Earlier this week, I posted about a poll that perfectly demonstrated the GOP’s problem. It showed that many people agree with our ideas, but they refuse to identify with us or vote for us because of our terrible candidates and messaging.
Today at lunch I overheard a conversation that explained the same phenomenon. A young black man and his female companion sat next to me at a restaurant. After talking about life, music on his portable device, and other things, he brought up politics. He said he actually identifies with the Republican party, “but not the people”, just the ideas. He even mentioned smaller government and the Tea Party in a positive light and was considering what he would do in the next election. I didn’t hear the entire conversation and didn’t have time to engage him on the topic, but I could draw several conclusions.
This guy is an Obama voter, but not a permanent Democrat. He’s young and black, so the former is nearly a statistical certainty anyway, but the way he mentioned rethinking the next election made it seem like he had voted for Obama and Democrats so far by default.
He’s also a gettable voter. He already has small government sympathies. What we need to stop doing is alienating him and those like him. Using “Obama voter” like a slur may make you feel better, but it also insults this intelligent young man. President Obama is a very relatable and likable guy (most of the time), and not everyone votes according to specific issues. Some of these people might even agree with us, but the way we portray ourselves turns them away. So when you lump all “Obama voters” or “libruls” or “Dummycraps” together with at best contempt or at worst suggested expatriation, you are part of the problem.
But he can’t relate to our candidates. We don’t have to nominate a minority to connect to minorities, but what does this guy have in common with John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich? Zero, except perhaps their habit of voting for things other than small government. Matt Lewis has an excellent post on this today. We don’t need someone who checks ideological boxes. To get people motivated and believing in the party, we need candidates who can inspire that innately. It can’t be taught or forced, but issues can.
Obama isn’t the first candidate since Eisenhower to win twice with 51% of the vote because people agree with him on every issue. It’s because people relate to him (yes, even though you don’t see how he could), they like him (yes, even though you don’t), he inspires them (yes, as empty as you may think that is), and he doesn’t scare them (yes, as much as you may try to make it sound like he should). We’ve had that ourselves before, and we need it again, to reach this guy and millions more like him.