What if Economic Conservatives Stay Home on Election Day?

John A. Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Sun Nov 25 20:36:46 MST 2007


Committed to Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace

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What if Economic Conservatives Stay Home on Election Day?

by Michael D. Tanner


Hardly a day seems to pass without leaders of the 
Religious Right threatening that so-called 
"values voters" may not turn out to vote unless 
the Republican nominee is reliably conservative 
on issues like abortion or gay marriage.

"Our voters would rather stay home than vote for 
half a loaf of bread," says Bill Stephens, the 
executive director of the Christian Coalition of 
Florida. "They either want the whole loaf, or they'll wait for next time."

<http://www.cato.org/people/tanner.html>Michael 
Tanner 
<http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&method=cats&scid=43&pid=1441337>is 
director of health and welfare studies at the 
Cato Institute and author of 
<http://www.catostore.org/index.asp?fa=ProductDetails&method=cats&scid=43&pid=1441337>Leviathan 
on the Right. 
<http://www.cato.org/people/tanner.html>More<http://www.cato.org/people/tanner.html> 
by Michael D. Tanner

Others, like the Family Research Council's Tony 
Perkins, are raising the possibility of a third party candidate.

As a result, the Republican candidates are 
falling all over themselves to prove how pro-life 
and anti-gay they are. Mitt Romney changed almost 
every position he ever had. John McCain 
discovered he was really a Baptist. Even Rudy 
Giuliani begs religious conservatives not to 
"fear" him, and seeks out Pat Robertson's endorsement.

There is no doubt that religious conservatives 
are an important part of the Republican 
coalition. Yet the media, and more importantly, 
the candidates, seem curiously unconcerned with 
another discontented part of that coalition: 
economic, small-government conservatives.

Yet it was the Republicans' big-spending, 
big-government ways that helped ensure their 
defeat in the 2006 midterm elections. It wasn't 
evangelical Christians or so-called "values 
voters" who deserted Republicans. Roughly 70 
percent of white evangelicals and born-again 
Christians voted Republican in 2006, just a fraction less than in 2004.

It was suburbanites, independents, and others who 
were fed up not just with the war and corruption, 
but also with the Republican drift toward 
big-government who stayed home, or even voted 
Democratic, on election day 2006. That night, 
more than 65 percent of voters told a pollster 
they believed that "The Republicans used to be 
the party of economic growth, fiscal discipline, 
and limited government, but in recent years, too 
many Republicans in Washington have become just 
like the big spenders they used to oppose."

So far, the Republican presidential candidates 
have offered little to 
 small-government conservatives.

So far, the Republican presidential candidates 
have offered little to these small-government 
conservatives. Fred Thompson gives an occasional 
nod to entitlement reform. John McCain has been 
critical of pork barrel spending. Ron Paul 
opposes pretty much all government programs. But 
by and large, the candidates have not offered a 
platform for curtailing the size, cost, and power of government.

Can anyone think of a single major government 
program that any of them, with the exception of 
Rep. Paul, have called for significantly cutting or eliminating?

Perhaps, that's because most of them are really 
big-government supporters at heart. Just look at 
the two candidates who have tried hardest to 
appeal to the religious right. Mitt Romney 
imposed a Hillary Clinton-style health care plan 
in Massachusetts, and he believes the federal 
government should buy a laptop computer for every 
school child in America. He wants to increase farm price supports.

In the Cato Institute's biannual ranking of 
governors on fiscal issues, Romney received a 
grade of only "C." The report noted that his 
proposed 2006 budget included some $170 million 
in increased business taxes. This increase came 
on top of previous business tax increases of $140 
million during his term, as well as some $500 
million in increased fees and other forms or revenue.

His philosophy of governance is betrayed in his 
comment, "I'd be embarrassed if I didn't always 
ask for federal money whenever I got the chance."

Mike Huckabee? As governor, he never saw a tax 
increase he didn't love. He presided over a 
massive increase in state spending, including an 
expansion of Medicaid, and approved increases in 
the sales, income, and cigarette taxes. On its 
annual governor's report card, Cato gave him an 
"F" for fiscal policy. Most Democratic governors received higher grades.

As a presidential candidate, Huckabee has been no 
better. Not only has he failed to call for 
spending cuts, he actually wants to increase 
spending on a variety of programs, from education 
to infrastructure. He even wants the federal 
government to fund art and music programs in the nation's schools.

If that is the record Republicans plan to run on 
in 2008, then 2006 was only a taste of things to come.

Republican strategists like to talk of the party 
as a three-legged stool, made up of social, 
military, and economic conservatives. Perhaps. 
But so far, believers in limited government and 
economic conservatism have been left out of this 
conversation. They might not have the media 
megaphone of religious conservatives, but if 
Republicans want them to show up at the polls in 
November 2008, they had better start talking to them today.

<http://www.foxnews.com/>This article appeared on 
<http://www.foxnews.com/>Foxnews.com on November 20, 2007.

  Cato Institute • 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. • Washington D.C. 20001-5403
Phone (202) 842-0200 • Fax (202) 842-3490
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