Tag Archives: The Future

Republicans vs. African Americans, Part 2,225

I like to read Rod Dreher’s blog over at the American Conservative and occassionally  like to add my view points.  I’m guessing that I’m not provocative enough, because no one ever notices what I say.  One of this most recent posts is on Conservatives and Black Folk and it has set off a discussion or at least a shoutfest.  Below are my comments to his post.  I have to add that I get a little bit tired of this debate mostly because it engages in blaming each other.  Liberals and African Americans talk about how racist conservatives are and conservatives fire back about how useless it is to reach blacks, blah, blah, blah.  I really wish that both sides would put aside their egos and sit down and listen to each other.

As I read this post, I had to heave a heavy sigh, frankly because I’m tired of dealing with it.

From the viewpoint of this African American that voted for Romney, I have a few points.

First, while there have been some racially tinged rhetoric coming from conservatives, I don’t think that conservatives are automatically racist.

Second, while I don’t think conservativatism = racism, that is the bias that conservatives have to live with. The larger society thinks this and speaking from experience, it is hard to break free of a sterotype.

Third, conservatives aren’t racist, but when it comes to the concerns of African Americans, they tend to neglect us and focus on white people. During the election, the only visible time that Romney spoke to African Americans was at the NAACP convention and there he was denouncing Obamacare and not offering a viable alternative. Since many African Americans tend to be in a more precarious situation than whites when it comes to employment, that means we are more likely to lose health insurance, which means not going to the doctor and dealing with all the health issues that blacks deal with like high blood pressure and diabetes. Again, Romney wasn’t racist, but in talking about repealing Obamacare and offering nothing in its place made African Americans think that the GOP doesn’t care about them.

Fourth, while Rod is correct that African Americans won’t ever become a major part of the GOP coalition, it really doesn’t need to get every vote, it just needs to get enough votes. In the 50-50 nation we live in, what matters is getting enough votes from different groups to eke a victory. The GOP will never get the majority of black votes, but if it can make in-roads; say make it a goal to get 15-20%, then you might make a difference.

Fifth, conservatives have to do more than what I call “showroom diversity.” You see this every four years at the convention when a number of persons of color speak at at the podium. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if there are very few delegates on the floor that match the diversity at the podium, then you aren’t going to get the attention of African Americans.

Sixth, the GOP has to actually go to black communities and listen to African Americans. Hear about our lives and what we think we need. The party doesn’t have to pander to us, but they need to tailor conservative ideas to the lives of black folks. I’m sorry, but a tax cut ain’t gonna help.

Finally, conservatives as a whole need to stop unintentional race baiting. Let me explain. After the Trayvon Martin incident, there was a lot of press in the conservative media about that insinuated that Martin was nothing but a thug. While there might have been no racist intent, to African Americans, especially those with sons, it seemed that conservatives were going after black men. I can tell you as a black man, I’ve been looked at as something to fear when in reality I’m about as harmless as a bunny rabbit. There were ways of talking about this without slandering a dead black kid. When such things happen, other conservatives need to speak up and set the record straight. You can’t just ignore it or act like it wasn’t a big deal because to blacks it is.

That’s my two cents.

“Independent Republicans”

Back in the 1970s, the Republican Party of Minnesota changed its name to the Independent Republican Party in order to distance itself from the national party, especially after Watergate.  At the time, the moderates were in charge of the party and wanted to distinguish themselves from conservatives at the national level.  By the mid-90s, the party name went back to the Republican Party, a sign that the state party had shifted rightward in the intervening 20 years.

Blogger D.R. Tucker is suggesting Urban Republicans consider doing the same thing in order to be competative in metro areas:

Back in 2008, Massachusetts education-reform activist James Peyser suggested that in order for Republicans to regain a foothold in New England, Republicans in the region would have to differentiate themselves from the national GOP. He wrote, “Defining a distinctly Massachusetts style of conservatism may not be enough to change the tarnished Republican brand. A name change might also be in order, to symbolize the fresh start and create some distance from the national party. In Minnesota, the local Democratic Party is called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Maybe here in Massachusetts–or across New England–the GOP should start calling itself the Independent Republican Party.”

