Kudos to President Obama For Touching the Third Rail

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third_rail

President Obama submitted a budget wildly out of balance that increases taxes across the board. But he also stuck his tongue on the infamous ‘third rail’ of American politics by proposing chained CPI for calculating Social Security cost of living increases. Bravo.

We’ve Been Asking For This

Economic conservatives have pointed out for years that America’s entitlement programs are bankrupting the country. The $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities can’t go on. Accounting gimmicks only get you so far.

I proposed a phase out of Social Security in The Conservative Manifesto  in 1993. Obama’s proposal isn’t even a step in that direction, but it’s still an acknowledgement by the most liberal president in US history that entitlements can continue to grow.

Republicans Can’t Oppose Chained CPI

Sure, the AARP and other far-left groups are crying an gnashing teeth over the proposal—that’s why they call it the ‘third rail.’ But Obama’s move is strategic. Republicans have to sign on or risk being seen as hypocrites.

Already, the Club for Growth slammed Rep. Greg Walden for Walden’s take-down of the chained CPI proposal. Walden’s comment about Obama’s “shocking attack on seniors” threatens to put the GOP into position as defenders of Social Security, guardians of the third rail. For my entire life and longer, defending Social Security against any reform has been the job of Democrats.

Millennials On The Hook

I heard someone say that Obama’s “turned his back” on the people who elected him. Poppycock. The people who elected Obama, especially in 2012, were Millennials—the folks born after 1982 who begin adulthood with an anvil over their heads—the weight of unfunded liabilities under Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Meanwhile, the AARP’s members voted overwhelming for Romney.

Obama’s mild revision to COLA indexing benefits his strongest demographic group, and the group I’m most interested in winning over. This will be their country soon and for a long time.

This Could De-Energize the Third Rail

Welfare reform was possible only because Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was Speaker. When one party controls White House, Senate, and House, that party actually tends to play it safe. Why? They have no one to blame if something goes wrong, and they’re more worried about holding onto what they’ve got than advancing the principles that got them there. See Tom DeLay.

But when power is split, both parties want to gain the office they lack. Or, in the case of presidents, they want to solidify their legacy. Both sides, then, are willing to take chances.

Once Clinton agreed to welfare reform and the GOP signed on, it was a sure thing. A certain number of Democrats were sure to go along because Clinton was their president. Republicans were certain go go along because it was an issue they’d championed for years. And it got done.

George Bush could not have touched the third rail, because Democrats and the media—and some Republicans—would have destroyed him. Look what happened when he pitched privatizing part of Social Security.

But Obama has flipped the switch on the third rail. If the Republicans jump on that one issue fast, they may be able to make Social Security reform a debatable issue instead of a suicide mission. This is their chance to advance a principle instead of covering their asses.

Let’s hope they take it.

Trust Is a Bigger Problem for GOP Than Marketing

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The GOP’s self-examination on the 2012 election debacle rightly identifies marketing and messaging and lack of a ground game as contributors to that mess.

Trust

 

But the GOP’s self-exam missed a potentially fatal problem for the party: the American people simply do not trust Republicans on the budget.

Read this paragraph from The Hill carefully.  Read all of it. It should tell you everything you need to know.

More voters trust the Democratic Party than the Republican Party on budgetary issues, according to the results of a new poll for The Hill — even though a strong majority actually prefer Republican fiscal policies [emphases added].

Now do see how bad things are for the Republicans?

Marketing Can’t Fix Trust

Bad marketing is fairly easy to fix. The world is full of marketing scientists, strategists, and copywriters. It’s just a matter of humility and money.

But marketing can’t fix a company that people just don’t trust. And, right now, people don’t trust the Republicans. What’s worse is that the GOP did not identify trust among its seven problems.

Are Republicans Incompetent Or Threatening?

Trust comes in two forms: Warmth and Competence. According to researchers, social animals—like people—must evaluate others on two scales with these questions:

  • Do they mean me harm or good?
  • Are they competent to deliver on their intent?

The Hill poll did not delve into this question, but we know this much: 55 percent of Americans believe that the GOP is lying about the Ryan budget (threat) or incapable of carrying it out (incompetent) or both.

Here Are the Numbers on Budget Preferences

The Hill designed their poll so people wouldn’t know which party proposed which budget solutions. When presented this way, here’s how people responded:

The Hill Budget Poll

The Ryan Budget beats the Patty Murray Budget by a whopping 55-28. Even among women, Ryan’s budget wins 51-27.

But now look at which party people trust to fix the budget problem:

The Hill Budget Poll-Party

While 55 percent prefer the Republican budget, only 30 percent trust the GOP on budgetary issues.

