Editor’s note: Below is the video of the panel discussion “Reviving the Cause,” featured at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2013 West Coast Retreat. The event was held February 22nd-24th at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California. A transcript of the discussion follows.
Josh Brewster: If we are talking about reviving the cause, we must be talking as conservatives about issues that maybe aren’t being articulated, our core values possibly being neglected. As I asked Larry in the last session, what is it that the Republicans don’t want to talk about? There seemed to be a manner of doing things that the Republicans are very comfortable with. You can read about this in David’s new pamphlet, “Go for the Heart.” You can read about a lot of this. There is the “What We Need to Revive” and there’s the “How to Revive It.”
For example, the Tea Party comes along. Is our tent big enough? Do the Republicans even want these people in the tent? What about social conservatives, libertarians, all the different flavors of conservatives, religious conservatives? I mean, is the tent big enough for everybody? That’s one thing.
Second of all, you can talk about the borders. Are Republicans too nice to talk about the borders? Are Republicans too nice to talk about what’s going on in the inner city? And most of this can be laid at the feet of Democrats who have run our big cities. What about preferences, the liberal racism of low expectations? Is this being articulated? That’s just a few. There are hundreds more, I’m sure, and I will turn it over to my panelists now.
Scott Johnson, what do you think about the topic “Reviving the Cause?”
Scott Johnson: I think many of us — I certainly feel like everything I thought I knew about politics and presidential elections was proved false in the past campaign and folks who are smarter than I, who are running Romney’s campaign, I think that applies double to them, and I won’t go through the theses such as that in a reelection campaign. Just for example, it’s a referendum on the incumbent, and we clearly had a failed president here, and if Romney presented himself as a plausible alternative, he would be elected. And that accounted for the campaign’s apparent allergy to ideas and its failure to offer a comprehensive critique, Horowitz style, of the Obama Administration.
So I just want to enumerate a few of the factors very briefly that I think bring us to where we are today as a predicate for going forward. The first, I think it would be helpful if our folks would get a handle on the technological superiority of the Obama campaign. In this case, the Obama campaign, it was a pretty well kept secret during the campaign, but they have now put something like their playbook online under the heading “Inside the cave.” I bring this along as exhibit A. I have an exhibit B; don’t let me forget. But exhibit A sets forth the incredibly sophisticated use of social media and online fundraising by the Obama campaign.
The Obama campaign raised online something like $690 million according to Joshua Green in a good article about this in “Business Week,” and most of that $690 million was raised through scientific — if there’s such a thing as political science, the Obama campaign discovered it. And their $690 million that was raised online was largely through a vast panoply of e-mail solicitations, many of which we received in our Power Line inbox and regularly made fun of on the site — I would say misreading what was going on. We weren’t the target audience, but they tested these emails for maximum production down to the subject line of the solicitation and to the correct amount to ask for in the e-mail and the level of hysteria to pitch it at.
And as I say, this is with incredible success and it can only be appreciated now, but do you all know, for example, what the most effective subject line in the e-mail solicitations of the Obama campaign, in the last campaign, was?
Josh Brewster: Wasn’t it “Hi” or something?
Scott Johnson: “Hey,” h-e-y, “Hey” was the subject heading and I just hope our folks get a handle on it. It’s not my expertise, but the folks who get paid for a living to do this really need to get a handle on it. That’s number one. Number two, I would say — and here’s my exhibit B — is the genius of the Democrats. If there’s one vulnerability that I thought Governor Romney did not have, it was a bad character or a scandal in his past and yet, the Obama campaign managed to kill the Romney campaign before it got up and running through those, what I thought were ridiculous personal attacks on his business career and so on.
And it seemed to me are repeat. I worried about it at the time, but I thought, given the fact that the Romney campaign wasn’t responding specifically to those ads in the battleground states where they were running and so on, that I should discount my own fears, but I think they killed the Romney campaign with many critical voters in the battleground states. And so, my second factor here is the genius of the Democrats in blackening and tarring the reputation and character of people who are of sterling character.
And in that category, I would put bob Dole. It happened to him in 1996 before his campaign got up and running with a television campaign that was orchestrated by — an advertising campaign that was orchestrated by Dick Morris before Dole ever formally got the nomination. The same thing happened this time around in retrospect and when I refer to the genius of the Democrats, I want to cite exhibit B, David Horowitz’s pamphlet, “Go for the Heart, How Republicans Can Win.” David is thinking hard about it. He’s thought long and hard about the genius of the Democrats and he’s thought long and hard about how we can respond. I think he’s got the beginnings of a response here.
The third Point I would make is demography. Hey, we’re in California. I don’t mean to belabor the point, but the electorate has shifted at the presidential level and national elections has shifted away obviously from the Republican Party. In the current issue of “Commentary,” Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner make this point really graphically in a way that stuck out at me. They say “If this country’s demographic composition were the same last year as it was in 2000, and you held the percentages of the vote among the demographic groups stable, Romney would now be president.”
