Tags: Grassroots | Triumph

Grassroots Triumph

Friday, 15 November 2002 12:00 AM

A number of pundits, on both sides of the political spectrum, offer disparate reasons for the Republicans sweep on Nov. 5.

Some of them say it was because President Bush worked so very hard in states where the election could have gone either way. In large part that is true. Some say it was because the voting public perceived that the Republicans represented their views more closely, also true. A host of conservative commentators believe the overriding issue was national security, also true.

Others, including the Republican Party establishment like Marc Racicot and Vin Weber, think it was all about Republicans presenting a bipartisan centrist image on the issues. That last is the most dimwitted Republican analysis of all. Republicans need to get a grip lest they continue to operate with that elitist Alice in Wonderland virtual reality and lose everything next go-round.

Howard Fineman of Newsweek, Rush Limbaugh and a few others said the Dems lost the election partially because of their loutish behavior at the Wellstone memorial service. Just recently, former New York Mayor Ed Koch agreed.

That event will live in political infamy. It will rank right up there with the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago and the New York State Democratic convention where Hillary was nominated.

Like its crass and clueless predecessors, the Wellstone "memorial rally" evolved into a raucous radical left-wing high-fiving partisan frat party. Boorish behavior was the norm. The conduct and demeanor of the participants at the Wellstone event would have been more suitable on a college campus where leftist students and professors gather to bash conservatives like David Horowitz or Ann Coulter.

Outside Williams Arena, one disgusted passer-by commented, "they must be from Arkansas or New Jersey." That was a real Minnesota-type insult.

The booing of Jesse Ventura and Republicans at the Wellstone fiasco was the last straw for Independents and disaffected Minnesotans. Before that the Independent vote could have gone either way. In addition, many conservative and religious Republicans could have stayed home. But as one Independent Duluth businessman stated as he viewed the event on TV, "They [the Democrats] just slit their throats." Suffice it to say if the rally/memorial service had not turned ugly, both inside and outside the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena, Mondale probably would have won Wellstone's Senate seat.

In addition, the after-election map shows that Minnesota counties that went for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty did not necessarily go for Republican Norm Coleman, and vice versa. Local issues and factors played their part in that dichotomy and they will continue to do so.

The debate between Coleman and Mondale was the other revealing and disastrous event for the Democrats. Mondale came off as a "grumpy old man" without the charm of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

Mondale's finger waving and crotchety gracelessness completed the picture begun at the Wellstone Memorial Rally. The Democrats came across as a party comprised of classless bullies who embarrassed a majority of the people who live in Minnesota. They showed themselves not as the party of the "little guy" and the working man, but as the party of the little minds and hearts, with the attendant mindless mob behavior patterns of the radical left.

Several statewide Minnesota polls showed that 70 percent of Minnesotans believed the Wellstone rally and the Coleman-Mondale debate hurt Democrats tremendously.

As it was, Minnesota had a record voter turnout of over 65 percent. Centrist issues were not a factor in Minnesota. Bona fide conservative issues brought conservatives out in force. In addition, the perception that the Democrats were churlish radical ideologues finally hit home to this basically populist state. In fact, it may have hit home to the voters in the rest of the nation as well.

It is absolutely disingenuous and foolish for Republican insiders, like Vin Weber or RNC Chairman Marc Racicot, to think centrism or bipartisanship won the election for Republicans. If they really believe that, they are living in a dream world.

What will it take to convince the Republican establishment that a wussy attitude toward partisanship is a no-win option. Hadley Aarkes asks in a recent essay in National Review:

"Why is the first step to say that we [Republicans] will turn aside, as indecorous or out of season, the moral passions that fueled the Republican voters? Marc Racicot is the most thoughtful of men, and a seasoned political hand. No one thinks for a moment that he will not get to work at once to press the president's agenda. What he says about bipartisanship could be chalked up to a public piety – perhaps a ritual of civility, or one of those prudent, lingering sops to the soccer moms, the women who seem to regard argument, in politics, as a food-fight among boys. But there is a certain point at which these rituals of piety, these self-effacing gestures, become corrosive. If there has been any chronic malady among the Republicans it has been a want of confidence in making the arguments for their own positions in public."

Amen to that!

The immigration issue was important in the last election but not in the way the Republican establishment believes it to be. In fact, the most outspoken proponent of immigration reform, Rep. Tom Toncredo of Colorado, won his district with 75 percent of the vote. His district may be a safe Republican district, but voters were out in force nonetheless.

