Minority Outreach: Where to Start?
Okay. I admit it. I’m a little obsessed with this idea of spreading conservatism to minority groups. As I’ve said before, one solid lesson we learned from the 2012 election is that there is a disconnect between conservatives – as represented by the GOP – and what should be natural conservative constituencies who reliably vote for Republicans over Democrats.
It isn’t enough to state the fact that conservatism isn’t about “identity politics” or “race” anymore. The left has an entire media apparatus dedicated to calling everything we do “racist.” It’s gotten to the point where the fact that we DON’T consider race in policy proposals gets branded as racist. We want voter ID for everyone, right? That’s “racist” because the left says that it disproportionately affects minorities. We think everyone is perfectly capable of getting an ID to verify they are eligible to vote, the left thinks minorities aren’t perfectly capable of getting an ID, but we’re the racists? And, somehow, that nonsense flies because we don’t do a good enough job explaining how ridiculous it is. We simply expect, mistakenly, that the idiocy will be seen as idiocy. We need to stop expecting it. We need to preempt it.
It’s probably too late now, but the fiscal cliff debate is / was a good opportunity to do some political jujitsu on Democrats. Here’s how the messaging should be going, but isn’t:
The conservative position is that when the economy is sputtering along at 2% annual GDP growth, raising taxes – on anyone – isn’t a wise move. We also understand that any increased revenue to the government (we’ll ignore how raising tax rates rarely significantly increases revenue to the government for now) won’t even be used to reduce the deficit. It will be spent on new programs the Democrats always dream up and all we will have accomplished is further depressing the economy and further growing the size of the federal budget. Pretty simple, right? Where we go wrong is in our expectation that this straightforward analysis makes sense to the average American. It doesn’t. They tune out as soon as you start explaining how higher taxes don’t necessarily mean higher revenue.
This is where Democrats exploit the disconnect most efficiently. They turn the debate into class warfare. It’s the “rich” vs the “poor.” It’s “everyone needs to pay their ‘fair share’ and the ‘rich’ aren’t.” They take it to a personal level and the voter who was ready to give up on the entire debate is now nodding along, “Yeah! Screw those rich bastards!” Of course, the assumption is that the “rich bastards” are all old white guys smoking cigars in boardrooms on Wall Street.
Here, though, is where conservatives can counter effectively. Despite our allergy to “identity politics” we must use it to a degree at this crucial point in the debate. We have to make our case personal. We have to show how “the rich” aren’t just white guys on Wall Street.
I’m haven’t researched it, but I’m sure there are statistics floating around showing how many hispanics, blacks, etc. are small business owners. We already know that letting the current tax rates on “the 1%” go up will adversely affect around 900,000 small businesses which constitute around 3% of all small business but over half the jobs created by those businesses. If we took it one step further, say “x number of these 900,000 small business are owned by hispanics, and x number are owned by blacks, asians, etc. and Obama / Democrats are killing those jobs” we connect on the very personal level that Democrats have traditionally exploited.
The key is letting go of this idea that we have to steer clear of identity politics and embrace the idea that conservatism is the right path for minority groups. But you need to get specific. And if that requires using race as a means to make the case, so be it. Democrats are going to continue doing it, so we have to figure out a way to do it better or we’ll continue to miss a golden opportunity to steer this country back from the road to Europe-West.