That’s as of 2000, just 12 years ago. “If it was still the same as it was in 1992, Romney would have won in a rout. If he had merely secured 42% of the Hispanic vote, rather than his pathetic 27%, Romney would have won the popular vote and carried Florida, Colorado and New Mexico.” Wehner and Gerson conclude that Republicans have a winning message for an electorate that no longer exists. I hoped that weren’t true in the last campaign, but it’s important to take account of that, I think, going forward, in some way. I don’t have the answer.
The last point I wanted to make was about dependency. I think one of the keys to what’s going on where we are right now — and this is a point, Nicholas Eberstadt makes in a book he’s just written and in a column that was just posted online yesterday that really, really warrants a close examination, but something seems to be happening in terms of how Americans view dependence on government. And you can see this — I mean, the Obama campaign is promoting — the Obama administration, in alliance with the Obama campaign, is promoting this government dependency, the explosion of Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security Disability, welfare, and just over the horizon, Obamacare.
Eberstadt has observed — and this was in his column yesterday — a growing dependence on government handouts despite declining unemployment rates. In other words, government dependency goes up even while the reported unemployment rate is ticking down. Eberstadt says “Although we’re entering the fourth year of recovery from our Great Recession, the number of Americans seeking entitlement benefits from the government continues to increase. Something is happening,” and whatever it is that’s happening is — rebounds to the amplification of the Democratic constituency.
But we are also undergoing, it seems to me, a fundamental transformation that was the professed aim of the Obama campaign in 2008, and we saw it graphically during the campaign in another theme that I also thought was laughable, “The Life of Julia,” that you’ve all probably seen, but it was an interactive graphic that was literally a cradle-to-grave illustration of the glories that would be conferred by the government on this featureless woman whose sole role in life appeared to be to accrue dependency on others in the course of her life, which –
Josh Brewster: Scott, excuse me a second. Let me turn it over to Ralph, so we can keep it going.
Scott Johnson: Okay, thanks.
Josh Brewster: But I am making notes of what you’re saying and I want to come back to a couple of these points. Ralph Reed, why don’t you pick it up from there and I will come back to Scott a little later.
Ralph Reed: I would just amplify and put an exclamation mark on some of the things that Scott has been talking about and if you can go online, I would definitely look it the “Inside the Cave” document. I think for some people who are not political operatives, some of it gets a little in the weeds, but I think it would still be good to have an impressionistic understanding of some of the very unique things that they did. Now, if I can start off, I want to give you some encouraging things to reflect upon. First of all, I don’t think the cause is dead; I think we lost an election. But I think we lost an election to an incumbent president who had $1 billion, Air force One and no primary.
And not only in the last 220 years has nobody beaten anybody with that set of circumstances; I can promise you, having done this for 33 years and worked on non-presidential elections, no one ever will, okay, unless you’re Herbert Hoover and it’s 1932, if you’re an incumbent who doesn’t have a challenge in your own party, and you’re able to take all your money over two years and put it all on the target of the other party’s nominee, unless you’re dumb — and his team isn’t — you’re probably going to win.
Now, even with that victory, he was the first incumbent president to get a lower share of the popular vote in his reelection than he got the first time around since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. If you look state by state, his margin fell everywhere. Florida, which he won by 242,000 votes four years ago, he won by 74,000; Ohio, which she won by give or take 230,000 votes, he won by give or take 140,000. In every battleground state, his margin dropped. He got 2.4 million fewer votes of 18-to-29 year-old voters; he got 950,000 fewer votes from African Americans. He was the first incumbent president to get a lower share of the electoral vote than he got when he was initially elected since Andrew Jackson in 1828.
So we lost, but you can’t look at the polling and see a ratification of his agenda. It’s just simply not there. When voters were asked in the exit polls “Do you believe that government is too big and is doing too much?” or “Do you believe that government should be doing more?” by a margin of about 58 to 42, they said “Government was too big and was doing too much.”
So then the question becomes why did we lose and what can we do to fix it? And I may not be able to get all of this in the initial presentation, but I think there are four things and some of these will be difficult truths, but if we don’t get about these four things, we’re going to be back here four years from now talking about why we lost that election. The first is we have to have an agenda for the country that makes it clear what we’re for and not just what we’re against. Everybody knows we were against the failed Obama stimulus, but I don’t think people know what our plan is to create 10 million new jobs. Everybody knows we were against Obamacare, but they don’t know what our alternative is.
One of the reasons why Ben Carson’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast when so viral like a wildfire was because he actually laid out some very specific policies. He said “Let’s give everybody who’s below the poverty line a subsidy to set up a health savings account and let them go out and buy private insurance. If they want to get covered, they can get covered. If they simply want to pay out of pocket, they can pay out of pocket,” but he didn’t just get up there and trash Obama. He got up there and said what he was for.
I remember when I was at the Christian Coalition working with then-minority whip Newt Gingrich in ’93, ’94, and everybody was saying “Look, we don’t need to put anything out there that they can shoot at. We just need to run against Bill Clinton, run against the Crime Bill, run against Hillary Care.” And Newt, to his credit said, “No.” He goes “We’ll win 35 seats if we say what we’re against; we’ll win 60 seats if we say what we’re for.” And that was the beginning of the contract with America and we don’t have time to develop that agenda today, but I think if you look at the Eric Cantor’s speech too — I guess it was AEI the other day; I think it was AEI — he laid out some good policies.
