The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more — pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.
Even Politico admits that this type of projection is “speculative” given that the newly eligible voters wouldn’t be casting President ballots until 2020 or 2028. It doesn’t keep them from speculating, though.
This sounds similar to the countless pundits on the right who have been wringing their hands for the last six months over the Great Question of What Went Wrong in 2012. How, they ask desperately, are we ever to win again? We don’t speak to minority groups! We don’t use Big Data! Our candidates are bad! Our messages are out of touch! Look at all the support for President Obama in 2012!
Republicans who feel bad about this should review the last several candidates for President produced by the Democratic party before they struck gold with Obama:
- John Kerry, an aristocrat out of Massachusetts who couldn’t beat a vulnerable sitting President.
- Al Gore.
- Bill Clinton, who was likable enough to score a second term but not ideological enough to move the ball for liberalism.
- Michael Dukakis.
- Walter Mondale.
- Jimmy Carter.
- George McGovern, an unabashed liberal who was thoroughly crushed.
- Hubert H. Humphrey.
- Lyndon Johnson, whose most liberal policies didn’t come out until he one re-election on the coattails of John F. Kennedy’s legacy.
- JFK, a charismatic and media-friendly candidate who was able to ignite the electorate and win wide popular support.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s 48 years between exciting Democratic candidates. If you want to find another Democratic candidate who helped the party ideologically, you have to go back to Franklin Roosevelt.
You could make a similar list for Republicans, of course. The point is, political environments are fleeting and not static. In eight years, GOP messaging could be very different, and the voices delivering those messages will be different, too – while left-leaning activists may be quoting the Great and Powerful Barack Obama the way today’s conservatives wistfully remember Ronald Reagan.
Michael Turk had a great post on the center-right’s tech/data gap yesterday – but the best part was where he wrote it, in the American Spectator.
Spoiler alert: Turk warned that investing in new technology is not enough, that Republicans need smart people thinking about human behavior and voting patterns as well. Good call: It’s not enough to figure out how people are interacting with a campaign, since most people in their right mind run away from political communication. There’s an academic component in figuring out how to reach these people and keep them from running. (Unless you use glue traps, of course, but there’s some questionable legality there.)
Ok, the right needs thinkers. Where do they come from? Political parties are good for resources, but not always innovation. Remember that while much of the Obama infrastructure has been bequeathed unto the Democrat National Committee, it was the Obama campaign that built all the new toys. Plus, if the eggheads don’t show immediate dividends, Republican candidates will wonder why the national party money that could be helping them win air wars is being spent to pay Lewis Skolnick.
The best spot for a bunch of data nerds is somewhere in the non-profit universe – whether it’s with an educational foundation like Heritage, an activist group like Americans for Prosperity or FreedomWorks, or a super PAC like American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS/Conservative Victory/Crossroads: The Next Generation. With no donation limits, these groups can make a much better case to the big-ticket donors they’ll need to get the ball rolling. Since the checks can be bigger, it’ll take fewer of them.
Conservative movement non-profits could be better positioned to start the process. That makes The American Spectator a pretty good place to raise the issue.
Resurgent Republic posted this infographic last week (which I swiped from an email from Pennsylvania political consultancy ColdSpark Media):
The full-size picture does it more justice. It charts various groups, how strong their turnout was in 2012 versus 2008, and how excited the said they were to vote.
In the last month and a week, it seems like no two Republicans can talk to each other without a discussion of What Went Wrong. It’s a great conversation because there’s no wrong answer. Every person who says, “I’ll tell you what Romney missed out on…” and then fills in a reason is usually right. So the tactical deficiency in that picture is a puzzle piece, but it isn’t the whole problem.
All that said, check out the bluest of the blue groups, staunch Obama demographics like single women, 18-29 year olds, and Hispanic voters. Isn’t it funny that the blue groups that were least excited about voting but voted more than the red groups that were more excited? Part of the vaunted Obama turnout operation was figuring out who needed to vote and doing what it took to drag them to the polls; this sure makes it look like the credit was well-deserved.
