Monday, July 30, 2007

Do Republicans Want to Win National Elections?

Welcome to another Palin fan, OpinionatedCatholic, whose blog is listed on the roll. He's also a LSU Tiger fan and has great insight into FL politics. Welcome.

Mike Huckabee, "I'm a conservative, but I'm not mad at everybody over it."

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." C. S. Lewis (from ThePinkFlamingo blog)

Many years ago, I used to go to meetings of a group called The Philadelphia Society -- which met not in Philly, but in Chicago. The members included a variety of conservatives -- ranging from social traditionalists (like me) to economic and social libertarians.

I was amazed by the libertarians. Many of them wanted to do things like privatize fire and police departments, as well as correctional institutions and public parks -- ideas that may make some economic sense. Others wanted to decriminalize drugs and repeal laws against pornography.

I'd ask such people how they would ever sell such views to the American public. In other words, how could candidates running on such programs ever get elected? They'd look at me as if I were from another planet.

It soon became clear they weren't interested in policy proposals that would win votes. Instead, they were committed to ideological consistency and to keeping government entirely out of people's lives. They had no interest in appealing to ordinary voters -- most of whom are moderates -- whom they seemingly saw as The Great Unwashed.

Nowadays, I sometimes feel the same way when I read the comments on Townhall or Red State. On those sites, people who claim to be conservatives spend most of their time attacking elected officials who are, well, conservatives, such as George Bush, Jon Kyl, and John McCain. They're much more interested in preserving ideological consistency than in winning elections. Most ominously, they're willing to offend any group, no matter how large and important, that doesn't agree with their political "philosophy."

One concept I've lived by says: "Politics is the art of the possible." I'd modify it to add the following: "Politics is the art of the (ideologically) imperfect." Also, "Politics depends for its success on compromise." It does so because any politics worthy of the name demands building coalitions of diverse people that add up to electoral majorities.

Let's get very specific about what we Republicans -- a group consisting of conservatives and moderates -- need to do to win elections. If we don't win at least some of them, then we'll have no real say on issues like immigration, the appointment of Supreme Court justices, and the War on Terror.

Right now, we Republicans have a problem getting votes from many large groups, including: Blacks (40 million in the U.S.), Hispanics (45 million legal ones in the U.S.), women professionals (teachers, journalists, doctors, lawyers, businesswomen), and young people 18-30 (who voted Democratic in 2006 by 61% to 39%). Gee, why did we lose the 2006 election so badly?

In the 2008 election, it looks as if we'll get less of the important Hispanic vote -- perhaps a lot less -- than we did in 2004 and 2006, and that's downright ominous. On CNN's "Wolf Blitzer" program yesterday (Sunday), Ken Blackwell, a Black conservative who ran for governor of Ohio, discussed Republicans and the Black vote.

Blackwell, a fine man, was very candid in his remarks. He said it now appeared the Republican candidate for President in 2008 would get about 8% of the Black vote. Of course, that makes it very difficult to win states like California, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois.

Along with another guest, the head of the National Urban League, Blackwell noted that only one Republican candidate -- Mike Huckabee -- has appeared at the recent Urban League conference. All had been invited.

Ken Blackwell suggested that the Republican candidates had largely written off the Black vote. He added that the Party's main concern was "to stop the bleeding" with the Hispanic vote. The main reason that vote is bleeding away is the perception that Republicans are anti-Hispanic, one of the sad results of the recent immigration debacle.

Republican congressman Bobby Inglis of South Carolina spoke some months ago about a racial issue confronting Republicans. He said that the Party was in danger of becoming a Caucasian people's group, mainly male. That's in fact happening, and it's an electoral disaster in the making.

Any Republican candidate for President who isn't talking regularly -- and compellingly -- about what he'll do to attract new voters, including Blacks, female professionals, and Hispanics, is just blowing smoke. He would be setting himself up to lose not only the states I've mentioned, but also Florida, where the Hispanic vote is essential to Republicans.

Giuliani is talking about it some and so is McCain, and more power to them. But where are the others?

I frankly have no interest in ANY candidate -- no matter how much he wants to preserve life or secure our borders -- IF he insists on putting himself in a position to be a sure loser.

The winner gets to appoint the Supreme Court justices. The loser gets to complain about them.

One reason I support Sarah Palin so strongly is that she's a candidate who can gain approval from people who disagree with her on one or more significant issues. A person like that is known as a leader.

The most recent poll from Alaska shows that only 5% of the residents of that state disapprove of Sarah's leadership. She's a healer, not a divider or polarizer, and this is a country desperately in need of healing.

Republican candidates for president and vice-president need to stand up and face political reality. Merely pandering to a tiny conservative base is not enough to make the Party a real player in national elections.

7 comments:

Christopher said...

