Thursday, October 04, 2007

Attention, Republicans 

Come a little closer, please, and listen.

This is really annoying.

The sign of broadening resistance to globalization came in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll that showed a fraying of Republican Party orthodoxy on the economy. While 60% of respondents said they want the next president and Congress to continue cutting taxes, 32% said it's time for some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to reduce the budget deficit and pay for health care.

Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush's calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.

"It's a lot harder to sell the free-trade message to Republicans," said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. The poll comes ahead of the Oct. 9 Republican presidential debate in Michigan sponsored by the Journal and the CNBC and MSNBC television networks.

Let us not forget that it was Bill Clinton who pushed through NAFTA, so it isn't like you can pull your usual stunt of saying "well, we're for protecting American jobs, but we'll not kill the economy like THOSE guys will!" It's that kind of signaling that eventually lead Clinton to make his famous WTO speech in Seattle in 1999, in which he undid seven years of good policy.

Lose this issue, and you lose a lot more than my support. (And I'm very serious about this; it's an issue I care about more than most of the ones that animate Republican activists.) Are you -- are we -- the party of freedom or are we not? Milton and Rose Friedman wrote ten years ago:
Few measures that we could take would do more to promote the cause of freedom at home and abroad than complete free trade. Instead of making grants to foreign governments in the name of economic aid--thereby promoting socialism--while at the same time imposing restrictions on the products they produce--thereby hindering free enterprise--we could assume a consistent and principled stance. We could say to the rest of the world: We believe in freedom and intend to practice it. We cannot force you to be free. But we can offer full cooperation on equal terms to all. Our market is open to you without tariffs or other restrictions. Sell here what you can and wish to. Buy whatever you can and wish to. In that way cooperation among individuals can be worldwide and free.
If you have any belief in the mission America has in Iraq and Afghanistan -- in putting examples of democracy and connectivity to the rest of the planet's market system in a part of the world where Islamofascists try to build barriers -- how can you then support barriers on Chinese toys or Korean semiconductors?

Yet in a post at Anti-Strib on what it means to be a conservative there was a statement "The area where conservatives support a large govt. role is national defense and international trade." (My emphasis.) When I asked what that was about, Tracy replies:
China, Japan and a few other countries have basically unfair advantages in the US market.

The US allowed the Japanese to destroy our domestic electronics industry.

Even our largest companies need the full support of the US government when dealing with other large countries.

I know I'm in the minority on this, but I see how other countries block our products.
Sadly, you're not, Tracy.

We're all for competition and the free market when two American companies are beating each other's brains in, but in comes Fujitsu and whoa! Get the cops!?!?

When Republicans have won in the post-Watergate world, the message has been "we're the freedom party; they're the forced-fairness party." Try not to screw that up, and you can win. If you can't even come up with that much vision, you will perish.

UPDATE (10/7): Ben Muse digs into the poll and finds that it only represents Republican voters deemed likely to vote in the primary. Not a representative sample, he says. But certainly containing the people having the candidates' ears...

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