I think Marco Rubio is putting some good things forward. I think some initial ideas are we pass the child tax credit in the contract with America, doubled it under Bush. I’d like to increase the child tax credit again, index it for inflation. I’d like not to just ameliorate the marriage penalty; I’d like to eliminate it. I like Arthur Laffer’s idea in his op-ed in “The Wall Street Journal” the other day where he talked about a transitional lower marginal tax rate for people who are moving from dependency to work and independence.
Senator Johnson talked last night about the brutal hit that people take when they earn an additional dollar when they could be making more on benefits. So you could say “Hey, look, instead of being on Medicaid, instead of being on food stamps, we’ll give you over a transitionary period a lower marginal rate as you move from dependency to self-reliance and work.”
Secondly, we need to get back to the grassroots. They didn’t just out-hustle us online, folks; they out-hustled us on the ground. If you look it the last survey by the Pew Research Organization, 24% of all the voters in the battleground states — all the voters — said that they got a personal home visit from an Obama campaign volunteer, one out of four. 18% said that about a Romney campaign volunteer, so that 6% gap is important and it’s critical.
Scott was talking about their online operation. They spent $110 million online to Romney’s $20 million. They aired 10 times as many ads on Spanish-language television and radio as the Republican Party and Romney combined. And if we let this slip away for one more cycle, it’ll be gone for a generation. You look at every new technology, whether it was radio in the ’20s and ’30s, which FDR figured out how to dominate with the Fireside Chat; you look at television, which John F. Kennedy figured out how to dominate in 1960; and until Reagan came along and we had a candidate who knew how to stand on a tape mark, and look into a camera and connect, they were able to dominate that medium for really 20 years until Reagan came along. And if they do it with the Internet, and they’ve now done it two cycles in a row, they will win a generation. So those are some of the things that I think we need to do and I will try to elucidate some more as we do the Q&A.
Josh Brewster: Great, Ralph, thank you very much. Mr. Horowitz?
David Horowitz: Yes, we just elected a president, a failed president, who left 23 million people unemployed, the slowest recovery ever, added $5 trillion to the national debt, turned Iraq, in which 4,000 Americans gave their lives and many more sacrificed their bodies, gave it to Iran, our mortal enemy, and he won. And the one conclusion you can draw from that is that politics is not driven by reason; it’s driven by emotions. And Republicans, their campaigns are all based on presenting policies, presenting a logical positions and a logical argument.
And it’s symbolized for me in the Ryan planned. Paul Ryan is a very smart man. He’s done his homework; he knows more about government and budgets than almost anybody in public life, and he put up a plan, an economic plan, on the assumption that that will show that we actually are an alternative, that we’re positive we can do it. The problem with that is one, it does present targets when it’s a detailed plan like that to demagogues and the Democratic Party is a demagogue party. The other problem is — well, first, how many people in this room that could describe the Ryan plan, know what it is?
Josh Brewster: They can’t.
David Horowitz: Okay, enough said, two-two. I couldn’t. That’s the problem. It doesn’t affect the voters one iota. It presents a target. And the third problem is that the Democrats are going to destroy the messenger and that’s what happened to Romney, a guy who’s bulletproof. I mean, he was too good a person. They were so good, they couldn’t even mention their personal lives, which would have appealed to the 70 million people watching, how he stood by his wife with MS and all these terrible ordeals. So unlike their Democratic counterparts, it was too private. I mean, these are really decent people and they were portrayed — $100 million or $200 million was spent to portray Romney as a predator, an uncaring individual somebody who sent jobs overseas.
Even our guys, even Newt Gingrich, and of course, Rick Perry, attacked his business, which was really a business of taking failed companies and making them work. You can’t explain these things. You have nine-second sound bites basically, and when you’re up against an emotional (inaudible), a lot of conservatives are just feeling depressed, and so the problem is the electorate. The problem is there are, what — 47% of the people are takers. I bet everybody in this room takes a government dollar one way or another, right? We’re all sort of geriatric so Social Security, the big one. We have billions of veterans who sacrificed, who earned the money that they’re taking from the government.
But anyway, we’re Republicans, so the taking thing — and of course, it has an impact and of course, if you go low down where the EBT [cornholers] are, here’s the problem, and I’ll do — the demographic thing is very simple. 70% of Asian Americans voted for Obama. Now, Asian Americans are entrepreneurial, they are traditional, family oriented. They share our Republican values and why did they vote for Obama? Well, there was an interesting poll by CNN and the CNN poll had four categories. Does he share your values, do you agree with his policies and another just like that, and the fourth was, does he care about you? And Romney won the first three by 54%, but on the caring issue, Obama won by 80%. This is a man who left our heroes to die in Benghazi because he didn’t give a damn. This guy doesn’t care about — I mean, this is a guy who is setting records for playing golf, spending fortunes on his vacations, while the country suffers. He doesn’t care, but they projected caring.
And how did they do it? The political battle is always a battle about the underdog. Everybody’s looking for somebody to protect me, somebody to take care of me, somebody who cares about me versus the bad guys. That’s all it’s about; that’s what the political war is about. All these other things are helpful. It’s helpful if you have an idea of how to make the economy work, that’s helpful, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s this issue of who cares about me, who’s going to represent me?
