An email came from the American Enterprise Institute today that introduces a topic that AEI President Arthur Brooks addresses in an article “Breaking out of the party box, Voters love unconventional candidates," by Arthur C. Brooks, New York Times, August 19, 2014.
Arthur Brooks is often clear and clever when introducing topics for which he truly has a biased point of view, though creates an illusion of objectivity. That is a warning and you can be your own judge of that. Bear in mind that Brooks was raised in a Democrat household and turned out to be a Republican.
Seizing upon an instance of Arthur Brooks, see what this means.
First of all what is morality? Morality presumes that there is a baseline between what is right and wrong behavior. Under the U.S. Constitution, what is right and wrong behavior? Having babies for which you don’t have the capacity to care for is wrong. Preventing having babies for which you don’t have the capacity to care for is also wrong? No, birth control can be a good thing. Birth control by pills that abort pregnancy, is that good or bad? Abortion by a medical doctor of an early term fetus, is that good or bad? It depends on the details of the circumstances, doesn’t it?
Whose decision is it to make about a woman’s pregnancy? An individual woman has the right to choose. Is that good or bad?
In such a discussion, who is to say that Republicans are moral and Democrats are less moral?
Second, what is “strong leadership”? Does it mean that a leader is decisive and timely in decision making? Does it mean that a leader accurately anticipates and plans for the future, and is therefore able to chart the course for people to follow? Does it mean that a leader is a good collaborator and consensus builder? Does it mean that a leader is a hawk and not a dove?
Making the judgment that Republicans have an edge in morality and leadership makes no sense because one can argue that there are moral people with good leadership skills in both political parties.
Are Democrats more compassionate than Republicans? If Republicans are mostly wealthy citizens who are skewed in the top percentage of Americans, they surely have the economic wherewithal and discretion to be compassionate by sharing their wealth if they want to. Citizens who are not wealthy and who may be losing economic equality or are downright poor may desire compassion and may want to offer it when they can afford it.
What if wealthy Republicans are stingy, and fail to invest and create new products and new businesses that produce high gross domestic product? People suffer as a result. Is that moral? Is it leadership? Surely, Democrats have empathy for others who are in the same boat they are, right? There are more empathetic Democrats than there is Republicans just because there are more needy people who are Democrats that Republicans.
So, where is Arthur Brooks headed on this unfounded premise?
“To end partisan divide, learn from the other side
As the partisan rhetoric heats up in advance of the midterm elections this fall with candidates of each party working to differentiate themselves from those on the “other side,” it is no wonder that the American public ascribes very particular traits to both Republicans and Democrats. While the Republicans have a monopoly on morality and strong leadership, the Democrats own empathy and compassion. Not only does this lead to a bitterly partisan atmosphere, but it reduces the American political process to a stalemate.
In order to break the political dichotomy, lawmakers should embrace the conventional traits associated with their respective parties while also seeking to emulate those characteristics belonging to their opponents. In his latest column in The New York Times “Breaking Out of the Party Box,” AEI President Arthur Brooks examines what happens when candidates demonstrate both Democratic and Republican qualities:
“If voters rate two candidates as equally strong leaders (meaning the Democrat has erased his party’s usual deficit on this trait), they break roughly 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of the Democrats. Conversely, among voters who rate a Republican candidate and a Democratic one as equally empathetic, the G.O.P. wins with about 65 percent. Voters reward candidates who go after unconventional traits.”
He argues that such a mix-up of party attributes would greatly benefit the voter:
“Scrambling the conventional categories would not merely shift electoral dynamics. It would improve our country. More trait-trespassing politicians would give all citizens the competition of ideas we deserve. Because of the lack of overlapping values between the parties today, most people have effectively one choice when it comes time to vote. Often, we just hold our noses and pull the lever. That makes politics about as edifying as shopping at a Soviet-era supermarket. Wouldn’t we all like some choice?””
Via an email from AEI