The GOP Needs To Learn More About The Trust Issue

Marketing begins with research, and The Hill poll gives the Republicans an immediate challenge: find out if people think they’re insincere, incompetent, or both.

In the past, the party and politicians and pundits would simply argue with people, telling the public it’s wrong. That doesn’t work.

And better messaging won’t either. Not until the Republicans know why people don’t trust them.

How the GOP handles this trust issue will tell a lot, and quickly, about its future. If they choose to fight public opinion before understanding it, the Republican candidate for President in 2016 might not finish in the top two.

 

Now read about one of those “stuffy old men” who contribute to the GOP’s image

Here’s Why John Danforth’s Attack On Ed Martin Is So Bad for the GOP

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Old Jack Danforth is a troubled man.

“You once called me a ‘warped, frustrated old man.’ Well, what are you, but a warped, frustrated young man?”
John Danforth Attacked Ed Martin for Supporting Rand Paul

Danforth’s wiry frame got bent all out of shape because the chairman of Missouri’s GOP stated the uber-obvious in an email to friends: the McCain-Graham angry old man meme ain’t sellin’ no more. What is selling is Rand Paul’s courageous demand for a statement on the limits of executive power.

On Wednesday, Ed Martin sent an email to Missouri Republicans praising Paul’s courage and rebuking McCain and Graham’s defense of unlimited presidential power.

On Thursday, former Senator John Danforth responded with an email criticizing Martin and accusing the chairman of the Missouri GOP of kicking people out of the party.

Martin’s email praised the courage and consistency Senator Rand Paul displayed in his famous 13-hour filibuster. It also derided McCain and Graham for their childish and un-Senatorial attacks on fellow Republican Paul. Why Danforth felt a need to reply, and why he felt a need to exaggerate Ed Martin’s message, tells me there’s  more going on here than just an angry, irrelevant old man spouting off.

Missouri’s Republican Establishment Is At War With the Grassroots

You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!

–George Bailey to Mr. Potter

When Ed Martin won the race for MOGOP chairman, the establishment was stunned and horrified. Martin appeals to conservative and libertarian grassroots activists, not the smoky room king makers that Danforth favors.

I think the Establishment believed they could intimidate Martin by threatening to cut off donations to the MOGOP and to Republican candidates who won’t do their bidding.

With Martin continuing to display his populist independent streak, the Establishment called out their version of Mr. Potter to play bad cop, keeping the others’ noses clean.

This Could All End In Disaster for Missouri Republicans

Danforth  and his cronies are playing with fire. In November 2012, 90,000 votes were cast for Libertarian candidates in Missouri. Most of those votes came at the expense of Republican votes.

If the grassroots–and especially young voters–get the feeling that the GOP is a private club for the rich, they’ll flee to the Libertarian Party in 2014. And if the RNC installs rules meant to block non-Establishment presidential candidates at their April meeting in Los Angeles, 2016 could be the Republican Party’s last national election.

It’s All Happened Before

Before the modern Republican Party emerged from the abolitionist movement in 1858, America’s other major party was the Whigs.  Abraham Lincoln led the Whig Party in Illinois. But the Whigs were never a cohesive party of consistency around some set of principles. Instead, they were united only by their opposition to an imperial presidency. From the History Channel:

The Whig party was founded by individuals united only in their antagonism to Jackson’s war on the Second Bank of the United States and his high-handed measures in waging that war and ignoring Supreme Court decisions, the Constitution, and Indian rights embodied in federal treaties. Beyond that, however, there were Whigs and Whigs. Some played the demagogic anti-Catholic game; others scorned it. Some spoke critically of working people; others, admiringly. Detailed studies of the Whig party in the states and biographies of such Whig leaders as Clay, William Seward, Daniel Webster, and Horace Greeley reveal dissimilar policies from one state to another and important differences in the character, beliefs, and actions of the leaders.

It seems that opposition to Barack Obama is the only thing that unifies Republicans. But many of us realize that Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016. So what will the GOP stand for?

Within the GOP today, I see two large factions. One is the Establishment personified by McCain, Graham, and Danforth. The other is, for lack of a better term, the Tea Party faction united on the principles of free markets, Constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility. The Establishment stood around befuddled in 2009 and 2010 as the Tea Party did the work to regain control of the House and dozens of state legislatures. And that Tea Party success is what started the current rift.

Leading up to 2012, the Establishment, recognizing that the rabble were within striking distance of seizing their  party, went on the offensive–not against the Democrats, and not in support of those basic, simple principles. The GOP Establishment went to war against its own grassroots base.

