I understand the median voter theorem. However, interest groups, candidates, and parties don’t necessarily have to move towards the preferences of the median voter (at least in the medium to long-term) to win votes, elections, and hearts & minds. These political actors can also attempt to pull the electorate towards their policy preferences by educating/persuading them in general or on particular issues. Therefore, the median voter shifts (mostly) instead of the candidates and parties. A case in point is how the gay/lesbian community (in conjunction with its allies in the media and educational institutions) successfully changed American attitudes, especially elite opinion, towards homosexuality. The Free Trade movement in 19th century Britain did the same thing (and quickly!).
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any pundits suggesting that the Republicans attempt to actually persuade people of the merits of their positions. Instead, we have been treated to a plethora of arguments about how the Republicans can, by
selling out changing their tune, appeal to single women, Hispanics, and other blocs of voters.
Of course, I agree that some amount of this is necessary. The Republicans have been their own worst enemy in many cases (and I’m not talking just about the Missouri and Indiana Senate races). Indeed, rather than calling a truce in the culture wars as Mitch Daniels suggested, they should instead raise the white flag altogether.* But on basic philosophy and particular fiscal and regulatory issues, the Republicans should preach the good word rather than moderating their principles and learning to live and love the welfare/Nanny state.
Tell voters why occupational licensing is bad policy, especially for the poor. Educate Americans about the dangers of a dependent citizenry. Convince people that limited government and the rule of law will do more to return the American dream than the stimulus and crass interest group politics.
And to believers in freedom and markets, especially those who have benefited most from them, pour money into institutes and centers that educate Americans about economics and classical liberal philosophy rather than Rovian Super Pacs that only prove you can’t buy votes without winning the minds that pull the lever. There is a battle to be won. Let’s hit the lecture and seminar circuit and do it!
* Abortion policy would be a partial exception where Republicans should probably pivot towards a federalist position until a national majority is convinced of the moral dignity of all innocent human life.