Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine American Spirit . . .
Organizing Communities for Republicans
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
Going Red — The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President — and How Conservatives Can Win Them, by Ed Morrissey. Crown Forum, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, ISBN 978-1-101-90566-1, pp. 230, $24 hardbound.
From where will the revival of self-confident patriotism come?
Maybe it would be helpful for the Republican National Committee (RNC) to employ people to be in communities and become a presence at local gatherings — creating relationships between the Republican Party and local individuals.
Local Republicans, employed by the RNC, could pinpoint the issues local voters care about so much better than a national presidential campaign whose only point of contact with voters is the repetition of thirty-second ads through mass media.
Why shouldn’t Republicans mount voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote operations similar to the efforts of Barack Obama and Acorn-like organizations, as Democrat success at the local level is undeniable?
And it is a good idea to reach out to young people, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians because they don’t know who Republicans are, and so they tend to believe the nasty stories the Democrats and the media spin about Republicans. Better communication between young people and minorities, who are presently strangers with Republicans, would certainly improve mutual understanding.
The RNC should be well funded and never idle, because candidates come and go but the contest between Democrats and Republicans is ongoing.
Ed Morrissey has written some good ideas in Going Red, but some of his conclusions are questionable, as he seems to have surrendered to progressives on certain issues.
Morrissey does share a message of hope. The RNC, under the leadership of chairman Reince Priebus, is building a presidential turnout machine independent of presidential candidates. He told Morrissey:
At the end of 2014, I think we had over 4,200 paid employees. When I walked in the door here, we had less than eighty. [We hire] people from the communities that we want to influence, from the community to stay in the community, to then meet the metrics that we set. . . . That means not just necessarily sitting around talking about fracking and clean coal; it means having a pizza party, bringing a band in, once in a while giving hot dogs out and talking to people, and then going to community events. . . . If you’re not in the black and Hispanic communities hardly at all for four straight years, and then you go in and try to saturate those communities, certainly you’re going to do better than you did before. . . . [but] a level of trust that is built over time in order for things to change for your future election results to the positive. . . . [To counter dishonest attacks] if you don’t represent the community . . . you have no one that is there at the church festival on Sunday or the community event to say, hey wait a second, hang on — this is what Republicans believe.
Chairman Priebus is running a national presidential campaign and promoting the Republican Party as if these were local enterprises. If he can meet his goals with only 4,200 employees he will be creating a marvelously efficient organization. And he will be training the next generation of Republican politicians, activists, and strategists.
Morrissey’s passion for public affairs led him to blogging and to getting up daily early in the morning for years and commenting on events. He’s become a well-respected radio talk-show host and a columnist for daily newspapers. He’s skillful at taking complex data and doing analysis.
His goal in Going Red is to understand what went wrong for Republicans in 2008 and 2012. He analyses
. . . communities where Republicans went from winners in 2004 to losers in 2008 and 2012, focusing on one key county in each of seven states that lost Republicans the last two elections. . . . each state has counties that are stubbornly Republican or Democrat — but each one also has counties that either party can win. These handfuls of counties serve as bellwethers for the state, demonstrating the reach of national campaigns across the country. And in close elections, these battlegrounds become the difference in delivering their states’ votes to the victor.
The seven counties he examined are Hillsborough County, Florida; Hamilton County, Ohio; Wake County, North Carolina; Prince William County, Virginia; Brown County, Wisconsin; Jefferson County, Colorado; and Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.
The counties are broken down by history, family income, ethnicity, prevailing attitudes and community characteristics, employment characteristics, and the shifting inflow and outflow of people. Population shifts in these swing counties have transformed Republican bastions into “diverse microcosms of the U.S. electorate.” He writes that for Republicans to succeed they must adapt better strategies and messages.
In writing Going Red,Morrissey went to each county and interviewed more than a hundred activists, elected officials, and voters, including Republicans, Democrats, and independents. He used Karl Rove’s extensive data gathering operation, and relied on party officials and radio talk show hosts to make the introductions he needed for the people he interviewed.
