It’s time for some harsh truths in what is left of Republican SEPA and this post is probably going to “trigger” some of you.
The last thing I am in the mood for right now is another election recap blowing sunshine and rainbows up my ass over the glorious gains in the U.S. Senate and the not-as-bad-as-we-feared losses in the House of Representatives. Of course, that’s exactly what we got from the Montgomery County Republican Committee this week (Yahoo Mail – Election Recap), as if repeating this mantra of “things are just GREAT!” often enough will make it so.
Forgive me, but I’ve heard this song before, from basically the same folks, though I guess this post-election recap is marginally better than the one we got last November (Oh. That’s right. There was no election recap last year. Just an invitation to a Christmas Party.)
It was during the 2017 General Election that we first witnessed the white hot heat of anti-MAGA sentiment and pussyhat rage that decimated our municipal offices. This year, SEPA was devastated and lost 9 Republican legislators; good people, many of whom are my friends and political allies. Philly Voice:
In the House, local Republican incumbents Kate Harper, Tom Quigley, Rebecca Corbin, Warren Kampf, Eric Roe, James Santora, Alex Charlton, and Duane Milne all fell to Democratic challengers.
Incumbent Bud Cook – a Republican from Southwest Pennsylvania – holds a slim lead, but the race is too close to call.
Local Democrat Helen Tai also lost. So did Democratic incumbents Mike Hanna and Bryan Barbin – neither from the Philly area.
In the Senate, local Republican incumbents Tom McGarrigle and John Rafferty also lost. Republican Robert Tomlinson clings to a small lead in Bucks County, but his competitor, Tina Davis, has not yet conceded.
These losses were the result of voters choosing to cast a vote against the Party of Trump instead of a person, once again in hopes of “sending a message” to Washington and thinking that Donald Trump actually cares about who represents this corner of Montgomery County, PA in Harrisburg.
No matter how Tuesday’s election turned out, if we know anything at all about Trump by now, we know he’s going to spin it into a victory.
Trump wasn’t on the ballot officially on Tuesday, but for Democrats (and many suburban women, regardless of party) he was, and they voted like he was. We can comfort ourselves with tales of voting machine woes and candidates who didn’t knock doors, and yes, maybe addressing those issues would have cut into the losses, but it wouldn’t have put any of our people over the finish line.
We need to address the literal elephant in the room.
We’ve got at least two more years of Trump and another local election cycle to get through before the Presidential. How are we going to get voters to see through their fog of Trump rage, overcome it, and vote for our quality candidates?
Well, for starters, Pollyanna, it’s time to stop accentuating the positive and start being REAL about what’s happening here or we will never stop the hemorrhaging and we will never get our County back.
In Southeastern PA, in Montgomery County, Republicans are in trouble, and it didn’t just start with Trump. The blue tide has been creeping steadily westward for years as liberals leave the city for a better life in the burbs, only to vote for the same policies and party that ruined the city in the first place. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, the graphic below, from Montgomery County’s own voter services website, shows how the statewide races (Governor and Senate) broke by municipality this past Tuesday. It is sobering.
A friend of mine mentioned that the US House Redistricting we bemoaned in February brings home the reality of the Republican situation that we’ve been ignoring for years. Gerrymandered districts hid the truth from the parties about the Democratic creep into Montco. Powerful state reps could redraw their own districts and make deals across the aisle with other powerful reps to keep their seats safe.
A Democrat friend of mine tried to make the case to me that Democrats worked harder this cycle, specifically in the 44th State Senate District that formerly belonged to longtime legislator John Rafferty. I’ll concede that point, at least in the 44th: there is no doubt that Katie Muth worked harder. She pounded the pavement and was a very visible and accessible candidate. But what she worked hardest at was honing the Democrats’ best weapon this cycle: stoking anti-Trump anger and translating it into votes for Democrats. If I were to nominate a person who best represents the mood of the Democratic party right now, the angry Katie Muth would be my choice as their poster child.
I submit that her hard work didn’t matter. As a control race, let’s examine the results of the 150th. There were no incumbents in this race and the seat has been traditionally Republican for years. Nick Fountain, the Republican candidate, worked his butt off. He had major surgery over the summer and was back out knocking doors within days. Nick had actual experience in local government and a vibrant, hard working team behind him. Meanwhile, from where I’m sitting, the only energy I saw demonstrated by the Joe Webster campaign was the effort it took to slap some “Veteran” stickers on some of his yard signs.
