The chasm that threatens to swallow the GOP

A reader just brought this article from the New York Times Magazine to my attention. It’s the kind of piece I’ve seen a lot of since the SS Romney foundered on election night, but it’s also one of the more thorough. The basics? The digital divide separating the GOP and the Democrats is not only wide and deep, but growing. And despite the best intentions of the national party and its leadership, simply filling the void with new gadgets — important as that is — won’t be enough to put the party back in the winner’s circle:

…the problem for the G.O.P. extends well beyond its flawed candidate and his flawed operation. The unnerving truth, which the Red Edge team and other younger conservatives worry that their leaders have yet to appreciate, is that the Republican Party’s technological deficiencies barely begin to explain why the G.O.P. has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The party brand — which is to say, its message and its messengers — has become practically abhorrent to emerging demographic groups like Latinos and African-Americans, not to mention an entire generation of young voters. As one of the party’s most highly respected strategists told me: “It ought to concern people that the most Republican part of the electorate under Ronald Reagan were 18-to-29-year-olds. And today, people I know who are under 40 are embarrassed to say they’re Republicans. They’re embarrassed! They get harassed for it, the same way we used to give liberals a hard time.”

That may be painting with too broad a brush, but I get it. It was never cool to be a Republican. It probably never will be. But can it be made at least palatable to a wider slice of folks?

Sure. But consider this bit from an all-female focus group, some members of which “bitterly opined that the Democrats care little about the working class but lavish the poor with federal aid”:

About an hour into the session, Anderson walked up to a whiteboard and took out a magic marker. “I’m going to write down a word, and you guys free-associate with whatever comes to mind,” she said. The first word she wrote was “Democrat.”

“Young people,” one woman called out.

“Liberal,” another said. Followed by: “Diverse.” “Bill Clinton.”“Change.”“Open-minded.”“Spending.”“Handouts.”“Green.”“More science-based.”

When Anderson then wrote “Republican,” the outburst was immediate and vehement: “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.” “Farmers.”

Anderson concluded the group on a somewhat beseeching note. “Let’s talk about Republicans,” she said. “What if anything could they do to earn your vote?”

A self-identified anti-abortion, “very conservative” 27-year-old Obama voter named Gretchen replied: “Don’t be so right wing! You know, on abortion, they’re so out there. That all-or-nothing type of thing, that’s the way Romney came across. And you know, come up with ways to compromise.”

“What would be the sign to you that the Republican Party is moving in the right direction?” Anderson asked them.

“Maybe actually pass something?” suggested a 28-year-old schoolteacher named Courtney, who also identified herself as conservative.

Easy to pick those apart, or dismiss, or simply ignore. But check out what an all male group had to say:

The session with the young men was equally jarring. None of them expressed great enthusiasm for Obama. But their depiction of Republicans was even more lacerating than the women’s had been. “Racist,” “out of touch” and “hateful” made the list — “and put ‘1950s’ on there too!” one called out.

Showing a reverence for understatement, Anderson said: “A lot of those words you used to describe Republicans are negative. What could they say or do to make you feel more positive about the Republican Party?”

“Be more pro-science,” said a 22-year-old moderate named Jack. “Embrace technology and change.”

Granted: focus groups are a step or two removed from “The Lord of the Flies,” and quite often, they can be coached to say or do just about anything if pizza is involved.

But there’s enough in this article, good and bad, plus plenty of self-promotion, that even the most hide-bound Republican operative ought to stand back and ask what can be done.

If not, they don’t run a risk of becoming electoral road kill. They will be road kill.

  • The NY Times is full of lies and has no intention of helping the GOP in any way.

    That said, there’s a kernel of truth buried in there – the GOP does have a rotten reputation, and it is demographically doomed unless serious changes are made that can bring in younger people as well as minority voters.

    But that will require policy changes.

    My recommendations:

    1) End the damn drug war already. A trillion dollars and countless destroyed lives for this Puritan quest that has had zero effect on drug use rates no matter how heavy-handed it gets. The young and nonwhites get selectively targeted by these policies, and Republicans have historically tended to be the main advocates thereof. It’s a simple equation – you want people to vote for you, don’t send cops to terrorize them.

    2) Social issues need to go back into the social domain, because legislative approaches always fail and cause great harm. I’m thinking in particular of people obsessed with abortion and Islam, they are open wounds in our electoral prospects. The political arena is no place to push religious objectives, it’s the place where we work out how to live together peacefully.