Most people don’t subject themselves to the political life. I mean, they’re enjoying themselves, okay? (Laughter). Most people, they don’t pay attention to any of these things, so to argue policies, it’s part of the process, but that’s not what’s going to get them. They want to — who can I trust among all these people who are very untrustworthy, these politicians? Who can I trust most to stand up for me? And the way you communicate that is by attacking the other guy as the predator, just the way they did to Romney. Democrats are morally bankrupt; they’re philosophically bankrupt. Their policies don’t work. I remember Nancy Pelosi getting up there and saying “Well, we did Social Security” and I said “Bankrupt,” and “We did Medicare” and “They’re bankrupt,” and now we’re going to triple down with Obamacare. It doesn’t — they don’t think that way. All right. (Laughter). Ah!
Josh Brewster: Yes, I can take over from here and give you a break.
David Horowitz: So how do you care? You look it the Republican Convention. The Republican Convention was all about opportunity. Everybody had a life story about how they started out poor or whatever and worked their way up and we want to preserve the opportunity society. The Democratic Convention was all about the victims of these opportunity people. It was about a war against women and the war against minorities and the war against the poor, and that worked. That is what works, and if you — you cannot — what’s our defense? I mean, they’re attacking the 1%. Notice how they did that, by the way. The campaign was all going to be about Obamacare until the unions — and Mallory Factor is going to talk about the unions — these communist unions, and that’s what they are. I know the people that run them; they are communists.
They put millions of dollars into the Occupy Wall Street movement and they had — of course, we were all looking because we’re the logical people. We’re the people who look at the real world. You see all these idiots out in the street defecating, raping each other, burning things down, and Obama and Pelosi and the Democratic Party are saying “Yes, they’re expressing their” –
Josh Brewster: “We’re with you.” They said “We’re with you; we’re with you.”
David Horowitz: “We’re with you,” but what did they do? They changed the dialogue, the debate, the conversation, to the 1% and the 99%. Now, look, the Republican Party has been painted into the corner of defending the 1% and there’s a good reason for that, because it’s the 1% that makes everything else go. That’s the reality, but you can’t argue that; you’ll be cut to ribbons. People don’t understand that. You say, “Oh, well, Bill Gates has $70 billion” or whatever the heck he has. “Look, he created hundreds of thousands of jobs; he transformed the way we live.” It doesn’t make a difference. I say “What is he going to do with $70 billion and why can’t he give it to” — so it just will never work.
We defended big job creators. I mean, we did a good job of that, right? But who are the job creators? They’re rich people in terms — I mean, they’re not — I mean, there are a lot of [new] class people, but the average American is going to see them as rich people. You cannot play defense in politics and we are always playing defense. What you have to do is you have to nail them and it’s very easy to nail them. I mean Detroit, they — the Democrats have destroyed an entire city; they’ve driven millions of people out of it. It’s bankrupt. What is it, $44 billion — a city in debt? It’s got the highest crime rates. All the Democratic cities have the highest crime rates in the world.
And there’s millions of poor black and Hispanic children who are having their lives — life opportunities crushed out of them in Democratic Party-run schools all over, every major school system. And there was a teachers’ strike in Chicago, great, the Democratic city in Chicago where Obama Emanuel is mayor, and what was the strike about? It wasn’t about pay because they’re very well paid. It was — they didn’t want their pay connected to their performance. (Laughter). That was the issue. No Republican mentioned it and it happened right in the middle of the campaign. Nobody said anything. Christie actually did mention it, but nobody would understand what he said. I mean, he is our most articulate — I have to say — person out there.
Josh Brewster: David, let me move it along right from that point.
David Horowitz: Yes.
Josh Brewster: Let me move it along right from that point because I’m going to feed up something here for Scott and then Ralph and David very quickly. I see this gift given to the Republican Party. It’s called the Tea Party and to me, it’s a gift, but then the Republicans turn and hand a gift to a left media that says “They’re a bunch of racist whites. It’s not that they are fiscal conservatives standing up and articulating fiscal conservatism; it’s that they’re a bunch of racist whites.” And what do the Republicans do? To me Ralph, here’s what they do — expunge, expunge, expunge, keep to the fringe as much as possible. That’s what I think. I think that they’ve been given a gift and there are many flavors of conservatism that should be in the tent. And Ralph, before I go to you, Scott, what are your thoughts on the Tea Party’s inclusion or exclusion?
Scott Johnson: It’s an incredible story. The Democratic response aligned with David’s description of what’s going on was the imputation of racism and these fabricated non-events that were exposed by really Andrew Breitbart who put $100,000 out there for anyone who could produce audio or video recording of alleged racist insults being hurled at the black Democratic congressman as they went to vote on Obamacare in the House. I think the Tea Party represents the base of the Republican Party.
Josh Brewster: And does the Republican Party know that, in your view?
Scott Johnson: Well –
Josh Brewster: Let’s be honest now. (Laughter).
Audience Member: No!
