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Republicans Need To Stop Driving Off Voters

President Ronald Reagan, arguably the most successful president of our time, said the Republican Party should be a big tent party that is welcoming of many views. In more recent years, the GOP has shifted gears to become party more focused on Barack Obama’s model of victory through dividing the electorate and appealing to specific demographic groups.

The shift began in the early 2000s with the appearance of what I like to call the “RINO hunters.” The GOP became a party focused on purity tests and identifying “RINOs,” Republicans in name only. The irony is that because many conservatives are free thinkers and have different priorities, it’s likely that a majority of Republicans were RINOs on one issue or another.

In a country of 350 million people, regional differences mean that issues are viewed by different people in different ways. Polling from 2017 showed that conservatives were the largest ideology in every state, but were not a majority in any state. Even so, on average a conservative in New York is not going to being identical to a conservative in Texas. Nevertheless, many Republicans preferred to push these perceived “closet Democrats” out of the party.

A second wave of purity came in 2016 when Donald Trump was nominated. Since the 2016 primaries, support for Donald Trump has become a litmus test for Republicans. Last year, a letter from the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party became public warning Arizona’s elected Republicans that support for President Trump was “non-negotiable.” It is safe to say that state Republican Parties elsewhere have communicated the same message. While many Trump critics “self-deported” themselves from the Republican Party, I do know of at least one case where a friend repeatedly had his dues refunded by his local Republican chapter because of his critical remarks about the president.

There are other prominent of examples of Republicans writing off large groups of people as well. Much of the Republican opposition to immigration, legal or illegal, is grounded in the belief that immigrants come to the US for welfare benefits rather than to find work and chase the American dream. As a result, many Republicans often say that Democrats want to use immigration reform, derided as “amnesty,” to import new Democrat voters.

The answer is that immigrants cannot vote until they are US citizens. Illegal immigrants also can’t get government benefits although naturalized citizens, U.S.-born children, refugees, and asylees can.

Once they become citizens, immigrants are more likely to vote Democrat if the Republican Party drives them into the arms of the party of Pelosi. If Republicans treat them fairly, compassionately, and with respect, then the GOP has a decent chance of winning the votes of people who value jobs, family, and economic growth.

The fact that states like Texas and Arizona regularly elect Republicans should shoot down the theory that Hispanic immigrants are crossing the border en masse to elect Democrats. Even in the 2018 elections where illegal immigration played a central role in the final days of the campaign, Republicans won about 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. In contrast, only nine percent of black voters cast a ballot for the GOP.

Yet another group that Republicans seem intent on driving away is federal workers. Under the current government shutdown, about 800,000 federal employees are not getting paid, either because they are furloughed or because they are being forced to work with no pay. The reaction of many Republicans to the pain of federal workers has been to say, “Good.” Even President Trump tweeted on Jan. 5 that “most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats.”

While many federal workers are Democrats, not all of them are. Workers not getting paid include law enforcement workers such as the FBI, Border Patrol, and Coast Guard. Many of these workers could probably be expected to vote Republican. Federal employees are not just concentrated in the DC suburbs, they are spread throughout the country and have political views that vary just as much as other Americans.

The Government Business Council conducted a survey of federal workers in advance of the 2016 presidential election. In the August 2015 survey, Republican- and Democrat-leaners were split almost evenly at 40-44 percent. Ironically, the top primary choice of Republican federal employees was Donald Trump.

Polls show that more Americans blame President Trump for the shutdown than the Democrats. It would be surprising if federal employees did not agree. However, where most voters might move on to other issues after the government is reopened, those who work for the government will be stuck cleaning up the financial mess that the shutdown has made of their lives. It is likely that many of the federal workers and their families who are being forced to sell their possessions on eBay or drive for Uber to put food on the table will remember the callousness of President Trump and the Republican Party when they go to the polls in 2020.

The bottom line is that Republicans can’t afford to lose any more voters. Even though Donald Trump won the 2016 election he lost the popular vote. Since then, he has played to his base rather than trying to bring more people into the Republican tent. The result was a midterm election in which Democrats won 59 percent of the popular vote in Senate elections and 53 percent of the popular vote in the House. This lopsided vote tally even includes a high Republican turnout in many areas after the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings motivated the Republican base.

The incredible shrinking Republican Party does not bode well for President Trump or other Republican candidates as the country gears up for the 2020 presidential elections. A smaller, purer party may help Republicans feel good about turning RINOs out to pasture, but it is big tent parties that win elections.  

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