The only thing that mattered in that race was the R or the D after the candidates’ names. So let’s not talk about door knocking or hard work this cycle. It would not have mattered.
So the question is: do we cede the ground, or do we fight to take it back?
Submitted for your consideration
Before we dive back into this episode of What’s the Matter with Montco, here is some relevant food for thought from around the internet on the national results of the midterms: (each worth a click through for the whole article.)
Allahpundit at Hot Air from the impressively titled post, Soft-Spoken, Introspective Trump To Graciously Accept Responsibility For Dems’ House Takeover
He’ll do a pro forma congrats to Pelosi, I assume, and allow that he bears “maybe some” responsibility. But most of the hour will be spent on the following buck-passing points:
1. Forget the House. The Senate is all that matters.
2. Losing the House is actually good news, as a lot of the RINO-cuck deadwood has been cleared away. Now the GOP can focus on building a permanent Trumpist minority.
3. If anyone’s to blame it’s House Republicans themselves for not embracing him more closely. (He’s already floated that idea, actually.) What Carlos Curbelo should have done in a district that’s 70 percent Latino is gone all-in on ending birthright citizenship.
4. It’s Paul Ryan’s fault, of course. Reportedlyhe was workshopping this one yesterday too:
We talk often about the liberal mainstream media bias, but we rarely, if ever, note the damage done by our own right wing media. One of my favorite columnists, Kevin Williamson, makes this point at NRO:
Fox News has censured Sean Hannity for appearing at a Trump campaign event. I wonder if they have ever watched his show or listened to his radio program, which are explicitly and unapologetically campaign vehicles. It is not as though Hannity et al. were part of the Republican campaign apparatus — they are the Republican campaign apparatus, far more consequential to the political and (mercy!) intellectual direction of the GOP than is, say, Ronna McDaniel. (Who? Exactly.) The right-wing media caucus is a new kind of political constituency, one that now has a great deal more power than the Chamber of Commerce or other more traditional Republican interest groups. Conservative talk radio is an endless soap opera with only one story line — “Betrayal!” — which inevitably influences Republican political strategy. A Ted Cruz or a Scott Walker has basically two choices: Try to build a larger electoral coalition by bringing in more independents or a few Democrats alienated by (see below) the party’s direction, or go all-in on the Kulturkampf stuff and try to win your race by turning out the hardcore partisans and writing off everybody else. The narrative structure of talk-radio politics precludes compromise and coalition-building, being as it is oriented toward the takfiri model of discourse. That works, until it doesn’t.
The Editors at National Review (Yes, I know what you are thinking: oh Lisa, don’t you know how anti-Trump National Review is? I do. Which is exactly why Republicans should be reading it—to keep things in perspective. More on this in a minute)
President Trump and congressional Republicans have delivered important conservative policy victories, but they have not expanded the Republican coalition. Trump himself has alienated college-educated suburban voters who used to back Republicans, and the congressional party has not won the allegiance of all the formerly Democratic working-class voters who backed him in 2016. To win the elections of 2020 — to hold the presidency and the Senate, let alone to rebound in the House — they will probably need to do better with both groups.
Jonah Goldberg talks about the Hollowing Out of the American Political Parties: `
Outside groups — the National Rifle Association, Planned Parenthood, unions, etc. — often do more to effectively organize voters around single issues or personalities than the parties do. The Kochs, Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Sheldon Adelson serve as party bosses, only outside the parties.
Technology is another, less obvious force siphoning power from the parties. For instance, as political historian Michael Barone has noted, the telephone dealt a grievous blow to political conventions, where insiders have outsize power
The Internet and cable TV have accelerated the eclipsing of parties. Opinion websites and TV and radio hosts now do more to shape issues and select candidates than the parties do. It’s a bit like comic books. Readership of comics has been in steady decline, but movie studios and toy manufacturers still feed off the brands created generations ago.
And yet, Americans keep talking about partisan politics as if the parties are in charge, and base voters on the left and the right keep railing against the party establishments like mobs unaware that they’re kicking dead horses.
Among the many problems with the rotting out of the parties is that the rot spreads. The parties are supposed to be where politics happens. McConnell’s point about money in politics is analogous to the larger trend. When you take political power out of the parties, other actors seize it.
When wielded by people who aren’t supposed to be in the politics business, that power corrupts. This is why every Academy Awards ceremony is peppered with asinine political jeremiads, and why late-night-comedy hosts serve as de facto Democratic-party organizers.
