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Why do some Americans who favor “smaller government with fewer services” continue to back Democrats?

At least since George Stephanopolous’s question on contraception in the 2012 ABC/Yahoo!/WMUR New Hampshire GOP primary debate, Democrats have been eager to accent social issues, believing the contrast between their positions and those of their partisan rivals will show how out of touch the Republican Party is with 21st century voters, particularly in suburbs.

They want to highlight that contrast because if wavering voters cast their ballot on economic issues on their concerns about the growing size and scope of the federal government, they would overwhelmingly pull the lever for the GOP.  When it comes to their support of big government, Democrats are out of touch with the American people.

And yet, they still the votes of many socially liberal Americans who favor a more limited role for the government.

These Americans, especially entrepreneurs in blue enclaves like Hollywood, well aware of the burdens of federal, state and local regulation on their enterprises tend to define the GOP not by its economic agenda (which they largely share) but by their peers’ perception of the party as a bastion of intolerant social conservatives, unwilling to welcome minorities, particularly gay men and lesbians into their ranks.

Last year, when I spoke to the gay man who had hanged Sarah Palin in effigy in the course of the 2008 presidential campaign about his 2011 bid for West Hollywood City Council, I heard him level the same kinds of complaints against a meddlesome city government that Tea Party protesters level against government at all levels.  How do we get Americans, like Mito Aviles, aware of the burdens of big government, to support the GOP?

Mito is not alone.  Others know that, to borrow a great man’s expression, in the present economic crisis, government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.  “When asked about the best solution to the spurring economic growth,” Ed Morrissey reported last month, “21% of likely voters said they favor an increase in government spending, while three times as many, or 64%, believe the government should cut spending.”

Doesn’t sound like a populace favorable to yet another “stimulus”.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that by a margin of 56-38, Americans preferred “smaller government with fewer services” to “larger government with more services.”  That rises to nearly 60% (for smaller government) when including only the responses of registered voters.

Over at Independent Sentinel, Sara Noble teases out a detail in the poll that I had missed when I first found it (via Google), “More than three-quarters of poll respondents say they see President Obama as favoring a bigger government with more services.

On the basic issue facing voters this election, Barack Obama, simply put, it out of touch with a majority of American voters.  Only 35% favor the type of big government policies he has championed during his term in office.  Mitt Romney has to make clear that he means business when it comes to cutting government spending and limiting the federal regulatory scope.

Should he do that, he convince voters made cynical about the GOP’s commitment to small government given the record of the immediate past President of the United States and the 108th, 109th and 110th Congresses.

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31 Comments

  1. The best any party with integrity can do is stand up to the lunatics who belong to it. The Left has shown no willingness to do this, so its lunatics now run the asylum.

    How well the GOP can make clear that its own lunatics don’t run its asylum will have a lot to do with whether the Democrats can make its accusations stick. Stupid people will believe what they want, but if a party isn’t run by its grownups, an increasing number of smart people will begin believing the same things.

    When I get a call from a pollster asking me if I’m voting for so-and-so, the “conserative candidate,” I ask for a clarification. What sort of a conservative does the candidate consider him/herself to be?

    I get confusion. There’s nothing in the script for this.

    The aims of big-government conservatives are fundamentally at odds with those of small-government conservatives. Victory for either faction would mean defeat for the other. It is difficult to see what might possibly hold the two factions together once Obama is out of the way. No movement go in two entirely opposite directions at the same time.

    If government does not shrink, it will only continue to grow. It will not remain only big enough for big-government conservatives to control it. And no one side can hold onto it for very long. The next time the pendulum swings to the Left, we may end up with someone even worse than Obama.

    These are the facts that make the pollsters, pundits and politicians squirm. But until they’re acknowledged in the script, the plot isn’t going to change.

    Comment by Lori Heine — August 28, 2012 @ 5:26 am - August 28, 2012

  2. I think it is simply the nature of people to want to “do something.” National media reports that fire departments are often short of important fire fighting gear?—Public reacts with Do something! Politician sees opportunity to look good and “writes” bill doing something that costs 35 billion and needs oversight and a new industry to write standards for certification and manufacturing and of course training that ties back to continuing grants….. Boom! Bigger government.
    On the other side, my hometown has one of those chain owned weekly free city papers (interesting national collectivist company—look it up). The local Editor is a marxist (who is now quite wealthy BTW) and writes his weekly editorial on local politics. Besides pushing the national agenda from his superiors, he mostly writes about how this or that program needs funding and how this group has developed a plan for a new program with funding etc. In his world view all personal, cultural, and historical needs can be met by some program run by a citizens’ group funded somehow. Whenever people complain about taxes and fees and regulations he counters with, “People don’t seem to want to pay for everything government provides or can provide.” The collectivist view is that citizens fail government and not the American tradition of indiviualism aided by community. This is the problem.

    Comment by blurb — August 28, 2012 @ 5:34 am - August 28, 2012

  3. A lot of people vote culture, not policy. People identify as a Democrat because they identify with the Democrat brand; and you have a whole media-academic establishment promoting the Democrat brand as tolerant, inclusive, pro-science, and pro-sex (the last of these being the most important) and attacking the Republican brand as racist, hateful, anti-science, anti-women…

    Conservatives lack the degree of media-academic dominance liberals do, so finding conservative opinion and sources takes effort.

