It’s been a while since I have given advice to Republicans. There is lots of handwringing among Republicans after their trouncing in last week’s elections. There is a general consensus that losing the presidency, two senate seats and at least a half dozen house seats was really awful and that some rethinking is in order in order to change things. Republicans would be wise not to rush back to their political consultants who performed so miserably for them in this election season. But with few other places to go, they probably will, and this class of prognosticators will probably keep their cash registers busy in the years ahead.
They could at least hire Donald Trump, not that he did any better at this business, but simply to tell these consultants what they should hear: “Your fired!” In fact, Trump turned out to be a supreme embarrassment for the party. I often wonder if he is pulling a long-term joke on pretty much everyone. He is way too smart (I hope) to seriously think Barack Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret Muslim and faked his grades. I figure in maybe a year he will say, “Fooled ya!” and reveal he is a secret Democrat. Not that, speaking as a Democrat, I want him or his money in our party.
The losing party is required to go through angst and hand wringing after a drubbing. Democrats have certainly done this periodically. When Republicans took over Congress in 1994, my party went through a lot of the same soul searching. Back then the sacking by Republicans may have been useful, because Democrats were largely captive of special interest money. The thinking then was that Democrats had to tack back to the center. It resulted in Blue Dog Democrats and the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of right leaning Democrats that made it hard to tell if they even were Democrats. They sure did not vote like Democrats.
Republicans may invent something similar, but I doubt it. The initial reaction seems to be to double down. The thinking seems to be that their message was not quite heard correctly, and if it had been heard correctly America would have voted the “correct” way. A significant number of Republicans feel despair. They know their message won’t resonate with voters generally, so they want to cash in their chips. After Bush won reelection in 2004 many Democrats (including my wife) wanted to emigrate to Canada. I can’t see Republicans doing this, as it is rife with socialized medicine and value added taxes. Others are talking about moving to Australia. Surely those leatherneck Aussies are stout Republicans at heart, overlooking the fact that they too have socialized medicine, and their female prime minister is an atheist. I am afraid there is no place to run to, unless a nice comfortable dictatorship appeals to Republicans. There are plenty of them. Serbia might work, if they don’t mind learning Serbian.
Secession was decided by the Civil War, but at least Texans still see it as a solution. They could secede and all the good Republicans could simply move there. That might work for a while, but if one man, one vote holds in Texas, at some point Democratic-leaning Hispanics will overwhelm white Republicans. Rush Limbaugh was threatening to move to Costa Rica if Obama won. That works for me. Se habla español?
In reality, the reason Republicans lost was not because of their ineffective advertising, but because long predicted demographic changes are starting to be felt in a blue direction. Whites as a percent of the voting population are down to 72% from 78% ten years ago. This trend is going to only increase. It’s unlikely Republicans will persuade whites to have more babies per capita than other minorities. Voter suppression was tried ruthlessly this election, but it seemed to only get the minorities only more riled up, often waiting in hours long lines to vote.
It turns out the most reliable predictor of whether you are likely to vote Republican or Democrat is the density of people in your community. The Washington Post published a map of how people voted in the Washington region today. It’s startling: the more people per square mile, the more they voted for Obama. Democrats are leaching into nearby Loudoun County, Virginia, which voted blue for the second presidential election in a row. It’s because their housing is denser, and it is being filled by better educated people with significant amounts of minorities. Since land is finite, Republicans can’t really count on more of their type moving to less dense neighborhoods.
What can the Republican Party do then? It won’t be easy, but they need to jettison some of their baggage and concentrate on what is achievable. It’s obvious what is not achievable. They should stop wasting time trying to defeat gay marriage and overturning Roe v. Wade. When voters in four states in one election give the okay to gay marriage, you know it’s a lost cause. More importantly, young voters simply don’t get all the hostility. Social tolerance is something they have grown up with. Even worse, this one-size-fits-all approach to social issues undermines their core principle of federalism. New philosophy: marriage and abortion laws should be something states decide. End of discussion.
Clearly a dying party must attract non-whites to survive. Good news: Hispanics tend to be very religious and have entrepreneurial hopes. They still believe in large families too. It’s time to embrace immigration reform instead of opposing it. Give these non-citizens a path to citizenship, rather than revile them. You need them anyhow, to do the work you won’t want to do. See them bussing tables, mowing your lawn and cleaning out toilets. Push for micro loans and fund small business education. Hispanics are not the only minorities anxious to get ahead. What about African Americans? They vote overwhelmingly for Democrats mainly because you hate them so much, but they too tend to be deeply religious. Instead of Crossroads GPS wasting money on political ads, why not invest the money in entrepreneurial initiatives for blacks and Hispanics, in particular? Admittedly, this will be a challenge for Republicans. Many of them still rush to the restrooms to wash their hands after shaking hands with minorities.
Also, wake up and smell the coffee on undeniable issues, like climate change. Opposing the obvious makes you look retarded. Push for market based solutions to these problems, like carbon exchanges, one of the better ideas of the Bush Administration. Welcome the eco-friendly into the party. You don’t need to be the party of mass-marketed and mass-produced food. You can be the party of Whole Foods instead.
It’s time to jettison Grover Norquist. He is causing you all sorts of problems and is boxing your party in. Instead of “no new taxes” what about “revenue should be limited to a percentage of gross national product”. Most Americans agree with the notion of limited government, just not austere government, which is what you want. Go halfway and you look sensible.
Okay, that’s all the free advice I have for you this cycle. I have pages more advice I could give, but I suspect you won’t take any of this to heart anyhow. I don’t want your party to win, but I do want genuine competition between political parties. I don’t want political dysfunction, but I do want clear, well thought ideas between political parties so voters have intelligent choices. Right now the trends are that Democrats will be the dominant party of the 21st century. Without good competition, Democrats will become moribund like they were in the past when they had overwhelming political power. We need to be kept honest. If you are true patriots, you will do your part by giving us genuine competition, not slogans and hate. Right now you resemble the latter.