Republicans who are serious about competing in the major cities and having an opportunity to improve public education and public safety might want to consider doing something similar. The major cities aren’t Democrat-dominated by accident: the political imbalance in these cities stems from the perception by residents that Republicans either don’t know or don’t care about their concerns.

In the urban American worldview, Republicans are cold, amoral, obsessed with cutting vital social services because they believe those services are too expensive and/or unconstitutional. Residents of these cities might be receptive to candidates who propose workable solutions to chronic urban problems, but not if those candidates have a “typical Republican” image.

Tucker goes on to talk about the differences between the Tea Party Republican and the Urban Republican. While those in the Tea Party want to be left along and are anti-government, Urban Republicans want a more efficient government.

This is, of course, part of a larger battle in the nation within the GOP. It’s not as much a moderate/conservative battle as it is, those who want to be a governing party and those that want to be an anti-government party. Right now, it’s the anti-government folk that are winning and while that plays in suburbia, it doesn’t play in the big cities.

More and more I wonder if the urban Republicans should not just distance themselves from the GOP, but create a strong center-right party ala Kadima in Israel. But that’s for another post.

h/t: Hip-Hop Republican

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Cost-Benefit Analysis

Mark MacKinnon takes Republicans in the Senate to task for blocking the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. On the one hand, it makes a strong case for the Party of Lincoln to become more gay friendly and stop supporting discrimination. He tips his hat to Ted Olson, the Solicitor General under George W. Bush for working to defeat Prop 8, California’s law banning same-sex marriage.

As a gay man who is at least tentatively Republican these days, this is all good to hear.  I am glad that there are Republicans who are standing up for gay rights.

But as I read MacKinnon’s article, I thought about something: with the exception of one Montana State Senator, none of the pro-gay Republicans are in office.  All of them have been involved in politics,  but they aren’t politicians that have to face the people.

And that’s telling.  I have to believe a number of GOP Senators wanted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and would have wanted to vote in the affirmative.  I think what is keeping people like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from taking the leap is partly because of the power of the Tea Party movement.  John McCain, who once didn’t have a problem with getting rid of DADT is now working to block the repeal, partly I believe because he knows he is being watched by the far right for any deviations from the party line.

Related to this is something bigger: I don’t think a lot of GOP Senators don’t see any benefit in sticking their necks out for this.  Let me explain.  Say you are  a moderately conservative Senator.  You don’t think it’s a big deal to let gays and lesbians serve openly in the military.  But even so, you look at the situation.  If you vote yes to repeal, you will probably have a right wing blogger starting to issue attacks against you, which will spread accross the internet.  Other right-wing groups will start attacking you as being anti-family.  You might even get a challenger in the next primary who is backed by the Tea Party. 

Ah, you say, surely those in who support gay rights and  moderation will come to their aid, right?  Well, no.  People might, and I mean, might say that you did the right thing.  But you won’t get people volunteering for your next campaign, especially if you are running against a hard right candidate.  Save the Log Cabin Republicans, gay rights groups won’t come and support your campaign either. 

So, it comes down to this: if you vote no, you might get pilloried by the left and some Republicans, but you keep your seat.  If you vote yes, you will be eaten alive by the far right and no one on the gay rights side will help you.  Which one do you choose?

Politicians want to do what they believe is right, but they aren’t suicidal.  They want some benefit from their taking a risk.  If the cost is too great, they won’t take the plunge.

I’m not saying this is right, but it is understandable.  This even speaks to the wider issue of the GOP accepting moderates.  Moderates might want to vote a certain way, but can’t due to fear of the far right and their knowledge that no one will come to their aid should they take the hard votes.

I’m thankful for Mark MacKinnon being willing to write such a powerful essay.  But more has to be done.  We need people to support the campaigns of more sensible Republicans.  We need more people who aren’t of the far right to run for office and for people to support them with time and money.

Then and only then will GOP politicians who want to favor gay rights will find it worth their time.

