Reaching the Right Voters: A Hypothesis

Thank you for the positive feedback on my first diary entry.  I will return more directly to morality and ethics in a future diary, but I first wish to make an assertion for which feedback and commentary would be most welcome.

Out of 435 members in the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress, 31 are ranked 90% or higher by FreedomWorks.  That equates to roughly seven percent.  In the Senate, only five Senators scored 90% or higher.  In opposition, 47 Senators scored zero percent.  By FreedomWorks’ measure, the quantity of legislators who are consistent adherents to economic freedom are low.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he theorized that social phenomena are dependent upon a small set of individuals who have one of three distinct skills: they are connectors, mavens or salespeople.  Connectors have the ability to reach a large audience, mavens are experts in information and dissemination of information in an accessible way, while salespeople are advocates.  According to Gladwell, if you mix the right skills with both the “stickiness factor”, which refers to the likelihood that something will stick with the receiver of information, and “the power of context”, then you end up with a tipping point at which time a phenomenon is born.

Over the course of the past 25 Presidential elections, nine have resulted in an Electoral victory of greater than two-thirds.  Six of those elections went to Republicans and four to Democrats, with only six different candidates (Hoover, FDR, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan).  In the cases of Hoover, LBJ, Nixon and Reagan, there are very plausible arguments that their landslide victories were at least in part based on an ability to define their opponents in a negative light.  In terms of FDR, Eisenhower and Reagan (again), they demonstrated an ability to convey themselves in a very positive light in terms of personal popularity, but they also were in stark contrast to their opponents.

We live in a time where some people vote after death, some people vote more than once and some people have their vote used by someone else.  It would be nice to eliminate these moral breaches, but that is another discussion.  If we just limit our discussion to people who vote once and for themselves, then the question becomes: what makes someone vote for a candidate?

In the recent Mississippi primary between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, the basis of Cochran’s victory seems to be using walking-around money and inciting voters to vote against “racism”.  Regardless of the accuracy of the claims, what is most definitely true is that one preacher was able to entice a sizable group of voters to vote in an opposition party primary.  And this was the difference.  Meanwhile, over in Virginia, Eric Cantor was ousted.

What ties both of those results together is a combination of polling inaccuracy and an unanticipated outcome.  Behind each race, you can find evidence of connectors, mavens and salesmen.  I don’t know the people involved enough to identify who is in what role, but there was clearly influence that went against conventional wisdom.

In the media, you have a large number of salesmen.  I distinguish between a Lawrence O’Donnell, who I would not consider a maven, and a Rush Limbaugh, who is absolutely a maven.  They both are in media, but one simply regurgitates material and the other applies critical thinking to current events.

Our domestic policy is in shambles, as is our foreign.  Very few people trust politicians to solve problems, and yet government largesse is in vogue.  More people identify with conservative principles, but those principles are constantly getting successfully undermined.  Why?  Because somehow those principles are being cast as deviant and evil, rather than noble and moral.  Is it irreversible?  I would argue not at all.

Let’s take one issue that is a hot-button for us all: immigration.  I recall vividly Governor Rick Perry at the Republican debates scolding opponents of immigration that they had “no heart”.  And that was our own at-the-time front-runner candidate with words that sounded the death of said candidacy.

The core issue for voters is labor.  Technology companies love hiring senior people for a hundred dollars a month and then relocating them to the United States.  They keep their costs low and their operations global to reduce taxation.  It is in Mark Zuckerberg’s self-interest to promote amnesty.  As long as we continue to print money and then give it to anyone who asks for it, the government is all in favor, too.

Astoundingly, a majority of politicians support amnesty despite a majority of the public opposing it.  By every fair measure, amnesty should be a losing argument.  The Congressional authorization for the use of force against any and all antagonists responsible for 9-11 passed by 420-1.  Only a single politician was willing to face a voter backlash.  In other words, politicians are quite wishy-washy when faced with the fear of actual loss.

A good example of the complexity of the immigration debate is found here.  We are taught reflexively to root for the underdog.  We received several boat-loads of hardened criminals from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift, where Castro referred to “flushing the toilets” of Cuba.  We absorbed in hardened criminals along with providing sanctuary to fleeing refugees.  President Carter’s popularity suffered as a result of these revelations.  We kept anyone and everyone and as a result the murder rate for Miami soared.

As long as the debate is over “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free“, the debate cast in the light of “compassion” will remain unwinnable politically.  Remember when we started learning how many politicians and candidates for the judiciary had employed an undocumented worker and it used to be a disqualifying factor?  We continue to value “fairness” even higher.

I would posit our strongest initial issue as the identification of our actual under or unused labor force.  Forget the unemployment rate, but focus on labor participation.  Reach out to the groups, particularly younger-aged citizens and minorities who are hit the hardest by loss of opportunity to under-the-table wage earners.  Emphasize to them the need for opportunity.  I believe that we excel when explaining the virtue of equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcome.

If we are to provide an opportunity for our under-used and unused labor force, we need to throw a spotlight on sectors like technology where opportunities are far greater for Visa holders than for citizens.  These charts illustrate very well that what drives a Mark Zuckerberg is the profits of Facebook at the expense of citizen participation.  Is it moral or ethical to ignore your own citizens?  I understand multi-nationals doing it, but our own government is aiding and abetting and that should be unacceptable to a sizable majority of the population.

Why can we not pledge to aim the IRS at institutions that undermine our national labor participation rather than 501(c)(4) groups that espouse conservative values?  If I were running for President in 2016, I would focus my platform at the seething anger of traditional Democratic voters over a lack of conscience in terms of domestic welfare.  If we capitalize on this pressure point, I believe we can tackle immigration in a fashion that will satisfy Gladwell’s three elements into an electoral landslide.

Why can’t we have a simple platform of 1) incentivizing workforce participation for citizens and legal aliens, 2) tying subsidies (i.e.- welfare) to workforce participation and 3) disincentivizing cheating?  If we start there, securing our borders is a natural consequence.  In 1990, the Berlin Wall fell.  I was speaking with some former West Germans in 1992 and they told me, dryly, that they wanted to “rebuild the Wall, only make it higher.”  They were feeling the pain of the taxes levied to provide former East Germans with repatriation subsidies.

Our conservative values resonate.  We have the connectors, mavens and salespeople throughout the political spectrum.  What has caused us the most self-inflicted damage is our collaboration with organizations that act against our national self-interest (Chamber of Commerce, anyone?).  Who will articulate our values once we agree on what they are, so that we can reach the tipping point for 2016?