08 November 2012


First and foremost Republicans should avoid what has already auspiciously begun, namely recriminations from all quarters. In addition there should not be any panic about the over-hyped "demographic" problem the party supposedly has for reasons that will become clear below. Keep in mind the big picture: the presidential vote could have gone either way, and whoever is being blamed isn’t really responsible for the outcome. 

Don’t blame Romney. Some claim he was too moderate or even liberal, others that he shifted too far right, or that his campaign was badly flawed. It wasn’t. It did take him too long to find his stride, and he would have benefited from more time, but there wasn’t much more he could have done. He is a good man who had a decent campaign. 

Don’t blame those other people. There are those who are lashing out at the “Republican establishment” (which in my mind is largely comprised of elected officials) for putting up Romney, never mind that he won the primary vote. Then there are those who seek to blame the Tea Party or the “extreme right” and want to exorcise them for their convictions. To go down this path is to fulfill the fondest expectations of the left in terms of a supposed “civil war”  or the heated “struggle over the party direction.”  Live and let live. 

Don’t blame the liberal media. It’s not that they aren’t liberal, it’s not that they didn’t again favor Obama or ignore things like Benghazi and the economy, but they are already a given on the political landscape. Yes, two of the debate moderators skewed the questions  to reflect liberal concerns and issues, but Republicans stupidly agreed to the format configuration. The media has been liberal for at least fifty years, and things were far worse in the past when there were no alternative news sources. More importantly, everyone already knows this, they already have very little credibility left,  and there aren’t that many people left that can be swayed by them any more. Sure they should do an honest job with integrity, but at this point it is more of an annoyance than a hindrance. They certainly didn’t stop Republicans from winning big in other elections. 

Don’t blame the Democrats. They pursued a winning strategy, if not a decent one. Yes they dodged the issues, presented no ideas, did not defend their record, and ran a small campaign. They sought to define Romney quite negatively early on with some success, and micro-targeted their base of various interest groups, who voted in large numbers. I find this strategy toxic and divisive for the country (something liberals have often accused Republicans of doing, oblivious to the fact that they are the main instigators of division), but for better or worse it worked this time.

Stop defending the “rich.” This doesn’t mean the party should start attacking the rich. But given that eight of the ten richest counties in America voted for Obama even though his campaign demonized them, being perceived as their representatives is a losing proposition, and worse, isn’t even true. There are very sound reasons for a tax policy that encourages investment and growth which might benefit the rich, but there has to be a clear argument along with proof that it benefits everyone else. 

Don’t ignore the working class. The notion that American workers are just going to have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up before their standard of living can be bettered is just atrocious and unacceptable. This does not mean abandoning free trade, but it does mean pursuing policies that will uplift this population. We have to recognize the reality that these people are experiencing downward rather than upward mobility, and happy talk about opportunity just doesn’t cut it, particularly for the unskilled. The goal and policies of the party should be based on the statement that “we will make your lives better,” not by more government, but with incentives and targeted programs to achieve this goal, while showing genuine empathy for their concerns. 

Don’t write off whole sections of the country. When the party concedes states, such as those on the coasts, without even trying to compete, it becomes harder and harder to put together a winning vote total. These states have a huge number of electoral votes and have been winnable in the past. California was once actually Republican-leaning and New Jersey used to be considered a swing state. The problem is that the party has become totally dysfunctional in states like New York and California. There needs to be a concerted effort to assist these places in rebuilding party infrastructure so that they can successfully compete. This requires an ongoing organized strategic effort, instead of the ad hoc structure that rises and falls with each particular campaign. 

Don’t buy into the “inclusiveness” shibboleth. This supposes that the Republicans have made insufficient efforts to reach out to minorities, which is not true. There have in fact been considerable efforts, particularly in the Bush administration, and “diversity” was certainly displayed on the podium of the convention. But the important thing is that not one of those speakers was there based on a career of “representing” minorities, but rather based upon their own individual achievement. That is the crux of one of the main differences between the parties, and probably the main reason I favor Republicans. To its credit, the party does not try to appeal to people based upon a group identity, but respects them as individuals. Whenever it has tried to do this it has gotten nowhere. The party simply cannot compete with Democrats in building “coalitions” of interest groups, nor should it try. Instead it should take this approach head on and point out the insidiousness of this kind of appeal, and show that they respect people too much to corral them into a category or group. 

