I was going to end this series with a comment on problem Republicans face in this state that no one has addressed, and that is the donor dilemma. I will address that later. A story in the LA Times today, though, caught my eye, and I thought it worth commenting on as a part of this series. The Times studied the outcome of the races Republicans lost for Congress, and found as much as a 10% drop in Republican turnout in the key races throughout the state. In each election, the Dems turned out and voted in numbers equal to 2016. Republicans, however, simply didn’t show up. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, Donald Trump was not on the ballot. Throughout the country, I have talked to Republican activists who said Trump turned out people they had never seen at elections before. Second, there was a feeling throughout the country by those people that Congressional Republicans did not support Trump’s agenda. I’m glad we’re fighting about the wall now. That fight should have happened six months ago. It might have changed the outcome.
Why is that?
One of my rules of politics is that Republicans lose elections because they break their promises. Democrats lose elections because they keep theirs. We have hope in 2020 because Democrats will keep their promises, and motivate Rs to turn out then. In this election, however, Rs, especially Rs in Congress, were perceived to break their promises. No restraint in spending, no cut off of Planned Parenthood, no wall, no shrinking of the federal government, constant criticism of Trump. When you anger almost every constituency that put you in power, is there any wonder they turn on you in an election? The result, those Trump voters around California who came out to vote in 2016 simply failed to show up in 2018, and Republicans lost big time.
We cannot afford to lose even one vote in this state. Our base is conservative, especially here in California. The base chooses not to vote when they cannot discern the difference between the Rs and the Ds in Washington and Sacramento. We have a bunch of experts telling us how “Trump has hurt the party.” They, quite frankly, are part of the problem. I expect the LA Times to come to the conclusion that Trump was the cause of the drop off in turnout. The reporters and editors there are a bunch of lefties, and they don’t understand how the rank and file conservative Republicans think. You would think, however, that consultants who claim they want to help the Republican Party would not say the same thing. You would think they understand the average Republican voter.
In my experience, many of the Sacramento and Washington Republican consultants just don’t understand Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans. They tend to think of conservatives as a nuisance, and difficult to deal with, leading Republicans down the wrong road. Whenever a voter or activist starts talking about the founders or the Constitution, you can hear the collective groan coming from the consultant crowd. “Don’t these guys get it?” the consultants will say, “We have to be realistic. We have to negotiate with the Democrats.”
Well, no we don’t, especially when we “control” all three parts of the government. But Republicans negotiate anyway, and the end result is an ever expanding government. The Republican “pro-freedom” small government crowd grows frustrated. “You told us,” the activists will say, “that when you have the presidency and both houses of Congress, you will finally do what you promised, that is, shrink government, or protect life, or protect the border, or stand with us on key issues” And then elected Republicans don’t. The result? Lose 40 seats in the House. Don’t blame us activists, Washingtonian and Sacramento Republicans, you brought this on yourself.
The solution? Be like the Democrats, keep your promises. Don’t attract voters by lying to them. We may still lose elections because we keep our promises (like the Democrats do), but over time, we will realign the country. Most of the country agrees with Republicans on core issues, they just don’t believe they can trust them. For good reason, the voters feel like Charlie Brown, and elected Republicans are like Lucy. This time, Republicans tell the voters, we will not pull the ball away, just when you think you are ready to score a touchdown. Too often, our leadership and elected officials get too smart by half. They think they are smarter, and more understanding, of the real problems of government, than the voters who put them in charge. The response of those voters to that Republican condescension? We’re going to put you in the minority, see if you got the message yet.
Get the message. When you are in charge again in two years, deliver on the Republican agenda. You will be surprised at how the voters will reward you.