There’s no been no shortage of Republican self-evaluation in the wake of the 2012 elections. Some of this is overkill—their telegenically-challenged nominee lost by two percentage points to a man who’s TV persona was made for the modern age, all the while GOP candidates expanded their numbers in the House, hold thirty governorships and a majority of the state legislatures. The Democrats added two Senate seats, but placed in context, if there’s a blue tidal wave sweeping the country, I’ve missed it.
But some of the self-evaluation is necessary, and there is a blue tidal wave sweeping across the states of the Midwest when it comes to presidential politics. Last week, I posted about the political cards that blue-collar Democrats have to play for giving President Obama their votes. This week, let’s look at the same phenomena from a Republican angle.
Much of the publicity has been surrounding GOP concern over the Hispanic vote, highlighted by Sean Hannity’s decision to support immigration reform. But doesn’t the decline of the manufacturing base thanks to unbalanced global trade policies also shape the votes of people in the Rustbelt? Those voters see Republican nominees as opposed to their economic interests, and they swung Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania into the Obama column on November 6.
This voting bloc sees the GOP as opposed to their economic interests for a very good reason—because it’s essentially true. Republican presidents and congressional leaders have been at the forefront of job-killing trade policies. The hidden factor in all this is that the Democratic Party has been a cooperative witness, all the while passing themselves off as the party of the people. It’s fair enough to point this out, but now that the election is over, isn’t it time to stop just thinking in terms of “less of two evils” and start thinking about the creation of a positive good?
A real populist trade program can have appeal to Hispanic voters, particularly the incoming immigrants and those that will presumably be legalized once a new deal is reached. Manufacturing jobs are the surest road to the middle class, from the Irish and Italian immigrants of the 1920s to the Hispanic community today.
Midwestern politics is closely divided, and every election boils down to this— as Republicans race to get blue-collar voters to ignore economics and vote based on social issues, Democrats race to make sure blue-collar voters forget the party’s appalling record on global trade under both Clinton and Obama. The races are close, but the pattern is clear and it’s that the Democrats are winning the race. If the GOP wants to win, they need to change the game and the surest way to start is to change their own actions.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com