    3) Walk the walk on conservative issues. The GOP has very little credibility on fiscal conservatism after having blown out the budget when the party had control over the federal government. Likewise with small-government issues.

    4) Adopt a principled approach that works for everyone, regardless of what identity group they can be associated with. The liberty platform is the principled approach that is consistent with conservative values and doesn’t antagonize anyone who isn’t a Communist or a Fascist.

    5) Decentralize everything possible. The GOP does much better on the local level for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which the establishment media is 95%+ Democrat. Local media tends to be much more evenhanded, since they have to actually live in those communities they tend to be more accountable for what they say.

    6) Attack the socialized education monopoly on every possible vector. Future generations are literally being brainwashed in these schools, not educated. Kids are coming out knowing little to nothing about how to write business correspondence (with apologies to Savannah Hinton) and horrible math skills, but they can recite the principles of Socialism by heart. This is actually the culmination of the Soviet demoralization program (take over the university education programs, train socialist teachers who in turn drum socialism into students). Recognize it for what it is, call it out, and show no mercy.

    • George from Cleveland

      1. The bloc that votes against the WOD, will never vote Republican unless Ron Paul and his insanity is nominated. Most don’t vote as is. The WOD will be abandoned simply because its an easy source of tax revenue.

      2. If the GOP becomes a social liberal party, it kills off its base. Most non-whites that vote GOP today are doing so because of social issues. A major reason that non-whites don’t vote GOP is because they are perceived as being “the party of white men”, which is correct. There exists a substantial undercurrent of anti-white racism in the minority population, the GOP will be forever attacked for not giving into pandering and division of positions by ethnic spolis. And any attempt at legitimizing more immigration and affirmative action, will throw out even more of its white-blue-collar base. And further, unless the party purges all of the social conservatives en masse, the media will accuse it of having a “hidden agenda” as the Canadian MSM accused Harper’s Conservative Party of having.

      3. The GOP’s most unpopular policies are its fiscal conservatism. Grover Norquist is an extremely hated figure. The right is accused, correctly, of wanting to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, along with privatizing Social Security. It will not admit that the economy has prospered higher when the rich were taxed more and unions were stronger. Now the entitlement programs will certainly collapse without any changes, but the most politically popular ideas are:

      A) Means test Medicare and Social Security

      B) Remove the cap on payroll taxes

      C) Allow Medicare Part D to bargain for drugs competitively

      Further, the economic realities are pushing towards a single payer healthcare system like Canada’s, no it isn’t perfect, but it does control costs. We are the highest spending healthcare per capita nation in the world.

      4. When people hear “liberty” they here two things:

      A) Removing “morality” from government (malum prohibitum)

      B)Letting Wall Street gamble with derivatives and blow up the economy

      5. The GOP does well on the local level, because state and local can’t deficit spend. Not that it stops Illinois…

      6. The Schools do not teach “Socialism”, they very likely have a liberal bias, but the failings of the schools are because of parents. When kids are raised in a competent environment, they perform just as well as their European and Asian peers. The USSR didn’t takeover the education system, or put fluoride in the water.

      The GOP is unpopular because its perceived as being the party of the rich. “Corporations are people my friend” while being partially correct, was devastating to Romney’s chances. Wall St is incredibly unpopular, that’s how pathological liars like Elizabeth Warren are elected to the Senate.

      Same with “Let Detroit go bankrupt”, that phrase alone sunk Romney in the Midwest. Being a noted expert in reviving the potential of poor assets, and a family heritage of auto industry involvement, Romney should have asked the President to be on the bailout panel, instead he said cynically dumb things that appear to threaten the livelihood of the blue collar worker.

      The GOP is terminally ill. Perhaps the country is as well.

      • “The bloc that votes against the WOD, will never vote Republican unless
        Ron Paul and his insanity is nominated. Most don’t vote as is. The WOD
        will be abandoned simply because its an easy source of tax revenue.”

        That bloc got to vote in Colorado last year, and it outpolled BOTH Presidential candidates. If one hasn’t recognized the brutal insanity of the WOD yet, one must be on drugs.

        With regards to social liberalization – there are really two types, because of the perversion of the word. By the political meaning thereof, it is a terrible idea for the GOP to go politically liberal.

