During my 22 years in Democratic politics, there is one fact that I have learned…my fellow Democrats don’t understand Republicans. And while I think Republicans also don’t understand us, I do think those that run their campaigns understand the voters more than my Democratic friends.
During my consulting career, I primarily deal with evaluating districts. I look at the data and information regarding the district and interpret how it will vote. And while number-crunching is just half of the battle, to truly understand the voter’s intent, one must “think” like a voter in that district. That is how come Democrats look at a district, think they can win it, and then on Election Day, they end up losing. These people just look at the numbers and come to their conclusion. And while numbers help us tremendously, the act of voting is still psychological, and requires deeper thinking, not just statistical analysis alone.
I think the root of this problem can be traced back to the 1988 Presidential Election. After two embarrassing showings in 1980 and 1984, Democrats looked as if they had a chance to take back the White House with Michael Dukakis. And while the “Dukakis-in-a-tank” and the Willie Horton ads hurt him, it was CNN’s Bernard Shaw’s “If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer” question which exposed an unpopular stance by the governor. This was exploited and eventually lead to his defeat.
This is where the Democrats usually falter. Instead of changing the debate and trying to do what they can to divert attention from the unpopular issue, Democrats always try to convince people about the Democratic view on the issue, even when people have a strong opinion favoring the opposite. The Democratic Party’s Achilles Heal has always been that they think they can convince everyone to their point of view, and they can somehow get 100% of the vote if they just educate people on the issues.
Republicans think just the opposite. Instead of trying to win over everyone, they try to get that 50%+1 and win elections. They spend rarely, if any, time debating their unpopular issues with the public. They either go with a popular issue, like Bush did in 1988 with the death penalty, or go with an issue that will rally the base, like Bush 43 and 9/11. Rarely, if ever, do Republicans sit their and painstakingly try to convince the American people why tax breaks for the rich are good. They know they lose on that issue, so they move on to the next issue. If Republicans thought like Democrats, and stuck with trying to convince people that tax breaks for the rich are good, then they would lose election after election.
These next series of articles that I am writing about will, hopefully, put us into the minds of Republicans and help us understand what they think. While the aforementioned paragraphs talk about how Republican campaigns focus on issues, these series or articles will help us understand the individual Republican. And when this series is finished, it will show that the Democratic way of trying to convince everyone that they are right isn’t a winning strategy.
One thing that I have noticed about my Democratic friends is that they usually stick in their own circles. Their friends are Democrats, their family is mostly Democratic. Yes, they might have that one uncle that has a poster of Rick Santorum in their garage, but overall they are surrounding themselves with like-minded people. Many of the Democrats I know work in politics so, again, they stick with their own.
I have the luxury (or dissatisfaction) of being in the opposite boat. While my parents and a few aunts and uncles are Democrats, I have a large amount of Republicans in my family. I have rural Baptist preachers in my family from northeastern Mississippi counties that voted for George Wallace by over 80%. I have suburban Republicans that are upper-middle class. Some are Republicans because of taxes and fiscal issues, some are Republicans because their are staunch Catholics. In addition to my family, I have worked in many jobs outside of political consulting and have met a number of Republicans and have talked to them about a number of different issues. Finally, I currently live in rural southern Illinois. While the county I live in might vote Democratic locally, they voted for McCain in 2008 and the local Democratic state senator resembles a Republican more than a Democrat. Therefore, I have had a ton of exposure to the Republican and conservative way of thinking. I know where these people are coming from.
Over the past 20 years, I have been able to pinpoint why Republicans think they way they do. And with that, I have the average Republican voter split into five specific groups. Each of these groups will have their own “part” throughout this series, and will hopefully help people understand how the Republican mind works. Here are those groups:
Wealthy Republican – When I say “wealthy Republicans”, I mean those that are in the top 3% of wage earners in the nation. Of course, they have a vested interest in seeing Republican candidates elected, because they will benefit from the tax breaks they will pass. These are the only people that I will not be doing a section on because the reason they vote the way they do is quite obvious.
“Wannabe” Rich Voters – This is your voter that is not rich, and possibly not even upper-middle class. But somehow, someday, they think they will be rich so they support the tax cuts for the rich as well as other spending cuts. They are brainwashed into this idea of “The American Dream”. And yet through their entire life, they will never actually achieve that dream.
White Religious Voters – We already know that this group of voters are, possibly, the largest voting block in the GOP. And, of course, we always hear progressives say “If Jesus were alive today, he would be a Democrat”. And while that might be true, they don’t see it that way. Why not? Well, it isn’t just the issues that these voters look at, but their thought process is also an important role in their opinion formation.
Racists – As much as the GOP doesn’t want to admit it, most racists vote for their party. And with the lack of attention that they are giving toward the Trayvon Martin case, they are showing that they have no problem with these voters. Yes, they might not actively court them, but they don’t discourage them either. We will show how race has formed the new Florida Republicans by looking at their voting patterns.
Uninformed/Uneducated voters – How often do we hear rank and file Republicans say “I don’t want a handout” or “I’m not a welfare case?” The issue of welfare has pretty much been off the table since 1996 when Bill Clinton passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. Yet, millions of Republicans cling to this issue. We will examine how some Republicans lack knowledge on certain issues, as well as come up with absurd ideas on why they are Republicans. In addition, we will look at the those that think they “should be Republicans” without any concrete reason why.
The Crazies – Obama was born in Kenya…do I really need to say more.
Three main groups of voters that I have left out of this analysis are gun owners, the “get the government out of my whatever” people, and those concerned with foreign policy and national security.
The reason I have left guns out is because I feel that guns actually are an underlying issue in the religion debate. Gun owners usually refer to the 2nd Amendment as their “God given right” and look at the taking away of guns as not only invasion of their personal freedom, but an incursion into their faith as well.
As far as the “get the government out of my whatever” group, these groups of people are hypocritical. While they want government out of some things, they still support having government in issues like abortion. And again, we are talking about true Republicans, not libertarians.
Finally, we come up with the foreign policy and national security issue. This really isn’t an issue that defines a party. In fact, I would argue that the issue of Israel defines the Democratic Party, especially in Florida, more than foreign policy in general defines the Republican Party. Foreign policy is mostly a swing voter issue, as was apparent in the 1980 and 2004 Presidential elections.
So. over the next few days, I will be posting this series. I hope you enjoy and look forward to your comments.