    Liberals are also herd animals. And we all know from experience that when you question liberal dogma within a liberal group you quickly find yourself ostracized faster than a seventh grade girl who wears the wrong the clothes.

    Also, we all know from experience that liberals cannot, by and large, argue beyond a bumper-sticker level.

    So, in short, being a conservative takes intelligence, effort, and independence of thought. If you lack these qualities, it’s easier just to become part of the liberal herd.

    Comment by V the K — August 28, 2012 @ 5:42 am - August 28, 2012

  4. Americans want smaller government for their neighbors not for themselves. “Cut their benefits and services. Do not lay a hand on my benefits and services.”

    Comment by TnnsNe1 — August 28, 2012 @ 8:16 am - August 28, 2012

  5. Americans want smaller government for their neighbors not for themselves. “Cut their benefits and services. Do not lay a hand on my benefits and services.”

    Comment by TnnsNe1 — August 28, 2012 @ 8:16 am – August 28, 2012

    I somewhat disagree with that.

    I think Americans are perfectly capable, and indeed more than willing, to sacrifice their benefits and services when everyone else is doing the same.

    The Obama Party exploits this, obviously, by using the whines about “fair share” and trying to whip up envy and jealousy.

    But the reality is that it’s not shared or fair. Victor Davis Hansen writes about this beautifully in pointing out that the Obama Party and the liberal left do NOT believe in shared sacrifice; they believe that non-Obama voters should be forced to pay everyone else’s bills.

    This is why liberals are addicted to taxes rather than to charity. A dollar given to charity is a dollar lost to them. A dollar promised in a tax rate increase is a dollar that they can avoid by creative accounting or by simply espousing the “correct” views, a la Jon Corzine.

    This is also why liberals absolutely loathe the thought of leaving money in peoples’ pockets (other than theirs). If you had your choice, you wouldn’t give a dime to the able-bodied person that dresses up as an adult baby, or the millionaire who demands food stamps, or for Nancy Pelosi’s liquor-stocked private airliner — but these are all Obama Party constituents, and they have to be purchased.

    Taxes are necessary to fund essential government services. However, the reality is that the taxes we have now are not funding essential government services; they are funding Obama Party campaign contributions and purchasing Obama Party votes.

    Furthermore, and worst, the clear and obvious point to be made to voters is that the government rewards most those who work and save least. Sit at home in a diaper all day and the government will pay your bills and fund your “nurse” to cook and clean and do everything for you. Sit on the street corner, drink yourself sick, and get welfare, health care, and all the other things for which people have to work. Win millions in the lottery, then send your food bill to the government.

    This, more than anything else, is what created the Tea Party, and why people talk about “values”. Barack Obama and the Obama Party are absolutely corrosive to values, inasmuch as the Barack Obama Party seeks to reward based on correctness of votes and nothing else.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — August 28, 2012 @ 4:25 pm - August 28, 2012

  6. I think Americans are perfectly capable, and indeed more than willing, to sacrifice their benefits and services when everyone else is doing the same.

    I agree. For instance, I would gladly sacrifice the mortgage-interest deduction, provided everyone did.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — August 28, 2012 @ 6:38 pm - August 28, 2012

  7. “On the basic issue facing voters this election, Barack Obama, simply put, it out of touch with a majority of American voters. Only 35% favor the type of big government policies he has championed during his term in office. ”

    “Despite recent polling finding that a majority of Americans prefer a smaller overall government, a new poll by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health found that a majority of Americans—52 percent—prefer a bigger government providing more health services, while just 37 percent support a smaller government providing fewer health services. In addition, the poll found that six in 10 Americans believe that if the United States spends more now on measures to improve health and prevention, the country will save money in the long run.”

    Comment by Passing By — August 29, 2012 @ 1:11 am - August 29, 2012

  8. #7 — “the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health.”

    Wow, there are a couple of impartial organizations for you!

    Comment by Lori Heine — August 29, 2012 @ 2:56 am - August 29, 2012

  9. I think Americans are perfectly capable, and indeed more than willing, to sacrifice their benefits and services when everyone else is doing the same.

    Agreed. We always hear about billionaires like Warren Buffet who supposedly are willing to have their taxes raised; but ask some average Americans could you do without subsidies to public broadcasting? Could you get by if universities had to eliminate women’s studies and pop culture curricula? Could you do without Government subsidies to ethanol, green energy and agribusiness? Could you get by if your local Government had to lay off it’s Diversity Coordinator, Assistant Community Outreach Director, and some of its ditch inspectors?

    Keep your money, Mr. Buffet. Let US make the “sacrifices.”

    Comment by V the K — August 29, 2012 @ 6:24 am - August 29, 2012

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  16. Agreed. We always hear about billionaires like Warren Buffet who supposedly are willing to have their taxes raised;

    Comment by V the K — August 29, 2012 @ 6:24 am – August 29, 2012

    Key point, V the K: Buffett and his ilk are all about raising their taxes, but quite against just giving the Federal government the money.

    Why? Because they would actually have to pay the latter. They already have strategies in place to avoid paying the former.

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