BRYAN PRESTON: REPUBLICANS SLOW DOWN THE BLAME GAME
In yesterday’s “Bleary Eyes” post, I wondered whether evangelicals failed to turn out for Mitt Romney on Tuesday. The answer is no. My fellow evangelicals turned out and voted for him. His being a Mormon did not cost him a significant number of our votes. Allahpundit’s got the numbers.
So evangelicals turned out and delivered about 26% of the electorate, and Romney’s share among churchgoers rose over McCain’s total in 2008. That isn’t stopping the usual “purge the evangelicals and win” talk among some Republicans. These folks should listen to Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
“While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead,” Cornyn said. He’s right.
Here’s a fact: Going back to 1980, Republicans have run a conservative (Reagan), a moderate (Bush 41), a moderate (Dole), a conservative (Bush 43), a moderate (McCain), and a moderate (Romney). I identify Romney as a moderate based on his record and his positioning in the primary. He ran as the establishment moderate who had finished second in 2008.
The only two-term winners among that group are the two identifiable conservatives. Bush 41 won his first term largely on the strength of the Reagan record, wrecked his brand with the 1990 tax hike, and lost to Bill Clinton. That defeat was a fluke, though: Ross Perot helped divide the right and give Clinton a win with just 43% of the popular vote. Bush 43 won twice but failed to defend himself in his second term, spent four years as a punching bag, and allowed Democrats to blame him for their own catastrophic failures, denting the GOP brand for years to come.
I’m not blaming moderates by pointing this out. I’m also not blaming social conservatives. I’m not one who believes that we add to the GOP coalition by subtracting some section of our base. Our base includes a wide variety of people and we need more. We always need more. Anyone who wants to cut a major section out of that base and thinks that will produce victory is, in my opinion, insane.
- Cut out social conservatives.
- Purge moderates.
I’m a socon and a fiscal con. I recognized a long time ago that socons have an easier time winning in a place like Texas than, say, Pennsylvania. We need both plus a whole lot of other people to have a national coalition. We also need gearheads who may or may not be particularly ideological, to figure out where potential new Republican votes may be, and how to turn them out to vote. The Obama team has done a frighteningly good job at this over the past four years. We need to match them and beat them.
We also need to understand where our brand is healthy and where it is damaged. We won’t understand either of those overnight, and Tuesday’s results are as confusing as they are helpful to figuring it all out.
Here are some facts that we need to deal with. We’re losing Hispanic voters, the fastest growing segment in the nation and one that is still persuadable for both sides. We face a catch-22, with legitimate calls for border security on one side and accommodation and acceptance on the other. We need to work our way through this, or winning presidential elections will become more and more difficult. America is becoming less churched and more secular. That helps the Democrats and hurts Republicans as things stand now. The dissolving family likewise helps Democrats and hurts Republicans. Both also hurt our society. There is no political solution to this, though Democrats can be expected to offer policies that will help them politically even if it means society as a whole is hurt. Millions of Americans pay no attention to records or the qualifications of candidates when they vote. Sadly, they pay more attention to skin color, party affiliation, media treatments, and image. Jesse Jackson Jr. was re-elected from the Mayo Clinic. Highly qualified black Republicans fell in Vermont, Florida, and Utah (but you will never hear the media accuse Democrats of racism for voting against them). Hispanic Republicans, however, have tended to win. But it will take more than placing a Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz (both of whom are excellent) on the presidential ticket to address the GOP’s issues.
I’m not coming to some grand conclusion or offering a perfect solution here. I’m certainly not suggesting amnesty for illegal aliens as the solution. The 1986 amnesty may have been Reagan’s greatest mistake. The nation as a whole has become split, handing Republicans thundering victories in 2010 only to put Barack Obama back into the presidency two years later. But for some idiotic comments by a handful of Republicans, the GOP might have taken the Senate and had less of a drag on Romney. Todd Akin, Richard Mourdoch, Chris Christie — those two socially conservative and one moderate Republican have one thing in common besides being Republicans. They hurt Mitt Romney’s candidacy when he had no margin for error against an incumbent president. All three oppose ObamaCare, but their mistakes helped keep ObamaCare in place.
The fact is, despite the incessant media game of kicking the GOP, the brands of both parties are severely damaged. Democrats appeal ever more stridently to a base that aligns on race, is persuaded by ridiculously dishonest fear appeals on micro issues, cares little to nothing about threats to our sovereignty and security, and rejects economic math. We Republicans are at risk of appealing ever more to a shrinking and aging base. Demographics favor Democrats, but economics do not.
Obama won on Tuesday without winning independents and it may be that Hurricane Sandy and his ground game have as much to do with that as anything else. Barack Obama must be the luckiest politician alive. He might have had to face a crafty and very aggressive conservative in Rick Perry, but for a silly gaffe that wrecked Perry’s run. He was losing traction to Mitt Romney until a hurricane blew in and allowed him to don a bomber jacket and play the role of president just in time for low information voters to decide on him. The good news is that though it’s far too early to start thinking about who we’ll nominate in 2016, Republicans have a much deeper pool of strong candidates than the Democrats do. But the Democrats will probably have that Obama ground game to rely on again.
What I am saying is, we need to slow down the blame game and stop blaming each other. That’s what losers do. We need to filter truth from agendas and myths and then figure out what to do. That’s what winners do.
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