The GOP War on Freedom
Despite claiming to be for small government, the Republicans want politicians in the middle of your personal life.
It seems like every week, Republicans propose, pass, or enact another outrageous, authoritarian, retrograde policy. Book bans, abortion bans, efforts to turn back the clock on marriage equality and contraception. Each is a fleeting political firestorm and then it’s on to the next. The forest is often lost for the trees. But amidst this parade of retrograde lawmaking, there is a pattern — and in that pattern, there is a narrative.
There is a thread connecting the book bans to the efforts to overturn Roe with Florida’s Don’t Say Gay Law and its efforts to punish Disney. In each and every instance, the Republicans want politicians and the government more involved in people’s personal affairs. In addition to being wildly unpopular, these Republican overreaches create an opening for Democrats to split the GOP coalition.
Wedge Issues are the Best Issues
The sweet spot of political strategy is to find an issue or set of issues that unite your base and divide your opponents’. Focusing on populist economics — in my view— is the strongest political argument for Democrats. The Republicans depend on the working class for votes, and corporations and the wealthy for funding. But populist economics isn’t the only way to drive a wedge between the Republican Party and its voters.
It is true that Republicans are more ideologically, geographically, and demographically homogeneous than Democrats. My party is a cacophonous coalition stretching from AOC to Joe Manchin, and Joe Biden to Summer Lee. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tensions and conflicts within the Republican electorate as well. The voters the GOP is depending on in 2022 include economic libertarians, Paul Ryan plutocrats, Evangelical Christians, anti-immigration America Firsters, and people fed up with inflation, mask mandates, and other effects of the pandemic. These people do not agree on policy or issue hierarchy. Many of them do not love the Republican Party or its leaders. Some of them voted for Democrats for Congress in 2018 and Joe Biden in 2020. While the ideological bandwidth is relatively narrow, it is a fragile coalition. The recent assault on the fundamental Right to Privacy was one way to exploit these voters.
Reclaiming the Mantle of Freedom
The Republicans are currently in the catbird’s seat for the upcoming midterms. History, the polls, and the economy all point towards a Republican win. This represents a very rapid comeback from the post-January 6th period when the party was divided, demoralized, and discredited in the eyes of much of the public. The GOP’s shift in fortunes began with weaponizing anger and frustration with mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and COVID-related school closures. The Republicans began talking about freedom and personal choice vs. an overbearing, know-it-all government with one-size-fits-all policies. You could buy Twitter if someone paid you a buck every time a Republican politician, Fox News blowhard, or MAGA media grifter said the word “freedom.”