In Search of a Moderate Republican

Are there really any moderate Republicans in office anymore? 

Clive Crook is beginning to doubt it , and to be honest, so am I.  John McCain is trying to pretend he never was a “maverick” and as Crook notes, thoughtful leaders like Mitt Romney are running away from their more moderate stances. It seems that there is a spirit running within the GOP that crushes any differences and imposes a soul-killing conformity that screams meaningless phrases like “secular socialist machine.”

Crook notes that the passage of Obamacare should have prompted a more reasonable response that would have captured fustrated centrists.  He writes:

Republicans are right to say that the Obama administration has over-reached. Democrats failed to convince the country that their healthcare reform was the right solution to an obvious and pressing problem, yet passed their law anyway. Many voters are angry about this, and entitled to be. Also, despite the administration’s denials, the reform will most likely add to public borrowing, which was on a dangerously high trajectory to begin with. Again, they are right to be concerned.

Disenchantment with Mr Obama and the Democrats is especially pronounced in the political centre. (Conservatives, of course, were dismayed before the evidence was even in.) You might have thought this would commend a centrist platform to the Republican party approaching November’s mid-term elections. Swing voters decide who wins, and they were up for grabs. Why are Republicans steering to the right?

Crook then says the culprit is the Tea Party. The GOP sees this still forming movement as its salvation and has focused all its energy on that movement. Populism is always more sexy than the usually dowdy centrism.  Right now, GOP leaders either feel forced or want to try to go for the sexy sizzle of the Tea Party partriots, than the steady and boring centrists.

Crook also notes that the current incarnation of the GOP is many things, but one thing it is NOT is fiscally conservative, which might spell doom for us all:

There is a good chance that control of the House will switch. In narrow electoral terms, the Republicans’ militant posture is working. This dynamic has disturbing implications. A populist-right Republican party is not a party of fiscal conservatives. It is a party of tax-cutters and middle-class entitlement protectors – budget deficits be damned. A populist-right Republican party has no trouble calling for lower taxes, opposing cuts in Medicare (the programme that poses the greatest fiscal danger), and deploring public borrowing, all at the same time. This, in fact, has been its line on healthcare reform.

That reform, with its $1,000bn of extra costs over 10 years, is now law. Democrats may flinch, like Republicans, at cutting Medicare to pay for it, but they have no strong objection to raising taxes once that becomes inescapable. A Republican-controlled House would have strong objections. It might very well refuse to do it, preferring possible fiscal catastrophe to higher taxes.

It’s funny that this party that seems to talk about the spectre of socialism and about “a government takeover of healthcare” are also the ones that want to protect entitlement programs. Because raising taxes is a no-no and we are too chicken to make meaningful cuts, if the GOP gets back into power, we will just go back to “borrow and spend,” which of course is so much better than the Democrats “tax and spend.”

Crook thinks the GOP is basically a narrow sect instead of a “broad church.”  I would agree.  The GOP is dazzled by the Tea Party, but what happens when reality sets in?  The Tea Party is not America, after all.  What if the GOP doesn’t do as well in November?  What if they lose big time in 2012?  What if the Tea Party goes and creates a new party?  What if the economy goes south again and the public demands some kind of government action? 

Most moderate groups like the Republican Leadership Council or Republican Mainstreet Partnership, which were calling for a bigger tent in the GOP after the 2008 elections have either grown silent or have gone along to get along in wake of the new environment, lest they be targeted.  The same goes for moderate politicians.  After Dede Scozzafava, very few moderates dare tout their centrist credentials.

My own guess is that there will be some breaking point where the current strategy will fail.  It might be that the economy gets better and the Dems pick up more seats than expected.  It might be a landslide election in 2012.  Whatever it is, there will come a point where the moderates in hiding will be tired of hiding. 

I’m looking forward to that day, but it will be hellish in the meantime.

The GOP Beyond 2010

Remember all that talk a year ago about how the GOP was in big trouble and could be doomed to a permanent minority?  Well, all of that went away with Scott Brown’s win in January.  Now, everyone thinks 2010 will be a good year for the Republicans.  While that’s all well and good in the short term, things might not be so good in the long term.

