What Conservatives Can Learn from Liberals

By Clay Olsen | April 15th, 2013

After the 2012 election, there has been, and continues to be, much talk about the state of the Republican Party. Countless ideas are being thrown around about how the party can make a good rebound. Some of these ideas suggest Republicans should continue to move toward the center to get the coveted prize of the “undecided” vote. Others propose that a party revival is needed in which Republicans return to Conservative principles and make their stand there. One thing is agreed upon by all Republican strategists: we cannot afford to strike out next time we are at bat.

Perhaps it is appropriate to look back on past elections in order to gauge what works and what does not. Election 2012 is a good place to start. The results of this election should have been something Democrats feared. An economy going nowhere, huge debt and deficits, and the recent foreign policy foul up in Benghazi are some tough facts to run on. However, the GOP could not deliver. We saw a lower than expected Republican turnout at the voting booth.

Now let’s look at the 2010 Congressional elections. Similar situation: out of control spending, Democrats calling for higher taxes, and the controversial Affordable Care Act (sometimes referred to as Obamacare). We saw huge support for Republican candidates resulting in many seats going in the party’s favor.

So we have two very similar circumstances with two very different results. What was the difference between the 2010 and 2012 election? Conservatism. Although establishment Republicans want to downplay the Tea Party movement, it was this movement that brought the GOP majority in the House. Marches on D.C. before the election fired up the Republican party and showed how popular fiscal Conservatism really is to its constituents. The Tea Party was built on the principles of lower taxes, lower government spending, and the repeal of Obamacare. And that was popular! So why do establishment Republicans run from it?!

The GOP had two years to retain the Conservative excitement. Instead of going with an exciting candidate, the party decided to go with (once again) a moderate. Now I am not saying there was a clear Conservative candidate that was a guarantee win, but we tried out a moderate Republican in the 2008 election and we lost. Romney was supposed to collect the “undecided” vote. That is what elections today seem to be all about: the all-important “undecided” vote. The undecided vote means nothing if you cannot get your own party involved and out to vote on election day.

We are told that political strategy leads politicians to capture the fence-line voters by moderating their stances. In other words, pandering. We are told that we need to soften our principles and move toward the middle. And that is what we have done the past two presidential elections. We put up two weak Republicans to represent us and they expect to retain the same enthusiasm from the conservative Republicans that they got in the 2010 election? If the candidate that is supposed to be representing your principles and ideas goes out and sucks up to “Independents” in order to get votes, does that make you want to get involved in the guy’s campaign?

Pandering shows weakness. Nobody will willingly get behind someone who is not going to protect their principles. There was no pandering in 2010. There was only the unwavering stance on the principle of limited government. So what is to be done about the undecided voter. Do we all get down off our platform to convince them that we are not fanatical? I would suggest that the correct answer is to educate the undecided. Educate every voter. Make sure that every voter, no matter what party they are affiliated with, understands what we stand for. We cannot leave it up to the cable television networks that create a straw man of the Republican party.

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Half of the Youth Vote Left Untapped: Potential Game Changer for 2016?

 

Let’s look at the numbers from the election in an attempt to make some sense out of it. In 2012, Romney won Texas with 57.2% of the vote versus Obama’s 41.4%, close to 1.3 million more votes than the President, that is a 15.84% margin. This is not surprising, considering that last time Texas went for a Democratic nominee was in 1976 – Jimmy Carter.  Close to eight million Texans casted a ballot in this election. Republicans have gained a two-percentage lead in the state from 2008.

Now looking at Travis County: 385,081 voted in Travis County this year in the presidential race, 60.1% went for Obama and 36.2% for Romney. There are 635,300 registered voters in Travis County, bringing this year’s countywide turnout to 61.3%.

Back in 2008, the President won Travis County 63.5-34.3. Over the last four years, the President’s advantage eroded more than three percentage points. [Interesting Side Note: My native Harris County in Houston was split down the middle, essentially tied, with the President edging a win with a mere +585 margin. Jefferson County is another close win for the President, 50.4% over 48.8%. Texas is all red except Travis County, Dallas County, Harris County, Bexar County, counties in the Valley, and a few counties in West Texas]

The youth vote (19-29) went to Obama 60-36 in this election. That is a 24-percentage point gap that Republicans need to close in coming years. However, this can be viewed as improvement from the 66-31 ratio in 2008. Nationally, the Obama coalition lost five percentage points in youth vote. This has to be one of the most under reported statistics from this election (all we hear about is that Latinos overwhelmingly voted for Obama). Obviously, the Republican Party can do more to include young voters into its fold.

To provide you with an idea of how important – or rather, how underrated – the youth vote is to this year’s election: according to CIRCLE, “In Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, if Romney had won half the youth vote, or if young people had stayed home all together, he would have won those key battleground states.  A switch of those 80 electoral votes would have also changed the presidency, electing Romney as president.” 

This speaks to the strength of the youth vote in the years to come, particularly in the next presidential election. 23 million young voters turned out to vote in this election, which is only one half of eligible young voters, meaning the other half is left untapped by political organizations. In toss-up, or leaning states, youth turnout was as high as 55-58%. There are 3.7 million youth voters in Texas. That is 23% of the state’s eligible voters. Turnout is under 40%, so more than 2 million young people do not turn out to vote. If 60% of them do turnout and vote Democrats in future elections, Texas might become a blue state. That is how big of a deal young voters are to the future political landscape.

Who are the young voters? Well 1 out of 11 youth voters self identify as LGBTQ, that is more than double the proportion of the electorate as a whole. 1 out of 10 youth voters are Hispanic young men. About half of the youth voters (44%) are Hispanics, Blacks, or LGBTQ, groups that voted overwhelmingly for the President. 90% of youth have family income at or below $50k. The youth vote has gained 17 million new members since 2008. While fewer young voters identified themselves as Democrats this election, almost none moved into the GOP rank – more identified as “independents.”

A particular stab at young Republicans’ failure in messaging this past election: overwhelming proportion of youth (67%) blamed the economy on George W. Bush. Young minority women voted overwhelmingly for the President, with young black females voting 98% for the President. Not all youth groups supported the President though; young white males and young white females supported GOP by a slim margin. Young females have a slight better turnout than young males. Mobilizing young males to go to the polls may help Republicans in the future. Also, the GOP needs to do more to explain the role of government to non-whites. There is a 20-point gap between non-White young males and white young males on their view of the role of government. 66% of youth with college experienced turned out to vote, versus 35% of youth without college experience. GOP needs to do a better job reaching out to youth without college experience. That requires a new way of thinking about social media outreach and campaigning beyond mere college campuses, as college aged (18-24) young voters make up only about one-fourth of the youth vote.

Sources: CIRCLE, Travis County Clerk, Politico Election Results, Dave Leip’s Atlas Election Results