But regardless of his careful methodology, I don’t believe Morrissey got a good sampling of Republican voters. I believe the opinions advanced in Going Red, are more in line with what Karl Rove and Washington strategists think.
Many of the people Morrissey heard from wanted to hear economic solutions to America’s problems. He talked to a businessman who had gone door-to-door during elections in support of Republican candidates, but he’s become disgusted with the Republican Party. He wants the Republican Party to stay out of American bedrooms. This attitude is common in Going Red.
Morrissey talked to one hundred people but couldn’t find anyone who supported Republican positions on “social issues” — the people who did mention social issues said they were deterrents to winning elections.
It’s frustrating and puzzling that Morrissey never specifies which “social issues” he means. Does he mean abortion or same-sex marriage? We don’t know. His refusal to be clear seems to be an embarrassed avoidance.
Also it’s remarkable that Morrissey never met a supporter of Donald Trump or a Republican who feels betrayed by the Republican leadership in Washington, as recent polls show a majority of Republican voters do feel betrayed by leadership in Washington.
To make connections in neighborhoods Morrissey also relied on representatives of LIBRE Initiative, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as a
. . . grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community so it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America.
LIBRE seems an admirable organization, but the problem is Morrissey discounts how ordinary Republicans feel about the ongoing violation of our southern border by illegal immigrants. Ordinary Republicans want the southern border secured: we believe in assimilation and American traditions — such as free speech — which are threatened by masses of people entering the country illegally who for the first time in American history may not want to assimilate into America.
There are good suggestions for reaching out to Hispanics who are U.S. citizens in Going Red. E. J. Otero is Hispanic and a retired air force colonel who ran for Congress in 2012 in Florida. He points out there are five or six different issues Republicans could use with Hispanics. For example, Venezuelans will respond to economic arguments because they understand how dreadfully socialism functions in Venezuela. And Puerto Ricans have also come to America to escape socialism.
Otero recently arranged for a Republican candidate to address a meeting with Hispanic voters in West Tampa. Morrissey describes Otero’s observation:
The candidate’s message of competent governance, reduced red tape, and economic empowerment began to inspire the crowd, Otero says . . . right up to the moment when the candidate shifted to the attack and began lashing out at Democrats. Otero watched the crowd’s reactions, seeing plainly that they had rejected not just the messenger but also the message. One angry audience member told Otero that when the candidate was trashing Democrats, “He was talking about us.”
Reince Priebus and the RNC should take note, train RNC operatives not to alienate potential converts, and to take the time necessary to get to know them and practice persuasion — the effort will take time and persistence.
The problem is Morrissey doesn’t seem to like Republicans voters very much. He wrote:
Peter Wehner, a former adviser to George W. Bush, put it in harsher words . . . writing that “the message being sent to voters is this: the Republican Party is led by people who are profoundly uncomfortable with the changing (and inevitable) demographic nature of our nature of our nation.” . . . But if this view doesn’t necessarily reflect the leaders of the party, the more troubling issue is that it does reflect a not-insignificant number of its voters, who are worried that appealing to Hispanic, African American, and young voters will require an abandonment of conservative principles.
I believe Morrissey is uncomfortable with how he perceives ordinary Republicans react to Hispanics and African Americans.
Does Morrissey believe, much like the Democrats, that too many Republicans are bigots? I don’t know. In the entirety of Going Red the issue of illegal immigration is not acknowledged as worthy of discussion, as if we should resign ourselves to open borders.
There is a consistent refrain running through Going Red about the negative “tone” Republicans supposedly project:
Sometimes, though, the Muñozes feel betrayed by the tone Republicans use on immigration and other issues. . . . “You don’t tell a girl she’s ugly, and then ask her to the prom.” The problem between conservatives and the Hispanic community became especially acute in 2007, when Prince William County passed an ordinance that allowed police to check on legal resident status when detained — a move that humiliated legal residents. It was later repealed, Deborah notes, but the damage was done.