Like the Whigs of 1856, the Republicans of 2016 seem poised for a horrible fall. The millions of rabble who want the party to stand for three simple principles don’t understand why Danforth and his spiders insist on keeping the party a closed country club. We don’t understand why Danforth won’t invite in the libertarian kids. They won’t steal his millions, I promise.

Who’s Kicking Who Out, Mr. Danforth

With that background, isn’t it sad that Danforth’s vitriolic email to wealthy Republican donors accused Martin of doing exactly what Danforth and his scurvy spiders have been doing for years: deciding who may and may not call themselves Republicans.

In 2005, Danforth all but called for the expulsion of Christian conservatives from the GOP’s ranks. And he did so in that Republican of Republican rags, the New York Times.

Isn’t it sad that a man whose tent is closed to Christians and, now, libertarians accused Ed Martin of minding the gate?

Ed Martin understands that young people smell hypocrisy better than old men like Danforth. And even Bill Hennessy.  Ed’s email simply praised Rand Paul’s courage in raising a vital question that Danforth should also be asking: is there a limit to Executive Power?

McCain and Graham–and, by proxy, Danforth–seem okay with unlimited executive power to assassinate American citizens.  They apparently were content to leave the American President with absolute power. And if they oppose such tyrannical power, they are unwilling to confront the President on the matter.

That puts them at odds even with Attorney General Eric Holder.  Forced by Senator Paul’s 13-hour filibuster, Holder admitted that the President lacks the Constitutional authority to order the assassination of Americans on American soil.  That’s an admission the White House refused to make for months until Senator Paul forced its hand.

Neither McCain nor Graham nor Danforth lifted a finger to press this fundamental human right and this enormous Constitutional question. Rand Paul did, and Ed Martin was right to point out it out.

Those Scurvy Little Spiders

I’ll leave you with George Bailey’s speech to Mr. Potter as the board of Bailey Brothers Building and Loan met to dissolve the firm upon George’s dad’s death.

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!

John Danforth and his nest of scurvy spiders should consider that their money can’t buy blind loyalty from the rabble they so despise. There are more of us than there are of them. Nothing guarantees that a political party will last forever, and the arrogance of the Establishment threatens to destroy the party that men like Danforth seem to love more than the country that party’s supposed to serve.

Why Compromise Is Like Half a Boob Job

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A man wants his wife to get breast implants. His wife doesn’t want it.

They compromise, and she gets one implant.

Is this the best outcome?

No!  It’s the worst possible outcome. Either of the two other outcomes—no implants or two—would be better than the compromise.

So why are Americans so infatuated with political compromise that leaves the country more lopsided?

Why Compromise Produce the Worst Outcome

The FBI’s top hostage negotiator provided my example, via Eric Barker’s fabulous blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Chris Voss, the negotiator, said of compromise:

It’s really one of the worst things in disguise . . . So you’ve got to ask them open-ended questions to get them to see. You’ve got to use basic hostage negotiation skills to get them to hear it and sound it out, so that they begin to see that what they want might possibly be ridiculous…

Ridiculous, indeed. The sequester is an example. Compromise resulted in cutting defense–the thing the government is supposed to do–and leaving alone entitlements. Entitlement is what the the government’s not supposed to do.

Even Krugman believes we have to fix the entitlement nightmare, but as long as compromise trumps principle, we won’t.

Famous Compromises Ended In Horror

Political compromises usually produce the worst possible outcome. But that outcome isn’t realized for years.

Neville Chamberlain’s compromise with Hitler (The Treaty of Berlin) enslaved millions, prolonged the horrors of the concentration camps, extended Hitler’s reach across Europe, and subjected Chamberlain’s country to a brutal, prolonged bombing terror.

The Missouri Compromise turned human slavery in the US South from a family matter into a massive industry while hardening the positions of both abolitionists and slave-merchants. The result was the Civil War.

Dodd-Frank negotiations and compromises ended up regulating the life out of small financial firms and even non-finance small businesses, while protecting irresponsible and exploitative Wall Street firms from the consequences of their own misdeeds.

Yet the press and the President scream for more compromise in Washington.

I’ll take them seriously when they get half a boob job.

Compromise is like getting a breast implant on one side.

How To Get More Twitter Followers

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Unless you just want to vent, the reason you post things on Twitter is to influence people. But you can’t influence people who don’t see your tweets. The more people who see your tweets, the more influential you are. So you should increase your Twitter followers.

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How can you increase your followers?  Research at Georgia Tech gives you the answer.

Twitter Things To Do

Be Positive. Positive tweets are more likely to be retweeted and people who use positive words have more followers. Who wants to listen to people complain all day? Use the ideal positivity ratio of 3 positive tweets to every 1 negative.