"Whole Foods Republicans"

Finally,something that describes who I am.Â

 Let me explain. I’m a fairly well-educated guy that lives in the city, drive a Prius, gives to public radio and likes organic food. But if you think that his means I’m some kind of lefty liberal, you are so wrong. I don’t support the President’s health care plan (even though I do think there is room for reform). I am upset at his high spending habits. That should be something that would want to make the GOP go after people like me. But as Michael Petrilli notes, many in the Republican Party are not interested:

As less-educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate, this bloc will exert growing influence. And here’s the distressing news for the GOP: According to exit-poll data, a majority of college-educated voters (53%) pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008—the first time a Democratic candidate has won this key segment since the 1970s.

Some in the GOP see this trend as an opportunity rather than a problem. Let the Democrats have the Starbucks set, goes the thinking, and we’ll grab working-class families. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, for instance, wants to embrace “Sam’s Club” Republicans. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee pitched himself in 2008 as the guy who “looks like your co-worker, not your boss.” Even Mitt Romney blasted “Eastern elites.” And of course there’s Sarah Palin, whose entire brand is anti-intellectual.

Ross Douthat and Riehan Salam have written an entire book that tends to praise the “Sam’s Club” Republican while giving short shrift to more upscale Republicans, branding them as nothing more than Democrats in drag.

As Petrilli notes, the other the name for “Whole Foods Republicans” is moderate Republicans, those socially moderate-to-liberal, fiscally conservative Republicans. But these people have been tagged as “RINOs” and have been ignored by the GOP. And because the GOP has targeted such people as worthy of being purged, these “Whole Foods Republicans” aren’t showing a whole lotta love back at the GOP:

Do these Republican party leaders even appreciate how off-putting their comments are to someone who has at least an undergraduate college education, let alone an educated individual who can even think independently for themself? The Republican leaders of my youth were people like New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Massachusetts U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. Those Republicans were generally socially moderate to liberal and fiscally conservative. Where have all of those Rockefeller Republicans gone? The above has made me very suspicious of the Republican Party.

I am equally suspicious, if not even more so, of the Democratic Party. Lifestyle choices aside, I view big government (and the often associated ineffective bloated bureaucracies) with great suspicion. “There’s no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation.”

Perhaps this is why I remain an independent voter (and more and more college educated people like me are becoming so). What is wrong with having moderate to liberal views on social issues and being fiscally conservative at the same time?

Indeed, what is wrong with having moderate to liberal views on social issues and yet being fiscally moderate?

Right now, the GOP is withholding outreach towards more upscale folks for a few reasons: one, they are afraid of being painted as an “elitist” and then run out of the party; and two, because some still adhere to the Karl Rove school of electoral politics- rally the base and get just enough moderates to win narrowly. But the math shows the such a strategy will only last for so long. At somepoint, you will lose the moderates and the base is not big enough to bring victory.

In the end, three things will happen to the GOP in regards to “Whole Foods” voters: either they will reach out to them on their own, be forced to change by younger voters, or ignore them and become the modern “Know-Nothing” party that will be a regional party at best.

It’s up to the GOP leadership to decide.

Four for the Future…

In all the talking, shouting and crying over the last few months about what it means to be a Republican, we’ve ignored the most important thing: governing. When we regain power (yes, when…not if), it’s important that we have a few basic governing concepts or principles which guide all of our legislative and executive efforts. I’ve identified four very basic ideas which we must keep in mind: Continue reading

A Moderate Republican's Lament

From the Michigan Daily:

By Gordon Chaffin  On  November 10th, 2009

Personal Statement: A moderate Republican’s lament

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I had a vision of the future for the College Republicans. I took office as their chairman eight months ago to make that vision real. I wanted to make meetings more welcoming and friendly to those with more moderate political persuasions. I wanted to talk about difficult issues and bring in speakers with whom Republican dogma may disagree. Under my leadership, the College Republicans would discuss the hard issues, duck no touchy subjects and set an example for the seemingly directionless Republican National Committee. However, recent events have led me to change directions and break from the tired, narrow-minded constraints that were placed on me as the College Republican Chairman.

