I was recently watching an episode of “Book TV” on C-Span that featured Washington Post journalist and author Dan Balz talking about his latest account of a presidential election, Collision 2012. The event took place at Washington D.C.’s Politics and Prose book store, and among other topics, mostly insider gossip from various campaign operatives concerning the past election, the author discussed something you have read and heard about nearly every day since Barack Obama was re-elected, namely that the GOP has a “demographics” problem and that unless the party changes it will never again win a national election. Mr. Balz then read off some statistics, which you have also become familiar with, about how X group vote in such way and how the white voting population has decreased over the years. All true. However, the way these statistics are thrown about suggest that X ethnic group will forever vote for the Democratic Party and that voting tendencies will never again change in the United States. We know from history that this will not be the case. Voters come to political parties when they offer a complete and meaningful vision of how things ought to be.
The brain trust of the GOP consultant class tells us that because demographics have changed in America the Republican Party must begin to move towards those demographics if it wants to gain those votes. Of course, these GOP consultants never seem to mention that they have had the ability to do so working on countless campaigns in the past but always seem to come out on the losing end. Who better to take advice from on winning elections than Steve Schmidt and “unnamed Republican operative” providing quotes to a Politico reporter? It is probably safer to do the opposite of whatever they are suggesting.
The demographic problems facing the Republican Party have more to do with the growth of big government and the welfare state than with skin color and ethnicity of voters. Since the New Deal and the Great Society the Democrats have essentially created voting constituencies, mostly in large urban areas, that rely on government in some shape or form for their livelihoods. The fact of the matter is that most large urban areas contain large populations of black and other minority voters that have largely been abandoned by Republicans. The consultant class will tell you that in order to appeal to such voters the GOP has to become more like Democrats. One example would be for the GOP to take the lead on passing amnesty. Step 1: Pass amnesty. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Hispanics and other minorities will vote for the GOP! There is no evidence suggesting that passing amnesty will gain the Republican Party any new voters but GOP consultants never have any time for evidence.
The reality is that if the Republican Party wants to appeal to these “out-of-reach” demographics they must do some really hard work and practice some serious patience. The GOP will never out do the Democrats when it comes to government largesse and therefore must truly become the party of economic freedom, liberty and most of all be made up of truth tellers.
Below are just some suggestions that may aid the GOP as it looks to appeal to the population demographics it has had so much trouble with in recent years:
Fire the consultant class:
Getting rid of the consultants and strategists that latch on to GOP candidates will be like trying to get rid of a termite infestation. These people are entrenched in the Beltway and their livelihoods depend on failing Republican campaigns. Removing them will be difficult to accomplish but must be done although they will fight like the Soviets at Stalingrad. Why not make a simple rule barring any losing consultant from taking part in future presidential elections? This will do two things: It will get rid of people who don’t know how to win and, more importantly, will allow fresh faces to enter the scene. A football team that brings back the same roster and coaches from a horrendous losing season year after year will not be winning the Super Bowl anytime soon, but this is essentially what the GOP does. Worked on McCain 2008 or Romney 2012? Sorry, but it’s time to look for a real job. I’m sure MSNBC will take you on as a contributor and if not you can always work for Democrats. Let us raise a glass to John Weaver.
Build a party brand with meaning:
What is the brand of the Republican Party at the national level? The GOP claims to be against big government but the most recent Republican president expanded Medicare without paying for it and bailed out Wall Street. One senior GOP senator is fond of using earmarks in order to fund projects named after Lamar Alexander. Lamar Alexander is also the name of the senator who secured the project funding. Other members of Congress are actively working with Chuck Schumer on immigration “reform.” Just take a look at the last four Republican candidates for the presidency. Romney invented Obamacare and spent the last two presidential debates agreeing with the president while McCain was a better running-mate to Obama than Joe Biden. Romney is currently retired and McCain is having another bout of political affiliation trouble in between his appearances on Sunday talk shows and vacations with Lindsey Graham. Speaking of Lindsey Graham… let’s not.
What does the GOP stand for and what are voters likely to get is the question the party must ask itself. Either become the party opposed to big government and the welfare state or go the way of the Whigs. A party can’t be all things to all people and it certainly can’t vote to defund food stamps as part of a “farm bill” while continuing to subsidize large agriculture companies as part of the same legislation. Is the GOP the party of capitalism or crony capitalism? Schizophrenia is not appealing to voters.
This is where the battle over demographics really comes into play. The GOP must use more resources to build strong local organizations. Obama 2012 was just a continuation of Obama 2008 at the local level. Activists and organizers stayed in place within voting districts throughout the country. While the GOP consultants praise quick fixes such as amnesty, the true hard work, and the only work that will save the GOP, is to go into Democrat strong holds and tell the truth about the Democratic Party. Persuading people to give up living off of the government will truly be a test, but if you believe in liberty and the power of the free market it can be done, because after all, the evidence is on your side. People have been voting Democratic for the last 50 years and they are still poor… this is because the Democrats want them that way. It’s time to say it loud and often. Afraid of being called a “racist”? Well, that’s what they are calling you now so what’s the difference? At the end of the day, liberals and Democrats have no factual arguments to make so point this out with your own factual arguments. Don’t be afraid.
Localization also results in changes to local governments and, most importantly, the school system. Students have been taught that government is the answer to society’s ills and that capitalism is a horrible economic strategy that results in a wealthy few and poverty stricken masses. Because of this young people enter adulthood already inclined to favor the Democratic Party. The only way to reverse this conditioning of young minds is to gain seats on local school boards and within state and municipal governments.
These three suggestions are only a start and should at least be considered by the Republican Party as possible avenues to return to electoral success. Given that what the GOP has been doing lately doesn’t seem to be working, I don’t see the harm in trying something new.
Oh, and by the way, don’t marginalize the Tea Party. 2010 was all about the Tea Party and 2012 was what happens when they are taken off of the field. Even the most entrenched political consultant at a Georgetown cocktail party can see how effective the Tea Party is for Republican candidates.