Not too long ago I wrote a column about how dynamic and vigorous the conservative movement in this country was and how quickly it was morphing into the most potent American political force of the young century.
The conservative wave of the future, I called it.
At first blush, looking at last Tuesday’s election results, it looks as if my prognosis was just a hair off, having missed the mark by about a century. On Wednesday, the conservative movement lay seemingly battered on the shore, looking less like a tidal wave than a wrecked ship run aground by a tsunami.
That’s exactly what the mainstream media called it in the wake of President Obama’s re-election. The president’s expansive electoral army of 2008, they intoned, was not a one-time deal after all but a durable coalition capable of dominating American politics for a generation or more.
To hear the tale, the Republican Party has lost everyone in the country except old, white men. Minorities, women, the young, environmentalists, urban liberals – this is the alliance of victory and of the future.
I beg to differ. The election results notwithstanding, this analysis is deeply blinkered. Indeed, a close look at the returns indicates big trouble looming for the Democratic Party, not for the GOP.
No, I am not out in Colorado smoking newly legal weed. Consider this: Mr. Obama’s durable coalition was considerably weaker this time around. As of Nov. 8, for example, the president had received about nine-million fewer votes than he did in 2008. Not all the ballots had been counted, and that number will shrink, but he clearly will receive substantially fewer votes than his remarkable 2008 total.
On the other side of the coin, the Democrats have their own growing racial problem – their inability to attract white voters. Winning only 39 percent of 72 percent of the electorate gives the opposition 42 percent of the total vote from the get-go. That should give Democratic Party leaders pause because, given population trend lines, the proportion of white voters is likely to remain above 60 percent for at least the next 20 years.
None of this is to say the GOP doesn’t have a minority conundrum. Any time you get less than 25 percent of the nonwhite vote, it’s a problem, and a growing one if the GOP can’t make inroads into those constituencies.
So both parties have voting-bloc impediments beyond their respective foundations, but this begs the question, which is more likely to hold and enlarge its base?
That quite clearly would be the Republican Party. Let’s take a look at why the mainstream media consensus is biased.
First, the voting blocs are mischaracterized. The Republican base is defined as a mass of old, white voters, while the Democratic Party is depicted as a broad and sweeping coalition. On Election night, for example, after exit polls were reviewed, ABC News blared out: “Obama’s winning coalition of women and nonwhites.”
Look again, though, and there is no ‘and’ in the mix. Mr. Obama’s base is nonwhite voters and, as a practical matter, nonwhite voters only. Sure, radical white feminists, white urban liberals, young white college students and white environmentalists are there, but those activist pods represent a miniscule share of the voting population.
And that winning coalition with women? Well, sorry to break it to the folks at ABC, but Mitt Romney won 56 percent of white women voters. That’s astounding, and the statistic renders a more accurate picture of the Democratic base: Nonwhite voters. Period.
Attracting a broader swath of white voters is problematic, too. In poll after poll, white voters reject the Democratic embrace of the radical Left fringe, as well as the direction in which the nation is headed. In exit polls last week, a majority of voters – propelled by whites – said the nation was on the wrong track. They reject Mr. Obama’s vision of bigger government; they reject the silly idea of a “war on women,” to which the Romney votes by white women attest; and they reject anti-jobs environmentalism and global-warming doom and gloom.
Organized labor? Unions took a shellacking on many fronts last Tuesday, too, with Wisconsin voters again handing Scott Walker a majority in both legislative chambers in Wisconsin and voters decisively torpedoing a bid to embed collective bargaining rights in the Michigan state constitution. Again, white voters drove those elections.
What the Democrats do have going for them is their entitlement army, which at its core is minority in composition, a superior ground game and technological data infrastructure, and the bias of the mainstream media. The latter two elements can be overcome by de facto effort, discipline and focus, so Democrats have to hope they can expand the entitlement nation, and pray the GOP continues to suffer badly among minority groups.
That last outcome is about as likely as having Santa Claus drop down the chimney. To be sure, this year the Republican Party in general and Mitt Romney in particular stumbled over immigration policy, instead of listening to reasonable people such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Reconfiguring the party’s immigration message will do wonders in rebuilding support among Latinos.
