Conventional wisdom suggests that in 2012, social issues distracted from the Republican Party’s winning economic message, causing the GOP to lose. At American Principles in Action, we believe that this mindset is wrong.
First, social issues help GOP candidates win elections, not lose them. Secondly, the GOP’s economic message, as currently structured, is not a winning message.
Just yesterday, APIA released a report in response to the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election entitled, Building a Winning GOP Coalition: The Lessons of 2012. In this report, we explain how running an aggressive campaign on social issues and restructuring our economic message will better connect with working- and middle-class voters and, in turn, will lead to a national GOP resurgence.
In 2012, Republicans across the board embraced a “truce strategy” on social issues. If you’re unfamiliar, the truce strategy basically goes like this: Democrats attack on social issues and in response, Republicans retreat and try to change the subject back to economic issues. While the strategy may seem to work in theory, it proved to be completely impractical in reality.
The Left ended up dominating the narrative on social issues, instead of being forced to answer to their widely unpopular and radical stances on topics like late-term and taxpayer-funded abortions. Democrats were given a free ride to the top. On the flip side, the Left managed to define Republicans as radicals, whose main focus was to outlaw contraception and ban abortion.
But let’s pretend for a second that the truce strategy worked. What was the primary economic message that Republicans pivoted back to?
In more words or less, it was that America needed to lower taxes and address the growing national debt to create a better environment for “job creators” so they could hire more people and expand their businesses, thus growing the economy.
The question here isn’t whether or not this economic message is true. The question is whether or not that message convinced working- and middle-class voters to support the Republican economic plan.
It didn’t and there’s a reason for that.
The Republican economic message was too focused on the immediate economic concerns of “job creators” and did not focus enough on the economic woes of the middle- and working-class.
When Republicans say things like, “job-creators” and “small business owners,” middle class voters hear, “My boss.”
Most people don’t really think that their boss needs more financial help. Many people don’t even like their boss. (I, of course, think my boss is great!)
In fact, three weeks before the election, Forbes produced a study showing that 65% of employees would rather fire their boss than get a pay raise! Say what?!
Almost half of the respondents said that their boss had taken credit for their work and a good portion said that their boss had thrown them under the bus at some point.
Knowing that, you can probably better understand how some voters were turned off by an economic message aimed at helping their boss and not them.
This isn’t to say that Republicans shouldn’t address burdensome regulations and uncompetitive corporate tax rates. They should just walk, talk, chew bubble gum, and focus on the economic woes of the middle class at the same time.
If Republicans can run an aggressive and smart campaign on social issues and address the economic woes of the middle class, they’ll be in a much better position to begin winning national elections again.