Monday, February 8 , 2016, 10:49 am | Fair 72º

Mona Charen: It’s Hard to Be a Republican

By Mona Charen | @mcharen |

Even when the economy is terrible, when the incumbent Democratic president has not been able to demonstrate success on job creation or growth, and even when the standard of living for Americans is declining on his watch, the country will choose a Democrat “who cares about the problems of people like me” over the Republican. That alone is enough to make Republican heads spin for some time.

Many established beliefs about presidential politics have been proved false by President Barack Obama’s re-election: 1) the idea that, when unemployment is above 7 percent, incumbents fail; 2) the notion that incumbent presidents who are re-elected always increase their percentage of the vote over their first race; 3) the idea that late deciders break for the challenger; and 4) the belief that if majorities say the country is on the “wrong track,” the incumbent will be defeated. All wrong.

The problem with all of these so-called laws of politics is that they are based on a tiny sample. There have only been 20 presidential contests between 1936 (the year these “laws” are usually dated from) and today. That’s too small a data set from which to glean reliable trends, far less iron laws of politics.

Mitt Romney made his share of mistakes. It’s possible that if he hadn’t alienated Hispanic voters during the primaries by his harsh anti-immigration stance, if he hadn’t committed the “47 percent” blunder, and if he had more effectively rebutted the Obama smear campaign against him as a rapacious capitalist who was willing to inflict unemployment on thousands to increase his own and his shareholders’ profits, he might have pulled out a victory.

But it’s also true that Romney had many strengths, and Obama had many weaknesses. One lesson for Republicans in this defeat (beyond the issue, addressed by this column before, of immigration) is a familiar one that we must examine anew: The Republican message of free enterprise, self-reliance and individual initiative is a harder sell than the Democratic message of “Let the government take care of you.”

This is particularly true among single women. Romney won male voters 52 to 45 percent, but he lost women 55 to 44 percent. While Romney prevailed among married women by 53 to 46 percent, Obama’s margin among single women was a crushing 68 to 30 percent. Adding to the gloom for Republicans, fewer than half of American households now feature a married couple. The illegitimacy rate is 40 percent. And the women’s vote has been increasing as a share of the total for the past several election cycles. In 1980, women were 50 percent of the electorate. This year, they were 54 percent of voters.

The decline of marriage is far more than just a political problem for Republicans. Unless reversed, it may represent the unraveling of our civilization. But it is also a political problem. The Democrats’ message to single women is simple: We will give you free stuff. Free birth control. Free medical care. Welfare payments for your children if you are poor. Food stamps. The whole welfare state package. Women want security above all. You don’t have to be a political wizard to sell that message. If it’s not Santa Claus, it’s certainly Mr. Rogers. Ironically, the worse the economy gets under Democratic governance, the more single women cling to Democrats to protect them from the consequences of that failure.

A Republican has the much more demanding challenge — to persuade voters that smaller government and more free enterprise will improve their lives, their incomes and therefore their security. A good-paying job is far superior to even the most lavish welfare benefits. That message has the advantage of being true, but it just may require a bit of political genius to sell it effectively.

That’s not to say it cannot be done. If Republicans can find a candidate who conveys the requisite concern for the struggles of the ordinary person, whose personal story is not one of privilege, who conveys a Kempian enthusiasm for the glories of free markets and free peoples and who is pro-immigrant, that person could win. It may be Marco Rubio. There are other possible contenders: Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz and Susana Martinez all spring to mind.

To be a successful Republican requires more brains and imagination than to be a successful Democrat. Fortunately for the party and the country, we have a deep bench.

Mona Charen of National Review magazine writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information or to contact her. Follow Mona Charen on Twitter: @mcharen.

» on 11.14.12 @ 03:48 PM

This article is a perfect example of why Republicans have lost influence with any number of demographic groups. To suggest that Scott Walker, Susana Martinez or Bobby Jindal could be a successful standard bearer in a presidential election shows a complete mis-understanding of the broader electorate. Americans want people out of their bedrooms, out of their church; women want that but also want government out of their bodies. Republicans will have to learn how to stop preaching; stop acting like they alone know everything and are the only ones with the correct answers. It is real mypopia and Ms. Charon is clearly guilty of these same distortions. I don’t say democrats aren’t guilty of the same sins sometimes, but we do not shun gays, women, academics, peacenicks, poor people, rape victims, health care, hispanics, stem cells, science, and the rest of the whole long list. Try acting like we are people with dreams and aspirations and families we love and a country we love; that our realities are as firmly entrenched as yours and that we want to pursue the same life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness guaranteed to everyone as you do. Stop getting mad all the time, stop being venial; stop being so disgusted with us all the time. If you want to lead, show some leadership. You can’t lead people you don’t like!  MJ