Scott Johnson: I don’t know what they — and I would just say that the election of Tea Party candidates in 2010, the result of that election, Josh, seemed to me kind of to prick the fever, and it brought us back to a status quo in which holding the House of Representatives left the dynamics in favor of the incumbent in a way that Ralph described, but on the other hand, it let the fever subside, but I think to the great detriment of the party, and that the folks who were elected, they are hard to absorb because they are principled as opposed two wanting to go along to get along. It will take some leadership on the elected folks on our side who have the seniority to do something about it, to incorporate them.
Josh Brewster: Okay. Well, let me turn it over to Ralph.
Ralph: I think that the treatment of the Tea Party by the establishment of the party is just further evidence that there are two political parties in America, one evil, and the other stupid — (Laughter) — because if tens of millions of people showed up on your door when you were flat on your back having just lost an election by a land slide, and in two elections, lost the presidency by — you got fewer electoral votes than any Republican has have gotten since Goldwater against Johnson, and you’ve lost the House and the Senate. And millions of people stand up and they say “We’re for fiscal responsibility, we’re for limited government, we’re for government balancing its checkbook every month, just like we have to balance ours,” and we go “Oh, really? Pow!”
But I think this — I’m optimistic because the same was true of social conservatives when they poured into the party in the ’80s and ’90s. The same was true of the sort of Goldwater-Reagan movement. The establishment always mistakes growing pains for shrinking pains. If you pour new wine into old wine skins, the wine skins rattle, but it’s okay because it’s growing. I think what we’ve got to do now, candidly, is we’ve got to grow more.
You were talking, Scott, about — I think it was the Wehner-Gerson piece, that if Romney had gotten the same share of the vote among different subgroups that he got against Obama, that he would have won in ’92 and 2000. I will give you an even more sobering data point, which is that if Ronald Reagan had gotten the same share of each voter group in 2012 that he got in 1980, he loses because the electorate in 1980 was 88% white; in 2000, it was 78% white; in 2012, it was 72% white; and in 2020, it’s going to be 65% white. And you can’t win an election — win 59% of the white vote and 20% of the minority vote. It just isn’t going to work anymore.
So I think what we ought to do, instead of being in “No, but” party, which is to the Tea Party “No,” and then to everybody else, young people, women, Hispanics, African Americans, other minorities, “We want you but — we want you, but you’re leeches, you’re moochers, you’re takers, okay?” What we need to be calm is a “Yes and” party. When the Tea Party shows up, we embrace them, we say “Yes,” and then we say to others who don’t always feel welcome in our ranks — do you know that a higher percentage of Latinos self-identify as conservatives than whites? 44% of Hispanics on Election Day said they were conservatives. Romney got 27% of them. There is something wrong. They share our values, they’re entrepreneurial; 2 million of them own and operate small businesses. There are real opportunities there, so I think yes, we need to embrace the Tea Party and then we need to do more.
Josh Brewster: Excellent. All right. David, a couple of quick thoughts on the Tea Party and then I will open it up.
David Horowitz: Now, I’d like to comment, this is the trap. The left, the Democratic Party, is a racist party. In their calculus, if you have brown skin, you are one of them, you’re on board for them; if you have white skin, you’re a reactionary and a lot of Republicans just fall into that trap the same way — no.
Josh Brewster: Right.
David Horowitz: The Hispanics are conservative. I gave the example of the Asians because, I mean, it’s obvious and ridiculous that 70% of Asians vote for Obama. The problem is the messaging; the problem is the — and to some extent, the messenger. I mean, it’s great that we’ve now have two stars of the party, Rubio and Cruz, who are Hispanic, but that — and the key is not pandering to the Democratic demand sheet on immigration or anything like that. The key is conveying that you care.
There are millions of Hispanic kids in the LA schools and it’s a scam; it’s just a scam. Those kids are never going to — they’re not going to learn English. I mean, I had a kid who actually was in a charter school, actually was in the Palisades because they bus kids from South Central. (Laughter). The liberals are very — anyway, put the kids on the bus for an hour and a half, put them in a place where they can only feel envy and that’s just terrible.
But my kid, in the fifth grade, he didn’t know where to put a period. He didn’t know what a subject and a predicate was. So I — we explained it to him and I’m thinking what about the Hispanic kids in this class? They’re never going to learn English. Somebody has to take up their cause. Why isn’t the Republican Party taking up their cause? There isn’t a Republican in sight in the school system in a major city in this country, not one.
Josh Brewster: David, David, wait a minute. Are we afraid to talk about the liberal racism of low expectations? I’m going to give you a public service announcement. In my kid’s school — and he won’t be in this school for a long — the PTA meetings are in Spanish. What about the liberal racism of low expectations, David? Are we afraid to talk about any of this?
David Horowitz: I think it’s good, but it’s a little too complicated for people to understand.
Josh Brewster: Got it.
David Horowitz: It’s racism. You have 50% of the kids are dropping out of school, or whatever it is. Only 40% graduate and half of those are functionally illiterate and these teachers are being paid for showing up and you can’t fire them and you can’t reward good teachers. It’s a really simple, simple argument, but nobody is making it.
