The GOP, Reform, and the Urban Vote
Will Truman linked to a blog post by Hip-Hop Republican on how GOP can revive itself and become new in the age after Trump. Hip-Hop Republican imagines that a new Republican Party can attract urban voters by talking more about Uber and Air Bn’B over “anchor babies.” The article also imagines that there are huge swaths of urban voters up for grabs and that these voters are trapped in voting Democratic even though Democratic politicians take them for granted. Likewise, the American Spectator came out with an article on how the GOP can be the party of choice.
I’m highly skeptical that the GOP can become the party of choice and that they can reclaim the urban vote. These pieces seem to come from the department of wishful thinking over any real and significant way of reforming the Republican Party or attracting urban voters.
I will grant the Hip-Hop Republican that there are a lot of people who believe that the Democratic Party takes their votes for granted. The problem with the Hip-Hop Republican’s view is that these are voices on the left of the Democratic Party, not the right. Rahmn Emmanuel is disliked because he took neo-liberal corporatism too far. Andrew Cuomo was challenged from the left in 2014’s Democratic Primary for governor, not from the right. Hilary Clinton is still almost certain to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016 but a self-described democratic socialist is giving her a strong run for her money.
Clintonian centerism might still hold a lot of sway and power but it is not clear where the right comes in to sweep up Democratic votes because the voices of the Democratic base are looking to the left in terms of politicians like De Blasio, Teachout, and Sanders. They are not looking to the right or to libertarianism.
Talking about Air B n’ B and Uber instead of anchor babies and whether “Americans want to be able to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other developed countries. They’re tired of paying the highest prescription drug prices in the world because the White House cut a bad deal with drug companies to get Obamacare. Republicans should follow the lead of some in their party who advocate for Americans’ ability to choose where they buy their prescription medication” as the American Spectator puts it also seem like false issues. Libertarians seem to love and think there is a huge backlash against companies like Air B n’ B and Uber from evil government but this does not seem to match reality. I have never experienced any difficulty in getting an Uber or a Lyft in San Francisco. Lyft advertises all over San Francisco including covering buses with their advertisements. If anything, anger at Air B n’ B is not because of evil regulators but because people believe Air B n’ B takes housing off the market for renters.
I am also unsure about how allowing Americans to purchase medication from Canada will be a winning issue for the GOP. Gary Shapiro acknowledges that Americans are overcharged for drugs but his R-undies prevent him from seeing the reason why drug prices are so high in the United States. The Canadian Government is allowed to negotiate for cheaper drug prices, Medicare is not. The reason Medicare is not allowed to negotiate for cheaper drugs is because of a “noninterference clause” in Medicare Part D. Medicare Part D was passed in 2003. Last I checked, the GOP controlled the Senate and House and White in 2003. The Left has a clearer understanding that government intervention is sometimes necessary to lower medication prices. Shapiro’s plan is a roundabout way to a government benefit for American citizens. Why is it better to allow Americans to purchase drugs at prices negotiated by the Canadian government over letting the American government, especially Medicare, negotiate for drug prices? My guess is that the GOP is still too committed to the philosophy of limited government. They sort of understand that younger buyers are no longer enamoured with Reagan mythos but it is too powerful a habit for them too quit. Allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug prices is a direct admission that government can be a positive force in the lives of people.
What seems to be happening is that there are many voices in the GOP that realize that their party is becoming increasingly unpopular and might spend a decade or two (or longer) in the wilderness. They realize that many young Americans are turned off by the old GOP coalition which served the party from sometime in the 1970s until sometime in the oughts. Those old GOP voters are dead or dying. Yet the problem for these writers is that they are still true believers in the all government is bad message and just can’t bring themselves to quit that drug. The urban voter doesn’t want fewer regulations for Air b n’b or Uber, they want higher wages and lower rents. There is also not much love for the gig economy in the age of Trump and Sanders. People generally don’t see the gig economy as liberating, they see it as jobs of last resort.
Finally, both Hip Hop Republican and Gary Shapiro fail to acknowledge social choice and social liberty. At best, Hip Hop Republican says keep it quiet on anchor babies but they do not acknowledge the concept or importance of civil liberties and civil rights. Especially the importance of minorities (racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender-based, etc.) to fully participate in economic and civil life without fear of discrimination. This is a kind of liberty that requires government interaction though. It is government that can tell businesses that they need to serve all regardless of their background.
Can the Republican Party compete for urban voters? Potentially. Nothing is impossible. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of moderate to somewhat conservative voters who live in cities. Urban politics are often fights between Clintonian centerism and further liberalism. What all urban politicians have in common is at least a belief that government is necessary. The GOP probably needs to abandon the idea that government can do no good to attract urban voters though. The Air B n’B and Uber issues do not seem like winning answers because there are not enough urban techie-libertarians to carry a ballot in San Francisco or any other city. Public transportation woes are a huge issue in many cities. You can talk about making it easier for more Uber, Lyfts, Chariots, and other forms are not going to make transportation in cities easier. If anything, they will just increase traffic and congestion. The GOP is not going to win the young vote or the urban vote until they realize get off the anti-government kick.