I love a good price fixe tasting menu. At a good restaurant, I don’t need many choices. I want to know what the chef thinks is his/her best, and I want to eat it. It helps that I love food, and am not in any way a picky eater, so these kinds of menus make me happy. For others, these menus are a nightmare. Sometimes they have an appetizer that sounds good, but nothing on the main courses, and other times there’s a good sounding main course, but the appetizers all sound awful. For many, this is a perfect metaphor for politicians.
Although the menu metaphor is all mine, I can’t take credit for this morning’s realization, it comes entirely from my lovely wife. For a long time, I have known many people who considered themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Last spring, the conservative Cato Institute released a report arguing that this type of thinking was on the rise. This sentiment is found in Gallup polling also, with people more likely to say that they are liberal on social issues than fiscal issues, and more likely to self-identify as conservative on fiscal issues than on social issues. For many people, this left them having to pick one or the other, because most candidates didn’t offer that combination they sought. Candidates were either liberal (fiscally and socially) or conservative (fiscally and socially), and people were left feeling like no candidate represented them very well. Living in a state like New York, this seems to be the majority of GOP voters that I know personally. Those who think that gay marriage is probably fine, civil rights are important, death penalty is not a good idea, and they might even be pro-choice (at least to some degree), but they want lower taxes and less spending on things they deem wasteful, and have a philosophical aversion to government taking from them to give to others against their will. For them, they’ve voted republican and swallowed the bitter pill of social conservativism* (see note on my usage) in order to get the desired fiscal conservativism. There are other voters who might benefit from a fiscal liberal, but they vote conservative, likely because they are aligned with the social issues, and were willing to accept the fiscal conservativism, or even found ways to rationalize it (it’s just fair, keep government off all our backs, I might be a millionaire one day, etc). Having spent some time at Catholic schools, I have friends that fit this mold too. Some who consider themselves consistently pro-life, which, for them means being anti-abortion, but also anti-death penalty, pro-social welfare programs, pro-immigration. For many of these voters, they voted republican because of the abortion issue, but longed for a candidate who would be more aligned with them on the social issues that they believe fit better with their Catholic values. In all of these cases, for a long time, we’ve had conflicted voters who needed to sacrifice one thing to get the other, and had to pick which was more important. Then, for many of them, along came Trump.