Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

"If you are to be an alternative, you have to be where the alternative is needed."

J.C. Watts points to what should be obvious for GOP operatives. I note his article mainly because, in itself, it makes a powerful argument against the GOP front-runners and their operatives who seem to be doing nothing to cultivate support among blacks. Beyond that, however, consider this:

I can, without fear of contradiction, assure you the Conventional Wisdom Caucus and the Status Quo Caucus and the same-old-tired-establishment consultants are running the GOP front-runners’ campaigns -- and aiming to get no more than 1/12th of the black vote.
If that is true--how much more is true? How many other important opportunities are being ignored? If the "Conventional Wisdom Caucus and the Status Quo Caucus and the same-old-tired-establishment consultants" really are running the GOP front-runners’ campaigns to the extent that Watts posits, I expect this won’t be the only lost opportunity for the GOP this campaign season. If any group of individuals should have lost their jobs after the ’06 mid-terms (apart from the losing incumbents) it ought to have been the representatives of that (old) school of politics Watts condemns. If this political season is one in which the strength of the base is supposed to be questionable, I would think the smart money would work--not simply at begging that base to remain intact--but also at growing it. This does not mean that GOP candidates should approach new forums with their hats in their hands offering bread and circuses. That’s the "white guilt" of Democrats. The Republican version of "white guilt" is to ignore the problem or pander in half-steps. I am tired of white guilt in all its forms. Why can’t a Republican stand up, say what needs to be said and, thereby, do his audience the honor of treating them like thinking men and women. The MSM and the Dems will try to demonize such a candidate. But the candidate may be surprised to see growing respect and even support from those who seem to get no honest respect elsewhere.

Discussions - 12 Comments

The GOP seems to be doing everything in its power to be a minority party.

The latest Big Idea is to give statehood to Puerto Ricio. Bush and the GOP House leaders are behind this. It will give the Democrats two more Senators and seven more Representatives.

Can you say "Stupid Party"?

Seriously, the Democrats deserve to win if we're going to be this stupid.

Republican candidates should go wherever they can get a receptive audience. They should make reasonable efforts to meet and speak with black leaders and voters who have a genuine interest in Republican principles -- as distinct from mere disappointment in the Democratic party. More than this is a waste of time in a close election. Serious Republican leaders won't be guilt-tripped into reparations for our party's imagined "sins" in the past.

On the contrary, I think a serious exploration of the reasons for the disaffection of many blacks with the Democratic party would yield very interesting and promising results for Republicans. It might not have produced that much agreement, but it could have produced much more clarity. It could have done much to reverse perceptions in the minds--not just of blacks--but of many others that Republicans are blind to these issues. The candidate who ventured down that road would not have an easy time of it, to be sure. But it is necessary. I don't think any serious candidate for president should have indulged himself with excuses like "it's a waste of time" in this instance. They were not asked to appear before an audience of 9/11 Truthers or representatives of the KKK. It would not have been a friendly audience--that's probably true. But if no GOP front-runner imagined that he could get any percentage of that group thinking, I have to question their respective abilities to get anyone thinking. This was a lost opportunity. It is foolish to "white" wash it.

It's all a matter of priorities. There are the nice-to-haves and nice-to-dos, and there are the imperative political tasks. In an extremely challenging political environment in '08, it would be foolish to spend much time, let alone other resources, chasing black votes and endorsements. Here and there, of course, it's a good thing. But no one denies that. The question is whether this should be a major priority for the Republican party. Beyond psychological, feel-good reasons, I see no reason why it should. The Clintons have special purchase on this vote, and that won't change in 2008. If someone wants to convince me I'm wrong, fine. But don't give me "produce more clarity." A campaign is not a seminar. The object is votes, not education. Hopefully some education happens. But if education is the only argument for making the black vote (12 percent instead of 10 percent?) a priority in terms of outreach, then there is no argument at all, in the context of a difficult campaign where every day, every hour, counts.

David Frisk is spot-on. The chances of harvesting a significant percentage of the black vote for the GOP in '08 are like that of Bush in '00 or '04 trying to take California. Massive dollars spent; no gain.

That's not to say the GOP should alienate the black vote. That's not to say the GOP should do nothing to address black voter discontent with the Democrats. The GOP should do reasonable and rational things to court that vote, but not unreasonable or irrational things.

Seriously, the Democrats deserve to win if we're going to be this stupid.

What you said, John.

Please tell me Don and David that you two--in many ways reasonable people--don't actually believe that the only thing at stake in this is a measly 2% of the so-called black vote. Do you know how condescending, patronizing and dismissive you sound? David Frisk is fond of telling us that it's all about "presentation" or "priorities" . . . which is it? Last week it was the former, this week it's the latter. And isn't that rather the problem? The right answer is that it's neither. It ought to be--at some important level--all about principles. And when candidates aren't man enough to stand for them--even where their reception isn't guaranteed to be welcoming--they lose more than that 2% you're talking about. Politics is about education too--at least as much as it is about "presentation" and "priorities." Do you forget that new voters are forming opinions every day? What must they think when they hear things like this?

This damages the party. It makes us look weak and guilty. It damages the argument. More important, it damages the truth by allowing the argument to continue apace in the absence of thoughtful and adequate rebuttal. And, ultimately, this kind of thing further damages the country and further divides us.

