Politics & Policy

Expanding the GOP Map

Susana Martinez when she was governor of New Mexico (Mark Wilson / Getty)
Republicans need to appeal to blacks and Hispanics via jobs and education.

Less than two weeks before the midterm election, Debbie Wasserman Schultz went on CNN and proclaimed that Democrats were “expanding the map” while the Republicans’ map was “constricting.” In hindsight, Ms. Schultz looks pretty silly, but at the time it seemed she was making a reasonable point. Republicans were worried about Senate races in Kansas and South Dakota that should have been sure things. It wasn’t until the vote count came in from the Maryland governor’s race that everyone realized just how bad DWS was at her job. Or at least, at prognosticating.

But this “expanding the map” idea is a good one; I don’t know who came up with it. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell describes the war between the superstates Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia; the war takes place exclusively in a “disputed area” whose control passes from belligerent to belligerent. But, like California or Texas, the home territories of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia are never at risk. Just the Ohios–Floridas–North Carolinas in between.

This year, the Democrats talked a lot about “turning Texas blue.” Obviously, that didn’t pan out; folk-hero filibusterer Wendy Davis got thumped, losing her race for governor by more than 20 points. Democrat David Alameel lost to Senator John Cornyn by more than 25 points. On the other hand, Republicans actually did succeed in turning some liberal strongholds red, gubernatorially; Maryland, for one, plus Massachusetts and Illinois. Toeholds in Democrat territory: a good sign. What would it take for Republicans to expand the map in a big way? As a thought experiment —

They would have to appeal to black and Hispanic voters. Hispanics vote Democrat over Republican at a 2-to-1 clip; blacks, 9 to 1. If the Republicans could reverse those ratios, they’d win every state but Vermont and Hawaii. Even an even split would open up most of the country, including the ponderosas New York and California. It sounds fantastic, but is it? The chief concern for black and Hispanic voters, reportedly, is jobs. (Among Hispanics, jobs ties with education.) According to the Labor Statistics Bureau, during Mr. Obama’s administration, Hispanic unemployment has risen to 7.5 percent, a point and a half above the national average. Black unemployment is up to 12 percent, double the national average. Both groups should be ripe for new politics. Republicans just have to make a case.

Hypothetically speaking, the GOP might forget waiting for elections and insread start running generic, pro-Republican, pro-jobs ads right now (or as soon as midterm fatigue is over). They would want to target the Southwest and the Pacific coast, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Bridgeport, Providence. This is why we have super PACs, right? I don’t condone dirty politics, but in Georgia, Democrats tried to blame the GOP for Michael Brown’s death (“If you want to prevent another Ferguson . . . vote Democrat”) and in North Carolina, for Trayvon Martin’s (“[Republican Senate candidate Thom] Tillis even led the effort to pass the type of stand-your-ground laws that caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin”). So, maybe . . . “Democrats started Jim Crow, Republicans ended slavery”? A low blow, sure, but isn’t that how the game is being played? We know that the subject of slavery isn’t politically taboo, because, according to Charlie Rangel, “some [Republicans] think slavery isn’t over.” So what about “Democrats want to keep you poor and angry. Democrats want you to need them. Give Republicans a chance”? Or simply “Vote jobs, vote Republican.” How many ad minutes do you have to buy before “Republican” is synonymous with “jobs” and “Democrat” with “unemployment”?

And education: Make vouchers a big deal. They’re anathema to the teachers’ unions, but everyone else loves them. Parents especially; especially parents in poor neighborhoods. Case in point: Vouchers were a massive hit in D.C., the leftest city in the country. How about: “Democrats care about teachers, Republicans care about kids. Hate your kids’ school? Republicans think you should be able to send your kids to any school, for free.” Or something like that. Vouchers could be the winningest idea in politics (if for no other reason than that they’re such a damned good idea).

Liberals don’t enjoy conservatives’ trying to sell them something. Understandably. So the Republicans might try getting their foot in the door with some pithy quotes. For instance, from Frederick Douglass: “I am a Republican, a black, dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.” Or Malcolm X on black support for Democrats: “You put them first and they put you last, ’cause you are a chump, a political chump.” Or maybe something telling from Ms. Alveda King, the Christian, conservative niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Speaking of Christian conservatives, the GOP isn’t just the economy-opportunity party, it’s also the religion-religious-freedom party; blacks and Hispanics are among the most religious groups in the country. Eighty-seven percent of black Americans are religious, 4 points above the national average. Eighty-four percent of blacks are Christian (mostly Protestant); more than half go to church weekly. Eighty-five percent of Hispanics are religious; about half are Catholic and most of the rest Protestant. Maybe the Little Sisters of the Poor could make some ad appearances.

And the GOP has massive resources in its available spokesmen, though I hate to single them out for their races. Susana Martinez just won her second term as governor of deep-blue New Mexico; she won by 15 points. Marco Rubio is one of the most eloquent men in the party, and rumor has it he’s just as eloquent in Spanish. Is it too soon to float a Cruz–Rubio ticket? Could you watch the news this week without seeing the charming new Utah rep, Mia Love? Is there a better man in the country than Colonel Allen West?

Remember, the black vote has been solidly Democratic only since the New Deal. Before that, all the way back to Appomattox, black Americans were just as solidly Republican. A turn to the GOP now wouldn’t be any farther-fetched than the earlier turn left. As for Hispanic votes — the GOP picked up 6 points between ’12 and ’14. Could be the start of something. Someone call Reince.

— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard.

Josh GelernterJosh Gelernter is a former columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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