I resigned, and while this individual event may not pique your interest very much, it is a microcosm of the current situation in Washington. As a leader, I failed to break the cycle of cynicism and recycled rhetoric that permeated club meetings and operating procedures. I may have failed to reform the College Republicans at the University, but that doesn’t mean I have given up my dreams of reforming the Republican Party. I want to lead a rejuvenation of the Grand Old Party that has forgotten its founding principles as its power has dwindled. I want to stand up, like so many young conservatives have before, and implement my vision for the future – one built on tolerance, conservatism and moderation.

Tolerance is something the Republican Party tends to dismiss these days. Most officials in the GOP seem incapable of accepting dissention from anyone, on any issue. This isn’t logical, since there are about one million reasons to identify as a Republican. Being intolerant of any one of them is counterproductive to political strategy. Moreover, forcing your leaders to spout party-line rhetoric is disingenuous and hurts leadership recruitment. Not many people are willing to suppress their own varying beliefs in order to project a single “pure” ideology. I volunteered to lead the College Republicans under the apparently false assumption that I would be able to express my moderate beliefs publicly. It turns out that most students in the group, and most Republicans in general, don’t want their leaders dissenting from even one plank of the GOP platform – my bad.

One problem, though: the only thing that results from ostracizing moderates like myself is a larger talent pool from which the other party can enlist converts. It is both short-sighted and prejudiced to discriminate against the more moderate members of a political party. However, it seems only the Democratic Party is currently open to a diverse set of ideas – all of which come from dedicated politicos like me. This openness and welcoming attitude serves the Democrats in immeasurable ways. Resolution among dissenting ideas is necessary to good public policy. I would hope that the Republicans among us don’t think that the best way to regain power is to “purify” the party. Because being tolerant of diverse ideology, especially in leadership, is the only ticket to Election Day success.

Conservatism doesn’t necessitate supply-side economics just as it doesn’t imply environmental irresponsibility. It appears those in the GOP have forgotten the examples of Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. Both men, Republican presidents, led the fight for the majority of environmental protection laws now in effect. Too often does the modern-day Republican Party frame sustainability and economic growth as mutually exclusive ends. The plain truth is that being “green” can become a boon for economic growth. China seems to be figuring out a way to grow economically through the production of wind turbines. Why can’t we do something similar? Ironically enough, the word “conserve” is the very root of the word “conservatism.”

What about economics? Sometimes the government needs to “conserve” its financial health by raising taxes. What about public health? How is continuing to allow tens of millions of Americans to go without health insurance “conserving” the well being of humanity? Do Republicans think the best way to uphold conservatism is to continue subsidizing suburban sprawl and cow-towing to corporate interests? It seems the Republican Party has forgotten what “conservatism” means. Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley must be rolling in their graves!

“In all things, moderation,” my mother often quips. I think that’s pretty much the best advice I’ve ever gotten, or could ever give. It’s too bad that when people think about politics, they forget this advice – sometimes they even attack it. Being a moderate in ideology suddenly becomes about impurity or treason. But it’s dangerous to map the virtue of purity onto a political ideology. When having varying views across issues becomes regrettable rather than laudable, nothing gets done. Not in city halls, not in state Houses, and certainly not in Washington, D.C. Republican leaders need to realize that cookie-cutter ideology is not an alternative to contemplative deliberation.

I learned many things in my short time as chairman of the College Republicans at the University. As in campaigns, governing leaders have only their visions of the future to guide them. Impeachments, resignations – these are only small speed bumps in the road towards my dreams. The Republican Party can be reborn, can remember its roots, and can once again become the party of compassion, conservatism and freedom. My vision lives on and my dreams remain undeterred. If anyone thought for one second that I will give up, they thought wrong.

Keys to a Republican Resurgence In the Northeast

From the Ripon Society:

Leading up to the 2008 general election, the conventional wisdom in America was that the Republican Party was dying in the American Northeast.

