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The GOP, Electoral Math and the Art of Political Persuasion

John J. Pitney, Jr. takes a long, hard look at the prospects before the GOP and does not see much that is immediately apparent as a cause for cheer. The mountain before the GOP in coming elections is daunting and Pitney cautions that the RNC chairman, Michael Steele, will have to take a very deliberate and long-term approach to the problem.

In the seven states where no GOP contender for the Senate has been successful since 2000, Pitney suggests looking to the GOP gubernatorial candidates who were successful in the last eight years. The issues that drive voters to elect governors are often different from the ones driving them to choose senators, but the fact that GOP candidates for governor could win in these states suggests that the Republican brand is not, in itself, DOA. There may be lessons these guys can offer of both a strategic and rhetorical nature.

Pitney also suggests studying the efforts of the other side. Howard Dean's controversial "50 state strategy" to rebuild party organizations that had withered now looks more like genius than insanity. The good news for the GOP is that they do not have to aim for radical transformations of the electorate. A plodding, careful, deliberate and principled chipping away at Democratic strongholds will make a big difference in electoral outcomes.

In case he is misunderstood, Pitney is careful to note that he is not suggesting capitulation on the issues that move the GOP base:

Such a strategy does not mean that Republicans must renounce the Second Amendment, embrace abortion, or endorse amnesty for illegal aliens. Indeed, it would make no sense to abandon the principles that matter to the party's most loyal supporters.
Rather, Pitney suggests, persuasion is the thing we must engage in--not capitulation, Of course, persuasion has the disadvantage of being terribly hard work--and work that is made even more hard as a result of GOP electoral and political failures. But persuasion, at least, has the virtue of possibly working--if not immediately, perhaps over time. As Pitney said, chipping away at Democratic strongholds will do more than is apparent if one only looks at the massive scale of the Democratic sweep in this last election.

The GOP cannot abandon its principles and expect victory. But neither can it dig in its heels and cross its arms with a scowl directed at those who fail to embrace her. It is time for wooing and this will take patience. As Pitney put it, we cannot give in to what now passes for popular sentiment:

. . . [b]ut Republicans do have to frame [their] principles in terms that appeal to a wider array of voters. The party cannot think of growing if it depends on a base that is shrinking.
Categories > Elections

Discussions - 9 Comments

The GOP cannot abandon its principles and expect victory. But neither can it dig in its heels and cross its arms with a scowl directed at those who fail to embrace her. It is time for wooing and this will take patience. As Pitney put it, we cannot give in to what now passes for popular sentiment:

I think this means that its gut check time and in order to fight back you really have to believe in what you have been saying. You can't blandly talk about government size. I just don't think this is a ideal time for the beloved conservative notion of prudence. Don't attack someone else, simply provide the alternative without even mentioning the opposition. Do it boldy and with confidence and you will really have to mean it. That and the party in power will soon be churning the stomach of the masses like they always do. If conservatism really is anything beyond a pragmatist talking about the good old days then this would be the time to bring that message. If people are suckers for the truth, then use that. I don't think there is any way that we are going to spend our way out of trouble so just tell the people the truth. The spending is making things worse, there is no fixing it because the system was based on fiat dollars being printed to pay for real things. We can't go back and even if we did it would crash again. We have to abandon the notion that this is a fixable problem. The only way to right things is to bite the bullet and start rebuilding rather than digging a bigger hole. They will hate you for it for a while, but it won't take long for you to be vindicated.

"[W]ooing" is the wrong term to use.

Reagan didn't "woo" the electorate in 1980, nor did Gingrich "woo" them in 1994. What they did was SERIOUSLY and INTELLECTUALLY engage the electorate.

One thing that seems to be thoroughly overlooked in all of these discussions about what the GOP needs to do is the role that Obama's now inevitable blundering is going to play. Obama is blowing it. Even his most rabid of supporters in the media are quietly panicking. The New York Times came out and editorialized about his recent moves, and The Washington Post BEGGED him to intercede in a "stimulas" process that has now run completely amok.

9 months from now, when the economy has worsened, layoffs increased, anxiety intensified, the political landscape is going to appear altogether different.

When we're moving towards a solid and sobering 10% unemployment rate, and when the American people are demanding IMMEDIATE action to arrest a rapidly accelerating economic decline, Obama's messianic gig is going to start appearing increasingly ludicrous, and start appearing so to a growing majority of Americans. Obama's gig is going to start wearing thin, ----------------------------- and "sooner, rather than later..........."

All the GOP has to do is bide its time, expose the non-stimulas features of the bogus "stimulas" package, expose the cronyism of his appointments, expose the ethical probs with an administration that promised the sun, the moon and the stars when it came to transparency and integrity. Do that, be patient, and bide their time.

Two things Dan: see Lawler's first quote from the book he's reading about Lincoln above and you will see what I mean by "wooing." Anyway, the way to my heart has always been directly through my head--or so I would like to think.

Second, you may be right about the trajectory of Obama's fortunes. But I wouldn't bet the house on it. And you seem to contradict yourself in counseling mere patience and harping on Obama's and the Dem's flaws. Correct me if I'm wrong--but I don't guess I had to add that last.

Dan, one slight objection. Reagan did campaign on a broadly popular platform, but he (and conservatism more broadly) recruited new constituencies into the GOP. Conservatives did a much better job of talking to Northern and Midwestern Catholics as well as Southern whites. In alot of ways, the GOP became a much more diverse party as it became more conservative and many socially liberal WASP Republicans resented it. Conservatives need to find a way to make similar gains among Latinos and African Americans. A better issue agenda and more eloquence will help, but it will not be enough by itself.

