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OPINION

Red Future

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The GOP needs to get into the heart of America’s big cities and build its base and its future.

We’ve all seen it: a basketball steal, the player has no one between him and the net, he goes up for a tomahawk dunk, and the ball hits the back of the rim and goes flying out toward mid-court. That would appear to be a reasonable analogy to what just happened in the national elections held last Tuesday. The Republicans had everything in their favor:

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*70% of the electorate is not happy with the current president or the direction of the country, and a majority of Democrats do not want President Biden to run again in 2024;

*Inflation, high gas prices, rising crime, a completely open border, over-the-top Covid policies, and sexualized education are all subjects in the headlines and favor Republicans over Democrats with all but the most left-leaning voters; and,

*The party in power generally loses seats during midterm elections. One can recall “the great shellacking” of 2010 after the one-party Obamacare passage.

So with so many issues favoring Republicans, why did the party pick up so few seats, not move the Senate, and lose out on some governorships in states where the sitting Democratic chief executives were unpopular? Many reasons have been put forth from bad candidates to inaccurate polling, and write-in ballots, to most of the easy seats having been picked up last time, and more. If one looks at the map below and if representation was based solely on percentage land mass, the Republicans would own 80% of the legislative bodies in the land:

What was the basis of those who doubted the veracity of the 2020 elections? For days, several states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin were showing pink on CNN and other outlets—slightly leaning Republican and then after days, they all went blue. How did such a switch happen? There is no question and one can see it in the map above that the Achilles’ hell of the Republican party is the big city. The sheer number of voters in cities like Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Detroit and their large Democratic majorities can doom all of that red real estate on the map. Were all of the votes “kosher”? We may never know for sure, but all of the talks of mules, bags of ballots, hacked voting machines, people voting multiple times, etc. never reached the level of proof required for a court of law or the court of public opinion to change the outcome of any of the 2020 races, including that for president.

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So two years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation. The large voting blocs in big cities can sink the great work of Lee Zeldin or keep Governor Whitmer—who, remember, forbade the selling of gardening goods to keep people locked down in their houses and not outside—in power. The leadership of the GOP has failed to address, for the most part, the great weakness of the party. While Latino and Black percentages are going up in the GOP’s favor, are we going to wait 30 years to have high enough percentages to win the big cities? Ron DeSantis won Miami-Dade county, a typical Democratic bastion. He had going for him great competence as well as proven experience during Covid and his Hurricane Ian response. What can newcomers do if they don’t have his successes on their pre-election resumes? 

When the GOP was the party of the country club set, it had little to offer Americans living in inner cities. As the parties inverted with the Democrats catering to tech billionaires and woke university grads, with the Republicans addressing the real concerns of middle-class Americans and workers, the GOP has a lot to offer people living in cities. Look at Chicago, New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. They are Democratic cities and have been for decades. The GOP needs to make it a priority to talk to people who vote Democratic in these cities to find out why they do so. Many may do so reflexively: their parents voted for the elder Mayor Daley so they keep voting for whoever is the Democratic mayor or alderman, even if many who live around them have been shot at or robbed in the past five years. Republicans need to speak to these people and ask why they vote against their interests (something the Democrats accused Republican voters of doing in the past) and why policies that lead to safer cities, better educational outcomes, lower taxes, and business growth will make their lives better, their neighborhoods safer and their futures brighter. This is going to take a lot of leg work and probably a fair number of election cycles, but the last few elections show that the Republicans are always winning until they count the ballots from the big cities, even with more minority voters voting Republican. There will be those who will want unlimited abortions and as much government aid as possible, and they may never vote for a Republican candidate but many might see the possibility of safer neighborhoods and better educational and job opportunities for their children as enough to give the Republican candidate a chance. Those whose kids do not make the lottery for local charter schools often cry in anguish. Only Republicans want to increase the number of charter schools in big cities.

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It is frustrating to see states like Nevada and Arizona with large swaths going Republican only to be sunk by the one big county that votes heavily for the Democrats. The Republicans need to direct a portion of the millions raised to developing inroads into the big blue cities. Just as Governor DeSantis took Miami-Dade, a Republican might in the not-too-distant future take Philadelphia County or Chicago’s Cook County, or Arizona’s Maricopa County. The time to invest in that future is now.

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