Scott Johnson: Well, I don’t think we are. I think Marco Rubio actually talked about it in his response to the State of the Union. The media made a big deal about the water bottle, but if you look at what he actually said, it was exactly that and look, we have a model. We don’t have to go back 50 years. In 2004, we won 44% of the Hispanic vote — 54% of the Hispanic vote in the all-important state of Florida because we had a candidate who said three things. “Number one, I don’t believe family values end at the Rio Grande; number two, my vision for the future of this country includes you; and number three, I reject the soft bigotry of low expectations.” That’s a direct quote, written, by the way, by Gerson. If you get up and say that, you can connect with these voters.
David Horowitz: Someone has to have guts.
Scott Johnson: If you’re trying to win a primary and hit Rick Perry and talk about [self]-deportation, and then you don’t get on Spanish-language TV the until October, you might as well slit your wrists and get in a warm bath because you’re not going to do well among that constituency.
Josh Brewster: Okay. Let’s go to some questions. Diane, you have some of them?
David Horowitz: Let me just say, I think this is all the good news. (Laughter). I mean, this is the — well, Republicans ran such a stupid, lame campaign that it’s just going to take a margin to get — we lost by how many million votes, just a few million votes, just with 2% are 3%, so that’s the good news. We don’t have that far to go.
Scott Johnson: Well, it if that’s the good news, I’m uplifted; I’m absolutely uplifted.
Audience Member: There’s division, I think, in the party on social issues which haven’t been addressed. I was speaking to somebody at David’s Florida event about gay marriage and I could not believe the differences in our two views. We are both fiscal conservatives, but we’re not both social conservatives, and I believe that social conservative values have to be promoted if we’re going to try to mend the party and there may be those who leave the party because of that, but Ralph, I would especially like to hear from you about that –
David Horowitz: I beg to –
Audience Member: — and you, David. (Laughter).
Josh Brewster: And you, David. (Laughter).
David Horowitz: I’d like to differ; I disagree with you. The Republican Party has always been a very unwieldy coalition full of libertarians, authoritarians. It’s just got everything. (Laughter). And Republicans disagree about everything. What has unified them — the way they won elections throughout the Cold War was there was an enemy that everybody understood was an enemy to their values, and they also understood the Democratic Party could not be trusted to defend them. Now, I think if the Republicans will start being aggressive against the Democrats, and call them the racists that they are, and hold them up for their exploitation of these kids in the schools — they run the schools as a jobs program for adults and a slush fund for their party; that’s what it is about — that will cause all these internal fractious divisions to diminish. People will understand, we’ve got to defeat the enemy, but we’re not portraying them as an enemy. Now, nobody laid a glove on Obama. These people are a menace to everything that we stand for, even when we disagree. And that’s what I would put on the front burner and let people argue these things locally.
Josh Brewster: Let me let Scott jump in here for a minute. Scott, what do you think about what David is saying within the question with regard to (inaudible)?
Scott Johnson: It’s interesting. I mean, David describes the unwieldy coalition of the Republican Party and I think about the roots of the Republican Party going back to 1854. Those are the words that Lincoln used to describe the formation of the Republican Party after the collapse of the Whig Party as this wild coalition formed from [nativists] and abolitionists and so on. Go back to the platform of the Republican Party in 1856. It staked its future on two propositions. The first was opposition to the expansion of slavery in the territories. The second was opposition to polygamy. And it seems to me that those themes are the themes, adapted to present circumstances, that will bear the future of the Republican Party as well.
Josh Brewster: Ralph Reed?
Ralph Reed: Yes, I think that if you want to try to grow the party by kicking social conservatives in the teeth and suggesting that they’re kind of the problem — we lost an election. You were 27% of the electorate, you voted 78% for Romney and only 21% for Obama. That’s what self-identified evangelicals did, okay? So if you look at Romney’s vote, 47% of his entire vote came from those voters. So if I understand this correctly, we’re going to go to those people who voted 80/20 for our guy and say “Leave because you’re the problem.” And not only is it not true, we commissioned in faith and freedom, a post-election survey by Public Opinion Strategies, which polls in more congressional districts and Senate races than any single firm in the country on the Republican side of the aisle. And in the midst of us looking at the data, I asked one of them, I said “Could you just — for kicks, could you e-mail me the top issue burdens for single millennial women? These are single women under the age of 30, okay, who we lost by 37 points. I’d say that’s a bad performance.
The number one issue, 42%, jobs and the economy; number two issue, healthcare, 23%; number three issue, education, 12%; number four issue, foreign policy, 7%. Before you got to any reproductive issue, any cultural issue, it was abortion, it was at 7%, so you can’t argue that were underperforming among millenials and single women because of that issue. You can argue that if you tried to send a message of equivocation on where you stand on these issues, that you lose. Now look, I do think how you talk about them matters; I think tone matters. I guess it was Oscar Wilde who said “Sometimes when you tell somebody that they’re going to hell, they tend to leave the room and go support somebody else.” If we could talk about the positive of stronger families and marriages, instead of the negative, I think we could do a lot better among all voters.
Josh Brewster: All right. Yes, and social conservatives, libertarians, the Tea Party, I think we need a very, very big tent, evangelicals, everyone, go ahead. Yes, sir?