Politico points out today how the Obama 2012 machine has been thrilled with Rick Perry’s attacks on Mitt Romney, occasionally piling on to wound the erstwhile Massachusetts governor. The reasoning goes that Perry (or anyone else from the GOP field) would be easier for the President to beat in the general election.
That may sound familiar. In 2008, with their own nomination pretty much decided, some Republicans went to the polls in late primary states intending to affect the Democratic ballot. In Texas, a vote for then-candidate Obama was a way to put the final nail in the coffin for the Clinton Era. In Virginia, some Republicans insisted on voting for Obama to encourage the Democrats to nominate an inexperienced, first-term Senator as their nominee.
Whether as part of an “Anybody But Hillary” movement or whether they believed that Obama was the weaker candidate, would those Republicans vote the same way if they could go for a spin in Doc Brown’s DeLorean? If they had a hot tub time machine, do you think the 2007 Patriots would have rooted a bit harder for the talented-on-paper Packers or the Cowboys to come out of the NFC for Superbowl 42?
Similarly, Team Obama may think Rick Perry, with his low poll numbers and early campaign missteps, would be a more attractive opponent in November 2012. It certainly looks like that match up would favor the President prohibitively – and the President looks good up against any of the other GOP hopefuls, too. It isn’t even November of 2011 yet, though – and a year is a long time.
Every major professional sport except college football has an entire system to determine the best team. That doesn’t stop those covering each sport from postulating who the best team is on a week-to-week basis. Since the Presidential race has become an odd mix of reality television, sports, and horse racing, why not do the same?
Here’s what my white board looks like this week:
1. Barack Obama. Dean Wormer: Dead! Niedermeyer: Dead! Gaddafi: Dead! The President looked Presidential this week, and American Crossroads polling indicated his “tax the rich” rhetoric has a chance to resonate.
2. Mitt Romney. The sheen of inevitability was nicked in the last debate, but Romney continues to line up endorsements.
3. Rick Perry. The signs of life Perry showed in the Nevada debate should re-energize supporters, donors, and the rest of the campaign infrastructure for a short time. His points on domestic energy development, which he has been bringing up in debates consistently, give him a positive issue to run on that no other serious candidate is talking about.
4. Herman Cain. Cain is driving the Republican discussion with his 9-9-9 plan. The row over his pro-life beliefs won’t be a deal-breaker because there is no meat to it, but may be indicative of a more serious problem with message discipline. His ability to do the blocking and tackling it takes to build an election-winning organization is still suspect. Still the front-runner for the Vice President slot on the GOP ticket.
5. Ron Paul. Paul is still the life of the party. The troop withdrawal in Iraq will give him another chance to tell the rest of the party he told them so.
6. Michelle Bachmann. Her staff in New Hampshire wasn’t all that important, anyway. Iowa is Bachmann’s make-or-break playing field.
7. Chris Christie. Despite denials and endorsements to the contrary, still more likely to be President in 2013 than the last two people on this list. On the outside chance that Romney and Perry wind up in a brokered convention stalemate in August 2012, Christie looks like an obvious choice to unite the party. Sure, it’s a long shot, but still more likely than…
8. Rick Santorum. Santorum looked shrill and childish going after Romney in the Nevada debate, but he made his points. He could wind up as the kamikaze of the debate season.
9. John Huntsman. Still waiting for his mojo. His candidacy is tough to define, though his shots at Herman Cain in the previous debate were witty and clever.
A thoughtful E.J. Dionne editorial this weekend lauds Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Obviously, that’s nothing new – outside of Klansmen and contrarians, there aren’t a lot of people writing anti-MLK op eds. What’s striking about Dionne’s piece is that it points out King’s radicalism:
This focus on calling out injustice — pointedly, heatedly, sometimes angrily — is what the people of King’s time, friend and foe alike, heard. It made many moderates (and so-called moderates) decidedly uncomfortable.
