Winning Hearts and Minds

11.10.12

Six Steps for a Stronger GOP

My National Post column suggests six steps for the GOP to become more successful with immigrant populations.

It’s time for the Canadian government to consider a new form of foreign aid: Assign Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to teach the U.S. Republican Party how to do conservative politics in a diverse country.

He might not be available, of course. Between tea with the Coptic pope, lunch with the Ismaili-Canadian chamber of commerce, giving away the bride at a Korean-language wedding reception, the ceremony for Sikh-Canadian military veterans, the speech for Jamaican independence day, his interview with Bengali-language TV and his regular online chat with the Dalai Lama, all on top of his normal parliamentary and cabinet duties, there is not a lot of slack in Jason Kenney’s day.

As a poor substitute, I’ll try instead to synthesize some lessons from my new e-book, Why Romney Lost (And What the GOP Can Do About It), released Friday by Newsweek/Daily Beast.

1: Show Up - When smart analysts like Karl Rove and Michael Barone fail to foresee a massive electoral defeat like Tuesday’s, something has gone very seriously wrong with the Republicans’ ability to read a voter map. Conservatives are losing their knowledge of the country they want to read. Romney lost Florida unexpectedly because — as one Romney insider said — they were taken by surprise by voters “they didn’t even know were there.” You hear a lot of worry about the Republicans’ poor performance with Latino voters. Asian-Americans as a group are much more affluent than Latinos and more likely to own their own businesses, and Romney lost them by an even bigger margin.

You want votes? Begin by going where the voters are. Show up, shake hands, learn the names.

2: Demonstrate Respect - After Tuesday’s vote, I tweeted: “First step to Republican recovery: insult fewer people.” I was joking, but unfortunately, not only joking. Sandra Fluke, the 47%, Kenyan anti-colonialism, “legitimate rape,” birth certificates … you felt the need to bathe after it all.

Here’s a classic piece of instruction from Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s campaign manager, James Farley, had publicly referred to Roosevelt’s opponent, Alf Landon of Kansas, as “governor of a typical Midwestern state.” FDR fired off a memo to Farley: “If the sentence had read ‘one of those splendid prairie states,’ no one could have picked us up on it, but the word ‘typical’ coming from any New Yorker is meat for the opposition.”

3: Listen - How often have I heard conservatives say something like this: “What we need to do is reach out to these new constituencies and explain our principles to them.” No. What Republicans need to do is talk less and listen more. Instead of lecturing people about one’s principles, hear them describe their concerns, their values, their aspirations.

Who knows? The listening process may yield information, even change minds.

Read the other three steps at the National Post.