As I said in my post election wrap-up, I don’t think the primary problem for the Republican Party is that it isn’t “reaching” enough voters. The problem is that voters are rejecting the party and its ideology.
I’m not a political strategist or coalition-builder, but I’ve been hearing a lot of nonsense about how the GOP can revive itself.
My first thought is this: don’t panic or freak out. The Democrats lost two 49-state landslides not all that long ago, and they survived. The GOP was competitive in the popular vote, even with a candidate who was always going to be a tough sell during a recession. The GOP is also still recovering from a disastrous presidency of its own. Even if the Democrats are building a majority coalition, it is such a diverse coalition that it may tend toward instability.
There are two prevalent ideas on how to revive the GOP, and they conflict with each other. The first is that the GOP needs to ditch its own base of voters and reject social conservatism, to become a party that is about fiscal responsibility. That’s less a strategy of addition by subtraction than outright subtraction by subtraction.
Younger voters tend to be slightly more pro-life than older ones. But they are massively more in favor of gay marriage. I expect there will be some adjustment on these issues from the GOP, but the first priority should be to train its politicians not to sound like idiots when talking about them. Evangelicals and conservative religious people of all types (even Muslims) are natural constituents for a conservative party. Telling them to drop dead isn’t going to help you build a majority.There are not enough country clubs to elect a president. Further, the people advising you to tell social cons to buzz off also hate your other policies.
The second idea is that somehow Republicans need to become the party of mass Hispanic immigration. And that they can attract Hispanic voters with their family values messaging (You know, the same thing they have to ditch because of younger voters.) This is a complete dead end.
1) The GOP has never won a majority of Hispanic voters. So why in the world would it invite in a larger Democratic majority? If I were a Democratic strategist and the GOP started saying that it was necessary to double legal immigration, I’d jump up and say “Let’s quadruple it!”
2) The working-class white vote that created the modern Republican majority is precisely the subset of voters that feels most threatened by mass immigration, culturally and economically. They revolted when Bush tried to force it on them. They will revolt again. Conservative parties as a rule have constituents that resist the kind of social change brought on by mass immigration. You can be a conservative party or a mass immigration party, not both. Further, your ideas for middle-class entitlements also threaten these voters, so why would you want to confirm to them with your immigration policy that you do not have their interests at heart?
3) Recent Hispanic immigrants may be entrepreneurial and have some traditional religious values, but they most definitely do not come from political cultures that make them receptive to the GOP’s message of slashing the social welfare state.
So does that mean the GOP is dead? Hardly. And the GOP should try to win younger voters and Hispanic voters. That doesn’t mean ditching the pro-life cause, or simply translating its current ideological bilge into Spanish.
First, the GOP has to become a trustworthy governing party again. Obama, somewhat unfairly, used Mitt Romney’s long ago op-ed on the auto-bailout to confirm a stereotype in voter’s heads: Republicans don’t care about you, they just care about their ideology.
A nation’s conservative party is the natural organ for encouraging assimilation and “Americanization” of immigrants. Ron Unz, our publisher, was very wise to encourage California to teach children English at a young age. If the Democrats just want to bring immigrants in the door and into the machine, the Republicans must be the party that wants to integrate immigrants into American society, to reconcile the new America with the old America, to cheer on Hispanics as successful Americans.
A successful strategy of integration will also mean sensible limits on immigration (legal and illegal). Other opportunities may start to open up. Over 70 percent of black voters believe that immigration is too high. Conservatives already need to learn to speak to urban voters; why not start with the most-churched members of the city? Just like your core of Midwestern working-class whites, blacks believe themselves to be part of an American core that is destabilized by mass immigration. It is time to reach out to them, to assure them that you will make immigration work for all Americans, that the interests of America’s oldest minority will not be lost in the America to come. That seems like the natural task of a conservative to me.