» on 11.15.12 @ 11:28 AM

Are you kidding? It’s called principles Michael, values and guess what, gays, Hispanics, blacks, minorities, religious, poor, middleclass and rich have them. And why is it that you democrats seem so adamant about getting government out of your bedroom but equally adamant about having them in your pockets, purses and wallets? The modern democrat in order to have this elusive broad tent is the quintessential party of double standards. We don’t want a government to tell us how to behave, particularly when its bad, but we don’t mind it being owned by unions and taking everything we own and telling us how its to be used.

» on 11.15.12 @ 12:26 PM

I just don’t think the world - and certainly not my political landscape - is as black and white as you have made it out to be. You surely don’t mean to suggest that I or democrats in general don’t have principles or values. It’s about the middle ground. Personally, I probably share some of your views about government’s fiscal intrusiveness and am probably more radical than you on some of those issues, but if Republicans continue to show disrespect for large segments of the population they will continue to reap results like this last election. Jeb Bush could have won this election very easily. You had better, more moderate choices whose humanity preceded them.

» on 11.15.12 @ 07:25 PM

Principles, or an important underlying law or assumption required in a system of thought, is not something that is open to compromise or consensus, otherwise it’s not a principle by definition.  So if you are saying democrats have principles then most do not demonstrate it by their very tendency to seek consensus.

Of course things aren’t black and white, but the whole idea of having principles is to underpin society with a stable base, something to reference to.  The idea that you can somehow have a stable social order and have multiple cultures, mores, attitudes and behaviors is illogical, particularly if you are not principled or allow things to wonder off in any given direction.

The entire success of western civilization is based on reason, system and order as put forth by the Greeks 2 millennia ago. That is being torn apart by liberal/progressive intellectual narcissists who believe they are smarter than all humanity before them. That kind of hubris gave us the atomic bomb. My caution to you is stop looking at this through the prism of partisan politics and look at it through logic and history.

BTW, there are far more successful black, Hispanics and gays in the GOP than you will find in the DNC. The difference is principles, not pandering. You can certainly get people to vote for you if you promises them freebees particularly if they have a warped and self centered set of principles guiding them. A culture based on the principle of putting the welfare of others before your own, does not need welfare, income redistribution, a large government or many of the entitlements we now have.

So maybe instead of trying to fix what is undoubtedly a selfish self centered and narcissistic culture by coercion, law and force we ought to be looking at what we teach our children as important principles to live by.

» on 11.15.12 @ 08:58 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful response. Here’s hoping both parties can act reasonably and come together with common purpose. MJ

» on 11.16.12 @ 02:22 PM

My fear Michael, is that when societies reach this point in their evolution, the public raiding the treasury, corruption in all institutions, public and private, and either the lack of principles or very skewed and self centered (read that self destructive), then usually as history teaches us, the change that comes is either through collapse or catastrophe.

I mean this in the most non partisan way. I have been one of the few to point out the horrible policy of the right embracing the wholly self destructive behavior of modern capitalists who are nothing more than pirates, looters, gamblers, pillagers and speculators. The robber barons of the past, those men who actually built the wealth their descendants are now pillaging, had their problems for sure. Many were ruthless and greedy. But they at least built real intrinsic wealth and didn’t call gambling capitalism. They took risks, but everything we take for granted today was built by them. No bank, Wall Street fat cat, hedge fund manager, capital manager or investor can claim that, they built nothing.

The left in response to this obscene ponzi scheme seems perfectly comfortable doing their own form of looting through government. Obamacare, high taxes on the rich, over regulating business builds nothing. It just takes and does as much if not more damage than the looter on the other side.

Both sides seem to forget that wealth is not made transferring it from one to another. It’s not what you collect, extract through regulation, law or tax.  It’s made extracting raw materials, growing things and making things, in all of these endeavors human energy, whether physical or mental, is supplied. Everything else just takes.

Unless we resolve to get back to those principles that we built this country on, self reliance, self sacrifice, earning more than what we consume, minimal government intrusion, a vested interest in the republic and belief in something greater than ourselves, we are I am afraid, doomed. Nothing illustrates this more than NASA saying I would now take 20 years to put a man on the moon. It took this once great country less than half that time half a century ago. Where is the progress in that?

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