So what’s the way forward? I don’t have the answers, but I have a few thoughts we might consider in order to begin the long process of building bridges with the Democrats, Independents and formerly Republican Women that we need in order to win elections, because first and foremost, we don’t have the registration numbers. Locally, Republicans have benefitted for years by having Barack Obama in office. Regardless of the overall registration numbers, while he held the Presidency, Democrats were pretty much uninterested in local elections and for the most part, they stayed home and Republicans ruled the off-year Election Days.
Now that’s over. They are woke.
The Cult of the Presidency
Remember those Obama days? Remember how we laughed and laughed at the Democrats’ fawning worship of the Light Worker? The pretentious Greek columns? “We are the ones we are waiting for?” Hopenchange? Remember how ridiculous we thought that all was?
What happened? Because, by my reckoning, our own party has been overcome by the same cult of the Presidency. Politics infects everything. It’s exhausting.
Look, I’ve been very clear about my reasons for not discussing national politics on this blog, but national politics is bleeding into local politics and we need to find a way through it. So that being said, let me also say this: I support the President. He was not my first choice (or my second) but he is who we have, and overall, I have been pleased with his policies, his judges, and the economy, which is why I voted for him.
I hate his rhetoric, his tweeting and his constant trolling and I think he conducts himself in a most un-Presidential manner. I hate that his administration seems to always be mired in chaos. This—and pretty much this alone—is why he is so loathed by the left and moderates. The policy stuff is really an afterthought and you have to be politically engaged to really understand the ramifications of policy enough to be enraged over it. It’s Trump’s character and personality that are immediately accessible to even the most politically unengaged citizen. People want their President to act Presidential.
In the end, Trump is just a man. He’s not a super genius playing three dimensional chess on the worldwide stage. Not every bone-headed embarrassment for the administration is part of some grand master plan to which only he is privy and that he’s executing with the precision of a Swiss watch. He’s just a man, and a fallible one at that. We used to not be afraid to admit when one of our guys made a mistake and we used to not be afraid to call him out on it. Now you are some sort of traitor to your tribe if you even dare to criticize.
What happened to us?
To be very clear: I understand what liberals want. They want us to abandon Trump, deny him, renounce him. They want Republicans to save them from Trump and many of them are not going to be satisfied with anything less from our party.
I’m not talking about reaching out to those folks and I’m not talking about abandoning the President or his agenda. I think there is a certain part of their party, just like in ours, that is unreachable.
I’m talking about breaking through the tribalism, which is just another form of bigotry. Stop looking at everyone as a Democrat or Republican and start looking at them as an individual with fears and concerns unique to them. Most hyper partisans are just parroting what they’ve seen elsewhere. Individuals engaging individuals —without making everything about Trump—is what I’m talking about.
I could go on about the Cult of the Presidency for days. It’s one of the most disappointing trends I’ve seen in this country on both sides of the aisle and betrays an utter lack of education in American civics. Plus it totally lets Congress of the hook. What are we paying those people for but to be a co-equal branch of government? But I’m going to stop here before I meander too far down another tangent.
Stop Trolling Liberals
You can either agree with that assessment, or you can, like many Trumpers I know, gleefully embrace this behavior and take it on as your own when engaging with liberals.
Newsflash: Your facebook meme isn’t changing anyone’s mind. It’s only serving to keep that anger stoked and solidify those divisions. So by all means, if you want to keep dealing with broken glass Democrats at the polls twice a year for the duration of Trump’s presidency, keep doing your part by pouring gasoline on the dumpster fire that already is social media. Snowflakes may not be commenting on your posts while you are drinking their salty tears, but they sure are reading.
And for God’s sake, why are we provoking voters at the polls? Is your message sign going to change anyone’s mind on their way into the polls? Is that “Jobs not Mobs” or “Stop Socialism” sign going to miraculously convert a Democrat and make them pull straight R on their way in to vote? No. It’s only going to further inflame them, so stop it. It serves no purpose.
Bottom line: Trump acts a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I was raised on the adage, “You catch more flies with honey,” and “Kill them with kindness.” I’m one of those folks who believes that it makes a difference if you are a little extra courteous on the road when your car is sporting a political bumper sticker. I believe each Republican is a representative of our party and every day we have an opportunity to engage with neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances and represent Republican values and morals. People who become centers of influence, who are able to convince people of their opinions, who can change people’s minds, do not go through life intentionally trying to piss people off for the twin goals of amusement and political point scoring. As I’ve said before, only Trump can be Trump. And only he should be.
