[Editor’s Note: We are pleased to offer this original commentary from Doug Lasken. As with all submissions, this piece represents Lasken’s views and not the website.]
Almost like a Hanukkah or early Christmas present, Politico.com last week posted, “CNN poll: Good news for Republicans in 2014 midterms”, which relates that, per the most recent CNN/ORC poll, “Republicans are gaining ground heading into the 2014 midterms.” The poll, conducted last week and released Tuesday, 12/26 shows “…a dramatic turnaround in the party’s standing among voters.”
The article elaborates: “Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates…But the Democratic lead has disappeared. The new poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge.”
As might be expected, the article attributes the 10 point swing to the “political uproar over Obamacare.” There’s a lesson for the GOP in the loss of Democratic support for Obamacare. While the population at large cares little about GOP charges that Obamacare represents “socialism,” (after all, what are Medicare and social security, which support plenty of Republicans, if not socialistic?), they do care when the President lies to their faces about maintaining their pre-existing, low-cost health coverage. The moral here for Republicans: Cool it on the strident, off-base ideology and focus on the bread and butter.
There’s another, related lesson in the CNN poll. Per CNN Polling Director Keating Holland: “It looks like the biggest shifts toward the Republicans came among white voters, higher-income Americans, and people who live in rural areas, while Democrats have gained strength in the past month among some of their natural constituencies, such as non-white voters and lower-income Americans.”
This explains Obama’s swing though California big cities this week. On Monday, for instance, he mingled with movie stars and Democratic leaders in Beverly Hills, who were only too happy to hear that Obamacare will rebound and be better than ever. The majority of urban voters, incredible as it seems, are still buying the Obama brand.
Which is why the GOP needs to not blow it.
The party should start by asking itself why in the world Obama’s base, even when it includes millions of people he has just screwed out of their health insurance, still largely supports him. The answer is simple: The Republican brand has associated itself with elements so deeply unpopular with the majority of Americans that they don’t care what kind of incompetent or liar their Democratic leader is, as long as he’s not a Republican.
Why? Because the Republican platform, as annunciated forcefully by 2013 GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and not forcefully rejected by any other GOP candidate (including Mitt Romney), is so abhorrent to a majority of the electorate that any Democrat who speaks against it, as Obama does, comes out looking good. Here’s a sample of positions which Santorum has associated with the GOP:
1. Contraception reduces sex to “mere pleasure.”
2. The founders did not intend separation of church and state.
3. Abortion is murder, therefore abortion doctors should be tried for murder.
4. Homosexuality is a sin opposed by God.
My aim here is not to debate the merits of these positions (though I’m willing to do so), but to point out that something like 60%-70% of the electorate is so intensely opposed to them that they will vote for Obama- no matter how evident his faults- rather than for any Republican candidate, whether that candidate forcefully promotes the Santorum platform or not. It’s guilt by association.
It will take some guts and a bit of upheaval to make it clear, in a public way, that the Santorum wing’s primacy in the GOP is over, but if the GOP wants to take back the cities, along with their diverse constituencies, it has no choice. The alternative is a decline into obscurity, identified as the old, white and bitter provincial party the Republicans’ critics claim it to be.
Doug Lasken is a retired LA Unified teacher, recently returned to coach debate, a freelancer and education consultant. Read his blog at http://laskenlog.blogspot.com/ and write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.