And I wouldn't count on Obama blowing up so totally that all the GOP has to do is oppose. Obama will have his troubles, but the Republicans will have to offer a compelling alternative. If I had a dollar for every time someone posted that Obama was finished, I could retire.

I've no problems with "recruiting" new constituencies into the GOP. Just so long as their recruitment doesn't compromise core principles within the party of Lincoln. Persuasion can't consist of throwing long standing principles under the proverbial bus. That's not persuasion, that's capitulation.

Obama is going to have far more than merely "his troubles." He hadn't run anything in his entire existence. Nothing worth mentioning. What we've been observing over the last two weeks is what all of us should have anticipated. I know I did.

He's blundering. Badly. Maureen Dowd is already zeroing in on him. The Washington Post has been IMPLORING him to rectify the situation, {which assumes he knows how to do so, something which is nowhere in evidence...}. The New York Times had to editorialize about Daschle. Do you really think the MSM wants to be focusing on miscues of the Obama administration. Newsweek has come out and said his whole first term agenda is in danger of being thrown up on the rocks. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Reid have broken him to the saddle, which explains him coming out earlier today and demanding that the bogus stimulas package be passed. Even though there's nothing stimulative about it, even though members of the Liberal media are demanding that he enter into the process, and purge out those provisions that have nothing to do with economic stimulas. So on the one hand the media is demanding him, nay, IMPLORING him to act one way, yet Pelosi and Reid have dragooned him into acting another.

He's blowing it.

India just came out and told him to shut up about Kashmir, and to add sarcasm to their blunt declaration, they added he's "barking up the wrong tree." When was the last time we heard of India issuing so blunt a declaration to anybody, let alone a new President of The United States. This guy just tried to put in as Ambassador of Iraq, Anthony Zinni, who was a long time opponent of attempts to stabilize the country. Zinni wasn't simply comfortable letting Iraq blow up, he was almost eager to see it start happening. And then Zinni had the rug pulled out from under him, which triggered his ego to blow up, which is why we've seen him wandering all around lambasting Obama and his handlers.

Keystone Cop stuff.

And this is just the beginning................

The economy is turning south. In response thereto, the Democrats are trying to ram through a bogus stimulas package only about 30% of the American people actually support. Economically, the bogus package won't just fail to arrest the economic decline, it will positively accelerate it, because again, there's nothing in it to stimulate economic growth.

By any and all measures, and simply taking a broad yet fair reading of the situation, -------------------------------- he's blowing it.

Dan, no getting rid of core principles. When it comes to recruiting African Americans and Latinos, thats about the only thing conservatives have going for them. But appeals to such principles will not be enough in themselves. It will also take alot of cultural sensitivity and patient determined activism.

As for Obama...He had had a rough week but he will have good weeks too. He is not invincible but conservatives should not console themselves too much on account of his troubles. He really is a formidable and tough politician. He is also (as Peter Lawler pointed out in a below thread) slowly and quietly transforming out intitutions - starting with healthcare. If conservatives expect to win by default, I fear they will be disappointed.

Wasn't this the "Dan" who adopted the same tone and bragged that Obama was blowing it when his numbers dipped in the primaries, and that people would study his election defeat for centuries? I think rather one should study the blogger ploy of exaggerating calamity so as to create the appearance of wisdom. The republicans better try to stop the slide or the faults will be pinned on them for a decade.

Just so long as their recruitment doesn't compromise core principles within the party of Lincoln

Ok, explain what those principles are, the ones that have not already been compromised.

Obama is not really going to blow it. It can be spun very quickly to look like a republican problem. In reality, Lincoln, FDR, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and JFK combined could not 'get things back.' There is no back, have conservatives not learned that this is not something that happens. The economy is not tanking due to real estate. That is such a small part of it. Its more than the economy really, its the entire culture. I really think that this implosion is the logical outcome of the comsumerism/bonus culture. You don't produce things, you just borrow and print money. It won't work forever, it can't. The yuppies you want to woo by becoming more tech savy are on their way out. It is very likely that the tech generation is going to have choose between food or itunes downloads. It's not going to disapear overnight, but one way or another consumerism and its tech fetish are going to become less of an issue. Don't try to win the next war by fighting the last one over again.

Lets project to 2012 when we decide who needs wooing. I fear that the ipod generation will much less of a force then the unemployed bread line group. Mabye apple can come out with ibread and icheese and ink a government contract to distribute these things. Everyone seems to think things are going to go and why? What evidence is there to suggest that things are going to back? Lots of people talk about growth and how the health care industry is one of growth and that could be a staple of a recovery. There is only one problem, no job no insurance no healthcare. Socialized medicine might save the industry but at the cost of another massive hit to a bankrupt country.

I think this is an amazing time to be alive. I really think the culture is about to be reshaped in a way more significant than anything since the revolution. People can accept reality and start to slowly rebuild and stop believing the lies about stimulus and the corrupt people in government are saving their jobs or they can continue on their way to a police state socialist nation where we will get to experience all the flaws we were so quick to point out about this grand system. The police state part is not really based on the multiple (sadly, based on real documents) conspiracy theories but the necesary part of socialism that requires the state to take on the godlike quality of being in control.

The republicans better try to stop the slide or the faults will be pinned on them for a decade.

Obama could nuke New York City and "ren" would blame it on the RethugliKKKans.

Trash like "ren" are why I agree with Brutus - the country is screwed because the culture is sick, and a sick culture produces sick people.

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