A few days after the recent presidential election we posted Open Letter to the Republican Party, #2. There we complained that too many candidates in the GOP are flat-out crazed — religiously obsessed, sexually repressive, anti-science creationists, theocratic fanatics, etc. You know who they are.
Unfortunately, those people comprise a significant portion of the party’s voting base, and they have ever since Nixon recruited them from the Democrat party. Our last Open Letter discusses that history, and there’s no point in trying to undo the past. We have to live with the situation.
But now we’re addressing the sane members of the party — those who advocate only the GOP’s traditional concerns: the Constitution, the rule of law, national defense, free enterprise, limited government, low taxes, balanced budgets, and individual rights. We still have such people, lots of them, but they’re stumbling all over themselves, often with both feet in their mouths, trying to appear rational and acceptable to a majority of the electorate while simultaneously pandering to the social conservatives in the party’s base. We suspect that’s the problem plaguing people like Marco Rubio (see Marco Rubio and Creationism) and maybe a few others who have national potential, but they’re not going anywhere if they continue to pursue their current course. So what’s a sane Republican candidate supposed to do?
Herewith, we suggest that if they can get nominated with a minimum of pandering, the math dictates that they should then engage in a Sister Souljah moment — “a calculated denunciation of an extremist position or special interest group” — and openly disown the fanatical portion of the base. It’s a winning strategy, as we will now explain with a thought experiment.
Imagine that the electorate consists of three equal groups of a million voters each — one million are the GOP base, another million are the Dem base, and the third million are the so-called undecided voters. The undecideds aren’t idiots (well, they’re no more so than the voters in each party’s base), but they’re not hard-core ideologues who favor one extreme or the other. They don’t like extremism. They tend to vote for the candidate who seems competent and who doesn’t frighten them as being what they perceive a dangerous fanatic. We suggest that this middle third of the electorate is more important than the party’s base, and here’s why.
Suppose a candidate takes our advice and publicly renounces the social conservative issues in rather vigorous terms. Don’t misunderstand — we’re not advocating that the candidate should embrace the other party’s views. All we suggest is that he should say something like this:
In my personal life, I agree with and live according to most of the views of the social conservatives. But those are strictly private matters and they won’t play any part in my administration’s policies. I won’t advocate or sign any laws that impose my private morality on the American people, nor will I have anyone in my administration who wants to do so. Those issues are personal matters and they should be the private concerns of the citizens. They are not the government’s business.
Okay, fine. Now what will be the electoral results of such a move? Obviously, some of the GOP’s base will be disheartened and will stay home on election day. How many? Let’s say half of them, so in our imaginary scenario that’s half a million votes our candidate doesn’t get. Now what?
Now our candidate has a clear shot at winning the whole undecided block of a million voters, or at least most of them. There are undoubtedly more of them then there are the stay-at-home base voters, or at least that’s our best guess. And there’s another advantage to this:
By winning the undecideds, we not only get those votes, but we take them away from the Dem candidate. That’s right, because the undecideds won’t necessarily stay home — they’ll probably vote for one side or the other. If we don’t get them, the Dems will. It doesn’t work that way with our disgruntled base voters. They may stay home, but they’ll never vote for the Dem candidate. We won’t get their votes, but neither will the opposition. It’s quite different with the undecideds. Each of those we get we’ve also taken away from the Dems. Viewed like that, the undecideds are twice as valuable as the base.
So how would our hypothetical election work out? Half of the GOP base stays home, so we’ll get only half a million base voters. Plus a million undecided voters (or nearly so). That gives us about 1.5 million. The Dem candidate will get the million in his base, but that’s all he’ll get. See how it works? We lose part of the base but we make it up — and more — by winning the undecideds. And we win the election in a landslide. Well, we could.
Bear in mind that our strategy doesn’t require a candidate to abandon the GOP’s social principles, but he does have to strongly reassure the voters that he won’t make those principles compulsory. If we can convince the undecideds that a Republican victory doesn’t mean that the government will be run by a pack of wild-eyed theocrats, then we have a shot at winning. Otherwise, we’re history, and deservedly so.
Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.