Lose the Whataboutisms
When I’ve tried explaining the point above to fellow Republicans and partisans across the aisle, I get a full dose of the “whataboutisms.” You know what I’m talking about: “Well, whatabout when Obama did X? Was that ok?” “Whatabout when Trump did that?”
Just because the other side does it, it doesn’t mean its ok. Republicans should be better. We should be above it. If I can go back to another childhood adage: if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? Or who remembers this one: I don’t care WHO started it, I’m ending it!
Stop using the bad behavior of others to justify your own. Republicans can and should strive to be better. I don’t care if the other side is unhinged, and freely admit, many of them are. We are not trying to convert a movement; we’re trying to covert individuals. One at a time.
Every time you interact with someone, it’s an opportunity to sell your party, just by the virtue of you being a good person with membership in a larger voting block and belief in the values that built this Country.
Turn off talk radio
You will never learn how to build a bridge to the other side if you don’t understand how the other side thinks. And you won’t understand that if you stay inside an ideological echo chamber. Talk radio contributes to the polarization. Listen if you must, but don’t let that be your sole information diet. Think for yourself.
Now I’m not saying go crazy here. I’m not saying tune in to Rachel Maddow every day, or subscribe to Vox, but at least listen to how liberals are framing the issues so you can start talking to them instead of past them.
And let’s be clear here: The Democrats believe that they are doing what’s best for the Country. They do not think they are destroying the country; they think they are making it better. They believe in social justice and they believe their way is THE way and they believe they have the moral high ground.
Just like we do.
Calling them evil, no matter how much we disagree with their views, is not an argument against their ideas. Ad hominem attacks don’t work on us, why would they work on them?
Related: Stop whining about media bias. We know it exists and we know we’re the target and we know it’s unfair. This is our lot. Get over it and deal with it.
Dear MCRC: It’s not 1985 anymore
Ronald Reagan is not the president anymore and we have a registration disadvantage of about 50,000 voters. People do not just blindly pull the lever for Republicans in Montgomery County anymore. And why should they? We’ve been taking our voters for granted for years and we’ve stopped bothering to make a case for their support.
It’s time to admit that we are the minority party and we need to start acting like it.
This means stop the destructive power struggles. There is literally nothing to fight over except a wheezing organization that is limping from election to election. What kind of power comes with that?
Stop the picking and choosing of winners and losers with your favored support. Recognize you are in a rebuilding phase and stop acting like you actually have the luxury of destroying viable, quality candidates because of petty political differences or because someone gave you more money than someone else. The turnaround is not around the corner. It’s going to take a long time to get anything back and if a qualified candidate volunteers for the meat grinder that is running for elected office in this climate, you support them no matter what.
For that matter, stop endorsing candidates based on their ability to self-fund. We did that a couple times in recent memory and it was a disaster every single time. If you recruit good, viable, charismatic candidates, the party faithful will get behind them.
The Democrats were in the minority for years and they patiently chipped away at the majority. Now they are the majority.
And they have all of the problems that come with it. The Democrats are not an unbreakable monolith with no fault lines. There are very clear rivalries and divisions within their own party. There is infighting, power struggles and tons of incompetence, especially resulting from the emotionally cast votes of these last two elections (see just about every other post in this blog). Democrats have some #metoo problems of their own. They have problems governing.
Find those weaknesses, highlight them, and exploit them.
And stop letting them run unopposed, especially in the State House.
We used to know how to do this and now it’s almost like we are afraid to take them on, especially the more powerful amongst them.
Stop making deals with Democrat politicians. It almost always goes bad, and we have been betrayed in big and small ways by even those “good” democrats we think we can work with. Politically, first and foremost, they are Democrats and they will put party over a deal with a Republican every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Do you know why? Because they can. Because they are the majority party.
Oh, and as President Hillary Rodham Clinton once said, Josh Shapiro is not inevitable. Stop pussyfooting around him. It’s Montgomery County’s fault he made it to Harrisburg on the red carpet we laid out for him. We should not let him take another step up his very well defined political ladder. We owe that to the rest of the state.
Be smarter in how you deploy committee people
Committee people should be plugged in to their municipalities, highlighting those local issues where possible. How can the committee people endorse or promote a municipal or school board candidate if they are not attending meetings or plugged into the issues facing their communities?
