The AJC commissioned a poll that details some numbers before the beginning of the legislative session. You can see the fancy little reporting tool here, but it’s telling some of the to responses to questions asked. As a consultant regularly conducting polls for my clients, I take a great deal of interest in the numbers. They tell a story, and while polls are by their very nature imprecise at some level, they do provide very valuable and valid insight that we can use to infer voters’ thoughts. Conservatives should do a very deep dive into these and their own if they want to provide relevant voices in shaping policy decisions at the state level.
Republicans in the statehouse are not going to set a radical agenda for governing, and by radical, I mean anything outside of vanilla. This session in particular will be quick and to the point — case in point, the budgeting hearings that normally take a week (without either chamber convening for session) will take one. The new election calendar partially drives this, but this reticence to act is also driven in large part by the fact there is an election calendar. It’s a management mentality. Republicans know the iceberg is ahead, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll only graze it if they keep a steady hand on the wheel. All fine and dandy, but Georgia can do more with a strong conservative base to draw activists from. Those activists need to do more to influence the people influencing legislators – the voters – and less trying to put the legislators through the ringer before, during, and after every session. Not to say there isn’t a place for that, but elected officials don’t have a reason to care about a vocal minority when they know the silent majority is far more “moderate” and less interested in ideological solutions.
Activists have to make a real priority out of sounding and thinking rationally. Too often, the rhetoric is pure dogmatism. While these are frequently the folks calling for the removal of “big government Republicans” or labelling politicians as “RINOs,” the fact remains that the majority of people outside of their little established circles don’t much care for that. Seth Millican wrote a fantastic piece on just this subject:
[Republicans] have therefore been fairly clear, and quite emphatic, about what they believe the government should not be doing. But if it is true, as they have argued, that the Democrats’ vision is a travesty of American government, then what is the proper and appropriate extent and purpose of that government?
Conservatives in recent years have not done enough to answer this question, and as a result have offered voters an oppositional view of government that, while perhaps stoking worry and resentment, is insufficient to build public trust in the prospect of a conservative government. And such a negative approach to the question of the role of government is not only electorally insufficient — it is unbecoming of conservatism and of the deep commitment that conservatives claim to the nation’s founding ideals.
He makes a very solid point. Conservatives are failing in telling a story that they can use to persuade voters to ideologically align with them in greater numbers than is currently the case.
Education reform remains a priority. 54% of respondents want more money to go to schools. That falls to just under a majority of men at 49% but increases nearly ten points to 58% of women. Reforms are desperately needed, and regardless of where you fall on the side of Common Core, a discussion has to be had about how more money reaches the classroom with the various forms of public education. Real solutions with real positive consequences must be driven home. More importantly, those efforts need to branch out beyond the usual suspects. Otherwise, radical leftists, or worse center-left politicians, will figure out a way to tap into that sentiment about education. Republicans (and by extension conservatives) will be frozen out.
Healthcare must also be dealt with. 53% of Georgians want either all (40%) or part (13%) of Obamacare repealed, but 57% want Medicaid expansion for poor Georgians despite the State’s insistence that the cost will be a burden. That split also grows among women with only 45% calling for Obamacare repeal (33% full; 12% partial) but 61% desiring Medicaid expansion. Those ratios are also consistent with Independents polled that matter in general elections. Efforts by legislators to nullify Obamacare is a positive first step locally. Karen Handel is also giving due attention to Tom Price’s solutions in the U.S. House, as well. Both are good steps, and our state legislators can make that have an even bigger impact here at home.
Conservatives cry for loosening gun control laws (with which I agree), but posting a picture of a semiautomatic rifle and saying “the Founding Fathers wanted me to shoot this!” is a really, really poor way to convince voters of your ideology. Only 20% of those polled support campus carry. This is slightly higher for younger Georgians (25%) but markedly lower for women (8%). 82% support training requirements for open carry, which also received high support among the age (90%) and gender (85%) demographics. Conservatives need to tell a better story first and the policy changes will follow. Right now, though, they are losing the debate.
Now, let me make this perfectly clear – I don’t trust elected Republicans to set the agenda that an ideological base wants – an ideological base that, by and large, I find myself in. However, there’s reason for that. Republicans are going to read these results and understand the message – govern from the center. If conservatives want legislators to govern from the right, then bringing people to the right is what’s necessary. Conservatives need to influence these poll results and the ideology of the people answering them. These folks don’t attend rallies when they can cheer on their kids’ soccer teams, and they certainly won’t spend a Thursday evening talking about the Constitution when their children are acting out a school play about the founding fathers. Those on the right ideologically need to understand this or forever be a marginalized minority in the Republican Party.