You may think there is something more pressing and important than the central organizing and founding principle of the Republican party. I don't. We should own that issue as a party, not run from it. I want to win but I want to win right. Winning that way is the only way we can actually heal the country and strengthen and unify ourselves enough to fight our enemies abroad. If you don't see the potential this has for unwinding the Democratic machine your imagination is, indeed, quite limited. An avalanche very often starts with just a few rocks falling out of place.

A candidate who refuses to waste his very limited time is not lacking in manliness. You should really learn that name-calling is effective (with a presumably intelligent readership, that is) only when it has some mental clarity behind it. I find it hard to respond to the rest of your post, Julie. It strikes me as not much more than a complaint that a campaign should be primarily an educational process. Well, it's not primarily an educational process. It's a matter of motivating people who already agree with you, and pushing the emotional buttons of those who half-agree with you in such a way that they agree with you more. Sometimes it's also about demoralizing those who strongly disagree with you. Republican politicans can play teacher in the odd-numbered years. At times, it's not only an honorable role, but a productive one. A presidential election in which our odds of winning are about 1 in 3 is not one of those times. The key to winning this one is not a handful of black voters who are questioning -- and only questioning, not repudiating -- Democratic premises. While we should help that process along, we should not make it a priority. We need to think about fruit that will mature by November of 2008, not four years later. In addition, anyone who thinks the goal of a presidential campaign is to "heal the country" is thinking in spiritual terms, not political ones. The analogy simply doesn't work. What we need is to stop forces that are damaging the country. To me, most of these forces are incarnated, represented, and strengthened by the victory of any plausible Democratic nominee.

Julie, I also find it hard to credit the political seriousness, let alone the political wisdom, of anyone who says or agrees that the Republicans "deserve" to lose to the Democrats. This is true only if one sees no moral difference between the parties. I doubt that even you can, or would try to, defend such a silly proposition. But then, I have been unpleasantly surprised by your comments in the past.

If our chances of winning are only about 1 in 3 what good will it do us if we only motivate the people who already agree with us, push the buttons of those who half-agree and demoralize those who don't. Welcome to 2006 again. At such times it's probably a better strategy to dig deep and try something bold. Leaving aside the fact that this is the right thing to do in and of itself, I think your assumptions are all wrong. 2%?! I don't think so. I think this block of voters is the most vulnerable point the Dems have--and they know it. If they didn't know it they wouldn't be so eager to pin racism on Republicans all the time. If a Republican really tried--and I mean really tried, not pandered--I think it would be easy to peel off enough of those votes to do real harm to Dems--possibly even win.

I understand that politics isn't a graduate seminar. No one has argued more forcefully against that brand of conservative that thinks it's sometimes noble to lose. But I do think one can deserve to lose. That is different--of course--from saying that the country deserves to be governed by Democrats. You may disagree but politics is about education whether the teacher knows he's teaching or not.

The reasons the odds aren't good at this time is precisely that many of the people who agree with us are unmotivated (and in some cases, sadly confused), while many who half-agree with us are on the wrong side. If we change those two things sufficiently, the odds go to 1:1, perhaps even a little better. As for the "vulnerable" black vote: I doubt there is a competent political scientist or political consultant in the country who believes blacks are the most vulnerable part of the Democratic coalition. Are there individual blacks here and there who can be moved by November of 2008? Sure, just as there are individual gays, individual Reform and secular Jews, and individual divorced women with advanced degrees who are public employees. But members of such hard-core Democratic groups should be approached as individuals. The groups themselves won't change in the short term, and in a dire presidential year, the short term is what matters most. We could build for the long term in 1964 precisely because it was worse than our present situation: that is, it was not only difficult to win that year, but nearly impossible. It's possible that the '08 situation will deteriorate to the point where it's nearly impossible. At that point, we might wish to re-evaluate. But we're not there, and my bet is we won't be.

And how do you propose to do the first two things you think have the possibility of closing the gap? By making the same old tired arguments--avoiding the race issue, avoiding disaster preparedness, avoiding a head-on confrontation with the Republican understanding of responsibility? The reason people didn't rally to the Republican cause in '06 is because Republicans gave the impression that they were mealy-mouthed, half-hearted supporters of principles they could not begin to fully articulate. The disaffection among blacks for the Democratic party is a very real problem for them. I agree that we should not approach them as a "group"--they should be approached as thinking individuals--friends and fellow citizens. We don't have to persuade them to abandon the Democratic party as a group and we really shouldn't even think in terms of "groups" when we're talking about race. We just have to persuade a significant number of people who happen to be black to stop voting and thinking like a group but, instead, to vote and think as the individuals they are. In one sense it would be great if 90% of blacks voted Republican. But it would be weird and it would say to me, at least, that something was wrong with the picture. Theoretically, there should be a pretty even split among blacks between Dems and Republicans--just as their is in most other populations. So I'm not exactly saying I don't want 90% of blacks to vote Republican--everyone should vote Republican--but I always think it is unhealthy when people vote in large racial blocks. It is not so much a statement of support for one party as it is a statement of disdain for the other. Many blacks do not really like the Dems and, in many ways agree with Republicans, but they still do not trust the GOP enough to become Republicans. We need to stop doing things (like avoiding the discussion) that reinforce this instinct of theirs. Why should that be so hard?

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