Last week I wrote that the Biden Administration’s record of incompetence and extremism could put it at a competitive disadvantage in 2024 if the Republicans skillfully exploit Democratic weaknesses. But how effectively the GOP will actually do so would also depend on the continuing role of Donald Trump in Republican politics and, more importantly, how the GOP copes with the fact of its inability to win the popular vote in recent presidential elections. We’ll look at its losing streak and how to overcome it this week while trying to figure out the impact of the changing relationship between the GOP and the Donald soon.
The GOP has won the popular vote only once in the last 8 presidential elections. And its overall record is actually worse than it looks.
The most recent GOP popular vote victory was in 2004, when incumbent President George W. Bush won 51% of the vote to Democrat John Kerry’s 48%. Bush’s 3-point victory was clear enough, but by no means a landslide, and in fact it was the smallest margin by which any incumbent president has ever been re-elected. No non-incumbent Republican has won the popular vote in a presidential election since George H. W. Bush won 54% of the vote in 1988. No Republican challenger has been able to defeat a Democratic president for re-election since Ronald Reagan ousted Jimmy Carter in 1980.
No doubt many supporters of former President Trump will dispute my description of the GOP’s sorry vote-getting record. They’ll claim, as Trump has claimed, that the GOP actually won the popular vote in 2016 and 2020, but that these GOP victories are hidden by Democratic voter fraud.
Nonetheless, GOP strategists, whether or not they think Trump was denied popular vote victories in 2016 or 2020 by fraud, should do their best to expand the GOP electorate. After all, in politics one can never have too many votes. To that end, the GOP strategists should concentrate on winning more voters. Four tactics suggest themselves.
First, the GOP should be prepared to highlight the instances of the Biden Administration and incompetence as described in last week’s column. Nobody’s ever lost votes by proving the other side either doesn’t know what it’s doing or is too out of touch with reality, or both.
Second, the GOP must offer positive alternatives to the Democrats’ real or impending failures. Highlighting Democratic faults and failures is necessary but not sufficient, and may be counterproductive as well. The GOP lost more support than it won by opposing Obamacare because it offered no positive alternatives. Making the case that the Democrats’ Green New Deal and Build Back Better programs constitute excessive overreach is easy, but what are the alternatives? The GOP should, for example, promote research and development into cleaner use of fossil fuels as an alternative to the elimination of the internal combustion engine and the fossil fuel industry. For the inner cities it must promote more job-creating economic development programs and better policing programs—Broken Windows and/or Community Policing— while combatting police brutality, rather than simply showing how Defund the Police movement or various progressive prosecutorial strategies, such as minimum bail or refusal to prosecute misdemeanors, leads to higher crime rates.
Third, given that the GOP’s natural base—Whites, and especially conservative Christian whites—is shrinking as a percentage of the total population, the GOP must expand its appeal to minority voters—Latinos, Blacks, Asian Americans, etc. It has no realistic hope of winning majorities in any of these groups at this time and for the foreseeable future, but positive policies may enable it to cut into and shrink the majorities the Democrats normally win from voters of color. Policies that save the fossil fuel industry will appeal to Latinos for whom the industry is a major source of employment. The promotion of law and order without racism and police brutality may win over more Latinos and Blacks. Ending anti-Asian discrimination in public and higher education will be not only morally right but possibly appealing to Asian Americans, as should be the case with combatting anti-Asian-American violence as well. Promoting entrepreneurial free enterprise with policies deregulating small business formation should win more support from anyone, regardless of race or color, who seeks to be his or her own employer.
Finally, the GOP must more aggressively develop Get Out the Vote (GOTV) technologies, strategies and tactics which find unregistered voters and get them registered and actually to the polls. The Texas GOP’s success before the 2020 election prevented further losses of the sort it sustained in 2018. As the nation’s largest and leading state party, it should continue its own GOTV efforts while the national GOP organization and other state GOP parties follow its example.
In sum, the GOP can win both the 2022 and 2024 elections. But its best bet is to stop harping on election fraud, until proof thereof is found. Rather, it must highlight the Biden Administration’s failures, offer positive alternative programs (especially programs which will appeal to minorities without betraying fundamental conservative principles), and continue to develop the technologies, strategies, and tactics necessary to get real voters to the polls on election Day, a majority of whom, one hopes, will vote Republican.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.