Published on TheHill.com on April 28, 2015
A false choice dominates current Republican thinking: You have to move to the center to get independents, even though it offends your base and your principles, or you must run to the right, lose swing voters and pray that higher turnout will help you win.
But that dichotomy applies only to social issues like abortion or gay marriage, where the extremes of both sides distrust the middle.
There are a great number of ways to capture swing voters without compromising the conservative base, issues that animate and motivate the base but also attract independent voters.
These are the issues that Republicans can use to win.
Immigration and income inequality: Swing voters oppose President Obama’s amnesty for illegal immigrants and are appalled by his open border that lets in hundreds of thousands of Central American kids who show up on our doorstep.
But while Republicans see immigration as a law and order or cultural values issue, swing voters see it as an economic challenge. For them, immigration and income inequality merge as political issues.
The essence of triangulation is to use your tools to fix their car. Use the tool of opposition to illegal immigration to fix the economic inequality car. Republicans should oppose illegal immigration because of its economic impact on American workers. The millions who come here and settle on the bottom of the economic ladder block the upward progress of those already on the lower rungs who want to move up.
The Center for Immigration Studies reports that Census data show the proportion of native-born Americans who have full-time jobs has risen by only 0.1 percent since 2000, while among other groups (legal and illegal immigrants and naturalized citizens) it has risen by 5.7 percent in the same period. Virtually all jobs created since 2000 have gone to people who were not born in the United States.
Blue-collar Americans have always been threatened by immigration and remain so today. Republicans can win their votes.
ObamaCare: From the beginning, Americans have opposed ObamaCare. The latest Rasmussen poll (April 27), like so many others, shows 54 percent disapprove of the program, compared to 42 percent who view it favorably. Republicans can attract swing voters by pounding away at the healthcare reform law. It was Mitt Romney’s handicap in 2012 that his record in Massachusetts made him unable to do so.
But while Republicans should attack the law’s mandates, taxes, lack of choice, quality of care and every other aspect, they should take care to support its ban on rejecting pre-existing conditions and on terminating coverage or raising rates during illness. Otherwise, have at it!
Wall Street: Republicans must reject the Wall Street wing of the party and go after the small-business owner and entrepreneur instead. These voters — and almost all swing voters — share the view that Wall Street is predatory, self-interested, fraudulent and deceitful. They blanch at the fact that none of the miscreants who caused the sub-prime crisis is in jail or every likely to go there. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) arguments cater to voters of all types, and Republicans should pick up her lines of attack.
Guns: There has been an important change in popular attitudes toward guns. In 1990, Gallup reported that 78 percent of Americans favored stricter gun controls while 19 percent wanted looser controls or supported the current law. Now it’s reversed. Only 47 percent want stricter controls and 52 percent support current law or want less regulation. In 1993, Americans said that having a gun in the house makes it a more dangerous place, 52 percent to 42 percent. Now they say it makes home a safer place, 63 percent to 30 percent. Swings like this offer enormous political opportunities to use guns to pick up swing voters (not necessarily AK-47 assault rifles, but handguns).
These issues are the real way to win elections. Keep your base but reach out to the center on the issues over which you find common ground.
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