Conservative Ideas Support Individual Aspirations
Since the election some media commentators have tried to “helpfully” suggest that Republicans change their positions on a variety of issues. In turn some conservatives have roared back, suggesting that the party failed only because it was not conservative ‘enough.’
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s excellent response is direct and to the point: “America already has one liberal political party; there is no need for another one. Make no mistake: Despite losing an election, conservative ideals still hold true.”
Yet the debate reveals that the suggestion candidates need appeal to “crossover voters” can be a controversial notion, at least in some Republican circles. This reflects a fear that the strategy implies that Republicans must compromise their core principles in order to win.
Gerrymandering has divided large parts of the country into districts in which representatives, either Republican or Democrats, need only compete for primary votes in order to hold office. As a practical matter, entire political careers can be spent without ever having to appeal for independent votes, let alone voters from the other party.
However not all of America is so neatly divided into “red” and “blue” zones. Eleven states with Republican Governors voted for Obama. While this is certainly a sobering reality for the Romney campaign, it is also a reminder that the balance of political power in this county continues to rest with ticket splitters.
A majority of these “Obama voting -Republican Governor” states also elected majority Republican delegations to the House of Representatives. Together they elected 70 Republicans compared with 36 Democrats to the House. This 34 seat advantage mirrors the majority of the House Republicans nationally. Without them, Nancy Pelosi would be Speaker again.
There are, of course, countless other examples of conservatives and Republicans winning in “Blue States.” Even the “bluest” states, states never in contention at the Presidential level, have in recent history elected many more Republican Governors than Maryland has, such as California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
No one would accuse Ronald Reagan of compromising his principles as he attracted the “Reagan Democrats.” As the Great Communicator, he had the gift for reaching voter’s actual concerns, rather than dwelling on the issues that conservatives thought voters needed to hear about.
In Montgomery County, Connie Morella remains as a political icon for her ability to appeal to cross-over votes. Even after redistricting in 2002, she held 48% of the vote in a district that John Kerry got 69% and Obama got 74%. Only a remarkably few politicians in the country have been able to attract so many votes outside their party’s base.
As a path forward after this year’s debate over “You didn’t build it” and “the 47%,” recent remarks by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron about “aspiration politics” should resonate.
“Line one, rule one of being a conservative is that it’s not where you’ve come from that counts, it’s where you’re going. We just get behind people who want to get on in life: the doers; the risk takers; the young people who dream of their first pay-check, their first car, their first home and are ready and willing to work hard to get those things. While the intellectuals of other parties sneer at people who want to get on in life, we here salute you.”
Governor Jindal makes much the same point with his advice to the party: “We have to boldly show what the future can look like with the free market policies that we believe in. Conservative ideals are aspirational, and our country is aspirational.” We need to “[c]ompete for every single vote, the 47% and the 53%, and any other combination of numbers that adds up to 100 percent. President Barack Obama and the Democrats can continue trying to divide America into groups of warring communities with competing interests, but we will have none of it. We are going after every vote as we try to unite all Americans.”
David Cameron puts it even more succinctly:
“They call us the party of the better-off. No. We are the party of the want to be better-off, those who strive to make a better life for themselves and their families – and we should never, ever be ashamed of saying so.”
Montgomery County Republican Chairman