Republicans Need New Strategy II: The Shores of Desolation
It’s 256-178 against Republicans in the House of Representatives and it’s 59-41 in the Senate, our President is Democrat and likely to get two or more Supreme Court appointments during his coming term or terms. The most populous states in the country are solidly in the (D) column, and our last holdout states are being worked on by the Dems as I type (Pelosi was in Texas yesterday, and many prominent Dems are making regular sweeps – it’s the next populous red state they are working on converting to a grape.) That’s our reality and what we must deal with.
Our tide has receded and we stand amidst wrack and drying foam upon a desolate shore. What’s next for us? Will we starve and shrink, or can we somehow pull that tide back?
To do so takes a long term, mid term, and short term strategies based on reality. Neither strategies based on what’s happening in the news cycle at the moment, nor strategies based on worries and wishes will work.
There’s been lots of coulda, shoulda, woulda analysis of the past election but one thing is very clear – many of our pundits and strategists are now betting the farm on a four and out failure scenario and the conventional wisdom that the party out of power gains in mid term elections. While balancing will come into play, we can’t count on that alone in 2010.
I’m one of those nutty guys who likes to plan for worst case and be happily surprised and cheer like a madman if anything better does occur. You won’t see me thinking Obama’s going to shoot both of his feet off, and you won’t see me planning how to win last election, or thinking that we will still be in recession in four years. Capitalism is stronger that that, no matter what the Dems do – it’s a primal force of human nature that can’t be overcome. Even in Communist China and the old Soviet Union it can’t be overcome. Preparing for the last war you had instead of the war that’s coming is a classic military blunder and the outcome of that can be even worse in the political arena.
First let’s look at short term: what we can do until election 2010 and the levers we have available.
With the Democrat super-majority we do not have a lot of options. To ameliorate bad legislation our levers amount to these:
- Blocking in committee and using procedural rules where we can based on specific reasoned points that create political opportunities. Easy grandstanding populist issues should be eschewed as the general public will see through these with the ever present aid of the adversarial press
- Influencing moderate and right democrats on specific regional issues: pair off teams of Republican legislators from their region with Democrats who are on the bubble or at risk in conservative to moderate states. This will not work if the R’s are branded RINO and beset by the nihilistic far right of our party.
- Influencing through public campaigns and the Democrat’s constituency – target the Democrat Congress critter’s base with the agitprop, not the Republican base or the already converted in his area. This means retooling some of the bumper stickers to appeal more to the left not to the right. The red meat we use against them must be cooked to their liking, not ours if they are to swallow it.
- Working through the courts to challenge unconstitutional segments of new legislation. The opportunities here are plentiful, each new session of congress seems less capable of writing legislation that will stand up in court. e.g. a few Property rights and Free Speech cases in the West could get us a lot of mileage.
- Working at State level to supercede and challenge that which is truly unconstitutional – doing this for social issues gets us the FAIL, doing it for gun rights, sound fiscal policy, property rights, and individual liberties gets us the win, because if we don’t pull back the West and some of the North east we become the permanent superminority. Becoming the new Dixiecrat party is not only antithetical to our founding (our first platform was “Free State Kansas”,) but it will also ensure that we become irrelevant at national level for the next decade.
These are levers we can pull – but they are near term tactics, not a strategy. To get to a workable strategy we have to know the terrain and we can worry about the local weather after we figure out where the hills and valleys are.
To do that I propose that the Republican party commission an objective third party firm to conduct a neutral survey. Not a push survey set up to highlight Republican issues like you get every election. (You know the one I’m talking about: it begs for money after trying to push your hot-buttons with a supposed survey.) Make some of the questions on the survey open: don’t give multiple choice selections instead ask openly without prompting what their top three issues are and allow them to hand write or voice their answer.
This survey needs to be of the general public and it needs to be set up not to elicit push or pull responses but rather to survey true beliefs and positions.
We need to also poll our own base with the same survey. We don’t need a Frank Luntz or Dick Morris type involved in this, we need a double blind uninvolved and objective third party firm that’s not tied to a party, think tank, or news agency. Neutral and objective must be our watchwords for this.
Why do we need it? There have been some amazing shifts in demographics the past fifteen years, and the traditional base of what constitutes a Republican has changed, and America has changed as well. With that change in terrain we are fighting on new ground. We need a real assessment. When that comes back we must take off our blinders, blinkers, and rose colored glasses.
First step is to match up areas of agreement between our base and the general public. Those are our strengths so we must make some of those our lead issues, and if they are our strongest cards then we must base strategy upon them.
Second we must look at areas where we are in major disagreement with the general public. Those are the important stumbling blocks, those are the issues the Dems will make grape states with.
Pundits: Don’t assume you know this already. You might have an inkling, but don’t project your wishes on the results. When and if the returns come back read the sections that make you weep, take a look in the mirror and do some soul searching – don’t make up conspiracy theories to justify the difference, don’t what- if the results. Instead take it, absorb it, sleep on it, and then think on it some more before you come to conclusions.
While you are waiting on that survey that might never happen, please pick up this book, and look at some of the factors over the last few decades that defy conventional wisdom and punditry on elections. Red State Blue State, Rich State, Poor State contains a lot of charts and graphs based on empirical reality. It tries to be neutral, but the left loves it because it underlines their class warfare line that the Republican party is the party of the rich.
It turns out that Rich people vote Republican more often, and Poor people vote Democrat more often. Nothing earth shattering there, you could say the authors are being masters of the obvious. However the big paradigm shift you have to pay attention to is this: Poor states vote Republican, Rich States vote Democrat. You can hypothesize about that if you like, but the conclusion I’ve come to is that populous states have larger middle and upper classes. What must we do to get them back?
To me the answer is not Populism as that appeals to the poor states already in the Republican column and not necessarily the middle and upper classes in more populous urban states.
If we can’t win populous states we can’t be a national party. Think on it please.
Update: The Sensuous Curmudgeon has an Open Letter to the Party that’s well worth reading here.
The next installment in this series will map mid-game and long term strategies: Where is the Republican party going to head for the rest of the century? Is it a positive appealing direction?