I attended a meeting of the Claremont Institute last week and watched a panel on the future of the Republican Party. I suspect that every person in the room other than me was a card carrying conservative. The mission of the Claremont Institute after all is to teach the brightest conservatives the principle of the Constitutional founders. The panels of the Claremont Institute debate how conservatives should think about the founding and the issues of the day. Three of the presentations stood out to me. Bill Kristol presented a talk about the factors that made it likely the Republicans would control the Senate and the factors suggesting that Republicans would win the next Presidential election. But he also presented the factors suggesting the Democrats would prevail. Of course, Kristol wants Republicans to win, but the talk in terms of substance could have been given by any smart and knowledgeable political scientist of any political leaning.
Although Kristol displayed mild optimism from his perspective that the Republicans would control the Senate, there is building evidence that in fact the Democrats will hold on to the Senate despite the Republican advantage in terms of the map and the unpopularity of President Obama. In this respect, the Princeton Election Consortium analysis is awfully encouraging. See here. As to the Presidential election, the opposing party almost always wins after eight years of control by one party, but Kristol acknowledged that Clinton is outpolling the known candidates for the Presidential nomination in the Republican Party and he acknowledge that everyone involved has name recognition and that Clinton’s negatives are well known. By the way if the Democrats lose the Senate, they will surely regain it in 2016 where the map is highly favorable; Obama could veto any legislation in the interim, but appointments could be affected.
One of the other speakers Brian Kennedy, President of the Claremont Institute gave a chilling talk. He worried that Republicans had lost the national security advantage in election politics. He thought Republicans should play up the evils of Putin and Radical Islam and he proceeded to worry about the number of Muslims in the United States and speculated on the percentage of them who were budding terrorists in our midst. I checked the program to determine if his real name was McCarthy, but no it is Kennedy. Happily, this message was not met with universal approval. One member of the panel said he was no expert on national security, but he thought from the standpoint of political advertising, Kennedy’s view would be a tough sell.
I do not know if Hillary Clinton is really a hawk. I hope she is not. But she has that image. And Kennedy is right. The Republicans have lost the national security advantage, and one aspect of Clinton’s electability flows from that hawkish image.
Finally, one speaker argued that both the Democrats and the Republicans represent economic elites, but the Democrats talk a better populist game (he went over the top in suggesting it was only talk). He had proposals for representing the people without compromising Republican market principles. Given our campaign finance system, candidates of both parties have to be beholden to economic elites in order to be elected. The question is which elites and at what cost in each of the parties. One of the disadvantages of the Clinton candidacy are her obvious ties to Wall Street and that could plague her in the primaries. In the general election, despite her ties, any Republican will secure more funds from Wall Street. It is a sad commentary in a democracy when an important question is which economic elite controlling a candidate is less damaging to the people.