        On the other hand it definitely needs to liberalize (in the literal non-political sense) its approach to social issues. Trying to solve social issues by force of government doesn’t work – it generates resistance. The way to achieve success on social issues is through the society, not through the government. It’s simply the wrong venue for anyone seriously interested in succeeding in socially conservative objectives. The proper way to go about it is to protect the ability of people to choose to live conservative lives, not to try and force them to live that way. The difference is as substantial as the difference between right and wrong.

        On the topic of fiscal conservatism, it’s not unpopular at all – only its stunted versions are. If we’re being serious about being fiscally conservative, we need to return to Constitutional money. It is the ability to print paper money out of thin air in any amount necessary which enables the excessive spending by government. People respond well to the argument that this steals the value of their money, because they see that value diminishing (and quite rapidly too).

        We need to have policies that are more deeply thought out than what you can fit on a bumper sticker.

        • George from Cleveland

          The basis of government is that it exists on the monopoly of aggression. A government that condones aggression against the unborn, is essentially complicit in it. A political party that does, deserves to lose elections.
          I don’t see mankind as having a positive nature, remove restrictions and people revert to the law of the jungle. That’s why government exists to promote moral behavior.

          People in theory like the idea of “reducing spending” and a “balenced budget” but when they find out that it means sacrificing things like Amtrak, PBS, and Head Start, let along Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. True fiscal conservatism would admit that taxes need to be raised on everyone, and a single payer system should be adopted to reduce health care costs. The people want more from government, it’s time that they pay the price.

          The gold standard does not make economic sense. No mainstream economist thinks it does. It’s the economic flat earth theory. The proper response should simply be to order the Fed to focus only on price stability, and remove the dual mandate of economic growth.

          The elections are not decided by the thinkers reading manifestos, they are decided by low information voters. Thinkers will decide elections when low information voters are returned to the pre-Jacksonian status of disenfranchisement.

          • “A government that condones aggression against the unborn, is essentially
            complicit in it.”

            This is poor reasoning. If one adheres to this as a principle, then government has an excuse to be involved in every aspect of human life.

            “A political party that does, deserves to lose

            The reality is that the political party that does has been winning elections.

            There’s something called “unintended consequences” that far too few people think about when advocating policy. By pushing abortion into the public domain as a legal issue, you empowered the government to enshrine abortion as a “right” – if we follow your logic above, then ironically by trying to pass laws against it, you have become complicit in authorizing Roe v. Wade – see how that line of thinking can be extended to rationalize anything?

            If you want to stop abortion, the law is not the way to go (and the past 40 years or so of trying and failing proves it). You need to create an effective social movement to convince the people of the rightness of your position before you can pass a law that won’t have unintended consequences worse than the problem you are trying to solve in the first place. You need to bring young people into your lives well before the point where they are having sex and becoming pregnant, and that simply isn’t happening – churches are as grey and aging as the GOP itself, if not more so. This is a battle that needs to be fought on the cultural level FIRST before any political initiative can be successful..

            You’re not going to pass your values on to the next generation by force of law – all you do is provoke the 100% predictable and natural “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” reaction that causes people to harden their views against you.

            It’s not enough to be correct on an issue – you also have to be smart about how you aim to achieve an end goal, or failure is in your future. As Einstein famously said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

  • pinecone321

    “2) Social issues need to go back into the social domain, because
    legislative approaches always fail and cause great harm. I’m thinking in
    particular of people obsessed with abortion and Islam, they are open
    wounds in our electoral prospects. The political arena is no place to
    push religious objectives, it’s the place where we work out how to live
    together peacefully.”

    Islam is “only” a religion? Ron Paul has occupied your brains. He also said that there was no threat of Communism in the 50’s and 60’s also. He said that shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now they are very proudly out in the open.

    Where is the “social domain”? Would that be with the churches that the liberals have been doing everything they can to demonize? Can’t have a real tyranny unless you get God and religion removed from everyone’s mind, and replaced with a love of the government leaders, right?

    Alexis, you seriously need an intervention. Seek help ASAP.

    • No surprise to me to find you’re part of the problem.

      The vast majority of Americans don’t give two squats about Islam and your obsession with bashing someone else’s religion is a prime example of what makes third parties look at you like you’ve got a screw loose, and to unfortunately associate that with the GOP.