Conservatives in favor of immigration reform were angered when the RNC made it an issue and did not support Toncredo's stance. He could have won without a large turnout but he got a large turnout anyway. That in turn helped Wayne Allard in his bid to retain his Senate seat against Clinton clone Tom Strickland.

The key to winning and keeping every single political office is to get out your base in significant numbers. They have the passion and they work, but you have to give them a reason to work and vote. They do count and should not be taken for granted, as Republicans are wont to do.

It was the grassroots base that won it for Republicans and not flapdoodle centrist pandering to everything that can pull a voting lever or mark an X on the ballot.

Regarding the volatile immigration issue, journalist Kelley Beaucar Vlahos reports that voting results show 60 percent of Hispanics cast votes for the president's brother Jeb and 50 percent voted for Republican Gov. George Pataki. Jeb Bush may have received a large number of Cuban-American votes in Florida but his counterpart in Texas, John Perry, did not sweep the Hispanic vote.

Antonio Gonzales of the William C. Valasquez Institute in Los Angeles, said Latinos came out big for Democrats throughout the states, and that their numbers show 87 percent of Latinos voted for Democrat Tony Sanchez, Perry's challenger. In fact, votes for Republican candidates among Mexican immigrants remains static at around 30 percent.

That is contrary to assumptions by Republican apologists for amnesty for illegals and for "open borders." This establishment elite refuse to face the fact that even after several generations, Hispanics vote almost exclusively for Democrats. Gonzales' conclusion is that "Despite Perry's win, he lost big in the mostly Mexican-American Hidalgo County and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as Sanchez's hometown of Webb County."

In California, one can wonder if it will ever sink in that even after Democrat incumbent Gov. Gray Davis vetoed the bill that would have allowed illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses, it didn't hurt him among Hispanic voters: They voted for him by a 2-1 margin.

In California, 81 percent of blacks, whites and Asians polled about immigration were interested in reducing immigration. A case for the validity of that contention is the 2001 Los Angeles mayoral race wherein James Hahn defeated Latino Antonio Villaraigosa.

In Georgia, the flag issue is what cost Roy Barnes the governorship. Barnes and the Legislature, on their own volition, got rid of the Confederate symbol. Unlike Mississippi, they did not offer voters a choice on the flag by bringing it to a vote.

Their action also cost Democrats local seats, such as the loss of one of the most powerful Democrats in Georgia, House Speaker Tom Murphy. Murphy had controlled the Democratic legislative agenda for decades, and lost to his little-known Republican challenger. West Georgia is where Murphy had his base, and his base dumped him over the flag issue.

Democrat Max Cleland lost and Saxby Chambliss won because the good old boys in West and South Georgia took the time to come out and vote more than usual. It is not totally apparent that they voted for Republicans as much as they voted against Democrats they believed had betrayed them. Max Cleland was viewed as against the war on terrorism, and that cost him as well. Georgians saw it coming, but the RNC did not.

In addition, Georgia's teachers voted against Barnes and the Democrats because of failures on their behalf. Local issues cost the Democrats big time.

Ralph Reed did wonders rallying evangelicals and the religious right to come out and vote. He turned out to be one of the best Republican leaders in Georgia and the South.

Equivocating and kissing up to minorities, Hispanics, women, the usual politically correct identity categories, had ZIP! NADA! ZERO! to do with the election success. Karl Rove and company make a huge mistake if they think their machinations in that regard brought out the conservative base or had soccer moms crossing over.

If anything, soccer moms crossed over because they are worried that they and their children will become victims of terrorists if the U.S. is attacked. It was the soccer dads who counted for Republican victories and it would behoove the RNC to remember that before they go pandering again.

Despite the fact that a majority of women supported Democratic candidates in national elections, there are important political differences among women voters. In the last two elections, close to 90 percent of African-American women supported Democratic candidates. Hispanic women cast two-thirds of their vote for Bill Clinton.

White women, on the other hand, lean slightly Republican in their voting proclivities and represent an important swing vote. Married women vote for Republicans in significant numbers, as do women who live in the intermountain states.

Even the very left-wing Emily's List stated in its election report of last year that "Democrats are making gains with seniors, secular, urban, and minority voters but are losing important ground with married moms, Southern whites, and non-college women."

I wish Republican honchos like Rove, Racicot and the rest had as much appreciation for the married conservative Republican women as they do for the feckless professional women who always give away their votes to Democrats like Nancy Pelosi or Bill Clinton. These educated women still look at government and the Democrats as surrogate husbands who will "do something FOR women" or "save" the environment or whatever collectivist cause is important to them. That attitude is pervasive among liberal to left educated women voters.

