Big Problem for Democrats in 2014: Republicans are Focused on Winning, Not Ideological Purity April 24, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 9 10:13 am North Carolina Democrats really need social and economic Republican hardliners to divide and weaken the GOP in 2014. That’s because they, the Democrats, lack the wherewithal to win against a united Republican
Big Problem for Democrats in 2014: Republicans are Focused on Winning, Not Ideological Purity
April 24, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 9 10:13 am
North Carolina Democrats really need social and economic Republican hardliners to divide and weaken the GOP in 2014. That’s because they, the Democrats, lack the wherewithal to win against a united Republican Party. Unfortunately, Republicans are not cooperating.
So why aren’t Republicans likely to divide and conquer each other in 2014? Because the social and economic hardliners are out of favor. The government shutdown in October 2013 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Republicans have now turned their attention away from ideological purity to winning legislative majorities, the U.S. House, and seizing the U.S. Senate.
How conservative hardliners lost favor with the GOP
In defense of conservative economic hardliners, they did the entire nation a great service by forcing all Americans to see that the United States was fast becoming a second rate world economic power because of the national debt, deficit spending and unsustainable programs. However, they began to lose credibility with American voters when they refused to participate in what most saw as reasonable and necessary compromises on the federal budget.
For example, the average voter could never understand why all Republican candidates for president in 2012 said they would not accept a budget deal in which there were $10 in program cuts for every $1 in new revenue. And, the average voter could never grasp the constructive value of the 2013 government shutdown led by the Tea Party caucus in the U.S. Congress.
Conservative economic hardliners lost favor with most Republicans because the government shutdown got the party in big trouble. According to a poll conducted in mid-October 2013 by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News:
- The Republican Party was more unpopular that at any time since 1989
- Only 24% of Americans had a positive view of the Republican Party
- 73% said the shutdown was an “extremely” or “quite” serious problem
At the same time conservative economic hardliners were driving up the negative numbers for the Republican Party, conservative social hardliners were adding to the catastrophe by putting their agenda ahead of the economic problems facing the country during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Too many families had struggled too long for lawmakers to put issues like marriage and immigration ahead of unemployment and the long-term jobs outlook for America.
Uncompromising economic and social purists dominated a divided Republican Party in 2012 and 2013. The bitter internal division led to unmitigated political and public policy disasters:
- In 2012, Republicans lost the White House and failed to retake the U.S. Senate.
- In 2012, GOP donors lost $1.2 billion in direct investment in Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and lost hundreds of millions more in indirect, independent expenditures in the presidential and U.S. Senate races.
- In 2013, the GOP lost the Virginia Governor’s race (plus Lt. Governor and Attorney General) because the Virginia GOP divided against each other over ideological purity.
Those losses in 2012 and 2013, along with the loss of respect of most Americans over the government shutdown, shook the Republican Party to its core. They had already lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and the population demographic trends were clearly trending Democratic.
Something had to change.
Republican National Committee Self-Assessment; a Wise Move
A major signal that the priorities of Republicans were shifting from arguing amongst themselves about economic and social policy to winning political campaigns was the Republican National Committee’s self-assessment released in March 2013 called the Growth & Opportunity Project. The NY Times called it “a blunt self-critique;” the Wall Street Journal said it was a “scathing self-analysis.” I call it, “wise.”
Sure, MSNBC’s frenzied jabberwonks scoffed at the Growth & Opportunity Project, and the GOP rank and file squirmed at the suggestion that they were contributing to their own demise. But by years end, following the anti-Republican public outrage over the federal government shutdown and after the loss of the Governor’s race in Virginia, the self-assessment began to make sense.
The Growth & Opportunity Project acknowledged GOP brand problems with young voters, women, Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and urban moderates, and made recommendations in the areas of messaging, demographics, campaign mechanics, third party groups, fundraising, campaign finance and the primary process. The report dared make statements like:
- “Democrats talk about people; Republicans talk about policy.”
- “Our standard should not be universal purity; it should be a more welcoming conservatism.”
- “America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans are able to grow our appeal the way GOP governors have done, those changes will tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction.”
The most politically valuable conclusion in the 100-page report is, “The party should be proud of its conservative principles, but just because someone disagrees with us on 20% of the issues, that does not mean we cannot come together on the rest of the issues where we do agree.”
That sentiment appears to be where most Republicans in North Carolina and around the nation are moving in 2014. The fact is, according to Gallup, social and economic issues are not the most important problems facing the country today. The most important problem is government. Here is the latest list from early April polling by Gallup:
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
- Dissatisfaction with government 20%
- Economy in general 16%
- Healthcare 15%
- Unemployment/Jobs 14%
Unfortunately for Republicans, they are credited with much of the “Dissatisfaction with government” because of their unwillingness to compromise on budget bills and their preoccupation with social issues that most Americans do not list as one of the “most important problems” facing the country. But most Republicans now know that, and know that their political future is dependent on getting beyond fighting each other over ideological purity rather than fighting Democrats for the heart and soul of the country.
North Carolina Democrats were really counting on social and economic Republican hardliners to divide and weaken the GOP this year. That’s because they lack the wherewithal to win against a united Republican Party. Unfortunately for Democrats, Republicans are not cooperating in 2014.
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John N. Davis, Editor