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Two reasons the GOP lost (and one reason it might win again)

Two reasons the GOP lost (and one reason it might win again)

Two recent articles provided explanations as to why Mitt Romney failed to win the presidency.

In The GOP and the City Edward Glaeser writes:

After the presidential election in November, New York Times exit polls found that Republican candidate Mitt Romney had received only 29 percent of the big-city vote to President Obama’s 69 percent. That gap prompted Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, to conclude that it was “the turnout especially in urban areas” that “gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.” Ryan was right: the GOP has an urban problem. And it’s partly a self-created one. The party, nationally and even locally, has focused on winning suburban and rural votes and has stopped reaching out to city dwellers.

The cities-as-foreign-territory approach is bad politics for the Republicans: after all, successful cities like New York and Houston surge with ambitious strivers and entrepreneurs, who should instinctively sympathize with the GOP’s faith in private industry. The Republican move away from the cities is also bad for the cities themselves, which have hugely benefited—and could benefit a lot more—from right-of-center ideas.

Glaeser argues that there are issues for which Republicans are better suited to address the problems of city dwellers. Most notably he argues that Republicans with their ideas about school choice are likely champions of urban residents whose children are trapped in poor schools. He also offers market based solutions to problems such as housing and traffic congestion.

The problem is that this is all easier said than done. In Baltimore, for example, Republicans might make up 10% of the population. There hasn’t been a single Republican – even on the city council – in decades. In other words, there’s no infrastructure to produce a successful city wide candidate. The only options are where a candidate would be a successful prosecutor, like Rudy Giuliani in New York, or businessman like Bret Schundler in Jersey City. Republicans might have better ideas for solving cities’ myriad problems, but there just are not enough of them in many cities to produce a candidate.

In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Arthur Brooks wrote Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic. (via memeorandum)

Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.

The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.

Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

The problem, of course, is then how do you convey that message. It’s easier to say “I care for you” if part of that message is also “I will take of you” and not “so I will let you take care of yourself.”

Towards the end Brooks writes:

By making the vulnerable a primary focus, conservatives will be better able to confront some common blind spots. Corporate cronyism should be decried as every bit as noxious as statism, because it unfairly rewards the powerful and well-connected at the expense of ordinary citizens. Entrepreneurship should not to be extolled as a path to accumulating wealth but as a celebration of everyday men and women who want to build their own lives, whether they start a business and make a lot of money or not. And conservatives should instinctively welcome the immigrants who want to earn their success in America.

The problem is that still doesn’t address how to convey that giving a man an opportunity shows greater concern than actually taking care of him. That fact is complicated because our political culture promotes that premise too.

While Glaesar and Brooks certainly identify difficulties Republicans face in national elections, it isn’t clear that either provides a solution for overcoming those difficulties.

But since I don’t want to leave you on a pessimistic note, consider a recent report in Politico, Conservative geeks want a wired GOP.

But a blast of cheerful California sunshine may be starting to light the way in the form of an underground gang of young, conservative hackers in the Valley assembling via a communal Google Document to brainstorm about what they can do to save the party from the clutches of tech-phobic leaders.
“There’s this myth that there aren’t any Republicans out here who are willing to drop everything to help the way Democratic hackers have,” said Aaron Ginn, who with Garrett Johnson have dubbed their nascent brain trust the Republican Stealth Mob. “We’re out here, and we want to help.”
Although the Mob exists almost entirely online, Ginn said more than 50 programmers and other techies are ready to help build new tools to modernize the party’s widely panned digital infrastructure. Many of those on the list are secret conservatives at top companies fearful of “coming out” in the über-liberal Bay Area, Ginn said.

A few months ago, Prof Jacobson blogged about How Republicans got clobbered in tech … Surely many of you have read about Orca too. Is this effort an answer to the Republican tech deficit?

Cheering them along are the likes of Ruffini, the Webmaster for the 2004 Bush reelection campaign and RNC eCampaign director from 2005 to 2007.
Ruffini, who was involved with digital efforts for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2009 election and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown’s upset in 2010, views Ginn and his cadres as “the real deal.”
“It’s very refreshing to talk to folks like that, who aren’t necessarily all gloom and doom and are trying to take matters into their own hands,” said Ruffini, owner of the GOP campaign consultancy Engage LLC. “There’s going to have to be some kind of outside force that takes the lead on this.”

