Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei stretched their writing wings and penned an editorial Thursday night on the looming collapse of the Republican party. Allen and VandeHai, whose day jobs are to undercut the GOP and its candidates, feign concern that the party isn’t doing enough to appeal to voters who don’t support the party. A more interesting story for the democrats-with-by-lines is the precipitous drop in support for Obama on every major issue.
According to Gallup, just 35% of Americans support Obama’s handling of the economy. In early June, before Obama embarked on an extensive tour of speeches about the economy, 42% approved of his efforts. In other words, the more he talked about the economy, the less Americans approved of how he was handling it.
It isn’t just the economy, though. Americans don’t support how Obama is handling virtually every issue. Only 26% support Obama’s handling of the federal deficit. Taxes? 36% approve. Foreign Affairs? 40%. Immigration? 39%. Health Care? 39%. Only on fighting terrorism (50%) and race relations (51%) does Obama win the backing of a majority, just, of Americans.
Obama basically has the backing of the Democrat base and no one else. With Republicans holding the House, 30 Governorships and more state legislative districts and statewide offices than almost any time in history, and likely to make gains in the Senate next year, it seems it is the Democrats who are on Allen and VandeHai’s “eve of destruction.”
To stitch together their partisan theory, Allen and VandeHei point to perceived problems the GOP has with African-Americans, Hispanics and gays. None of these demographic groups ever formed any meaningful part of a winning coalition for the GOP. No political party should actively try to alienate a block of voters, but the GOP’s path to future victory isn’t paved with pandering appeals to these groups either.
Politico’s editorial is largely built around the presumed need for the GOP to pass some kind of amnesty legislation to appeal to Hispanic voters. While it is certainly true that the nation needs to reform its broken immigration system, reform comes in many varieties. A recent poll found that 60% of Hispanics want the border secured before amnesty is granted, a position in line with a majority of the GOP caucus in the House. Allen and VandeHai make the mistake of accepting the conventional wisdom in DC that “immigration reform” means accepting the Senate “Gang of 8″ bill. In the alternative universe that is reality, the issue is far more complex.
Even if the House GOP were to reverse course and embrace amnesty, it isn’t at clear they would benefit at the ballot box. George H. W. Bush was part of an Administration that actually granted amnesty to illegal immigrants, and he received the lowest percentage of support from Hispanics than almost any time previously. If Mitt Romney had magically received 70% of the Hispanic vote last year, he still would have lost to President Obama. There just aren’t enough voters in any of the demographics Politico focuses on to make that much of a difference for the GOP.
Mitt Romney largely lost the election last year because millions of conservatives and working-class whites failed to show up at the polls. In the last two cycles, the party nominated the moderate, centrist candidates the media barks the GOP needs and large swathes of the party’s base stayed home. The GOP would be better served “auditing” its outreach and messaging to these groups than fine-tune its messaging to groups preternaturally wired to vote against the party.
In modern political history, the GOP has won when it has embraced its conservative principles and articulated a message of freedom and enterprise. Freedom is the most inclusive message in politics. As the late Andrew Breitbart used to say, “If we can’t sell Freedom, we suck.”
Allen and VandeHei would rather the GOP adopt the Democrat playbook and make explicit appeals based on identity politics. An healthy dash of racial politics with a pinch of feminist rhetoric. It is a recipe for disaster for the GOP. Which is, of course, why Politico is pushing it.
If Republicans choose to take advice from hacks like Allen and VandeHai, then they deserve the failures they will surely reap.