Well, here we are. The election’s over and the Republicans came away with a tie.
They recaptured the House and sent Speaker Nancy Pelosi into retirement — at least as a party leader in Congress. But after the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff, the Senate will, at best, wind up evenly split, which still leaves the vice president, a Democrat, to break any 50-50 tie.
For those of us who hope the Republicans win the White House in 2024 and sweep both houses of Congress, we need to take a realistic look at how that’s going to happen.
First of all, we need to remember that as much as we’d like it to be the case, our party won’t hold on to a congressional majority permanently, and neither will theirs. The reason is that while neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have been great at leading — which is why congressional approval ratings are abysmally low year after year, no matter which party is in charge — both are absolutely outstanding at pointing out each other’s flaws.
Ironically, then, the best chance a party has to win next time is not to be in power now. In those relatively rare instances when one party wins the presidency and both houses of Congress, they have a short window to get something done.
Barack Obama and the Dems did that in 2008, but lost their congressional edge two years later. Donald Trump and the Republicans had the same brief reign in between the 2016 and 2018 elections. If the Republicans can win and hold all three beyond 2026, that would be a bonus. But at the very least, let’s see how we can capture them all in 2024. Here’s how:
Independent voters comprise the largest voter group nowadays. Even though Democrats and Republicans together outnumber independents, there are more independents than members of either party. Obviously, the independent vote is extremely important. And to court their vote, we need to know what they don’t care about at best, and what they are completely turned off by at worst.
Here’s a case in point as to how quickly the party in power can screw things up and be dethroned. No sooner did the Republicans secure a House majority than they seemingly made investigating the Bidens their top priority.
Independents don’t care about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Just like they don’t care about Trump’s classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, or his phone call to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, or his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion. They also don’t care about Hillary Clinton’s private email server or her role in Benghazi. They care least of all about watching Kevin McCarthy snatch the House speaker gavel from Nancy Pelosi, or vice versa. Independents don’t have a dog in any of those fights.
Moreover, unlike many Democrats and Republicans — and as I point out in my book “How to Talk Politics without Arguing” — independents don’t think that one major party is inherently more moral, more honest and more capable than the other. They vote on a case-by-case, candidate-by-candidate, issue-by-issue basis.
Independents nowadays care most about inflation and crime. They worry about prices at the gas pump and in the grocery store, and they worry about safety in their neighborhoods and at their children’s schools. And speaking of their children, they don’t want them coming home at age 6 or 7 saying how their teacher told them that if they don’t feel like they’re a boy, it’s OK to become a girl (or vice versa).
“OK,” you may say. “If that’s what independent voters care so much about, why didn’t the Republicans have a clean sweep this time around?” HINT: The answer is NOT “because the Democrats cheated again!”
Rather, it’s because although the Republicans did a great job of pointing out the problem, their message was mixed and muffled regarding solutions. Contrast that with the crystal-clear, unifying and eminently successful Contract with America that Newt Gingrich masterminded in 1994.
Also, independents (as well as almost all Democrats and a growing number of Republicans) are tired of hearing how the 2020 election was “stolen” and they shake their heads at those who ramble that they saw “the numbers change on CNN” or think that the “boxes taken out from underneath tables” account for a difference of over 7 million votes.
If there’s one thing this election demonstrated, it’s that Americans are sick and tired of conspiracy theories. Whether they come from the right — such as the Clintons running a pedophile ring from a D.C. pizza parlor — or the left — that Trump was so friendly to Russia because Vladimir Putin has incriminating photos of him.
On that note, Republicans need to jump off this “defund Ukraine” bandwagon. Many are busy calling those who disagree with them RINOs, but there’s no more RINO a move than downplaying the need for the United States to remain vigilant to prevent military conquests by Russia or China. Isolationists may want to read up on the short-sightedness that led us to stay out of World Wars I and II until we had to shed far more blood and treasure to win than if we had prevented them in the first place.
In fact, none of the current RINO accusations fit. A RINO is a Republican in Name Only who otherwise does Democrat-like things, such as raise taxes, spend wildly, go soft on crime, overreact to climate change and, yes, meekly blink when Putin or Xi Jinping try to advance on the world stage. A person who believes Bill Barr’s analysis of the 2020 election more so than a pillow salesman’s is not what constitutes a RINO.
Finally, it would behoove all Republicans — those running for office and those supporting them — to pay heed to Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
You remember Reagan, right? The guy who won the White House in a landslide and then as an encore soared to re-election by winning 49 out of 50 states? Let’s put it this way: His opponents conceded both times long before it was anyone’s bedtime.
Oh, how nice it would be to win that way in 2024!
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