular programs that it would be difficult to find a consensus to cut. But maybe 30% of Republicans are more concerned about the deficit. How is it conservative to seek a blank check for the military?

Tax Cuts for the Wealthy and Deficits. Many conservatives are campaigning for massive cuts in tax rates on the wealthy, the investor class. Others favor targeted tax cuts mostly for the middle class, at the same time they claim to be deficit hawks. Marco Rubio would enlarge and make refundable a tax credit to families with children. Others claim this would create a “culture of dependency.” His tax cuts would also increase the debt by an estimated $6 trillion. How are these policies fiscally conservative?

Flatter Taxes. Sen. Rand Paul, among others, proposes flatter and simpler taxes. That’s popular. But his plan would actually raise more revenue than current tax rates. He also proposes a value-added tax on consumers. How popular would that be among conservatives? “Similar to a sales tax, it would generate several times more revenue than the existing corporate income tax and ultimately be paid by consumers through higher prices,” the New York Times reports. In contrast, Senator Ted Cruz proposes a flat tax with one rate, 10 percent, which would leave a budget hole of $3 trillion, and Ben Carson proposed a flat tax that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and charitable deductions, which are quite popular and would have no chance of passing Congress.

Bank Bailouts. A number of conservatives vehemently oppose bailouts of the big banks. Yet few support, as some Democrats do, breaking up big banks that over-extend themselves. Just let them fail, and take the economy down with them?

Depriving Citizens of Health Insurance. Nearly all conservatives seem to favor repeal of Obamacare. But they seem to have no credible proposals for protecting those with pre-existing conditions and reducing the rates of the uninsured, which dropped from 41.8 mllion to 33 million in the first year of Obamacare. Are conservatives prepared to kick eight million people out of health insurance, and make people with cancer uninsurable again?
GOP’s Obamacare repeal shambles: Turns out taking away health coverage isn’t super popular

These are some of the fault lines that could determine who wins the presidential election of 2016.

Related:

  • Why Romney Lost in 2012. If Republicans are to win in 2016, they have lessons to learn from the flaws in Mitt’s campaign.
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