After all the bad news I just delivered, we can hope, can’t we?

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Comments

The GOP has been suffering what I call, “The Death of 1,000 votes” Each time a GOP memeber votes to confirm someone like Hagel, or who votes for a $60B pork laden disaster relief bill (and I say disaster as a double entendre here, the bill itself is usually the disaster being referred to), and the establishment candidates will NOT STAND UP FOR PRINCIPLE! That’s the reason they lose. The don’t stand for the principles that the party was founded on.

LIMITED GOVERNMENT, remember that one? Or Low (REASONABLE) taxation rates on EVERYONE? (i.e. no loopholes or deductions), MORALITY? (not, get along to go along). Fostering economic development by staying out of the way of private citizens?

These are the issues that your average american voter care about, they just want a government to provide a safe haven for pursuing their own happiness. Not one dictating who can own rifles, what soft drinks you can or cannot buy, what type of lightbulbs you can use or not.

The GOP needs to get back to it’s foundational principles or it will surely die the death of 1,000 votes which encroach on our freedoms.

The GOP has a big problem with a dominant media that exaggerates conservative missteps and overlooks substantive failure on the left. For example, we know more about Sen. Rubio’s drinks of water than we do about the deaths in Benghazi. Conservatives tend to speak with a hesitant tone, because a single gaffe will be played and replayed everywhere — and conspicuously ridiculed by paternalistic and “objective” news anchors. The Palin experience may not be a topic of discussion, but the all out gotcha reporting on prospective GOP stars is a sad reality. The level of talent we need to overcome may not be out there. We could use a dozen or two Daniel Hannans in prominent GOP posts, but we just don’t have them.

    David Gerstman in reply to Mark30339. | March 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Very true Mark. And since you brought up Gov. Palin, I think that everyone needs to read this article by Carl Cannon.

    mark81150 in reply to Mark30339. | March 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Agreed.. The media has become NOTHING but a tool of the hardest left portion of the democrat party,.. they claim to be cemterist and objective, but when they deliberately cover up, smother or defend Biden’s clown car act, you have to be dumb as a post to believe they would give that kind of cover to a republican.

    They shredded Rubio over a sip of water..

    and ignored the deaths from Fast and Furious.. the Lybian embassy deaths.. not only claimed there was nothing to see,.. but these supposed “objective” hack anchors viciously attacked anyone who said.. hey wait one minute here..

    It’s surreal.. like we fell asleep to wake up with the American media replaced by Pravda. The screaming scandal of it, isn’t just the injustice of one party controling all sources (nearly) of information, but so many rank and file democrats, rino repubs who just don’t care, as if it’s fine as long as they profit from it.. even if they are in effect defrauding the election result.

David Gerstman | March 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Paul, I don’t think that Republicans lose because they don’t stick to principles enough. They may lose some of their base over that. (I voted for Clinton over Bush in ’92, figuring what could be the difference? Despite my misgivings over Bush regarding Israel, in retrospect he would have been a much better choice.)
The problem as Brooks writes is that there is a problem in enunciating their principles. There’s a mindset of what government’s role is (expansive); Republicans have to start making the case why that’s damaging. I’m guessing that someone like Paul Ryan could start getting the necessary message out that we thrive best when we are politically and economically free(er).

    David, whether or not the enunciate their principles, actions speak louder than words. It’s not a question of marketing. The principle of limited government is plainly NOT being followed by the established current crop of candidates. The 2010 elections should have shown that people have had enough of big, or encroaching government. The case speaks for itself, The marketing of the party won’t change that.

      creeper in reply to Paul. | March 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Paul, you’re arguing for a change that’s not going to happen. I don’t think Republicans (at least our current crop of elected ones) are any more principled than Democrats. They give lip service to conservative ideas and then cave at the first sign of opposition. So long as they keep their own seats and the good times roll on in the cocktail circuit they are happy.

      Retraining them would take too much time. We need to get rid of them.

