For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
Since Tuesday’s election, many Republicans have called for a frank reassessment of what it means to be a member of the GOP. As one Republican strategist put it, “Our party needs to realize that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late.” Diane and Republican analysts discuss the identity and future of the GOP.
- Leslie Sanchez Republican-affiliated consultant, founder and CEO of Impacto Group LLC, and author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other.”
- Henry Olsen vice president of the American Enterprise Institute.
- Matt Kibbe president and CEO of FreedomWorks, and author of "Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government's Stranglehold on America."
- David Winston Republican strategist, president of the Winston Group and CBS News consultant. He has served as an adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership for more than a decade.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Since Tuesday's election, many Republicans have called for a frank reassessment of what it means to be a member of the GOP. As one Republican strategist put it, "Our party needs to realize that it's too old and too white and too male, and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it's too late." We talk with Republican analysts about the identity and future of the GOP.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio: Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute, Leslie Sanchez of Impacto Group, David Winston of the Winston Group and Matt Kibbe of Tea Party affiliated FreedomWorks. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And good morning to all of you.
MR. HENRY OLSENGood morning.
MS. LESLIE SANCHEZGood morning.
MR. DAVID WINSTONGood morning.
MR. MATT KIBBEGood morning, Diane. Great to be here.
REHMDavid Winston, I'll start with you. You've seen all the headlines: Politico, "GOP Soul-Searching"; New York Times, "Republicans Face Struggle Over Party's Direction." Again, The New York Times, "Demographic Shift Brings New Worry for Republicans." How does the Republican Party begin a reassessment process?
WINSTONWell, I think part of it has to be not just simply here are these various groups that we didn't necessarily do as well as we should have. You've got growing other demographic groups. Well, it's going to have to be a broader strategic assessment in terms of what is the Republican Party's focus in terms of governing. What is our appeal in terms of building a majority coalition?
WINSTONI would suggest when we started off in -- and the whole presidential campaign was a referendum on the president of the United States, that didn't say anything about the Republican Party. And so, therefore, if you're a party that's not promoting ideas, directions, purpose, it's really hard to attract people into your party and create that majority coalition. And I would suggest, when it was just a referendum on the president, we were making no effort to be able to pull in and grow the party.
REHMSo, Henry Olsen, how does that reassessment begin?
OLSENThe reassessment begins by looking at reality. You know, the reality is that the Republican coalition is essentially unchanged from what it was 20 years ago, and the nation has changed dramatically. And the second thing is we need not to decide what we need to stop doing, but we need to do -- start talking about what we need to be doing and why it is that people aren't accepting the Republican message. And I think there's no way to look at the election results because it wasn't simply a presidential level defeat. It was a senatorial level defeat.
OLSENAnd it wasn't simply a candidate problem. As we all know, a couple of our candidates were not the best at speaking on certain issues, but it was up and down the road, even candidates who won much more narrowly than they should have done. I think it's a question of reapplying our principles to the times and the demographics and the challenges that we have today in finding a way to state the positive message that David said was lacking in this election.
REHMLeslie Sanchez, turning to you, how do you believe that reassessment needs to begin?
SANCHEZWell, I think it's important to look at the fact that this is -- the demographic realignment is something the Republican Party has known about for probably 15 years, have been talking about it in Republican leadership, but nothing systemic was done to change that. There are some highlights Republicans can look at.
SANCHEZIf you look at the candidacy of Ted Cruz, the first Hispanic Republican out of the Texas Senate, he's somebody who ran more on a Tea Party platform, very conservative, limited government, but was able to mobilize traditional Republicans. It was kind of converse to what, you know, the reversal of what people anticipated.
SANCHEZBut he, Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, these are candidates who are Republican, who also happen to be Hispanic, and that is -- and winning on statewide levels. That's a very important message because it points to the fact that we are all seeing America the same way in terms of values in our future. But the party itself is where the problem is, not necessarily these particular candidates.