Few people make decisions about their lives and the world around them based upon their ethnicity. They do not view the world through a racial lens, with the unfortunate exception of many, but not all black people. Their individual interests and reasons for voting the way they do are based upon a complex variety of economic and social perceptions, their own circumstances, and the environment they live in. That people appear to coalesce into groups has little to do with any kind of conscious group identity, but rather with similar conditions that lead them to behave and think the way they do. Inevitably these factors will be fairly common and shared with a large number of other people, but individuals do not vote on the basis of a category they have arbitrarily been assigned to by someone else. Thus, the notion that women, for example, vote primarily based upon some kind of female identity is preposterous. The aggregate votes of men and women may produce different results, but it has little to do with their sexual identity. Just about the only people who vote based on identity politics are people whose careers are predicated on that notion, such as self-appointed community “leaders.”

Do not try to expand the “base” of the party. Instead reject the “base” concept out of hand and concentrate on having good candidates who can give people good reasons to vote for them and have a broad appeal. When the Democratic party wins an election political “analysts” ceaselessly point to a supposed coalition of single women, minorities, young people, etc., and then echo a new conventional wisdom that Republicans have a demographic problem. This is based upon the observation that whites are a shrinking part of the electorate. However, that does not mean that white Republicans are necessarily shrinking. The segment of the white population that is still having children is largely conservative. The shrinkage of the white population is occurring primarily in liberal precincts because they are not reproducing. Over time the proportion of white Republicans will likely increase, not decrease. 

In addition raw demographic analysis produces a lot of  simplistic nonsense that dispenses with the deep complexities of life. This is not to deny that there are perceptible voting patterns that can be collated, but rather that these groupings are not the primary basis of why people vote the way they do. The party must avoid the temptation to pander. The Democrats cannot be outbid, but the extent to which they are patronizing can and should be highlighted. To try and crack the Democrats “coalition” and create a Republican version just isn’t going to work. To understand why this is the case we need to examine these coalition components in some detail to see where additional votes can be found. 

Women. As it stands the majority of married women already vote Republican. Single women do not. There are some votes to be had here, although many identify with government services and are not going to be swayed much by a smaller government philosophy. However, some votes can obtained if the well is not poisoned by idiotic comments about rape, contraception, etc., although it may take some time to undo the damage. In any case women do not vote primarily on purported “women’s issues.”

Minorities. Unfortunately the majority of black voters are a lost cause, at least until the Obama administration finishes. Others, however are more promising. The first thing to do is to recognize that there is no such thing as an Asian” or “Latino,” insofar as the people lumped into these categories come from a wide range of different nationalities that have little in common. The party should recognize this and show enough respect, familiarity, and understanding to avoid using these stereotypes, and instead expose the vacuous nature of the Democratic party approach. Those categorized as “Asians” for the most part are enterprising, hard working, family-oriented, and have higher than average incomes. They are a natural fit for the party, and although this may vary with national origin, many are likely to mirror the “white” population in their voting habits. The biggest unknown is what happens with Hispanics, given their numbers, although this will also vary by nationality. The question is whether they will follow blacks into the identity politics that is holding them back, or whether they will assimilate like every previous immigrant group. Anything that enhances their identity as “Latinos” is bad, while anything that increases their identity as Americans is good. Support policies that encourage assimilation and dispense with those that encourage the minority group mentality. There is fluidity and opportunity here, provided ethnic appeals are transcended and issues of concern are addressed. 

Youth. Finally, there is that amorphous grouping referred to as “young people,” and this is probably the most persuadable population of all. It is disturbing that the party is currently losing them so badly.  Some will change over time as their personal responsibilities increase, or if and when they form families. Others will come to realize that the world has not always been the way they see it now, but is in an ongoing process of continuing change, superseding the point at which they first came into awareness. The most difficult problem is that generation which formed their political attitudes while being alienated by the Bush administration. But many can come to understand where their interests lie, in terms of the long term viability of entitlements they are paying for and may not receive, the huge debt they are going to inherit, a stagnant economy, a declining standard of living, and limited career opportunities. This requires clear and coherent explanations that elucidate the impact of proper policies on their personal situations.

Overall the dire prognostications of decline are not inevitable, and are probably wrong. The party is going to have differences, i.e. between people of strong faith and libertarians, but neither has to be subsumed by the other. What is needed is an overriding purpose on the order of the way strong opposition to communism once united various factions. In my view that ought to consist of the elevation of the individual as the primary focus of our efforts, with complete disregard for group characteristics. This represents a respect for their intelligence, an appeal to their better nature, and the integrity of principle. For in an age of ever increasing individual autonomy it is the notion of group identity that is likely to become obsolete. It will come to be perceived as laughably simplistic, if not downright insulting, and to the extent it continues to be emphasized, it is the other party that will come to be perceived as hopelessly stuck in the past. 

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