voting-gop

So NOW What Do We Do?

Do you think Republicans got their butts kicked in 2012?  A lot of people do, considering that Barack Obama is still president.  But consider the following:

Romney got more votes in 2012 than McCain did in 2008.

Obama lost anywhere from 1-3 percentage points from his 2008 numbers in EVERY SWING STATE in 2012.

Republicans lost only 9 seats in the House and 2 seats in the Senate, and gained a governorship.

So there is good news, and all is far from lost.  That said, we do need to look at the problems Republicans and conservatives will have going forward if they hope to improve their performance in elections.  There are concerns about the consultant racket at the national level, and the endorsement rag racket at the local level in Houston.  But most pressing of the problems seem to center around three major challenges:

Demographics 

  • Around 41 million Americans will reach voting age by 2020
  • Around 9 million Hispanics will reach voting age by 2020
  • Around 6 million African Americans will reach voting age by 2020

Democrats do a better job at capturing voters in young and minority demographics at present. For instance,  In 2012 voters 18-29 went for Obama 60% to Romney’s 36%, and Hispanic voters went for Obama 71% to Romney’s 27%.  If these patterns aren’t reversed in the future, it will be difficult for Republicans to overcome as this large group of Americans reach voting age.

 demographics

Technology

GOP ORCA v. Democrats Narwhal – While the GOP used outdated, inefficient, or poorly-working systems to get out the vote, Democrats had successfully mined social media and brought many new voters to the polls for Obama.  Traditional Republican GOTV methods have concentrated on reaching already-registered voters, not identifying new ones.

Website differences – One way to tell how well a party is handling the basics of technology is to examine their party website.  For instance, in the county where I live, the Harris County GOP site looks cluttered and difficult to navigate, whereas the Harris County Democrats’ site is easier to use and looks more modern.  If a party can’t even manage their “internet storefront” well, then it’s difficult to see them using more advanced technologies like smart phones and tablets to get out the vote.

Messaging

Republicans always seem to be at a disadvantage with messaging.  It takes time to explain positions with more than bumper-sticker slogans.  It also takes care to craft a message properly, one that can be backed up with facts.  Additionally, pollsters are finding the GOP has a serious image problem with younger voters, responding to pollsters asking about the GOP with: “Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Narrow-minded.”  That is the narrative that the left has pushed about Republicans, and it is working.

In 2012, the left launched UpWorthy – a simple, shareable, liberal messaging site that pushes out the messaging they want, using their base to spread the word for them virally.  Republicans have little to compete with that (Twitchy comes closest, but is limited in both its ability to be easily shared, and in its source material) and combating it will be a difficult task.  In addition, the mainstream media has all but abdicated their role as government watchdogs; instead they’ve downplayed or ignored major stories about the Obama administration (Benghazi) or Democrats caught in scandal (Sen. Bob Menendez).  Republicans need the equivalent of Media Boot Camp in order to avoid candidate mistakes or misrepresentations like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, but they also need to know how to handle an adversarial media.

The problems above beg the following questions for Republican leadership at every level:

  • Does leadership acknowledge these problems?
  • Does leadership have a plan to deal with these challenges?  Are they priorities?
  • Is leadership qualified to deal with the challenges?

Republican activists at every level need to challenge leadership, and determine whether they are really equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.  If they aren’t, they need to be lobbied hard and educated, or replaced where possible.

So knowing the challenges ahead, what can we be doing now to win?

  • Learn new technology and social media – we should be mastering as many forms of get-out-the-vote technology and social media as possible, as soon as possible.
  •  Set the example of working out conflicts over ideology – minimize the use of “RINO” and other words that divide, and find ways to work together wherever we agree
  •  Build coalitions with groups like Log Cabin Republicans and Ron Paul supporters – both groups in Harris County have proven to be largely conservative and very politically active, especially in campaigns.  And they work harder than most activists I’ve encountered.
  • Replace leadership – If leadership refuses to acknowledge the problems faced by Republicans in winning future elections, we must replace them, finding experienced leaders who not only understand the problems, but are willing and prepared to work to solve them.