Audience Member: I would like to have a comment from you regarding Boehner and how he caved in on one hand, and the other thing is do we really have to listen to Karl Rove and the rest of the pundits who are, I think, totally misled the electorate? (Applause).
Josh Brewster: Well, why don’t I start with David on this one? David, what do you think about the question there? It’s certainly a good one. I know there are 50 states; I know we’ve run some elections trying to win like five in my view, but I think there’s 50 states. What do you think, David? I think the question is –
David Horowitz: Well, I think there’s a huge — Republicans have a huge problem with the consulting class, but it’s an endemic problem for Republicans because Republicans tend to regard politics as just another business. They are not missionaries in the sense that Democrats are missionaries and a lot of the — I don’t want to go into the particular problems. I think this (inaudible) Rove’s comments, he shouldn’t have made the comments. I agree with Charlie Cook that that was a bad idea, but I don’t think what Rove is doing on this issue is bad. The Tea Party — I mean, we have a lot of bad candidates and it’s wrong to just single out the Tea Party because it had a lot of good candidates, but Rove and his and his Crossroads supported the Tea Party candidates, including Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell.
It’s a disgrace that the Republican Party would run — the Democrats have lots of people like this, but they don’t have the problem that we have of an adversarial media. So I think that vetting people and being competitive in the primaries, and not just leaving the primaries to just sort themselves out, is fine. I don’t have any problem with Rove and I am distressed to see the animosity within the ranks, and I’ve seen this, but I never saw Republicans do such a bloodletting, attack a Democrat the way Miller attacked Ollie North in the Virginia race years ago. I mean, I’m not talking about that — I’d wait for Republicans to say “Boo” to a Democrat publicly, but when it’s another Republican, what do they call Romney, a vulture? Was that Perry or –
Josh Brewster: No, we’re very dressed up and very polite, David, and it’s getting us unelected.
David Horowitz: Towards them, but –
Josh Brewster: It’s getting us unelected; it’s getting us unelected, in my view. Ralph, I’m going to have you handle this question from this gentleman who has been waiting a while.
Ralph Reed: This is what the Republican Party needs to do. First, figure out what you stand for and then give — promise Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz 100% backing for everything that they are representing, all of their negotiations in unfortunately rather stereotypical immigration reform. Let them take the lead and get john McCain not to say much of anything. Just go along with Marco Rubio. (Laughter). But let –
Josh Brewster: What are your thoughts?
Ralph Reed: I think everybody is talking about how Obama may want to stay out of camera range for the good of immigration reform. I think we could say the same thing about John McCain candidly, but look, I think we are doing that. I don’t think it’s an accident that Marco Rubio was selected to deliver the State of the Union response. I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s not the President of the United States, it’s not the Speaker of the House, it’s not the Senate Majority Leader who holds the fate of immigration reform in this Congress in their hands. It’s a sophomore US senate from Florida who doesn’t chair a committee, who doesn’t have a leadership post. And you mark my words — you mark my words — it if Rubio and his allies in the Senate do not get the enforcement triggers that they are requiring, he will walk. In a New York minute, he will walk. So I think we’re getting better messengers.
The good news for us is that if you compare where we are today at this conference after the 2012 election to where we would have been at this conference after the ’76 election, we are significantly better off. I mean, we were, at that time at 37 in the US Senate, 144 in the House. We were down to 18 governors after Watergate. Reagan, when he went to SeaPac in 1977 and delivered that famous speech about unfurling a banner of bold colors and not pale pastels, he actually proposed in that speech that he would be open to changing the name of the Republican Party. That’s how damaged the brand was. Many said we should just go start a third party.
So we’re better off empirically. We control the House, we have 30 governors. We have control of both legislatures in 24 states to their 13. Okay. We lost an election, it happens. It’s a free society; these things happen. But compared to where we have been at other benchmarks, ’93, ’75, much stronger. And look at our bench, not just Rubio, not just Cruz, Susannah Martinez –
David Horowitz: Right.
Ralph Reed: — [Nicky Haley], Tim Allen, the first African American Republican US senator from the — Tim Scott, I’m sorry — from the south since reconstruction. What was I thinking of, “Home improvement?”
Josh Brewster: Exactly.
David Horowitz: The actor, the actor, that’s right.
Ralph Reed: I’m sorry, I’m in California. (Laughter). We have the best bench that we have ever had in my career, so be encouraged. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got more to work with after a defeat that I can ever remember.
Audience Member: How do you explain the difference between the 2010 election and the 2012 election? If you look it the results of the 2010 election, it was truly historic and as a matter of fact, in many, many respects, it was probably more historic than the Republican revolution of ’94, and we’re only literally two years away from that. And I personally think the Tea Party had probably more to do with the success of the 2010 election and I realize that the 2010 election was not the personality contest that the general election was, but I would just like to hear your input on it and I think that might be able to –
Josh Brewster: Scott?
Audience Member: — lead a roadmap to how we deal with 2014. And do the skies look a little brighter for 2014?
Josh Brewster: Scott Johnson, Why don’t you chime in on this one?