      You’re not even smart enough to figure out that in attacking someone else’s religion, you’re providing the basis for the elimination of your own religious freedom.

      Don’t get yourself too worked up over the ugliness in Islam – your average “Muslim” no more adheres to it than your average Christian adheres to principles of Christianity – principles such as, oh… “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

      Also the rest of the world knows you can’t tell brown people apart, which is why we are losing the HINDU vote 3:1. I’m sure you’re aware (due to your obsession) that Hindus are no friends of Muslims, but they’re rightfully afraid that, in your obsessive fervor, you will persecute them just as well in your mad, misguided quest.

      • Guest

        “You’re not even smart enough to figure out that in attacking someone
        else’s religion, you’re providing the basis for the elimination of your
        own religious freedom.” THEY don’t seem to grasp the concept of the Constitution and the Statute of Religious Freedom. And they wonder why they have a problem with voters?

      • Alexis, you wrote “You’re not even smart enough to figure out that in attacking someone
        else’s religion, you’re providing the basis for the elimination of your
        own religious freedom.” That is exactly the problem. They don’t understand the freedom of religion language in the constitution, have never read Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom, and want to cram their view of religion down everyone’s throat and basically create an theocracy a la Ayatollah, and then wonder why people don’t vote this load of crap.

        • At the same time, what they espouse is the exact recipe to take away their own right to practice their religion. Truly pathetic. But I am afraid that horse left the barn A LONG TIME AGO. The GOP has to face facts and that is the divide between those who prefer liberty and those who wish to impose a theocracy can not long live under the same tent.

    • Guest

      Alexis never said “Muslim is only a religion.” She said it is “a” religion. If anyone needs an intervention, it is the Christian Taliban crowd. That’s what turns people way off of the GOP. We “may” want out legislators to be “Christian”, but we don’t want professional Christians to be our legislators. This is a huge divide between constitutional conservatives who firmly believe in protecting us from religious intolerance vs those who want to impose “their” version of Christianity on everybody else. Ain’t gonna happen.

      • George from Cleveland

        Blatant Anti-Christian sentiment isn’t going to win anyone to your message.

        • I am not anti-Christian, but I am blatantly against *SOME* Christians who one to force their anti-science dogma down my throat. Is that clear enough?

        • Guest

          Yes, George. Jesus loves you. But a lot of don’t even like you.

        • Yes George. Jesus loves you. That doesn’t mean the rest of us even like you.

    • Alexis never said that Islam was “only a religion.” She said it was “a” religion. It most certainly is. If you can’t understand that, I think you are the one who needs some intervention.

      • George from Cleveland

        Islam is a political system and a religion, and is dead set against the foundations of Western culture.

  • EricMcGrane

    The problem the GOP faces is likely not “fixable” in a generation. Righties have entirely lost the cultural and media domains. For the media for example, there’s essentially nothing you can do to quickly change it. This will be a multi-decadal effort.

  • Mike Barrett

    Thanks for the provocative article. Except for you, most of the Bearing Drift contributors seem to be in a deep funk as the world goes by without them.

    That said, the best example of the irrelevancy of the Republican Party is the embending disaster they will cause when the sequester goes into effect. I believe they have simply got it all wrong; fact is, most americans want both other the private and public sectors to work for the benefit of all us. Creating another self imposed fiscal critics is exactly the wrong think to do, and the only benefit I see in doing it is to hasten the end of the republican party.

    None to soon. Their intrasigence is the cause of the deficit, of the loss of productively of the middle class, of the rise of the plutopcrats and the 1% ers, and of the fiscal collapse caused by the greed run abuk in the financial sector. I think they caused cancer as well.

    Just as Virginia republicans have shown their outrageous behavior when they don’t get their way, so will Boehner and Cantor and their sycophants soon be defeated by their arrogance again. Bring it on; then, a more intelligent and throughtful Party can emerge from the ashes.

  • Norm writes, “It was never cool to be a Republican. It probably never will be. But can
    it be made at least palatable to a wider slice of folks?”

    Norm, in the 80s is was very cool to be a Republican with the younger crowd. A lot of us cut our teeth on the 1980 campaign while in College, and later, the Young Republicans. Then something very horrid happened, the Christian Right took over and drove the dialogue to “Family Values” and frankly this is what turns off so many voters, among other things. No, this is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan.

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