Political Hay

Cracking the Left’s Fortresses

Conservative ideas can break into urban areas like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami. Here's how.

By 8.22.12

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Check out one of those maps of the county-by-county results for a recent presidential election. The Democrat counties are in blue, and (perversely) the Republican counties are in red. What you will see, no matter the year, are islands of blue engulfed by a sea of red.

The typical interpretation is that the islands of blue are the urban areas where all the people live, and the seas of red are the rural areas where all the rubes live. But that is not the real story these maps tell.

Yes, the blue counties are more urban and populous. They are politically dominated by African Americans, more recent Hispanic immigrants, younger single people, government employees, and welfare dependents. If these groups were not overwhelmingly Democratic, there would be no Democrat party.

But the most salient point about these enclaves of blue is not that they are populous, but that they are virtually monolithic. Democrats win many of the blue counties with 70, 75, or 80 percent of the vote. That is how the urban islands of blue match the surrounding seas of red.

The opinions in these urban fortresses creep out into less monolithic but still predominantly Democrat suburbs, which reflect the pervasive left/liberal media of those areas. But these urban fortresses that make a political difference are surprisingly few: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, the Miami to West Palm Beach corridor, New England. (Other towns like Atlanta present the same urban core and extremist media, but they don't swing their entire states as a result.)

This concentration of the liberal/left vote is a vulnerability, not a strength. If their wins in these strongholds can be reduced just from around 80-20 to something along the lines of 60-40, the Democrats would cease to be a nationally competitive party. Maintaining such culturally monolithic majorities requires keeping alternative ideas out and demonized. Tough to do in a still (for now) free country, with aggressive conservative advocates.

Breaking Through
Cracking these left/liberal fortresses is all the more possible because Democrat politics are not thoughtful, but reflexive. Hispanics and even African Americans have many more conservatives in their ranks than voting patterns would indicate. This is even more true of Asians. Even American Jews are more conservative than their ballots suggest. All these groups vote so predominantly Democrat because the Democrats tell them the Republicans hate them. The Republicans and conservatives tell them nothing, which seemingly reinforces the Democrat narrative.

Note that there is no significant conservative organization focused primarily on taking free market, pro-growth economics and family values social conservatism into these minority communities. I am not talking about political outreach for the Republican Party, or for particular campaigns, though there is far too little even of that. I am talking about an organization focused on spreading conservative values, ideas, initiatives, reforms, and proposals among African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities.

The opening to reach African Americans and Hispanics is through the churches, whose attendees are already the more conservative of the population. Imagine this: A conservative organization, call it Empower America (which was never nearly aggressive enough in these communities), hosts a meeting of African-American pastors in Philadelphia or St. Louis to present a dynamic speaker on school choice and the parent trigger. He or she explains how these reforms shift power to African-American and Hispanic parents and away from failing education bureaucracies. The speaker then offers to talk on the same subject at a meeting at each of the churches the pastors and priests represent. No one brings up politics or candidates or campaigns. The discussion is only about ideas and reforms.

Or the organization calls a meeting of Asian small businessmen in San Francisco to discuss how tax reform would boost business, increase employment in their communities, and make more capital available for their companies to grow. The speaker explains the boom in minority businesses produced by Reaganomics. The presentation is all about logic and facts, not politics.

Another speaker talks to Hispanic entrepreneurs in Miami and Los Angeles about how a personal account option for Social Security was implemented in Chile, and how in American similar reforms could empower working people for the first time to accumulate substantial nest eggs that could serve as springboards for the next generation. The organization could even fly in José Piñera, who crafted Chile's plan, to speak about it in Spanish.

Others could talk about how the welfare reforms of 1996 reduced poverty in New York City. They could explain how extending those same reforms to Medicaid would empower lower income families to get market health insurance through vouchers, which would greatly expand access to middle class doctors, hospitals, and health care.

The focus would be ideas, not politics. But political leaders who campaigned on policy innovation, rather than personality, would be effective in leading one or more such organizations. These include Newt Gingrich, who knows this outreach is necessary for conservatives, and Herman Cain, who the public recognizes as a straight talking man of ideas.

