Informed Tactical Voting v. Gut Identity Politics — I think Rand Simberg wonkfully misses the hard nut of truth in Mr. Instant's point about the damage done to the Republicans by censorious prudes. Rand argues that it's better to go pachyderm than jackass, because, while true that there are those on the right who would strip from us our god-given rights to “get small” and bugger each other, this kind of violence to liberty is difficult to establish and maintain, and these folks at least sort of appreciate markets, while the damn Democrats are deviously expert at slowly implementing their creeping plan for total economic enslavement. (I paraphrase.)
For all I know, Rand may have the political calculus right: the net loss to liberty is smaller under Republicans. But this really just misses the point. If it's the case that the Republicans are on the whole better for liberty, then Rand should be very concerned that Republicans aren't associated in the popular imagination with obnoxious, unappealing, totalitarian lifestyle philosophies. Most people aren't as bright as Rand, and they aren't very interested in determining what political program is really in their best interests. What people are interested in is a sense of identity. If a party grates against our sense of the kind of person we'd like to be, then we don't want anything to do with it.
So, if the the alternative to being an uptight, sanctimonious, moralistic asshole is to be a Democrat, then we'll want to be Democrats — even if we do end up getting shafted by Taxman. And I think that's the way a whole lot of folks in my demo (BoBo Gen-X) see it. To large swaths of the public mind, choosing to put a gargoyle like John Ashcroft in charge of norm enforcement is like choosing to put Michael Moore in charge of the Fed. It's bound to cause about half the population to recoil in repugnance and fear. That's not the face (or the hair) you want on your party. (Ashcroft can't even tolerate a marble tit, for chrissake). Until the Republicans get out from under Ashcroft-like fundie stiffs, the cool kids will continue to stay away in swarms. And if the fate of liberty truly rests in the hands of Republicans, then you'd better hope for the death of cool.