All Commentary
Friday, December 9, 2016

Republicans More Likely than Democrats to Say the Free Market Is Bad for America

All this protectionist/mercantilist talk has begun to take an intellectual toll.


The Republican Party has for decades pitched itself as the party of the free market. Since the New Deal era tied Democrats — once the party of decentralized power — to interventionist economics orchestrated by a dominant federal government, the GOP has cast itself as the political representative of economic liberty.

Consider, for example, this polemic against crony capitalism from the 2016 Republican platform:

Cronyism is inherent in the progressive vision of the administrative state. When government uses taxpayer funding and resources to give special advantages to private companies, it distorts the free market and erodes public trust in our political system. By enlarging the scope of government and placing enormous power in the hands of bureaucrats, it multiplies opportunities for corruption and favoritism. It is the enemy of reform in education, the workplace, and healthcare. It gives us financial regulation that protects the large at the cost of the small. It is inherent in every part of the current healthcare law, which is packed with corporate welfare. Crony capitalism gives us special interest tax breaks, custom-designed regulations, and special exemptions for favored parties.

The word “market” appears in the platform nearly 50 times, almost every time expressing support for economic freedom and decrying “overregulation and undue [government] interference in the marketplace.”

It’s that context which makes these new poll results from YouGov so interesting: When asked whether they agree with Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s recent remark that “the free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing,” self-identified Republicans and conservatives were significantly more likely than Democrats and independents, liberals and moderates to answer in the affirmative.

Here’s the breakdown:

As you can see, just 33 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of independents said the free market is bad for America. But 57 percent of Republicans said the same. Broken down by ideology instead of partisan allegiance, the numbers were nearly identical.

In bad news for the GOP but good news for the United States, the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to disagree with Pence.

In fact, only in the under-30 crowd did Pence’s comment get minority support; every older successive older demographic was more likely to support it than the last, peaking at a shocking 71 percent support in the 65+ crowd.

President-elect Donald Trump’s influence here is clear: Trump’s vision of himself as economic puppet-master is blatantly authoritarian and arguably even fascist, complete with state favoritism and a massive tax hike. His economics are not the free market approach the Republican Party claims to support; they’re the cronyism it claims to condemn.

Whether the Republican establishment will (as its grassroots evidently already have) formally embrace this market manipulation remains to be seen, and poll numbers like these no doubt have party strategists in a living nightmare: Either retain the free market principles that have been central to GOP identity for years and face the wrath of the party’s current base and leader, or reject those principles and face the wrath of the largest generation in America that will dominate politics for years to come.

This piece is republished from Rare.us


  • Bonnie Kristian writes for Rare.us, TheWeek, and many other publications.