Cross-posted from Cold Button Issues
(Edited to make a more modest claim following discussion in the comments-originally claimed EAs interested in using public policy should almost all be Republicans, now claiming EAs interested in partisan politics should almost all be Republicans)
Young effective altruists in the United States interested in using partisan politics to make the world better should almost all be Republicans. They should not be Democrats, they should not be Greens, they should be Republicans.
First, because the Republican Party matters a lot. Second, there is way less competition among young people to climb within the Republican Party, at least within key fields.
There’s a pretty good chance that after 2024, we’ll see a Republican President, maybe a Trump Administration 2.0. Metacalus says it’s a tossup as of today. And Metacalus also thinks that Republicans will control Congress after 2022. There are already 23 states where Republicans control the legislature and the governorship (a trifecta). What the Republican party does is a huge deal!
The other reason is that it will make you quirky and unique. No, really. Young people are so left-wing these days. 58% of millennials voted for Biden over Trump. And the tendency is even more extreme for those with more degrees or coming from elite universities. So young Democrats seeking internships on campaigns or in DC face intense competition for even entry-level roles. Young Republicans have a much more favorable labor market. Anecdotally, in the last week an acquaintance of mine with a CV full of liberal activism was even offered a job at conservative NGO, where she had been striking out with liberal organizations. I think this is probably because conservatives have to compete for young talent, whereas young liberal talent has to compete for positions.
Right-wing groups put a fair amount of effort into trying to recruit young activists. You can join the College Republicans of course. But there are also paid fellowships offered by right-wing groups hoping to recruit Gen Z supporters such as the Hudson Institute. There are easy on-ramps to conservative politics to the United States, and given the scarcity of young conservatives it will be much easier for you to stand out and move up.
The place where this advantage is the most obvious is probably the legal field. About 70% of lawyers who involve themselves in politics via political donations lean Democratic. Yale Law School is so left-leaning that events featuring dissenting speakers are mobbed by protesters. So being a conservative law student or lawyer is probably unpleasant. But if you want to be a judge, being a conservative in the legal field is great! Probably around half of all future federal judges will be Republican-appointees, and there are many states and counties across the country where being a Republican will help a lawyer become a judge.
But what if you think the Republican Party is just a million times worse than the Democratic Party? Personally, I don’t think that’s true. And on a lot of issues effective altruists care about (artificial intelligence, the long-run future), there aren’t clear partisan lines and presidential candidates certainly aren’t using these issues as platform planks. Sure, one party as it currently stands is almost certainly better on average, but either party could shift on many issues. We don’t what the Republican Party will think about artificial intelligence in two years! But lots of important issues are so low-profile that if you rise in either party and land in the right spot in the federal bureaucracy, you could be making important decisions regardless of what your party thinks about abortion or healthcare.
But for those effective altruists who are pretty sure the Democratic Party is way better, perhaps those championing open borders or stricter animal welfare laws, or those who think international cooperation via the United Nations is really amazing, I would urge them to think on the margin. The more awesome the Democratic Party is on the issue you care about, the less value you bring by joining that party. If you managed to win a high position in Democratic politics, you’ll simply be displacing a person who might have been almost as good as you. The more odious you think the Republican Party is, the more uplifting your presence will be and the greater value you will contribute by rising within that party. Joining the Republican Party is great idea!
Why don’t more people do this? Well, why don’t more people donate to “effective charities?” One popular argument is that people donate to get “warm fuzzies,” a happy and affirming glow you get when you imagine kids with cancer dancing with Cinderella at Disney World or dogs finding happy homes. Effective altruists sometimes (although I think this tendency has faded as the movement has aged) like to contrast themselves with people who are driven by warm fuzzies, and present themselves as driven by a logical and rigorous devotion to human welfare, total utility, or the preservation of human life.
But I think a lot of effective altruists, even ones who don’t care that much about warm fuzzies, care a lot about cold uggies. Cold uggies are the things that make you feel bad or embarrassed or nervous that people will catch you doing something wrong.
Effective altruism is not only left-leaning relative to the general population, its chock full of the types of people you would expect to be left-leaning like vegans, atheists, academics, and San Franciscan nonprofit workers. I think joining the Republican Party in such a movement would make a lot of people nervous- about their social standing, attractiveness to funders, and also that icky feeling you get when you’re doing something all your friends think is so uncool. I’m writing this under a pseudonym after all!
But cold uggies are exactly what effective altruists should be seeking out. Disdained, bizarre or even taboo fields are where there are real, neglected, opportunities, where you might find some low-hanging fruit in the middle of a creepy swamp.
A couple years back, there was an article where someone suggested reaching out to Republicans. The idea that effective altruists should reach out to different groups constantly recurs. To Christians! To Jews! To young people! To women! But when it came to outreach to Republicans, the article asked should we “be more welcoming to thoughtful and aligned Republicans.” And this was a piece relatively sympathetic to Republicans and thinking the answer to that question was probably yes.
But I think if you’re a movement that reaches the point where it contemplates maybe trying to include Group X, or at least the ones who aren’t truly awful and are semi-thoughtful, it’s maybe a sign that your movement is actually super-unwelcoming to Group X.
I think this is bad. Effective altruists, or a lot of them, are pretty sympathetic to George Mason economists, some of them with fringe views about education, social status games, open borders, and artificial intelligence. Or open to claims that our moral theories need to account for maybe living in a multiverse. This seems good! But it seems bad that people with wholly conventional views about US politics would feel excluded! And it also seems obviously bad that people who could have a big, positive impact on the world by joining the Republican Party are repelled by cold uggies, when they should be attracted by them.
There are some American effective altruists who shouldn’t or at least needn’t become Republicans, such as those who have already accumulated substantial career capital on the left or are focused on animal welfare in a way that likely wouldn’t get anywhere with the Republican Party.
But as for the rest: Welcome to the party of Lincoln!