The RNC has set out to figure out why Republicans lost, and as National Review explains, the ideas are not encouraging:
The Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” the widely commented-upon 100-page autopsy of GOP defeat released on Monday, is quite the technical feat, as the report itself is wont to boast: “52,000 contacts made,” “800+ conference calls,” “50+ focus groups,” “3,000+ group listening sessions” with project co-chairs, extensive polls of women and Hispanics, and so on. But for all the analytic exertion, has the document lighted on the source of the GOP’s recent electoral woes, or plausibly plotted a course correction? Unfortunately, the answer on both counts is, not really.
The report opens with a précis of the agglomerated conventional wisdom of the last several months: The Republican party is out of touch; people think it “doesn’t care”; it preaches to the choir instead of appealing to potential converts; it needs to reach out to minorities, women, and young people. There is truth in each of these, which is how they got to be platitudes. But the action items recommended to address these issues are heavy on committee formation (e.g., a “Growth and Opportunity Inclusion Council” with representatives from the African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American, and “other” communities) and tokenism (the report’s No. 1 recommendation for reaching out to minorities is to put minorities in charge of outreach). To implement this aspect of the document, RNC chairman Reince Priebus has promised to establish dialogues with groups such as LULAC, La Raza, and the NAACP, which strikes us as unhelpful and willfully blind to the fact that such groups are ideologically opposed to Republican principles. A truly conservative minority-outreach strategy would severely weaken these groups by challenging their claims to represent their respective ethnicities.
I don’t claim any expertise in how to win over voters, so I open the topic more with an eye to starting a discussion than to preach to the masses. It seems to me there are several fertile areas for discussion:
Immigration reform – If “immigration reform” were not a code phrase for amnesty for illegal immigrants, I would be all for it, because our immigration system truly does need reform. On economic grounds, we typically allow immigrants in based on whether they have family here, rather than whether our economy could benefit from their presence. On moral grounds, it’s galling to think of illegals “jumping the line” — yet it is basically impossible to legally move here from Mexico. On electoral grounds, legalizing a bunch of Democrat voters is not going to help the GOP, in my view — but that should be beside the point. I think we must do what is right regardless of politics.
Race – I think appealing to minorities should not be accomplished by further dialogue with leftist groups claiming to represent minority groups. All that does is to confer authority on those groups as legitimate representatives of their race or ethnicity, which they will then use to attack us. Less of the Michael Steele approach, and more Larry Elder:
Do you know that inner-city parents want vouchers — the right to determine where their children go to school? Do you know most Democrats, including Barack Obama, oppose this? Republicans, for the most part, support vouchers. Where vouchers have been tried, kids appear to perform better, with higher parental satisfaction. You tell me, how many things are more important than a child’s education?
Do you know that 36 percent of babies aborted are black, while blacks make up 17 percent of live births? Do you know that polls show blacks are more pro-life than are whites? Yet the Democratic Party — to which over 90 percent of blacks belong — is the party of Roe v. Wade, requiring states to legalize abortion on demand. Do you know that Margaret Sanger, the founder of the organization that became Planned Parenthood, believed that poor blacks were inferior and that aborting their babies made our society better? Look it up.
Do you know that blacks stand to benefit more than whites through Social Security privatization, a position opposed by Obama but supported by McCain? Are you even familiar with the issue and what a powerful income-generating vehicle it would be for blacks? If not, take a look at the research done by the libertarian think tank Cato Institute and the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.
Less reaching out to the NAACP, and more Ben Carson. You get the idea.
Personality – A correspondent writes with the following theory:
The GOP is hurting because it keeps nominating unappealing candidates — McCain the maverick who comes across as an angry reformer (emphasis on angry), and Romney-Ryan the technocratic robots without hearts. Unlike prior Presidents Bush, Obama and Clinton, no one wants to hang out for a beer with McCain and Romney.
A story today says GOP ideas poll well but people don’t like Republicans. Is it possible the problem is something as simple as Republicans need to nominate candidates who are easy to like?
I think there is much to this. Think about the Presidential elections from the last 40 years or so. Take any given race, put aside your political prejudices (which is difficult) and think about which candidate the average non-ideological voter would rather have a beer with.
Reagan or Mondale? John Kerry or George W. Bush? Mitt Romney (assuming he could drink) or Obama? I understand Mitt Romney is a charitable and moral guy who was portrayed differently than he is. If you’re a regular reader, you probably can’t stand Obama, and I agree. Still, if you can’t see that an average voter sees Obama as more likable than Romney in the “would I have a beer with him?” sense, then your ideology is getting in the way of seeing how average voters look at things.
There are times when events trump everything else. Jimmy Carter was a zero personality, but coming off Ford’s pardon of Nixon, he seemed like a moral guy. Nixon was going to end Vietnam. No Republican on Earth could have won in 2008 after the way the economy tanked.
But in general, the personality test is important.
I can hear some of you objecting that we just need someone who stands on principle. I very badly want someone likable who will do that. I really wish winning the presidency were as easy as nominating Barry Goldwater and dusting off one’s hands after a job well done. But primary voters are still squishy — that’s how we ended up with McCain and Romney. Finding that combination of principle and likability won’t be easy — but we need to remember (if we care about winning) that likability matters.
Food for thought.