After the results came in, and the GOP was left without a single seat in New England, the conventional wisdom was no longer that the party was just dying in that part of the country. Most people thought that the party was dead.

And yet if we are going to become the majority party again in this country, we must rise like Lazarus in the Northeast. Of course, recognizing that we need to spark a Republican resurgence in this region is a far easier feat then figuring out exactly how to rebuild a party whose image has been devastated among New England voters.

The good news is that I do not believe that the seismic shift in favor of Democrats over the last few cycles in the Northeast is a permanent one. The better news is that the core message of the Republican Party – a message that attracted voters across the region for decades – can still resonate today. So how do we do it?

First, we as a party need to recognize that one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to campaigns. It shouldn’t be an earth-shattering revelation, but the fact of the matter is that the type of candidate and campaign that can win in Alabama is not going to be the same type of candidate or campaign needed to win in New Hampshire. Voters in the Northeast respect political independence and expect their elected officials to focus on finding solutions to the challenges facing the region and our country, not just on red meat rhetoric. We as a party must be politically pragmatic enough to recognize this fact and run campaigns that reflect it.

Second, we need to emphasize those policies and positions that unite all Republicans – rather than focus on issues that divide us. It was Ronald Reagan who pointed out that someone who agrees with you on 80 percent of the issues is a friend, not an enemy. Unfortunately, instead of emphasizing those issues that unite us, the Republican Party of today has spent far too much time focused on divisive social issues. Worse, elements of the party have not only pushed for our party to focus on these divisive issues, they have pushed for a party where only those who agree with each other on 100 percent of issues are pure enough to be a part of our party today. The party that cannot embrace the voter who agrees with them 80 percent as a friend and an ally, is a party doomed for the permanent minority.

Third, we need candidates who reflect the values of the people of their district and their state. Our party needs to recruit and promote candidates who understand their electorate and who will reflect their values – and then support them as vigorously as they would others with whom they might be closer to philosophically. Some issues are universal, while others are distinctly regional. While fighting for lower taxes may be universal, issues like health care reform, energy and the environment, job creation and countless other issues effect different parts of the country differently. We need candidates who not only understand those differences, but who understand that the first obligation of public service is to represent those who you have been elected to serve – not to the national party or the talk radio crowd. We need candidates who are courageous enough to be decisively and proudly Republican when in agreement with our Party’s leadership on an issue, but courageous enough to be decisively independent when in disagreement.

Finally, we need to make a serious investment in recruiting good candidates, supporting their campaigns, and building vibrant state and local parties. Our party’s national leadership needs to understand the importance of a Republican resurgence in New England and invest accordingly. Important in this investment is the recognition that the party wasn’t decimated overnight, and its revitalization will not occur overnight either. Investing in state and local parties, as well as candidates up and down the ballot, will reap some immediate results, but more importantly, such investments could pay impressive dividends in the future.

A generation ago, New England was the base of the Republican Party. In Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic landslide victory of 1944, only two states – Maine and Vermont – cast their electoral votes for the Republican nominee for President. Neither of those two states has voted for a Republican for President since George H.W. Bush’s run in 1988. In the late 1940s, Republicans were elected to represent 21 of 28 House seats. After Chris Shays’ loss in Connecticut in 2008, not a single Republican represents a New England House district in Congress.

I am not suggesting that New England or the Northeast in general will be the regional base for the GOP in the future. Indeed, much has changed in the region in the last generation. I am suggesting, however, that the Republican Party can compete and win in New England, because while much has changed in the region, much remains the same.

The electorate in the Northeast still values political independence, still treasures individual liberty, still expects government to live within its means, and still respects tradition – which, when you think about it, are not only values most Republicans also respect, but ones the party should stand behind today.

Charles F. Bass represented the 2nd District of New Hampshire in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2007. A Board member and former President of the Republican Main Street Partnership, he recently announced the formation of an exploratory campaign committee to possibly run for his old seat.

You might want to check the chart at the Ripon Society website to see what the past and present of the GOP in the Northeast.