And while we are talking about committee people, is there a bigger waste of a committee person’s time than handing out literature at the polls? Hardly anyone takes it, hardly anyone reads it, and it changes no one’s mind. Yet not only do we insist on continuing this practice (and spending thousands of dollars on the printed materials), but we stress out over the green ballot, a handout that was forever rendered absolutely meaningless in the 2015 County election.
Even more ridiculous, we expect the candidates to pay for the privilege of appearing on this flyer. I’m not sure when it became the candidate’s responsibility to financially support the party apparatus, but this, too, needs to end.
A better use of a committeeperson’s time is that of striking. On Election Day, I’d say have a manned table outside and be more passive by just making the literature available. Voters don’t like walking the gauntlet, but for some reason, we think that putting them through it will earn us their vote.
In fact, I’m of the opinion that the only people who should be approaching voters on Election Day are candidates or elected officials. And elected officials should work a poll at every election—it gives them free face time with their constituents.
LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL
MCRC social media should not simply be a regurgitation of national news or Trump propaganda. MCRC exists for one reason and one reason alone: to elect local candidates. All MCRC should be talking about is local issues and how Republican governance can address these issues better than our Democratic counterparts.
Don’t stop at social media either. Send out regular press releases. The dead tree media loves content they don’t have to pay for. They will print it. Use the media for something other than attacking other Republicans.
The bench for higher office comes from our local municipal and school boards. Promote these folks, nurture the good candidates and support the local committees in their recruitment of candidates.
The County Party needs to be thinking longer term. They were caught flat footed in when the US Congressional Districts were re-mapped earlier this year and for the first time, after years of ceding our congressional representation to Chester County or Delco candidates, Montco finally has a congressional seat of their own. The race was a blood bath. But MCRC should already be thinking about and vetting candidates to take on Madeleine Dean in 2020.
But the Courthouse. The Courthouse has been under almost exclusive Democrat control for the last three years and in spite of several issues that have been gift wrapped and hand delivered to the County party, MCRC has been largely silent in making the case for Republican governance at the Courthouse. We are going to need a full slate of candidates ready to go in January and we haven’t begun to tell voters why they should be considering Republicans instead of Democrats.
There is really only one person who has been calling out County Democrats. Which brings us to….
Make your peace with Joe Gale
Do whatever it takes to make this happen.
A good start would be to hire another, less compromised, person to do “security” for the next MCRC dinner.
I’m tired of hearing about bullet voting and the butthurt from 2015. There were sins committed on both sides of that election, which, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, was more about keeping Republicans busy fighting amongst ourselves so Josh Shapiro could coast to victory. Only one “Republican” benefitted from that election and when he’s not hustling “bipartisan” photo ops with his boss to desperate Republicans, he’s running fact-gathering missions for him disguised as “security” gigs .
Love him or hate him, Joe Gale has his own network of voters and he has a loyal following. He did not self-fund, but ran a successful, grassroots campaign that raised enough money to get him elected. This success cannot be denied, and he did this facing significant headwinds from the County Party. Republicans cannot afford another costly internecine war like 2015.
Start over. Start fresh and heal the party divide. MCRC leadership must check their egos at the door and work to get all members of this party back under the same tent.
The bottom line is this: we have a very large registration disadvantage and we’re losing ground one tweet at a time. MAGA don’t play in SEPA, so we need to work around it. We need to make our party palatable first; viability and victory come afterward. That unquestioning Trump loyalty some of you insist upon? Yeah, you are going to need to go do that in the deep red center of the state, not in the Philly collar counties.
There are many folks we’re simply never going to sell on Trump, but a lot of them once believed in our ideals, our competence and our candidates.
Admittedly, I’m not talking tactics or even strategy here; I’m talking about changing the tone. Stop seeing party and start seeing individuals. And though we share many of the same goals and ideals with each other, we need to make sure we are also being seen as individuals and not being lumped in as a just another unremarkable member of nameless, faceless group. End this toxic tribalism.
I’m not talking kumbaya here. Ok, maybe I am, a little bit. But it can’t hurt. And I’m not excusing the outrageousness of the far left, who has effectively taken over the Democrat Party. I’m just talking about being civil to your neighbors to begin to give folks an viable alternative to this exhausting level of contant rage that infects everything in our society.
Republicans are the underdogs in SEPA. And America has always been a sucker for an underdog.