Are Candidates Courting the Walking Dead?
Has anyone checked up on Iowa talk jock Steve Deace lately? I’m a bit worried about him because the candidate he endorsed and is vigorously campaigning for, Ted Cruz, sees dead people. Not only does he see them but he’s even dressing like them and aggressively courting them for votes. They are everywhere in Iowa and across the nation. Millions of them, in fact. No, not deceased Democrats still on voter rolls. I’m talking about those Reagan Democrats Deace proclaimed in 2014 were long dead and gone. Remember them? Those blue collar conservatives who turned out in droves to give Reagan two landslide victories? Yeah, those guys. Turns out Steve Deace was wrong after all. They DO exist! Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and most candidates in this race see them, too, and are making a major play for their support and votes as well. Either there still is a substantial, recently awakened Rip Van Winkle remnant of Reagan Democrats leftover from the 80’s or there’s been a massive resurrection from the grave and we now have millions of Zombie Reagan Democrats living and working among us, just in time for the 2016 election. It’s a zombie apocalypse of Reagan Democrat voters! They have descended upon this election and turned Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz into bomber jacketed, flannel shirted, red ball capped presidential wannabes desperately trying to convince the everyday working American that they know and understand them and really do care about THEM, not just about business owners and Corporate America bosses and Wall Street fat cats.
The first mention of these Reagan Democrats tumbling from the mouth of Ted Cruz during his announcement speech March of last year ought to have sent Cruz uber enthusiast Deace into full cardiac arrest or at the least shocked the daylights out of him because according to Deace, Reagan Democrats are extinct. On his May 7, 2014 radio show, Deace, in reponse to my comment and question on his website, declared Reagan Democrats had all died out or had become Republicans or Independents after the era of Reagan ended. Deace had just praised Rand Paul for his “outreach” at a liberal university to court voters who don’t share the base values and principles traditionally espoused by the Republican Party in an effort, as Paul said, to expand the party. (Personally I believe Paul was there fishing for votes for himself for a 2016 presidential run since the chances are slim to none these students and faculty there would have any interest whatsoever in joining up with the family values crowd in the GOP.) I wrote to Deace that I’d much prefer the GOP adopt Rick Santorum’s plan to reach those blue collar Reagan Democrats out there who do share the traditional values of our party but don’t hear us speaking to them or about their issues, that I’d prefer we not attempt to “expand the tent” by inviting the pro-pot, pro-LGBT, anti-war Code Pink types into our party. I referred Deace to Rick Santorum’s stellar new book Blue Collar Conservatives — Recommitting to an America That Works and suggested Santorum’s message was exactly what the GOP needed to rebuild our party and also unite the country. Deace saw my comment and replied for me to tune in to his program that night for his answer. And so I did. He answered, and how.
“Reagan Democrats Don’t Exist Anymore”
Deace read and critiqued excerpts from my comment to him without mentioning Santorum’s name or his book I had referenced, and the clear message he conveyed was that Santorum’s premise was a crock with no basis in reality since Deace, the political expert he is, knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that all these Reagan Democrats Santorum wrote about are either pushing up daisies or have been absorbed into non Democrat political factions. The implication was that this message and political strategy is out of touch. That’s the message Deace wanted to communicate to his listeners in his condescending response to me, to further ingrain that Santorum’s message I referenced is from a bygone era and is now politically irrelevant. Loud. And. Clear.
In his on air mini rant about my obviously ignorant suggestion that the GOP take a cue from Santorum and try to win back these Reagan Democrats who are in limbo between both parties now, Deace lit into me, likening me to a judgmental Pharisee for not wanting to reach out to the more socially liberal crowd Rand Paul was courting, that my comments were a turn off to voters outside of our party. As I see it, appealing to voters who don’t share our traditional values by speaking on common issues that might get them to vote with us is one thing and trying to recruit them into the party is quite another. You think there’s plenty of infighting in the party already? Imagine an influx of social liberals hooked and reeled in by Paul via his libertine message. NO, thank you. I prefer Rick Santorum’s way of going to liberal universities to fully communicate and articulate conservatism to change minds and hearts, to make people think for a change; not the Rand Paul strategy to butter them up with their own language and views to prove you agree with them. I believe the GOP must remain strong and unified on the right side of the culture wars. So after roundly chastising me for being a political prude, Deace went on a tear passionately denouncing the existence of Reagan Democrats.
In referencing my comment to him he said:
“In essence she says ‘You’re totally ignoring a large segment of the voting public out there that does largely share our values but either votes Democrat or not at all the Reagan Democrats.’ No I’m not ignoring them. They don’t exist anymore. They’re not there. That’s the 80’s. They don’t exist. The manufacturing base, you know, Rick Santorum is correct, we’ve lost our manufacturing base. That’s who those people were. Those jobs don’t exist anymore. That’s a different demographic. Those folks are not there anymore. Reagan Democrats don’t exist anymore. They’re all Republicans now or Independents, and their numbers are dwindling. When I’m talking about losing the Middle Class I’m not talking about Reagan Democrats. I’m talking about families where dad might be a, you know, middle manager and mom might be a teacher. Or mom might be an administrative assistant or an accountant. That’s what I’m talking about. The idea, there’s not a legion of voters working on these assembly lines, they don’t exist anymore. I come from Michigan. I watched all the plants close. It’s called my childhood. Those jobs don’t exist. Which is sad, it’s tragic. But that demographic you think exists does NOT exist.”
Pretty shocking stuff in light of all the hoopla in this race now to win over those blue collar Reagan Democrat voters. In fact that is the exact voting base Donald Trump has targeted and is winning over in epic proportions with the blue collar message he, um, borrowed, from Santorum’s book.
Dang, Those Blasted Archives!
All the more revealing to me is how vociferously Deace denounced the existence of these Reagan Democrats in conjunction with my mention of Rick Santorum but just 2 years earlier Deace, himself, had penned an op-ed about the 2012 general election referencing the importance of Reagan Democrats to both the Romney and Obama campaigns. Say what??
I recalled reading something from Deace a while back I was certain he said about this demographic of voters, and a quick search of his archives hit pay dirt and here, in his own words, is his acknowledgement of these critically needed Reagan Democrats in 2012:
“Obama has opened up a fault line within his own party. In 2008 Obama ran as a traditional Democrat populist. The soaring rhetoric about bringing America’s disparate people groups together, along with the narrative of voting for America’s first black president, unified Reagan Democrats and enough right-of-center independents to create Obama’s winning coalition. However, in 2012 those groups are now up for grabs because they did not get what they previously paid for. Instead, what they got was a hard-left, progressive-educated former college professor/community organizer from the Ward Churchill wing of the party.”
Kinda odd, dontcha think? How is it that all these voters existed in 2012 when Romney and Obama really needed them but not in 2014 when Rick Santorum writes a book about them? So does Deace suffer from short term memory loss or was he intentionally trying to submarine Rick Santorum before the 2016 race even started by making his message look out of touch? If these voters existed in 2012, what happened to them in the span of 2 short years so Deace could slam Santorum’s blue collar message as irrelevant for the 2016 election?