WASHINGTON – I just read a long and detailed analysis written by a well-known conservative political commentator. The focus is on how the Republican nominee must capture a larger slice of the Latino vote in order to get elected president of the United States.
Well, there may be good analysis in this piece, and possibly good ideas about campaign tactics and strategies. But this is not the right way to expand your base. In this op-ed piece the argument is that a Republican (unfortunately?) will need a larger share of the Latino vote in order to gain some key states. Therefore the nominee will have to speak to the Latino voters in order to sway at least some of them.
Change your message in order to get votes
As I said, this is terribly wrong. This approach is about saying whatever you need to say in order to get elected. And this means that a Republican candidate will have to invent a new political message that hopefully will please at least some Latino audiences. The implicit message here is: “Sorry guys. You may not want to do this. But this is how the system works. If you want to get elected president, given the changed American demographics, you must get a bigger chunk of the Latino vote. So get busy instructing your staff to put together TV commercials in Spanish. I wish it were not so, but this is what you must do in order to get elected.”
Really? And you expect that nobody will notice what amounts to deception? You expect that nobody will see that you are engaged in cynical manipulation?
Small government and more opportunity
The truth of the matter is that at the national level the Republicans have been unable to extend their appeal much beyond the White middle class. They are unable to explain in a convincing way how their core beliefs in individual responsibility and self-reliance are perfectly well aligned with public programs aimed at enabling the weak to stand up, and eventually become self-reliant.
Yes, the Republican Party is about small government, low taxes and minimal regulations. These are the basic precondition for having a pro-growth environment that favors the creation of new enterprises, new employment, and eventually more prosperity.
However, the Republican Party is also the party that wants to promote opportunity and wider access to opportunity for all. And therefore, without any contradiction, it is possible to talk at the same about deregulation and about ways in which the poor and the working poor can be assisted, so that they can improve their chances to get into the American mainstream.
Give tools, not subsidies
Therefore good Republicans can and should talk about true public education reform. After all, now as never before a good education is a mandatory prerequisite for having a shot at any meaningful job or career. They should have programs that will help low-income people with child care, health care and more.
Of course, there is a critical qualitative difference between public assistance designed to be there for ever and assistance programs aimed at giving people, for a limited period of time, essential tools so that they can become self-reliant and independent.
By default, if not by design, the Democrats created larger and larger social programs with no sunset clauses. The implicit assumption is that the poor and weak will be poor and weak for ever, and therefore for ever in need.
The Republicans must push for a completely different approach that can and will resonate with low-income Americans. “We are here to help. We want to give you tools. But you have to work with us. You have to do your part”.
This is the message that should be sent out to all Americans, rich and poor. This is the way to arouse the interest of all, including millions of Latinos and other minority voters. The Republicans must believe in and forcefully articulate a message of hope and inclusiveness.
An opportunity society
The message to the country should be: “We want to promote more growth. Once we have improved the conditions for conducting or starting new economic activities, those who already have the means will get busy. They will do well on their own.
But we know that there are others who do not have the tools. They do not have capital. They do not have enough education, they do not have skills. Smaller government, low taxes and deregulation mean little or nothing to them.
Well, here is where government and private sector organizations, working together, can provide real help. It will be hard, but it is possible to give meaningful tools –as opposed to subsidies– to those who do not have them, so that they will have a good chance of joining the mainstream. Our vision is that America has to be a truly inclusive society, with real opportunity for all”.