There was once a time, not so long ago, when Republicans won elections in America’s big cities. Mayors, City Councilmen, Congressional Seats… many of America’s largest cities were controlled by the local GOP organization.
Then, there was a sea-change in American politics. The great depression, and the president who followed (FDR) cause the biggest, most radical shift in political influence that the nation had seen in a generation. Out went the Republican city machines, and in came the Democratic city machines. Over the past seven decades, the urban Republican nearly became extinct.
Proud Republican cities like Philadelphia, which stayed in GOP hands until the 1950’s, now has a 9-1 Democratic registration advantage… almost insurmountable odds for any candidate or party slate.
Now Is the Time for Change…
Yet, despite those odds, now is the right time to be pushing to change that trend. When America’s big cities changed from Republican to Democrat, it was a time of massive social and political upheaval… Millions of Americans were out of work, and the federal government, which up until that time had remained relatively hands-off, was seen as not doing enough to cure the plight of the unemployed and destitute. And so hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters fled to the Democratic party, including traditionally Republican minority voters and centrist GOPers living in major urban centers.
Today, we are seeing the beginnings of a political sea-change that many people people could be just as profound. As in the great depression, our nation is faced with millions of people out of work, with hundreds of thousands who are having trouble keeping thier homes and feeding thier families.
However, unlike seventy years ago, the federal government is now seen by many voters — including many traditionally Democratic voters — as being too involved, as being a very real part of the problem. Instead of inaction, it is government action that is seen as exacerbating the current financial melt down. This fact has given movements like the tea party real strength and momentum.
Once in a Generation Chance…
Major shifts like the one that is now occurring don’t happen often. Once in a generation is actually quite generous… Shifts like this might only happen twice in a century. It is incumbent on Republicans to take heed of this chance and use it to sway urban voters back to the Republican side.
Many of you may be thinking that the best place to sway Democrats to the GOP using the current political shift is in rural areas… places where Democrats are conservative, gun-owning, pro-life church-goers. You may be right. That may be the low hanging fruit.
But reclaiming America’s cities for the Republican cause is necessary — and doable. It is necessary because the GOP, as a party, cannot continue to whether devistating 5-1, 7-1, or 9-1 registration disadvantages in major urban centers. Such disparities effect not only Republicans running in cities, but Republicans running statewide. In Pennsylvania, Republican statewide candidates know that they start every race 150,000 votes down statewide because of the disparity in voter registration in Philadelphia. This 150,000 head start for the Democratic candidate means that any slip — no matter how small — or any missed opportunity could have disasterous consequences for the Republican candidate. Republicans must reclaim our cities — or, at the very least, make them more competitive.
Why Now is the Time
Now is the time for Republicans to reclaim past strenth in big cities like Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Baltimore. Why? Because rural Democrats are not the only Democrats who have issues in common with thier Republican brethern… they’re just more vocal about those similarities.
What issues, then, do moderate urban Democrats have in common with big-city Republicans… issues that are coming to the forefront in the current contenious political climate? Plenty:
- Support for Small Businesses – There are tens of thousands of small business owners living in every American city… people who own convenience stores, five-table restaurants, and newstands, not to mention mid- and large-sized businesses.
- Availability of a Good Education – Most big city public school systems are failing. Many urban democrats support vouchers as a way to allow thier own children to have a safe, quality education
- The Federal Deficit – I know hundreds of Democrats living in big cities — particularly those in mid- and high- level positions in business — who understand and are concerned about our current level of federal debt.
The New Urban Republican Party
The years after the great depression were a time of great opportunity for the Democratic Party in American’s big cities… and they took advantage of it, ensuring Democratic domination of urban areas for the better part of a century. Our current era provides a similar chance for the GOP to promote the rise of the new urban Republican party… let’s hope they take this opportunity to make a real and lasting change.