Has Morrissey internalized and validated progressive opinion? Has he surrendered the view that Americans have a right to defend our traditions in the management of legal and illegal immigration?
Let’s clarify the issue of “tone.” For sixty years our culture has been under assault from progressives. Republicans and conservatives have been smeared as racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, and “Islamophobes,” a newly coined term.
Progressives are very good storytellers. They rise up a parade of victims and accuse white Americans of racism.
I believe too few Americans recognize the power of revolutionary narrative. There’s the myth of Michael Brown being shot by police while trying to surrender in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s shooting represents the supposed racism of the American justice system. The myth of Brown’s innocence inspired the rioting, the looting, and the burning of Baltimore. The myth of Brown’s martyrdom inspired the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
And the Black Lives Matter movement has been raising revolutionary mobs throughout the nation. And the influence of the narrative is not narrowly focused on black/white issues: A stigma attaches to all of American culture. The momentum created by Black Lives Matter contributes energy to the “war on women,” the war on fossil fuels and coal, and to the war on the “one percent” and the “capitalists” who rig the economy. All these “wars” share a common villain — constitutional America.
And Morrissey worries about the “tone” of Republican voters.
The progressives are engaged in revolution; perhaps Morrissey hasn’t noticed. The progressives have been creating myths for decades (Tawana Brawley comes to mind) and filling their followers with furious intensity. Progressives conjure movements based on fear, anger, and hatred, and once these passions are aroused and directed by astute operatives they are extremely difficult to mitigate.
Morrissey super-analyzes everything, but he’s lost perspective. Until the Republican Party can figure out how to counter operations like Black Lives Matter, and the narratives they promote, the Republican Party will be on the defensive, and America will be mired in bitterness.
Surrendering to progressives on social issues is a mistake. There are generations of American children growing up without fathers. How do we solve fatherlessness? And as families disintegrate in America, is it plausible that restricting Republican messaging to economic arguments is good enough? Can we preserve the free economy and private property rights once we allow the government to take the father’s place in the home as breadwinner?
Using the RNC as a vehicle for improving communication between Republicans and neighborhoods is a good direction. We do need to reach out to young people and minorities. And if the RNC employees can muster up some humility they might discover effective methods and winning issues for the future
But the problem is not one of Republican “tone,” as Morrissey believes, but of Republican morale.
The Republican leadership has stood by perplexed and paralyzed for sixty years as the left has assaulted one American institution after another. The fear of being called a racist has silenced too many Republican politicians for too long.
Ronald Reagan was an exception. He was not afraid to advance the full spectrum of conservatism. Our current Republican leadership seems intimated by polls — as if there’s no possibility of changing anyone’s mind. Ronald Reagan cheerfully and forcefully made his case — and the polls changed!
The rise of Donald Trump coincides with the failure of the intellectual leadership of the Republican Party and the conservative movement to connect with Republican voters and good-hearted, open-minded Americans throughout the nation. Our thought leaders don’t inspire — they over intellectualize — and they don’t know how blunt the vicious attacks of the left.
Donald Trump has been successful because he’s shrewd and fearless, and he has an intuitive grasp of the average American’s morale. He has a simple message that works: making America great again. People are hungry for such a message, and the Democrats, with their decades-long disparagement of constitutional America, are ripe for a fall.
I believe Donald Trump has a good chance to beat the Democrats in November. He’s the counter-revolution to the revolutionary left.
Donald Trump isn’t conservative, and he’s an unreliable partner in the advancement of decorum. But I don’t believe he represents the ruination of American culture either — though perhaps conservatives will be busy cleaning up the messes he creates.
One final thought — of the seven counties Morrissey writes about, Donald Trump won most of them by wide margins in the Republican primaries. Yes, winning a primary election is not the same as winning a general election, but unless the Republican leadership can figure out how to win a general election without the enthusiastic support of Republican voters, it’s important to pay attention to the morale of Republican voters, as Donald Trump has. *