On the other hand, especially in the South, working women who make less than $30,000 a year are voting in larger numbers for Republicans than their more affluent sisters. Part of the reason is because many of them are on the religious right, attending churches in rural areas where the gals from Emily's List wouldn't be caught dead.

Then there are the infamous suburban soccer moms who live in the suburbs of Denver or Minneapolis. They will be old and gray and still believe that government can improve education and that politics is a vast kindergarten where people have to play nice. Seemingly they fail to analyze why education never improves and why bipartisanship always means Republicans capitulating to Democratic demands.

If Republicans garnered more of their votes, it was because Bush is perceived as a leader who will protect them and lead the war on terrorism better than Democrats.

Conservative Republican women don't give a rat's rear end whether or not the Republicans are bipartisan or "for" education. They do care about the ruinous nature of public education and that 40 million abortions have taken place since Roe vs. Wade, making abortion more about convenience than about choice. Conservatives, both men and women, still want Republicans to be conservative and not warmed-over Dem lite.

Minnesota Independents voted for the unequivocal Jesse Ventura. Ventura won in 1998 because he was straightforward, a breath of fresh air and NOT the same kind of mealy-mouth blow-dried politico that stirs no one to vote except for total die-hard ideologues. Republican Donald Rumsfield is popular for much the same reasons as Ventura.

Minnesota's Independents helped give Republicans an electoral edge, thanks to the Democrats shooting themselves in the foot. In Minnesota it was the behavior at the Wellstone memorial that disgusted and disturbed even former Navy SEAL and pro wrestler Gov. Jesse Ventura – that was the last straw.

Guts and issues and that Wellstone rally brought out the voters in Minnesota and across the country this year.

In Minnesota it was local issues like the right to carry a concealed weapon, or gun rights. It was also about allowing snowmobiling in the Northwoods, retaining hunting and fishing rights, maintaining the logging and wood products industry, and getting the cold, dead hand of the Sierra Club off the necks of locals.

These issues brought out Minnesota men. Men who don't usually vote care about these things and they voted this time, as many of them voted for Jesse Ventura in '98.

As an example of how important certain local issues are in Minnesota: A 30-year DFL state senator, Bob Lessard of International Falls, spent the entire election season campaigning for Republicans because he broke with Democrats over gun rights, recreation and hunting issues. After a lifetime as an active representative of his beloved Democratic Party, Lessard had enough. "They don't call him 'Trapper Bob' for nothing," asserted one Iron Range Republican.

Lessard had been campaigning since summer for Republicans and spoke at a Republican rally in Duluth. One observer related: "Ninety minutes before the doors were opened, people were lining up to stand in a bitter wind. The line, 4-5 people abreast, snaked all the way to the end of the block and around the corner farther than we could see. Reminded me of standing in line for Radio City Music Hall in the early '50s."

Following the embarrassment for Minnesota at the Wellstone debacle, Iron Rangers came to the rally in huge numbers. What should have been an ordinary political event turned into a rouser for Republicans Dick Cheney, Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman. During the Duluth event Lessard said, "if you vote for the Democratic candidates, prepare for PETA to be running the hunting seasons."

Talk about not mincing words! Talk about appealing to Minnesotans' independent streak! Talk about all politics being local.

While a majority of Minnesotans may be liberal, they are also basically kindly, fair and a decent lot. They certainly tend to be populists who believe in the underdog and his needs. At the Wellstone memorial rally, the Democrats turned the Republicans into the underdog. That was a big favor for a political party that is invariably portrayed as the party of the rich and the successful, and against "the little guy."

Republicans worked hard, but grassroots worked even harder. Grassroots were running anti-Daschle ads in South Dakota before the RNC had a clue. Grassroots put Republicans over the top in Colorado, Minnesota and Georgia.

Nevertheless, if the establishment Republicans STILL don't get how important their grassroots base is by the 2004 election – they will lose. It is base, base, base, after all.

It is also local issues, character and things like gun rights and the flag, as well as the war on terrorism, that made the difference for Republicans this election season.

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A number of pundits, on both sides of the political spectrum, offer disparate reasons for the Republicans sweep on Nov. 5. Some of them say it was because President Bush worked so very hard in states where the election could have gone either way. In large part that is...
Friday, 15 November 2002 12:00 AM
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