Anyone tempted to sanitize King into a go-along sort of guy should read his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” from April 1963. It’s a sharp rebuke to a group of white ministers who criticized him as an outsider causing trouble and wanted him to back off his militancy… And recall King’s response to being accused of extremism. Though “initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist,” he wrote, “as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.” Jesus, he said, was called “an extremist for love,” and Amos “an extremist for justice.” The issue was: “Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”
For a shorter version of that last quote, thumb over to Barry Goldwater‘s page in Bartlett’s: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
In fact, Dionne’s characterization of King invites comparison to the coverage of the movement for smaller government. (To his credit, Dionne has shown he recognizes this parallel to a degree; he’s one of the few left-leaning columnists able to discern the tea party from Republican politics.)
It deserves mentioning that there are plenty of differences: Tea party rallies aren’t being broken up with fire hoses, rubber (or real) bullets, tear gas, or the releasing of any hounds. King and his allies risked life and limb to make a stand for their big idea.
But they did have that big idea, and believed in it so much that compromise was unacceptable. People were either equal, or they weren’t; they were either allowed to attend the same schools and drink from the same water fountains, or they weren’t.
With that in mind, let’s look at our policy landscape here in 2011. There’s a snowballing debt thanks to a governing culture that allows government to spend lavishly to help build a society and direct an economy. The debt puts at risk the stability of our currency and by extension things like houses and other long-term investments. More important, the services financed by that debt are generally sub-par and fail to accomplish intended goals.
Either that governing culture changes – reigning in spending, allowing people to make their own decisions about health care and retirement, and eliminating waste – or it doesn’t.
The casualties of this movement include moderate and Washington-centric politicians – such as Mike Castle and Bob Bennett in 2010. It makes “moderates and so-called moderates” (to borrow Dionne’s term) like Sen. Orrin Hatch uncomfortable.
But if you believe strongly that the government was biting off more than it could chew to deliver failing policies, and that the promises of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other public assistance programs are a bad check which will be sent back marked “insufficient funds,” you should be fighting. And supposed allies who favor a “wait-and-see” approach while continuing to conduct the business of government the same way it has been conducted for 80 years aren’t really allies.
That isn’t “extremism,” it’s political advocacy – and as observers from King to Dionne have understood, it’s how policy making works.
A strong and close second-place finish at the Ames Straw poll for Ron Paul ignited almost no media coverage whatsoever – until some folks realized that Paul wasn’t getting any media coverage, which then became the story. It’s one thing for Paul supporters to air their grievances about being ignored, but in a rare moment of astute political insight, even the Daily Show called out the media’s Paul-sized blind spot.
Charles Krauthammer had a valid answer: Paul will not be President. He will not be as successful when the straw polls give way to caucuses, and he will do worse yet when the decisions come from the ballot box. For a media covering horse race politics, giving serious ink to Ron Paul is like giving ink to Mr. Ed – he’s interesting, but he ain’t beating Secretariat, or any other horse. On the other hand, while Tim Carney admits that Paul is a bad candidate, he points out that the Congressman has been consistently proven correct in his assessment of domestic and foreign policy over several years. Stewart quips that Paul planted the small government seeds that germinated into today’s grassroots tea party movement.
Carney and Stewart are correct. The real issue is a political press that doesn’t understand politics beyond the tally of votes in the second week in November. The small government ethos that inspired the tea party to take out incumbents in 2010 has been brewing since late in the first term of George W. Bush, when the Republican party was entrenched in the legislative and executive but without a clear governing vision. Paul was an early banner carrier for that philosophy, and in many way is the heart and soul of the current Republican party. As he chugs along with single-digit polling numbers, other candidates have been and will be elected with Paul’s ideas.
Many political mini-movements see their standard-bearers run into electoral machine gun fire early on. Remember that in 2004, Howard Dean crystallized the Democratic left but failed to win a single primary or caucus (except for his home state of Vermont, and that came after he had dropped out of the race). By 2006, Democrat activists were dumping off Joe Lieberman in a primary and in 2008 they put a charismatic leader in the White House – bit it was Dean in 2004 who lit the fire. There are winning candidates, and there are important candidates; the two are not always the same.