1. Worth knowing.

But there’s no single reason why the GOP lost. There’s no single thing that can restore them to victories.

Among what I’ve encountered, Newt has the best overall sense of what the challenges are.

2. It’s easier to say “I care for you” if part of that message is also “I will take of you” and not “so I will let you take care of yourself.”

Not necessarily. I bet that a significant fraction of Romney’s 47% don’t want to be in that category. A primary error of his campaign was to not acknowledge that. Reaching out could have made a difference within the 47% and with members of the 53% who feel economically vulnerable.

    David Gerstman in reply to gs. | March 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    GS, perhaps I should have worded that a little differently. But the mindset of our media is that someone who wishes to enable the poor to lift themselves out of poverty is portrayed as caring less than someone who wants to divert more public money to the poor. Some percentage of the poor wish to lift themselves out of poverty (as you write) but that doesn’t mean that one who wants to help them do so will be portrayed as caring.

Bitterlyclinging | March 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Its tough for the political party that prides itself in its arguments as being based on logic and reason to compete for the affection of this nation’s low information voters against the likes of Santa Claus and the Roman Emperor Caligula (Little Boots).

The Establishment GOP wanders the dessert is search of the magic mushroom. Cater to blacks, won’t work, hispanics, maybe some but mostly not, abortionists, never happen…meanwhile their base just says screw it & stays home.
The Kommiecrats constantly cheer for their base, not that they do anything positive for them while the GOP cheers for the Kommiecrat base…

and I give you rove

Mark Michael | March 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm

We R’s need to have organizations that operate in the inner cities on a permanent basis. What they are could be charitable ones that operate charter schools, English immersion courses for Hispanics, or some other more innovative services that are web-related. The ten’s of millions of dollars that a Karl Rove spent on TV ads during the 2012 R primaries and general election could be (partially) redirected to help support these “human contact” efforts.

Some commenter earlier said that “actions speak louder than words” – that especially applies to politics. Just being there and reaching out gets you brownie points with any voting bloc. R pols with districts in the suburbs should show up at inner city events arranged by these various (low level) charitable community outreach efforts. Maybe he has constituents interested in volunteering some time.

Arthur Brooks cited pushing school choice, charters, and vouchers thru state legislatures when R’s control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. There are 24 states where that’s true. There are 5 other R governorships with divided control of the legislature. Those can also do some political things to show concern for inner city minorities.

Tea Party volunteers could help out with these minority contact efforts on a modest basis: a couple times a month spend a couple hours tutoring, etc.

We R’s won’t suddenly get a majority of these votes, but if we boost our vote total by 5% or 10%, it can make a difference in a close election.

Another point is religious: More and more Hispanics are Protestant evangelicals and not Roman Catholics. They have more in common with the many R Protestant evangelicals. When religion and culture align, politics follow. Focusing on the 4 steps young people should to to have “together” live: (1) finish school, (2) get a job, (3) get married, and (4) then have kids.

I don’t like to see good people waste their time. The GOP establishment (which includes the entire Bush crowd) considers most people who visit this blog and most people who voted for Romney vicious enemies who must be defeated at all costs. The GOP is very happy with Obama as they would be any radical leftist. NPR even wrote it was better for Boehner that Obama won. George Bush #1 (“New World Order”) actually established CO2 as a pollutant in a 1990 law. Did you hear Jeb Bush on his book tour in essence calling all Republicans racist against Asians? He said most Asians vote democrat, Republicans give Asians the feeling they’re not on “their team,” but it’s “not really about policy” things. These are very bad people and they all must be removed from the public stage.

TrooperJohnSmith | March 6, 2013 at 4:54 am

I’m sorry… I didn’t see “rampant and institutionalized voter fraud” listed.

Until one-(wo)man-one-vote is enforced nationally, we’ll still lose. (See also: Florida, Ohio, etc.)

huskers-for-palin | March 6, 2013 at 10:32 am

GOP suffers (a) “Stockholm Syndrome” but also (b) likes big Gov’t. The power and money is too much to resist. Notice how they won’t fight Obama on Obamacare or debt ceilings.

So long as the GOP leadership has golden parachutes or their fiefdoms, they don’t care!

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