Democracy WAS on the Ballot - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Democracy WAS on the Ballot
Joe Biden on Nov. 2, promising to protect democracy (NBC News/YouTube)

Republicans are reeling after the recent midterm elections, in which they underperformed expectations. Most of them don’t have a clue why this happened. Numerous lame explanations have been suggested: Democrats have mastered ballot harvesting and mail-in voting better than Republicans; Republican candidates were not up to snuff; and, of course, the old reliable excuse of all sore losers: “The other side must have cheated.”

Those explanations miss the key point. While Joe Biden comes across as a bumbling idiot who can’t string together a sentence, many people underestimate his skills as a lifelong, master politician. No, Republicans — and the republic — are up against something more insidious than merely a poor showing in the midterms: Biden has perfected the technique of using massive amounts of “public money” to bribe voters to vote for Democrats. That strategy exploits an Achilles’ heel that most Republicans share, as I will explain.

Let’s start with their oft-repeated slogan in the run-up to the election: “Democracy is on the ballot.” Republicans and their few-and-far-between allies in the media made fun of how this Democrat talking point was repeated over and over, but it ended up being effective at turning out Democrat voters. It was coupled with claims that Republicans, if elected, would take away your Social Security and Medicare, “ban” abortions nationwide, and “crash” the economy.

These claims are such ridiculous falsehoods that most Republicans didn’t take them seriously enough to refute them. What they overlooked, however, is that, to the masses of what used to be called “low-information voters,” these phrases come across as credible threats that Republicans would take away whatever largess that individual voter perceives himself or herself as receiving from a benevolent government. In short, they are “dog whistles,” words or phrases that seem innocuous but resonate with certain groups to evoke a deeper meaning. In this case, the hidden message was that Democrats are for ordinary people like you and Republicans represent The Rich.

To appreciate our current challenges as a country, we have to understand that, to the Left, “democracy” does not mean free and fair elections. For them, “democracy” is substantive not procedural. It means the whole panoply of redistributive programs, regulation, and other government “benefits” that progressives have put in place over the generations since the New Deal. A rough translation into standard English of what they mean by “democracy” would be “the welfare state,” or big government, or government for the little guy, not the rich.

Once you understand that, you can see that Biden was right: Big government, aka “democracy,” was “on the ballot” in the last election, as it is in every election. If Republicans as a party stand for anything, they stand for smaller government and more freedom and personal responsibility. If Biden and his cronies can convince a majority of voters that, on balance, they benefit from a big government that gives them good stuff while Republicans want to take it all away in order to cut taxes for The Rich, Democrats will keep winning elections. By definition, there will always be more “ordinary Americans” than The Rich.

To many Republicans, the benefits for everyone of freedom and individualism are obvious, too obvious. Not so for many traditional Democrat constituencies, such as younger voters. To them, not having to pay back a student loan that you signed up for but hasn’t yet helped get you as good a job as you expected is an immediate and tangible benefit. On the other hand, the virtues of constitutional government, capitalism, and freedom in creating wealth and a good life for millions are abstract and can seem far-fetched when others have more material possessions than you do.

As Milton Friedman wrote in 1994:

[A] perennial mystery [is] why collectivism [and socialism], with its demonstrated record of producing tyranny and misery, is so widely regarded as superior to individualism, with its demonstrated record of producing freedom and plenty. The argument for collectivism is simple if false; it is an immediate emotional argument. The argument for individualism is subtle and sophisticated; it is an indirect rational argument.

The student-loan “forgiveness” program is a perfect example of Biden’s socialist vote-buying strategy, as is his decision to spend billions to shift increases in gasoline prices until after the election. The recent graduate who is struggling to make ends meet understandably appreciates the immediate benefit that his “Uncle Joe” gave him or her by “forgiving” $10,000 in debt just before the election. (Of course, the timing was just a coincidence.)

By contrast, the arguments that student-loan forgiveness is illegal are classic examples of “subtle and sophisticated … indirect rational argument[s],” in Friedman’s phrase; namely, that this $400 billion expenditure was not authorized by Congress and is unfair because it isn’t “forgiveness” at all but a transfer of the obligation to pay back loans to those who did not go to college or who paid their own way. Ironically, it is even better for Democrats if, after the election, those nasty “Trump judges” invalidate Biden’s attempt to give young voters a $10,000 bribe. That just goes to prove that “democracy” really was on the ballot.

Republicans are making a tremendous mistake by assuming that their conservative worldviews are already shared by most voters. We are in the midst of a never-ending battle for the hearts and minds of new generations of voters. Those Republicans who have been most successful — Ronald Reagan and, to a lesser extent, George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Glenn Youngkin — did not assume that voters shared their insights as to why individualism is better for all than socialism and big government. Instead, they actively persuaded voters to see it their way. As Friedman went on to note in the essay quoted above:

[C]entral direction [by government] is also a road to poverty for the ordinary man; voluntary cooperation, a road to plenty. The battle for freedom must be won over and over again [emphasis added].

Today, unfortunately, Biden’s giveaways are winning the war of ideas.

We need a reincarnated Reagan who can tell the American people that “[t]he nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” That’s what was missing from the last election and why the Republicans underperformed.

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