Scott Johnson: I will be brief and defer to Ralph on this, but in an off-year election, the composition of the electorate is going to be more favorable to Republicans than it is in a national election. The highly motivated, well informed voters tend to turn out in greater proportion as a whole of the electorate in the off-year election. And I tried to say in my original remarks that I thought that the — in the first question that Josh raised, that the impact of the Tea Party was to deflate the opposition to Obama and Obamacare that was represented in that election. And it seems to me [we have] had a deflating effect that’s reflected in the 2012 election and the aftermath.
Ralph: Yes, I mean, a completely different electronic. I mean, its 89 million votes versus 130 million votes. You had a roughly 5% party advantage for the GOP in ’10 versus a 6% Democratic advantage in ’12, okay? You also had candidate performance issues. I think Mitt Romney got better as a candidate and I think he would have been a very good president, but I think the 47% video was his [macaca]. I think when he got recorded saying that, and wasn’t able to explain it quickly, I think it was very difficult.
And then finally, and most critically from a macro-political standpoint, was the fact that the economic and political environment had shifted pretty dramatically. You look at right track, wrong track, in November of ’10 versus November of ’12, it’s maybe a right track, wrong track minus-5 in ’12 versus maybe minus-40 in ’10. Look at real personal income, up by 1.6% in ’12, in part because they were priming the pump, we know that, but down in ’10, so things like consumer confidence, unemployment, everything. If you go back and really look at it from about July 1 on with unemployment numbers falling, gas prices falling, consumer confidence rising, the right track, wrong track changed from around July on, and it was just enough to save them, meaning Obama.
Josh Brewster: Go ahead, David, real quickly.
David Horowitz: I just wanted to pick up on one point you made about national security. Since 1945, Republicans have never won a national election where national security wasn’t a prime issue, and it was totally absent from this campaign, and that has to be restored. And the reason — I’ll just do this very briefly — is because Bush and Rove failed to defend the Iraq war in 2003 when the Democrats betrayed it. Instead of sticking them with their betrayal of our troops in the field and saying that, they had the submarine mentality. They went under the radar and that allowed the Democrats — because of course, all wars are going to have mismanagement and so forth — allowed the Democrats to turn a necessary war that they had supported as a party into a bad war, and to change their disloyalty into patriotism. So Romney and his — you can’t blame in individual here because it was everybody, and his advisors wanted him not to appear a warmonger –
Josh Brewster: Right.
David Horowitz: — not to appear too aggressive. And so I will say I read Ryan Paul’s speech at the Heritage. I think he has it exactly right, that we have to — we cannot remake the world a la “The Weekly Standard.” We can’t remake the world, but we do need to be aggressive in our defense of Americans and American interests. That is the right — and it’s going to take — I hope for four years that there’s a Republican voice out there all the time, harping on Benghazi, harping on turning over the Middle East to the Muslim Brotherhood and the infiltration of the Obama administration by Muslim Brotherhood operatives.
Josh Brewster: Well, David, I think I know a guy over here who might be able to do those things for you. This is Senator Ron Johnson, and he would like to ask the last question of our panel today.
Senator Ron Johnson: Actually, I really wanted to make a couple of points in response to your question, and you’re right in terms of the number of voters, but let me just tell you what happened in Wisconsin because I am asked all the time and I actually meant to make this point last night. How could we have Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin? It’s pretty simple. In my election, there were 2.2 million voters. In Scott Walker’s recall, 2.5 million, and in the presidential, over 3 million. Now, If you aren’t even engaged enough to get involved in the Scott Walker recall election in Wisconsin, how informed are you?
And that gets back to the primary point — and this is a Rush Limbaugh term — low-information voters; this is a political process. You have to inform, you have to persuade, you have to win the argument, and we’re not doing that, and the only way we can do that is in a coordinated, unified approach. I mean, it is depressing how we eat our own; it is depressing how we don’t have that strategy.
And David, I’m right onboard with you in terms of we’ve got to go on the attack. We’ve got to point out the victims, but we have to do it incredibly carefully and with an incredibly coordinated effort. Obama, in his first election had 29 behavioral psychologists making sure that everything he said was poll-tested and it was just right. If we go off too fast and too half-cocked with one individual saying it the wrong way, that individual, like a Todd Aiken, will be hung around the rest of our necks. So that’s why it’s so crucial that we get together with a strategic planning process and we lay this thing out and we prioritize the issue. We’ve got to be talking about the same issue at the same time using the same language.
We’re on defense right now. Obama is pushing the agenda. We’ve got the House and it’s got to be the House that leads the way in terms of us pushing our agenda, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for two years, but we’re not exactly strategic yet, but it’s groups like this, it’s individuals like you, talking to a Boehner, talking to a O’Connell, about “Come on, boys, let’s get your act together because the only way this thing works, the only way we break through the communication barrier against Obama’s bully pulpit is a highly strategic, highly coordinated attack.” And I agree with you, it’s an attack, but it’s got to be smart, it’s got to be poll-tested, it’s got to be focus-grouped and we’ve got to say it the right way.
David Horowitz: Amen. (Applause).
Josh Brewster: Excellent. All right, gentlemen, are we all set? All right, thank you very much.
Scott Johnson: Thanks for having me.
Josh Brewster: — Scott Johnson, David Horowitz, and Ralph Reed, and thank you.
Ralph Reed: Thank you. (Applause).
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