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Learning from the Election

4. Swing State Obsessions Don’t Always Work

It made sense that Romney concentrated on Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and mostly on perceived swing voters. He campaigned and spent money incessantly in the proverbially right places. But Romney, for logical reasons, for the most part avoided a big-named campus, a barrio, or a blue-state event where he might have made the pitch that free market economics works better for the poor and minorities than job-killing statism, at least in the long run. Romney’s rare NAACP address was impressive -- earning not a single black vote, but perhaps winning over some independents. Reagan did best when he waded in and confronted those who did not like him.

5. The Latino Voter Obsession

It is true that the Latino vote -- at over 70% for Obama -- did not cost Romney the election, given its small share of the electorate (e.g. 10%); instead, its loss left the Republicans with a smaller margin of error. Latinos, to the extent Oaxacans and Cuban grandees are to be lumped together, did not vote against Romney because he opposed amnesties, at least not entirely. Elite Republican strategists are, to be candid, unhinged when they talk of support for the Dream Act winning Latino voters (ask the Reagan people after the Simpson-Mazzoli Act). “Family values” where I live means a sort of patron/client La Familia relationship in which the government becomes the patron and we are the clients who vote for it in exchange for state health care, food, housing, education, and legal help -- all means of addressing the injustice that “they” (rich people) have done to those arriving from Mexico.  If anyone thinks the divorce, illegitimacy, or crime rates are lower here in Selma or Fresno and tens of thousands of Latino Catholics are just waiting for a nice word to vote for Rick Santorum, they need to have their heads examined. If anyone thinks Latinos in California just want the Dream Act and then, presto, will favor closed borders and a merit-based, ethnically blind system in which education, capital, and skills adjudicate who is let in the legal immigration line, they need doubly to have their heads examined. Study the demography of the recently passed Proposition 30 in California.

The only way Republicans can appeal to Latinos is with what I would call the Italian strategy -- close the border, stop illegal immigration, and allow the melting pot and upward mobility to fracture “Hispanics” along class lines, in the manner that no right-wing guy named Mazelli votes for Andrew Cuomo and no left-winger named Petrucci votes for Rudy Giuliani -- and neither one speaks Italian, has a kid in the Italian Studies Program on an affirmative action scholarship, or knows anyone who boos the U.S. soccer team at an Italy-America match.

6. The Mainstream Media Still Rules

Without Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox News, the Drudge Report, the conservative blogs, and the conservative dailies and magazine, the conservative cause would be lost. But with that said, do not quite believe the mainstream media is dead because the New York Times or Washington Post is nearly insolvent or the print version of Newsweek will shortly be defunct. The fact is that the liberal press is insidious. The worst network news anchors still have larger ratings on most nights than does The O’Reilly Factor. NPR, with 900 stations, draws more listeners than most right-wing talk hosts. It does not matter much that no one watches MSNBC if they watch NBC. It matters nothing that Air America went broke without an audience. When you tally together the cultural influence of the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR, PBS, CBS, ABC, and NBC, and then consider the slant of a USA Today or People magazine, it all adds up. Worse perhaps are the biases of AP, Reuters, Bloomberg News, Google, Yahoo, and the other wire services that feed supposedly neutrally reported news to local affiliates that ensure their prejudices are aired as disinterested information. Don’t forget the influence of the hard-left British and European presses. Conservatives are gradually catching up, but for the foreseeable future they have a real problem: slanted liberal news is still passed off as Walter-Cronkite mainstream apolitical news, and conservative alternatives are dismissed as shrill partisanship -- and lots of clueless Americans believe that. When an author appears on Fox, he is dismissed as rank book plugger; when he goes on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, he is a literary figure. That the mainstream media was shamelessly partisan meant a 3-4% edge for Obama that was hard to erase.