The Republicans have a problem and it’s not JUST Trump. The GOP has not done a good job of adjusting to the battlefield. They have taken the gains they’ve made during the Obama years, and the gains made were significant, and then the unexpected Trump win, as a type of mandate. This was a mistake.
The righteous anger felt by Republicans in the face of an Obama administration that pushed things too far culturally, and the even more righteous anger felt in the face of Hillary Clinton’s temper tantrum post the 2016 election, had a relatively short half life.
Yes the Dems have been ridiculous. Yes they have been unfair. Yes whatever happened at the FBI after the election is extremely important. Yes the Dems have played hardball and thrown out decorum. (Sorry Dems, Trump’s often brash but you guys have acted at least, at least, as bad as Trump. In many respects much worse actually.) But there is a bigger issue for the Republicans.
The suburbs should be Republican territory. But they aren’t any longer. More young people should be inclined toward the Republicans, and some still are, but many more are not. For some reason in the face of obvious, at least what seems obvious to this writer, corruption and a dangerous obsession with regulation and big government generally, the Democrats have made headway with the young and the suburban. This does not bode well for the GOP.
However, the party can get its act together. Sometimes a significant shock is needed to make the changes one must make. Now, we don’t think 2018 was a shock. In many respects it was a pretty typical mid-term election. The Democrats were going to make progress in the House, the Republicans knew that. The Dems didn’t take the Senate and that was also expected and certainly good news for the GOP. The presidency still remains Republican, Trump Republican. And the Supreme Court is more conservative now than it has been in generations. Indeed the new Supreme Court will be a key part of Trump’s legacy no matter what happens from here on out. But perhaps 2018 was ENOUGH of a shock to get some of the sharper minds in the GOP to consider strategy, and really policy in new terms.
For the record the two party system is deeply limiting. We’d prefer a much broader choice of viable parties.
Saying that, what should the Republicans do to stem what might be a coming political tide, and perhaps with some luck even make some gains here and there?
First, focus on the suburbs. This is key. The GOP will not remain viable over the long term if it can not appeal to the generally home owning middle class. The GOP still has broad appeal here but it is losing ground. The focus must be on the people who make up the PTOs and go to Cub Scout meetings and drive minivans and find themselves often struggling in an economy that remains challenging for many in the middle class.
The biggest issue in the last election was healthcare. Being without it is scary. The prospect of a child falling ill is awful. What if one was incapacitated? What then? The Republicans have for too long counted on relatively well insured voters to fall in line. But things are challenging even for the reasonably well insured in this country right now. (The Obamacare changes, many of them, are part of the problem.)
This doesn’t mean that the GOP should embrace some kind of government healthcare. Far from it. That would be extremely unwise. However if the party wants to compete in the suburbs in future years it is going to have to think about healthcare in new ways. It should be scouring the think tanks for innovative new policy thinkers (always a scary bunch) right now. Yes the pressures from (often crony) industry are real. Yes this is a massive headwind. But either address healthcare or lose. Frankly, that the Republicans had no counter to Obamacare after many years is perhaps the biggest GOP policy mistake of the last decade. Healthcare is deeply important to everyone and particularly to the Cub Scout supporting, minivan driving, PTO members. That is – MOMS.