Don’t Fear the Briar Patch

(Going political today, but never fear; this won’t be a primarily political blog.  More to come on other topics soon.)

I don’t know how many kids today still hear the stories of Br’er Rabbit. They were ruled off-limits for being racist, despite coming from African folklore, so maybe people younger than me haven’t heard them.  In one particularly good one, Br’er Rabbit gets caught by Br’er Fox, but he tells the fox, “Whatever you do to me, please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”  The more he protests, the more the fox likes the idea, and eventually he throws him in.  Of course, a briar patch is a safe haven for a rabbit, so Br’er Rabbit gets away unharmed.  The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t pay attention to your enemy’s advice, because he’s trying to confuse you.  Make your own decision based on your own knowledge, and just eat the rabbit already.

Republicans are getting a lot of advice from their enemies right now.  Most of it boils down to: turn millions of illegal immigrants into voting-eligible citizens (even though their relatives who are already citizens vote 70/30 Democrat despite previous Republican amnesties), cave in or at least shut up on social issues like abortion and homosexual marriage, and nominate more Latino candidates for office.  But the briar patch, the thing they absolutely shouldn’t even consider doing and should be ashamed if they even think about it, would be reaching out to whites who already vote for them at a 60-plus percent clip and trying to increase that vote a little.  “Whatever you do,” say the pundits and experts of the left, “don’t go near those white people; they have thorns.”

A commenter at Steve Sailer’s blog wonders why, because he knows Democrats who would seem like natural targets for a Republican outreach in this area:

Personal anecdote, I know a guy who votes democrat who is a demographer’s nightmare. This guy owns guns, uses racial slurs and yet voted for Obama because he is convinced the GOP is only out for the rich. I am not saying there are too many white males like him, a blue-collar, middle class, gun toting, non-PC, white male who votes democrat. But who knows it might represent a percentage point on two.

I know enough of them that I’d suspect it’s higher than that, especially in the Midwest battleground states. That’s certainly true where I live.

My rural Midwestern county of about 70,000 people went 66.5% for Romney, 31.4% for Obama. It’s not a hardcore Republican area; in local elections we elect some of each. The county is 95% white, 3% black, less than 1% Hispanic, and a few others running ethnic restaurants.

So at most, 4% of Obama’s vote here was based on racial solidarity, which leaves at least 27% whites voting for him for other reasons. These are generally not hardcore liberals; often they’re conservative, pro-gun, anti-gay, anti-taxes, not-particularly-pro-diversity folks. Based on my acquaintances, they break down into these groups:

  • Elderly who are still voting for FDR, and who buy into the myth trotted out every four years that the GOP wants to slash Social Security and Medicare.
  • Union members who vote how the union says, against what they perceive as the party of Big Business.
  • Government and quasi-government workers like teachers, nurses, and postal carriers, whose jobs would be threatened by real cuts in spending.
  • People on one form of assistance or another.
  • College students (we have a small liberal arts college) voting for the cool party, as decided by The Daily Show and Bill Maher, or whoever’s cool today.
  • People who generally see the GOP as a bunch of rich fat cats who are getting rich off them in some unspecified way and laughing at them all the way to the bank.  Obviously there is considerable overlap between this and the other groups, but some are in this group alone.


Conspicuously absent are:

  • Anti-war people. People here are very patriotic, and tend to support America’s military endeavors automatically. Men here volunteered for Vietnam and didn’t get spat on when they got home. That doesn’t mean they’re war-mongers, but they don’t base their votes on whether they think one guy might be more likely to send troops to one place while the other guy is a little less likely to send them to another place. They support having a strong military and doing what’s necessary.
  • Pro gay marriage. Doesn’t exist here in numbers that matter.
  • Pro-abortion. Yes, we have pro-abortion people, but not many who would tell you that’s their #1 issue. Generally these would already be voting Democrat for one of the reasons above.
  • Pro-amnesty. Are you kidding? Yes, everyone knows to salute toward Ellis Island, and people here are too nice to want to be mean to illegals and their families. But they certainly don’t think we need a bunch more immigrants right now when jobs are already scarce, and they support law-and-order and doing things by the rules.


So you’ll note that the things the media and comment trolls keep telling us the GOP needs to do — stop war-mongering (whatever that means), ease up on social issues, and agree to amnesty — wouldn’t draw Democrats like these to their side one bit. And these are the white voters they need to win the Midwest battleground states that decide elections.

You’ll also note that the groups that are voting Democrat are mostly doing so out of fear, generally fear of loss: losing that SS/Medicare/welfare check, losing a job that was outsourced by a fat-cat corportation, losing a government job because mean Republicans cut spending in their area. You’ll also note that Republicans (unfortunately) never actually do these things any more than Democrats do, but the perception is that they will, and the media isn’t going to let that perception die, because it’s a winner for them.

So how can Republicans reach out to these groups and get the 3-4% of these “Reagan Democrat” types who could give them a strong majority again? Taking them in order:

I’m not sure there’s much they can do about the elderly. If you’re still voting for FDR, you’re pretty set in your ways, and the “the GOP will steal your Social Security” trope is very strongly embedded. Frankly, I wouldn’t spend a dollar trying to change these minds.

Union members, especially private sector ones, seem reachable. They’re overwhelmingly male here, and they make good salaries for family formation, so they really are natural Republicans if they can get past the adversarial “us versus management” paradigm. There are two ways to do that: reduce the centralized power of the unions with right-to-work laws and hope workers will change things from the inside, or reach out to the union leaders. The GOP has generally preferred the first method, and it’s probably the best in the long run. Union members are the most threatened by unchecked immigration, but their leaders just see a wave of potential new members coming across the border. The current members are going to have to stand up for themselves and demand that their leaders start defending them against that wave. That seems like something a more populist GOP could encourage.

Even in the public sector unions like teachers, there are plenty of conservative and Republican members. They need to be encouraged to speak out, and protected when they do.

Government workers and welfare recipients would be a hard nut to crack. It’s pretty hard to convince people to vote for a party that might take away their paychecks. Never mind that that’s not true; it’s what they believe, and like with the elderly, that’s not a belief that’s going to be changed easily. Besides, the GOP should cut government jobs and outlays, drastically, and that should be a selling point when telling the private sector workers who have been getting the shaft that they’re going to get a break.  You can’t be the party of fiscal responsibility, while at the same time promising everyone a chicken — and a cell phone and a bass boat — in every pot.

College students may be hopeless, but as Steve keeps pointing out, Romney got a surprising boost in young voters, so maybe there’s something there. No one else is talking about that, which means either that the media is terrified by the idea or it’s just so unbelievable to them that they can’t see it, but our side ought to be trying to figure that out.

As for the people who see the GOP as a caricature of Scrooge McDuck, again, there’s no way to punch through the media’s hold on that immediately. But taking more populist positions to appeal to the groups above, especially on jobs, jobs, jobs, could chip away at that stereotype.


In summary, the GOP already gets 65-70% of the white vote where I live, and there aren’t enough non-whites to credit it to racial tension. I don’t see any reason they couldn’t get the same results in places like Ohio, if they reach out to working-class whites at the grass-roots level with some basic “Made In America” rhetoric. A few more percentage points from that group would give them a winning majority again, and it wouldn’t require any caving on immigration or social issues that could cost them other parts of the base.


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