The reason the Democrats have a Blue Wall is because they dominate in large population states like California and New York. They are making inroads in others like Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and even Texas. Part of that is these states are home to large urban areas. The Republican Party has simply written off our urban centers. For this, it is necessary to adopt to what I refer to as the “Rauner template.”
Bruce Rauner, when running for Illinois Governor, did not avoid Chicago. In fact, he went into the city with greater zeal than his Democratic opponent because Democrats take the urban vote for granted. Democrats win the urban vote because the Republicans have abandoned it. But there is one truth: the relationship between the Democratic Party and urban voters is loveless.
Rauner’s outreach to minority communities in Chicago did not win him the black or the Hispanic vote in that city. But, it did accomplish three things: (1) it decreased Democratic turnout, (2) it opened the door to minorities to at least consider an alternative to Democrats in the future, and (3) it helped Rauner perform better in the whiter, more affluent areas of the city. He performed admirably in Chicago not because minorities voted for him in droves, but because urban white voters did.
Furthermore, the database of Republican donors is shrinking. Close to 75% of all venture capital is generated in a select few areas, all Democratic. There are no new, young donors coming into the Republican fold other than inherited money. Simply, the GOP needs not only the votes, but the financial backing of these new millionaires. Not every millenial with money is a global warming enthusiast or pro-choice or pro-gay marriage. But, by ignoring the areas where they tend to cluster, the GOP is doing itself a huge disservice.
A new Republican Party must also confront changing values on the social issue front. What, other than outright bans, is the GOP plan to decrease the number of medically unnecessary abortions? What, other than a gun in every pocket, is the GOP solution to keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally disturbed? A well-worded and crafty law such as that which exists in Utah regarding gay marriage and religious freedom would go a long way in bringing younger voters into the fold, the majority of whom disagree with Republican rhetoric over gay marriage.
One in five young voters identify themselves as “libertarian.” There are many aspects of the libertarian agenda that are troublesome, but criminal justice reform that strengthens key Constitutional protections and protection of the individual, and marijuana legalization at the state level may win some of those voters. The latter can be achieved by taking marijuana off the list of Schedule I drugs. In this area, the Gardner/Rubio template should be used.
Every election, Republican candidates are subject to the pro-life “gotcha” question, and some mishandle it into political oblivion. We need to adopt the strategy of Cory Gardner in Colorado who turned the contraception debate back on the Democrats. We need to adopt the Marco Rubio strategy who turned the abortion debate back on the Democrats. A perfect example of bad messaging is fetal pain legislation where evidence exists that this “thing” that looks like a human can feel pain at 20 weeks. Democrats/liberals point to the 20 weeks as unacceptable, but 20 weeks is 5 months- more than halfway through a pregnancy and in the latter part of the second trimester that even under Roe the state has an increased interest. Instead of backing down, why not ask liberals why anyone would want to kill that human life in the womb after five months unless medically necessary (which is extremely rare, by the way)?
The new Republican Party should be the last line of defense against the encroaching nanny state. It must be a bastion of traditional American values like hard work and family without futile attempts at regulating one’s sexual practices. It must embrace being a champion of the little guy who must inevitably interact with the big guy such as banks and multinational corporations. It must be the champion of free market economics, but to be truly free it must also be fair with clearly defined rules. The excesses of capitalism must be deterred without destroying markets, or favoring one over another. Corporate welfare should have no place in a new Republican Party. It must be a safe place for capitalism, the one economic system that has lifted more people out of poverty than all the alternatives combined. But, it must also recognize the challenges and complexities of reality by mitigating the external influences like greed and excessive risk.
After the 2012 loss, the GOP did an autopsy that stressed outreach to various ethnic groups and women. Reading it again a few years later, it becomes obvious that the GOP was guilty of the very thing of which the Democratic Party is guilty- identity politics. We need to stop the America of hyphenated groups and stress the individual. How will this or that policy affect the individual or family rather than affect the group? Hispanics, in particular, are traditionally a conservative demographic, but we have ceded them to the Democratic Party.
Most importantly, the message must be optimistic. Simply listing a litany of problems and saying “no” to alternatives and solutions that fail to perfectly align with one’s checklist is not a solution, but a recipe for what we currently have. In some ways, the DNC convention’s theme that America’s best days are ahead of us despite the headwinds should have been the mantra of the Republican Party. While their story line is at odds with the very real angst many feel about the economy, America’s standing in the world, and security (especially terrorism), Trump’s doom and gloom scenario devoid of any detailed solutions other than “trust me” is equally ignorant, if not a worst portrayal of America.
I did not watch too much of either convention, but at the times I did, I found it interesting that Democrats were invoking the name of Ronald Reagan as an example of optimism. The GOP needs to reclaim that mantle of optimism and looking forward to America’s continued greatness, not making America great again.