The Republicans’ City Problem

The GOP is having trouble breaking 30 percent of the vote in the nation’s major cities (over 500,000), costing it millions of votes in an increasingly urban nation. It hasn’t always been this way.

 

Yesterday I wrote about the remarkable drop in GOP support from Latinos and Muslims—the latter in particular, a small but socially cohesive and increasingly wealthy minority, whose support for the Republican party went from substantial to virtually nil within a couple election cycles. Rany Jazayerli, of “Rany on the Royals fame", wrote movingly about his disillusionment with the GOP, the party he grew up in.

Kansas, then as now, was a Republican state, and those political sensibilities suited my dad just fine. These were the 1970s, when the income tax rate on the highest earners was 70%, a rate that people of all political persuasions would agree today can only be described as confiscatory. My dad had just left behind Syria, where the government had literally confiscated his family’s wealth, and he would be damned if he was going to let the American government take more than two-thirds of his marginal income.

GOP support among south-Florida Cubans has been historically strong for similar reasons. This year, the GOP narrowly lost among that group, for the first time since the Cuban Revolution. A clue as to why can be found from Andrew McCarthy in the National Review (h/t Roy Edroso):

As I’ve detailed in The Grand Jihad and, more recently, Spring Fever, their thoroughgoing alliance with the American Left is ideologically based — it is not a product of insensitive messaging or “Islamophobia.” Islamists revile finance capitalism, favor redistributionist economic policies, and endorse nanny state regulatory suffocation as well as an ever-expanding welfare state.

[snip]

[T]here is a choice to be made: either convince them that they are wrong, meaning make the unapologetic case for liberty and limited government; or fundamentally change who you are, meaning accommodate their statism.

Just to put that in perspective, here’s Jazayerli writing about his experiences in Chicago’s suburbs and the Muslim community’s struggle with “liberty and limited government":

My own mosque, that started congregating out of converted space in an office park a decade ago, spent over two years attempting to win zoning approval to build a formal house of worship on land that we purchased next to a Greek Orthodox church and a Buddhist temple. The resistance that we got from the Republican-controlled county zoning board was so intense that it was covered by the New York Times, and eventually the Chicago Tribune had to publish an editorial defending our right to build a mosque. 

Families like Jazayerli’s came to America to escape statism, not replicate it. When they started feeling the vibrations of statism from the GOP itself, what was once a strong bond broke, and broke quickly. And it’s just one of the changes killing the GOP in cities and metro areas: “Even if you don’t buy the recent analysis that cities are growing faster than the suburbs, the big city Democratic landslides (71% in 2000, 60% in 2004, 70% in 2008, and now 69% in 2012 in cities of over 500,000) are a serious issue for the GOP in an era when the suburbs are an unreliable constituency.”

Some of it is demographic changes. But the GOP is also becoming anti-urban in a more basic sense, in a way that seems ideological against the concept of cities themselves. Consider this comparison from the 1980 and 2012 GOP platforms:

It highlighted the need for “dependable and affordable” mass transit in cities, noting that “mass transportation offers the prospect for significant energy conservation.”

[snip]

It chided the Democratic administration for “replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.”

It’s just weird.

Sommer Mathis makes a compelling case that the GOP can’t afford to lose cities like this. Some of it is tied up in demographics, but instinctive anti-urban rhetoric doesn’t help, on the national and the local level:

The 101-county strategy is just nuts. The GOP loses time after time running anti-Cook and anti-Chicago campaigns — and by simply refusing to build organizations there at all. They leave tens of thousands of votes in the field.

The term Reagan Democrat was practically invented in Chicago.

It didn’t use to be that way; the GOP used to work it to knock down the Dem vote, but not anymore. I blame Madigan’s Jedi mind tricks.

 

Photograph: janeyhenning (CC by 2.0)

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