If you are over the age of forty, you have been hearing, in one form or another, the argument that you must vote Republican to keep the Left from turning America into a socialist country. The pitch gets punched up with promises on certain issues, depending upon the audience, but the basic argument has never changed. The reason to vote for the Republicans is to prevent the Left from doing socialisms. About half the time, this is enough to win elections and keep the parties equal.
It is hard to pinpoint when this argument became the standard pitch for conservatives and the GOP, but the 1990’s is a good guess. After 12 years of Republican presidents, the degenerate Bill Clinton took the helm promising all sorts of Great Society style programs, like socialized medicine. Newt Gingrich responded with the Contract with America and the GOP took the House for the first time in generations. The reason is people wanted to stop those socialisms!
In fairness, from the perspective of the standard issue conservative, the Clinton years were a golden age. Clinton started no pointless wars of choice on behalf of unnamed people working for an unnamed country. Inflation adjusted per capita spending was flat for the first time in forever. The deficit declined and there were a few years in which there was a budget surplus. Clinton even signed off on welfare reform, a long-standing conservative goal going back to the 1960’s.
Then the conservatives told everyone that Bush was a slightly retarded Reagan, who would usher in a new conservative resolution. In the Bush years the Republicans had the House, Senate and White House. Spending skyrocketed, we got two pointless wars of choice on behalf of unnamed people working for an unnamed country and they added the foundations of a police state for good measure. From the perspective of the standard issue conservative, Bush was a disaster.
In 2006 and 2008, many sensible white people did the sensible thing and walked away from the Republicans. In 2006 and 2008, the Democrats had huge electoral victories, winning the House, Senate and White House. People forget that they had veto and filibuster proof majorities in both chambers in 2008. Again, we heard the cry from Republicans that the only way to stop the bogeyman from putting socialisms on you was to vote for them so they could stop the socialisms.
Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is you get what you want. This has been the case with both standard issue conservatives and the GOP. That old pitch about voting Republican worked and it kept working, but in the process, it hollowed out both conservatism and the Republican Party. They went from being a movement with a laundry list of reforms and goals to being a collection of mediocrities at the railyard yelling “stop” for some reason.