How Not to Win
There is one rule that political strategists should follow in persuading voters, in particular if you are working in a party primary and you either want one guy nominated or another guy not nominated, don’t insult the voters of the opponents you oppose. You might need them in the General Election. Rick Wilson, who is a Republican strategist and is Trump’s opponent, broke that rule in spectacular fashion.
While making a case for the Republican Party being the Party of limited government conservatism, he makes the insulting point that Trump supporters are “childless single men who masturbate to anime. They’re not real and political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.”
Okay, so explain to me why insulting Trump’s supporters in such vulgar fashion is productive for the cause. First, I am not a Trump supporter nor do I plan to vote for Trump in the Iowa Caucus, but I do understand Trump’s supporters frustrations. And I want to see the GOP win in 2016. And while Mr. Wilson points to the Republican Party as being the Party of limited government or at least should be, his insults only reinforce in the mind of many Republicans in the hinterland what the “Republican establishment” thinks of them.
Many of these supporters are blue collar voters who see their income stagnant and their American dream evaporating. Part of coalition building is to add to your Party vote total, and as someone who has worked on various projects to expand on the conservative majority successfully, the first rule is don’t insult your opponents’ voters. You just might want to attract enough of them to win.
Henry Olsen in National Review observed about Trump’s supporters,
“Conservative Republicans have fought for 60 years to build a coalition that not only will tell history to stop, but will also channel it in a new direction, a direction in which freedom flourishes and America and her values reign over a peaceful and prosperous globe. The constituency that is rallying to Trump is not fully conservative, but it shares more values with conservatives than do any of the other constituencies that could possibly be enticed to join our cause. It is thus imperative that conservatives understand what these fellow citizens want and find ways to make common cause with them where we can….Whites without a college degree who remain motivated by these issues are already staunch Republicans. Those who remain independent tend to be open to candidates’ espousing traditional social values but do not prioritize those values highly when choosing whom to vote for…Today these voters are most animated by a sense that they are being left behind by a changing America. They have good reason to think so: Americans with less than a college education have seen their incomes stagnate or decline for more than 15 years.”
In 1980, we had a word to describe many of these voters: Reagan Democrats. As Mr. Olsen observed, they may not read F.A. Hayak but often enough these are folks that are “our boots on the ground” when it comes time to dealing with the bad guys throughout the world, and they understand that they are getting royally screwed. Enough Republicans in the comfort of the Washington, DC corridor often deride them but as Mr. Olsen added, “Ignoring and ridiculing their concerns, the way European elites have done with their own electorates for most of the last two decades, will simply intensify the masses’ rage and ensure that their political spokesmen become more intransigent and radical. If you want an American version of Marine Le Pen tomorrow, ignore the legitimate concerns of blue-collar Americans today.” Donald Trump has become their voice and if one wants to garner the support of those voters and wrestle them away from Trump, then work on their concerns.
As my own research has shown, the average voter understands that increasing government spending further undermines their own chances for success and they want policy that talks about growth and opportunity. They want to see America great again and the American dream restored. Remember, if Trump doesn’t get the nomination, these voters won’t go away but wait for the next Trump to appear. Or the Republicans can take their concerns seriously and expand their opportunity to keep the Senate and win the White House.