Be Informative. People like useful information. Link to How To articles. Give useful tips, like “Order the Margharita Pizza at Stefano’s.”

Get Followed By People With Lots of Followers.  Network overlap is the number one driver of followers. If you know someone with lots of followers, ask them to follow you.

Fill Out Your Profile. Longer profiles earn more followers because people want to know about the people they follow. Link to your facebook page, to your blog, or to someplace where people can learn more about you. And tell people where you live, because we like people who are like us, even if they only share a name like ours.

Follow Back. When a real person with a picture and a profile follows you, follow them back. Reciprocity is the most powerful tool of persuasion, and it works on Twitter, too.

Twitter Things To Avoid

Avoid Negativity. Negative sentiment turns people off.

Avoid Hashtags. While hashtags help with SEO rankings, they turn people off. And never use a hashtag if you’re cross-posting to Facebook.

Avoid Broadcast Communications. People don’t check Twitter to read your ad.

You might say, “Great, Bill, but the country’s going to hell in a hand basket. Why shouldn’t I complain?  How else will we get people to pay attention?”

Most people know America is heading in the wrong direction. They don’t need more evidence; they need more answers.

Every bit of scientific evidence shows we’re attracted to positive things and we avoid negative things. Negative campaigning works by turning people away from the other candidate, but it also turns people off from the negative campaigner.

If you want to influence people and win your point, first they have to like you.

So here’s your super simple task for this week: post 3 positive tweets every day.  About anything.  “My kids are great!”  “Here’s some good news we can use [link].” If you want, you may add one negative or neutral post.

Do that for five days and see how many followers you gain.

BONUS: You will love this new information instantly, because it’s free!

Republicans Lose Because They Don’t Attract Enough Conservatives

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For 20 years, the Battleground Poll of States (now the Politico/GW Battleground Poll) showed a freakish consistency about ideology.

2009: 59% Conservative

battleground-d3-2009

2012: 57% Conservative

battleground-d3-2012

 

With almost 60% calling themselves somewhat or very conservative, how could Barack Obama get re-elected? How could Republicans fail to gain the Senate in 2010 and 2012? Come to think of it, how do Democrats win at all?

The answer is simple: being conservative doesn’t make you Republican, but being Democrat makes you a liberal.

Look at responses to question d4:

battleground-d4-2012

Only 40 percent of respondents called themselves Republican (of some type), while 43 percent identify as Democrats.

Now, look again at ideology.  Thirty-seven percent identify as liberal. So Democrats would appear to win over all liberals, all “moderates” and at least half those who don’t know or refused to answer question d3.

Meanwhile, at least 30 percent of self-described conservatives do not identify with the Republican party.

When you look at voter turnout, it seems clear that what Republicans are missing is 30 percent of conservatives.  They just don’t vote.

Why?

Because the Republican Party isn’t conservative in their eyes. So they stay home or vote third party.

Becoming More Liberal Isn’t The Solution

We hear a lot of Republicans saying the GOP must become more liberal. The Battleground Poll seems to disagree. Instead, the GOP needs to become more consistent in its defense of freedom and its promotion of liberty.

That means:

  • Reducing the size and scope of the federal government
  • Ending the Republican love affair with crony capitalism
  • Flattening the tax code until we convert to a simple consumption tax
  • Eliminating income taxes eventually
  • Scaling back the war on drugs
  • Eliminating the Department of Education
  • Reducing foreign investments
  • Scaling back the power of the federal reserve

When libertarian and young voters look at Republicans, we see a party that worships government as much as the Democrats. Republicans are just as quick to hold Congressional hearings on issues that belong to the states alone. Republicans crave the power of committees and brag about bringing home pork to their districts and states.

As I demonstrated, young people can smell a scam more readily than older voters, and they smell one when the GOP talks about reducing government. Government grew under Bush and a Republican Congress. It grew under Reagan and a Republican Senate.

The only real rollback of government power came under Clinton and a Republican Congress with welfare reform.

Republicans Will Never Win Over The Middle

With 57 percent of voters calling themselves conservatives, the GOP has no need to win over the middle. Instead, they need to win over all 57 percent of conservatives.

Even you argue that those 57 percent are unequally distributed, you can’t argue that they all voted in 2012. If they had—and if they had all voted Republican—Romney would have captured a popular vote landslide. But he didn’t.

If the Republican Party were authentically pro-liberty, pro-freedom, and pro-people, it would wipe out the Democrats election after election. But its inconsistency has the GOP on the verge of extinction.