Time and again, particularly since November 2012, I hear and read that conservatives are disconnected from the concerns and values of middle class voters. Nothing could be further from the truth. The disconnect is in a failure to put across the practical benefits of conservative philosophy in a manner that is coherent and forceful enough to pierce the media shield in place against it. In short, it is the messenger rather than the message that’s the problem. Perhaps its the messenger? Take for example a column by Sean Trende in Real Clear Politics on the missing Reagan Democrats from 2012, who notes among other things:
The basic point here is that if Republicans had run a candidate more like working-class ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and less like the private equity mogul/ex-Massachusetts governor whom the GOP ended up nominating, these voters might have been more likely to vote. “We built this” might have corralled the small business-owner vote, but probably didn’t do much for workers. I suppose that you can construct an argument that the missing “non-whites” would have turned out in response to a similar move by Republicans, but I think it’s hard to put that together. These really are two separate issues.
That’s right. It really is two separate issues. Would a seemingly more working class candidate than Romney have gone further with the same message? Or would Romney have done better with a more broad economic message? I believe could have been both. I recall that for the first several months after obtaining the nomination, that the Romney camp was more or less silent in vigorously opposing the Bain Capital attacks. They sat back and let the media define Romney rather than counter-attacking with both a philosophical argument and a depiction of the charges as ludicrous. Sure there were press releases and talk show appearances by consultants and supportive politicians. But I don’t recall there being any press conference by Romney to address this. It would have been a great opportunity to take on the media in Gingrich-esque fashion and to cut off the Obama campaign attacks at the knees. As Gingrich clearly understands from what I remember of the primary debates, taking on the press is both a healthy thing for the country and a base energizing approach. It’s easy for me to sit here and Monday morning quarterback about this. But I was very dismayed last August, during which time I was out knocking on doors in Wake County, NC in 100 plus degree heat. Shortly afterward in early September, Pat Caddell came out and confirmed my fears in stating that the Romney campaign was the worst he’d seen in his lifetime. and “they have set themselves on a course that says, ‘We don’t have to do anything, we’re going to win because they don’t like the other guy.'” Sadly prophetic.
The Senate attempt at amnesty is the misguided and misinterpreted culmination of that failure from 2012. The misapprehension that it’s hispanic voters that made the margin for Obama is entirely wrong. While yes, efforts must be made in a coherent and legally appropriate matter, ie. – no amnesty, to connect with hispanic voters, that is not the main reason for the loss last November. The Reagan Democrats of the middle and blue collar working class simply stayed home. As pointed out by Senator Sessions in National Review, “if there is any lesson for the GOP to learn from 2012, it’s that we must do a better job fighting for and connecting with working Americans of all backgrounds — immigrant and native-born alike — whose wages have fallen and whose employment opportunities have increasingly diminished.” He correctly makes the argument that the amnesty effort is a slap in the face to working Americans in a terrible economy and utilizes CBO data to bear out that claim.