Memo 11.07.2018

Time For a Governing Strategy

There was no blue wave. The election was at most a swell, with nary a whitecap to be seen. It was certainly not a shellacking.

This means that President Trump continues to be a plus for Republicans. However, it’s no secret that Trump plays differently in different parts of the country, and with different groups of voters. Some Republican House seats that were winnable were lost thanks to Trump. Some Senate seats that were losable were won thanks to Trump. Of the seats that were lost, many can be won back.

I live in the heart of Trump Country, U.S.A. — western Pennsylvania. In 2016, it was certainly not the case that I couldn’t imagine how Trump won because I didn’t know anyone who voted for him. In fact, based on lawn signs and bumper stickers, it would have been difficult for someone traveling these parts to discern that Hillary Clinton was running for office. However, then as now, I routinely come into contact with people who are or would be inclined to vote for Trump, or those Trump promotes, but for matters of … shall we say … personal style. Where I live, this is not a pose by stealth Democrats. It’s a reality. These voters — here, there, and everywhere — can be won over.

The most recent elections were largely a battle of the bases, and Republicans, with the president’s aid, did quite well as midterm cycles go. But this is not sustainable, and has its downsides. Thanks to judicially gerrymandered congressional districts, Democrats did better than they should have in Pennsylvania this November. But even before judicial meddling, in a special election six months ago, a Democrat won my congressional district — which should have been an easy Republican hold. The victory was mostly due to energized Democrats and enervated Republicans.

What Republicans need for 2020 and beyond is a governing strategy. This is something that has to be built on a much more solid foundation than a series of mass rallies and late-night tweets, which is not to say these things do not have their place. But arguments must be made. Offices must be filled — with competent people who have incentive to stay in them and continue the behind-the-scenes assault on the administrative state. And for that matter, much of what happens behind the scenes should be trotted out for political advantage.

Weaknesses within the Democratic Party and its leadership must be exploited — with just the amount of rancor, and no more — than the occasion calls for. Passion has helped us, but there is a risk of diminishing marginal returns. Now it is reason — cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason — that will furnish many, if not all, the materials for our future support and defense. Let us never forget that general intelligence, sound morality, and a reverence for the constitution and laws go together like love and marriage. Whether there is a will, or a way, to pursue a governing strategy is the great question Republicans now face.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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