The Republican Blueprint to Winning Elections, For Idiots
Elections are not about issues. The sooner you come to understand that, the easier it is to understand American electoral results, and how we get to them. We’ve seen this before, and we’ll probably see it proven again. John Kerry won the majority of issues that were polled in the 2004 exit polls, and lost the election anyway. Hillary Clinton suffered the same fate in 2016. We keep wondering how, but the GOP’s recipe for success is plainly right in front of us.
There are three main points to a successful GOP Presidential campaign:
- Strength. Be the strong, security candidate.
- Boogey man. Have something to run against. Massachusetts liberals. Gay marriage. Benghazi. Hillary’s emails. Any nonsense “bad guy” that you can come up with.
- Run against big government/process. Democrats are going to raise your taxes. Obamacare is taking away your choice.
Now, these three points may seem overly simple and stupid, but they are the constants in a good GOP Presidential campaign. Why do they work? First, Republicans understand they aren’t competing for the whole electorate. The GOP isn’t going to win in Manhattan, Chicago, or Los Angeles. They also aren’t going to lose in Central Pennsylvania or Southwest Virginia. They don’t have to compete among voters who are decided, and they don’t try to. They aim their simpleton strategy right where American elections are decided- the suburbs. Suburbia picks our Presidents, regardless of the election year, and regardless of the candidates. President Obama got this when he campaigned on “Osama Bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive.” He spoke security, competency, and “down home American” with that message. He reached this key demographic.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign message really didn’t have any meaning in suburban and exurban America. “Love Trumps Hate” performs great in large urban settings, but what does it mean 30 miles from Cleveland or Pittsburgh? What does it mean in Dallas County, Iowa, as opposed to next door in Des Moines? Sure, women everywhere share a number of commonalities, but the priorities of the more-often-married suburban women may not match up perfectly with the more-often-single women who live in urban centers. African-Americans in the suburbs may share more economically in common with their white neighbors than African-Americans in center cities. Suburbanites certainly have identity and race issues like anyone else, but they are politically more subtle, and the things they want are distinctly different than what is wanted in urban and rural settings.
Donald Trump, like George W. Bush understood that suburbanites live in their own world, and want to continue to do so. Suburbanites like security, be it physical, economic, or social. Suburbanites don’t have as close of a relationship to their government as people in urban areas, and mostly just want it to function out of their plain sight. Suburbanites don’t like blatant racism, in part because they have more interaction with minority groups than rural Americans, but they tend to also like to keep to themselves, and therefore are open to appeals against “boogeymen” who are taking their jobs or threatening their way of life.
In Bush’s 2004 election, he was the candidate of strength and defending America after 9/11. Liberal judges instituting “gay marriage” was the lead boogeyman, with Kerry’s French background and anti-war activism adding a big assist on the “other-ism” front. Then there was the basic “meat and potatoes” Republican argument on government, that Bush cut your taxes and Kerry would raise them. In 2016, Donald Trump checked all of those boxes. He contrasted his tough talk against Mexicans, ISIS, and Muslims in general against Hillary’s multi-cultural world view and Benghazi “incident.” He used her e-mail incident as his “boogeyman” argument, essentially claiming she was in fact a criminal. Maybe the most underrated blow to Democrats was his attacks on Obamacare and environmental regulation- shots straight across the very idea of an activist government. Trump, like Republicans before him- Bush 41 and 43, Reagan, and Nixon- hit the holy trifecta of Republican politics, and in doing so won the suburban voters who basically decide our national elections in Florida, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in North Carolina, and in Wisconsin. While Hillary Clinton was talking about issues that appealed to her urban base, and who were largely already voting for any Democratic nominee, Trump in his deranged way was talking about issues that suburbanites at least thought applied to them.
I’m not saying Democrats need to abandon their platform. I’m not saying anything Trump said or proposed made any actual sense or is good for anyone in America, suburbanites included. I am not arguing that any of what I wrote above is rational or should make sense in a civilized society. I’m saying these are the voters who decide statewide and national elections, this is how Republicans are making an appeal to them, and yes- it’s working. We can argue about the why’s and how’s, or we can do what President Obama did and craft a message that actually appeals to these voters and wins us elections. The choice is our’s, moving forward.