Steve,

Once again with a great post like this you show me why your blog is defintly one of my favs. Talking and arguing with "conservative- conservative" Republicans is getting tiring. If we do not put a more moderate view as a party 2008 is all but lost. Even I am ready to vote for a Democrat, never a good sign.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Christopher, hang in there. Most Americans and most Republicans are moderate. The primary season brings out the absolute worst in both Republicans and Democrats. It's okay for people to focus on specific issues, but when that becomes the be-all and end-all of their politics, they get creepy. Sarah has said that she has gay friends, something that could get held against her, I suppose, but to me it's a sign she's a real person and not some right-wing recording. I get accused (correctly) of believing in "the politics of love," which means our greatest religious tradition says we're supposed to love other people. If we hate them, we're not paying attention.

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Larry Perrault said...

Stephen:

I received an email from you that appeared to be prompted by your observation that I am a Huckabee supporter. I still need to investigate your comments and links with regard to Sarah Palin. But prima facie, it sounds interesting demographically: an able and popular Western female governor. But of course, the advicacy needs to be primarily directed at the presidential candidate who will agree with a running mate, not to me, who has no power or position with a campaign, other than as a booster.

But in aging, I have come to real;ize that before voicing anything like disagreement, it is important to emphasize that which you agree on. In this cvase, you are absolutely correct that we should not only not write off demographic populations, we should actively solicit them, explaing that what be believe is right, we believe is good for EVERYONE, including their specific population. And, you are right that Narcissistic posturing that abandons the interest of success is a forlorn pursuit, and criticising thse we regard as heretics to principe is just as imprudent" probably more so.

However, I sincerely believe it is important to hold up ideals for the things, especially the principles, you believe in. Not in shrill criticism, but in positive terms, always talking about IDEAS, not individual PEOPLE.

Why? Not for your own satisfaction, but beacause the truth has its own power and if it is not held forth, will fade and lose its distinction as an ideal. Unfortunately today, too many manifestly true and formerly obvious principles have been abandoned to the lifeless status of just another (uncompelling) principle.

If you are pro-life for example, it is insufficient to cede that the sanctity of human life has no value except as just another feeling. The sanctity of life is not just another opinion: Respecting human life is fundamental to the long-term maintenance of American justice and a civil society. Other all-but-forgotten principles are similarly crucial and/or necessary to optimize our social life.

So, let's not condemn especially a brave and commited American like John McCain, for example. But, someone who does not understand a fundamental constitutional principal like the freedom of speech may be well-equipped for another job, but not to be chief executive officer charged with protecting and defending the constitution that he doesn't understand. When we cede that he is, we have tossed that principle to the wind, and a nation thast does that will mostly not understand or appreciate that principle, itself, soon enough. I was just discussing with some people yesterday, that federal minimu wage laws are a corruption of free markets that hurts above all, those people that it supposes to help, cutting off the bottom rungs of the labor ladder and the important lesson of learning to develop, value, and negotiate your own worth. Anyway, to most Americans, Democrat or Republican, that idea that used to be common-sense, might as well be Greek, today.

Practically, we hardly disagree: attacking fellow Republicans is the wrong thing to do, both morally and practically. But, people emphasize the primacy of "winning." At some point we can ask, "Winning what?" Abandoning the necessity of true principles is a recipe for long-term failure, even if winning by losing. I don't want a failing America to be a Republican America.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Larry, thanks for the long and thoughtful comment. I agree that winning isn't everything, but in politics principles don't mean anything if they remain forever unfulfilled. If you lose often enough -- and that may happen to us -- you eventually put up a "going out of business" sign. People should believe in their principles enough to fight for them, to make them something more than academic concerns. We Republicans seem to excell at winning battles (the immigration debate) and losing wars (the Hispanic vote). Political parties that do that regularly have lost their raison d'etre and, like the Whigs and Free Silver Parties of yesteryear, they go out of business. Should the presidential candidate be the only one who has a say in who his V-P will be? We've tried that in the past 50 years, and we've ended up with Spiro T. Agnew and Dan Quayle, among others. Agnew did great damage to the Party and Quayle had no future. The polls seem to indicate that the head of the ticket alone can't win this year's race (something that's admittedly not a certainty). The tremendous fundraising differential is scary. It reflects the "voting" of people with influence and money. We want to begin a process (Sarah for V-P in 2008) where the first female President (in 2012 or 2016) will be Sarah Heath Palin, not Hillary Rodham Clinton. Read the Fred Barnes article again and ask, "What other candidate for any office would merit such praise?" Larry, thanks very much for writing. Please join us.

Larry Perrault said...

Stephen:

I returned your email and ran the text through a spell-check which caught the typos that my half-blind self didn't

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Larry, you do better "half-blind" than most people do with 20-20. When I got adult onset diabetes three years ago I had blurry vision, which of course I assumed must mean there was something wrong with my glasses. I don't know why in God's great universe people get MS. I assume when we get to heaven, there will be a question period :-)