November 9, 2022

Red Ripple

Cue the fail music.  The Republican red wave didn't happen. It seems like they're likely to win congress, but the senate is up for grabs.  Governorships so far the GOP is down 2 from yesterday.  This is not to say that there's a mandate for Let's Go Brandon. This was not a red wave, it was a red ripple.

That's not to call it a horrible night for conservatives.  Bad?  Almost.  Sub-par?  Definitely.  Nevertheless there are positives to be taken away from this already.  I'm not talking here about individual races, though to be sure there are bright spots.  I'm not talking about the possibility that Republicans can still take the senate or do well in the remaining uncalled governor races, though both of those are still achievable. 

No I'm talking about 2024.  Two more years of misery may be just what the country needs to finish shaking off the swamp stew it has been ingesting for more than a decade.  Democratic control of key levers means the next two years will not get better as far as inflation, unemployment, wage stagnation, labor force participation, woke culture, crime, illegal immigration etc. That means the rot will fester, and that's bad for America.  But so too will the grassroots energy to do something about it.  By 2024 that ripple may turn into a tsunami.

If the GOP play their cards right. Mitch McConnell has to go, he left senate wins on the table for the Democrats, just to protect his own fiefdom.   The grassroots of the party needs to continue to support MAGA populists.  It does not have to be via Trump, though it can be.

The real potential here though are learnings.  What did Florida Republicans do right and how does that get translated to other states? Is Trump still the guy or has his window passed? Did Kari Lake's fail to appear to move to the center harm her in the Arizona governor general election and if so how can that be avoided?  Many Latinos have moved to the Republican column, how does the GOP grow that further?

Beyond the top line takeaways, the obvious tactical takeaways that I have been arguing since 2008; the core things the GOP must do are (1) engage (2) listen and (3) persuade.

Engagement means reaching out to disaffected communities go to various constituencies (e.g. college educated women, Latinos, African Americans, people with addiction issues).  This is a long term, big tent approach to broadening the reach of the party.  These groups cannot listen if you don't even talk to them. 

Next, listen to their concerns.  Understand what it is they want and need from government.  This does not mean abandoning conservative values, it means finding out what matters to voters.  If you are offering solutions to voting irregularities when gas prices are the issue of the day, you are not understanding the battlefield that is taking shape in front of you.

Lastly once you have engaged and understood (both have to be ongoing processes by the way),  you must tailor your solutions to the problems of the day.  You do not give up your principles, you determine how to solve the problems, within a conservative, common sense framework.  Then, and only then, do you try to persuade the audience that your solution is better than the alternative.  And you do so in a positive vision sort of way. If you do not have your own realistic and workable solution you cannot argue that the other guys are wrong because the response will (and should) be "so what, you don't offer an alternative".  

All three of these require a well-oiled and robust infrastructure which is something the GOP seems to be lacking at times and in places.  So this too must be addressed.  Fund raising, intra-party messaging and communication.

The final takeaways are more tactical.  We laughed when Let's Go Brandon was in New York stumping for governor Hochul.  But they understood their firewall, and shored up a defensive path to victory in key places. This was our mistake.  We should have read the room and adjusted our own strategies accordingly.  It seems conservatives were just too busy gleefully anticipating a red wave; our mistake.  

We believed the polls.  Why?  Because it looked heavily tilted in our favor. Relying on polling is a mistake we too often make (myself included in trying to account for bad polling).  Some of the best pollsters from 2020 did the worst with respect to 2022.  Oops. The great Rush Limbaugh often opined that the only poll that matters is the ballot box.  Run like you are in a dead heat.  Run like you need more votes. Otherwise you turn a red wave into a red ripple.

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