How The Republicans Can Start Winning The Rustbelt

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.

The embrace of labor-friendly trade policies can lift Republican candidates in the Midwest

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



  • Mary

    Republicans could start by creating the budget that Obama and Biden both agreed to on national tv. Obama agreed that corporate rates should come down, only to 25% but let’s take it, and by setting the highest individual rate back to the Clinton area rate for those with income over $1 mill, per Biden to offset that.
    Help manufacturing, and tax the Hollywood starlets as they have asked.

  • Lincoln mom

    Midwestern politics are not closely divided. Perhaps you don’t understand the polls and the election. It’s only going to get better for the Democrats.

    Republicans spent decades capitulating to the religious far right and letting them call all the shots. It’s going to take decades to undo that damage. I start by disavowing this website and the hate, discrimination, ans naked prejudice that it stands for.

    • Joe M

      Random dude pretending to be a “Lincoln mom”:

      Perhaps you don’t understand the election results. After 4 years of actual leadership, Obama lost a significant amount of support between 2008 and 2012.

      It wasn’t enough for him to lose re-election. However, the distance from that happening was not far and the direction we have gone from 08 to 12 is in the Republicans favor.

      • Random Dude

        That’s not true at all. Obama’s support increased among a large percentage of the population. The only place he lost support was with rich white dudes.

        • Guest

          Why it that you, Random Dude/Lincoln Mom are always so predictable? Same gripes, different names. You write like Paul but tear like Rich.

          • Let Peeps Vote

            Why are you always accusing people of being fakes, “guest”? A majority of the country voted for Obama, and in fact, a majority of Catholics did as well. I’m sure there are a few people that comment on this site that have the same opinion that the Republican Party is in an epic freefall.

          • Guest

            Paul, stop, please, the recriminations. I could care less about the Republican Party. But I love the Church, which you are persecuting.



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