Are We Really That Crazy?
New England presents a different problem. There the issue is white liberal guilt, as too many people are ashamed of the wealth they have created and earned. They don't do the right thing as dictated by their supposed values, which would be to get that filthy wealth off their hands (I would be glad to hold it for them!)

Instead they cast ballots for Democrat soft Marxists, confident that such irresponsible voting will never have any real world implications for them. Across the country, the most left/liberal districts are found in either the poorest neighborhoods and in the richest ones, where limousine liberals vote Democrat the same way sinners once bought dispensations from the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.

But the rise of the Obamunistas may be changing that attitude at long last. At least some limousine liberals are starting to realize that their personal fortunes are on the menu at the Obama Occupy Wall Street Diner. It is time for candidates to challenge the reigning orthodoxy in these districts.

The theme for these campaigns should be "Are We Really That Crazy," and they should point out the more insane policy positions in liberal enclaves. For instance: unilateral nuclear disarmament; four straight years of trillion dollar deficits when the highest previous figure was less than half a trillion; and income tax hikes on "the rich" when "the rich" already pay almost all the income taxes. The limousine liberals know firsthand who pays those taxes, and will not be offended by those who point it out.

What they don't know is the vast expanse of America's welfare empire: hundreds of federal/state programs focused on the poor, bureaucrats who spend close to a trillion dollars a year (not counting Social Security and Medicare) and who create more poverty than they solve. Limousine Liberals tend to believe quite mistakenly that America is way too cheap when it comes to the needy. That view could not be more divorced from reality, but it does move votes in these areas. Spreading the truth about the actual extent and real world effects of America's welfare empire, and promoting proven reforms, would produce transformative political differences in these areas.

The Two Americas
Spreading the message further would require challenging the other pillar of liberal/leftist domination in these urban fortresses: the Democrat friendly media.

Yes, we have witnessed the rise of new media, which includes conservative talk radio available around the dial almost everywhere. There are established, enlightened institutions such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor's Business Daily, and Fox News. And we have openly conservative publications that continue to thrive, such as this website and its companion magazine, National Review, the Weekly Standard, Reason magazine, and others.

But these outlets are having no effect on the politically significant fortresses of left/liberalism noted at the outset of this commentary. The mass communication explosion of the Internet, now carried on mobile phones everywhere, has only reinforced the monolithic enclaves, as audiences patronize only those institutions that follow the established party line.

Indeed, the so-called "mainstream" media teaches its audiences to disparage alternative views as morally and intellectually inferior. But I challenge you any day to compare the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, Fox News to MSNBC, Rush Limbaugh to Ed Schultz, The American Spectator to the Nation… and you tell me which is morally and intellectually inferior.

To break through, we need to challenge the media that browbeat those enclaves into submission. The market opportunity is in the suburbs. New newspaper operations might be launched there to focus on the political corruption and scandals that can always be found at the urban core. They should expose the fallacies and intellectual corruption at the dominant paper. They should follow the examples of the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal and include multiple opinion pages with first rate columnists and commentators.

The other opportunity is in African American, Hispanic and Asian communities. The Left has already jumped out with Hispanic TV stations and African American radio stations. But it is not too late. Fox is already establishing a new Hispanic TV network. But that is only the beginning of what is possible.

These minority communities know that they are stagnant or worse under the status quo. Check out the perpetual 15 percent African-American unemployment rate, the perpetual double digit Hispanic unemployment rate, and the growing poverty and declining real wages and incomes under Obama the Savior. These communities will be receptive to new initiatives focused on their empowerment and prosperity.

Still another opportunity is for conservative think tanks focused on the most stubborn left/liberal redoubts. Let us do more to spread the word in New England, San Francisco, and Seattle on the truth about the burden of taxes and the expanse of the welfare empire. Let us do more to spread the word in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago about the true solutions to poverty. Let us explain the modern, free market safety nets that conservatives have developed, and how they would serve the poor and seniors far better.

The foundational truth is that economic growth, prosperity and freedom will always trump redistribution, stagnation or worse, and the tyranny of the status quo. Conservatives just need to go on the offensive to break the logjam of current politics. In part, we are stuck at a way station on the road away from the era of the New Deal era. The left/liberals have been chased to their last stands, where they maintain their lead through cultural dominance. We need to get the transformation reignited.

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.