Not the Party of Reagan
Many of us held out hope that America would come to its senses and vote for Romney on Election night. Deep in our craw, we at HMC Partners felt the election would go just as it did. In fact, we moved vast portions of our client’s portfolios equity positions into a myriad of bonds and cash seeking more safety Thursday, November 1st. “Hope” is not a very good strategy. Many of our clients, friends, and GOP pundits felt that when that curtain closed there was no way America would re-elect a president associated with the highest national debt and joblessness, lowest GDP, and slowest recovery ever for an incumbent president to be reelected. Certainly, we would have a surprise similar to Reagan’s 1980 victory over Carter. Guess what blog readers? The night was over much earlier than anticipated.
This GOP is not the party of 1980 Reaganites. Better said, the people who voted for Romney are the same people who were the new Republicans who resounding answered “NO” to Reagan’s question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” The problem is we aren't attracting anyone else to backfill the changing demographic landscape in this country.
Taking a look at exiting polling data demonstrates:
By a very wide margin, women are choosing Democrats over Republicans. When you look at joblessness and the marginal recovery, women are gaining lost jobs back at a rate of 39% vs men at 45% (http://www.nwlc.org/resource/stronger-recovery-reaching-women). So with that insecurity, you’d think women would vote for Romney, the candidate perceived to be better for economic recovery.
So why the disconnect with women? The current GOP seems incapable to stay away from Women’s Rights. When will they learn that “The Womb is Doom” for political candidates? As conservative columnist Kathleen Parker wrote in her eulogy to the election, “Women’s reproductive rights need to come off the table. I never believed Romney was passionate about social issues. He embraced them because he had to, but had no intention of pursuing a socially conservative agenda.” Then you have nitwits like Missouri GOP Senatorial candidate, Todd Akin, espousing beliefs of “legitimate rape” and it’s a wonder the 11% spread wasn't higher.
When you are getting clobbered by 18-44 year-old voters, what do you have to do make the party attractive to younger people? The GOP has become a party beholding to social conservatives which is a shrinking population base. I understand you can’t abandon your principals, but there are forums for social issues to be debated. However, when a country has $13T of debt, is involved in two wars, has unemployment around 9%, is facing a possible Euro collapse, and has an educational system ranked 14th worldwide for higher education attainment, being forced by your base to prove you’re a social conservative is a loser. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/oecd-education-at-a-glanc_n_1874190.html)
According to Parker, to return to the days of Reagan instead of a party of 50 year old and older white men, the GOP should “marginalize or banish those who in any way make African Americans, gays, single women, or any other human being feel unwelcome in a party that cherishes the values of limited government, low taxes, and freedom. A large swath of conservative-minded Americans are Democrats and independents by default.”
Finally, the GOP is totally ignored by immigrants and minorities.
Focus has to be placed over the next four years how the party is missing Latinos and Asians by such a wide margin. Many are entrepreneurial having entered the country with little in their pockets and took great risks starting small businesses. Onerous regulation and higher taxation should be such winners for Republicans with these groups. However, the party needs to be perceived less as tough on immigration versus creating an expeditious path to legal citizenship. Even Cuban Americans voted en mass for Obama this election.
We live in the greatest country in the world. The Wednesday after the election tanks didn't roll, blood wasn't shed, and we move seamlessly to the next Obama administration. Ronald Reagan isn't coming back. However, the party of Reagan can return if they learn how to present a much more compelling case to women, younger Americans, Latinos, and Asians. According to Parker, “The real problem is the Republican Party, which would not be recognizable to its patron saint, Ronald Reagan. The party doesn't need a poll or a focus group. In needs a mirror." The party needs to revisit what attracted me and other 50+ year olds over 30 years ago. It’s because we believed America could become what Reagan envisioned:
"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.” Ronald Reagan.