It’s not been long since the GOP was winning 44 percent of the Latino vote with George W. Bush, after all, and there’s no reason, with a policy tweaking, these voters won’t return to the fold. Not only return to the fold but grow in proportion.
The truth is, the party’s overall message fits with Latinos far better than the overall Democratic message does. Latinos are culturally conservative, and the message of individual liberty and personal aspiration would undoubtedly resonate in the Latino community. Immigrants come to the United State not to become wards of the state, as the Democrats wish them to be, but to live free lives and achieve the American Dream.
It’s the same among Asians and blacks. Look at the black vote and already its allegiance to the Democratic Party is waning, as a younger generation matures into voting age and yearns to leave the plantation. This year, 6 percent voted for Romney. When that number reaches 10 percent and beyond, it’s panic time for the Democrats.
At this point, one might be tempted to ask, If the message is such a resonant one, why did the GOP lose minorities – not to mention the election – and far more than merely Latinos on the immigration blunder? If the Democrats are the ones with the demographic problem, why aren’t we preparing to inaugurate President Romney?
Glad you asked. To be sure, if Mr. Obama had won the election, we might be having a different conversation now. But he didn’t. We lost it, and he survived. Survival is always a much different story than a tale of glorious triumph, and this one’s lesson is that the president, with all his entitlements and all his mainstream media support, could not rout the conservative compendium, with its zeal for constitutionalism and liberty.
Conservatism is solid at its core in the United States of America.
Where it’s not solid is on the tongue and in the eye; more so than immigration, more so than the mainstream media, more so than a weak ground game, presentation is why the Republicans lost. As it turns out, the same conservative philosophy can be projected in two distinct ways – through the traditional Republican lens of Wall Street, or through the more populist windows of Main Street. Lower tax rates, fewer regulations and individual liberty are the keys to prosperity for both Wall Street and Main Street, but it’s hard to get the latter story across if it’s always Wall Street doing the talking.
And that’s who speaks time and again for the Republican Party as its nominee – aristocratic, Wall Street or otherwise super-rich types who seem disconnected and often enough can’t remember how many homes they own. That’s George W. Bush, that’s John McCain and that’s Mitt Romney.
None of this is to trash Mr. Romney, far from it. He turned out to be a fine candidate and would have made a fine president, but constantly nominating the uber-elite plays into the hands of Democrats and their charges of trickle-down economics.
What the GOP needs to do is take to its heart the populist side of the message. Again, it’s the same message of individual liberty and capitalism, but it needs to be delivered by Main Street leaders who can identify with the middle class and with its unique struggles and opportunities, and who can articulate how smaller government means more prosperity for the poor, for minorities and for small businesses.
Fortunately, this is a problem that is likely to take care of itself. It looks as if Mr. Romney will be the last of the royal class nominated by the GOP. The rising stars of the party do speak the language of entrepreneurship and individual identity.
Marco Rubio, Allen West, Mia Love, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Mike Pence and others – they are getting ready to nationally deliver a new generational message of reform, and they are likely to strike a chord with minorities and the middle class when they do so. What’s more, many of the rising stars are minorities themselves.
In a Wall Street Journal column after the election, Peggy Noonan spoke to the working class and populist point. She observed that Washington Post reporters Scott Wilson and Philip Rucker had written about Paul Ryan’s wish during the campaign “to talk about poverty, traveling to inner cities and giving speeches that laid out the Republican vision for individual empowerment.”
He was turned down, the reporters stated, because, as they quoted one Romney advisor, the issues the GOP wins on are not the “war on poverty.”
But that is exactly the kind of issues the GOP will have to address and stress to win. They must use the promise of individual initiative and smaller government to capture the hopes and dreams of the poor and the middle class, and of minorities.
Recasting the GOP vision of empowerment will translate into a steady increase in minority votes, and it will solidify the Republicans’ current white supermajority, even as Democrats grow government ever bigger and proportionally alienate and shrivel their own base in the process.
Once that recalibration is made – along with updating the technological infrastructure on the ground – the Republicans will make historic strides with their inherent demographic advantages.
Only one mission will remain before the next election, and that is to expose the mainstream media for the fraudulent empire it is, yet another ward of the state, sailing the government’s public-relations ship in the increasingly turbulent waters of liberty.
Let us simply call it the conservative wave of the future.