REHMAnd, Matt Kibbe, what about the Tea Party itself?
KIBBEWell, it's interesting. If you look at -- if you define the Tea Party by a set of issues, even Democrats like Joe Donnelly, a number of successful Senate Democrats, ran on fiscal responsibility, ran against some of the excesses of the Obama economic agenda, and I find that quite telling.
KIBBEAnd if you also look at the untold story of this election, how Republicans did in the House and how Republicans who ran on those values of limited government and fiscal responsibility against Obamacare, I think the untold headline in this whole election is the fact that it was essentially a wash in the House despite the historic gains of 63 seats in 2010, the so-called Tea Party class.
KIBBEWe appear to have lost guys like Allen West, but we picked up a number of seats in competitive districts running on those issues. So I'm not worried about these basic values of limited government. I'm worried about whether or not candidates can articulate those or even if they want to.
REHMIf they want to articulate issues like fiscal security, obviously, but it is the way in which those issues are articulated that either make it or don't make into the public realm.
KIBBEAbsolutely. And I think, I mean, if communicated properly, the idea that we shouldn't spend money we don't have, the idea that you know more about what's best for your health care, for your family as opposed to some bureaucrat in the basement of HHS, I think these are issues that we can communicate -- we should communicate. My primary critique of the top of the ticket is that it was pretty issueless. It boiled down to a personality contest, a referendum on President Obama, as David said. And we were never going to win that beauty contest.
REHMHenry Olsen, a beauty contest?
OLSENI think what the president did was turn the race from a referendum into a choice, and the Romney campaign continually tried to make it a referendum. He was saying to the country, you really have a choice. You have a choice between my values, and you have a choice between their values. And he had a very harsh characterization of the Romney-Republican values. And by a very narrow margin, he persuaded enough Americans that his set of values is more in touch with their aspirations than the Romney-Republican set of values.
OLSENSo I don't think it was simply a personality contest because the verdict, again, was partisan. It's not like Republicans carried the Senate and won all the close Senate races but lost the presidency. There's a very narrow, temporary majority that says, I'd rather have the Obama vision than the Romney-Republican vision. And that's the challenge Republicans need to squarely face.
REHMLeslies, you talked about the number of Latinos who have gained or maintained high office. The question becomes, though, how does the Republican Party appeal more broadly to those communities, like Latinos, like African-Americans, like non-whites of all colors?
SANCHEZTremendously important. If we look at this in terms of the presidential, not only the popular vote but the electoral vote was very much determined by Latino vote. You can say women as well, but Latino vote particularly in Colorado, Nevada and Florida. And what's strange when you look at those numbers or what's really stark that Republicans have to pay attention to, it's not only the shift from John McCain in terms of the number. There were more numbers of Latinos voting.
SANCHEZBut -- we didn't even earn the same numbers as John McCain. And if you look at the fact that over the last 40 years Republicans earn about 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, but as the population has shifted, that percent becomes increasingly smaller on those statewide elections. We can -- and Latinos don't jump from one Republican candidate to the other. It isn't like just insert here.
SANCHEZYou have to earn the respect of each individual voter and almost reset the button and start over again because there is not a lot of faith in the Republican Party, the brand of the Republican Party. It shouldn't be that way. We're naturally more conservative in terms of our social and economic values, but that connection has failed to be made for the last 30 years.
REHMWhat happened to that brand of the Republican Party, David Winston?
WINSTONWell, that's pretty complicated. And I'm going to suggest that -- I mean, everybody is sort of focusing on the top of the ticket. I mean there were some really disappointing Senate races. And I'm not going to point to the two that everybody thinks that you might point to. I'm going to point to Montana and North Dakota. And there, you don't have any of the demographic components that we were just talking about. I mean, you just had two people who, quite frankly, were in states that we should have won, and we didn't.
WINSTONAnd part of that goes back to -- the challenge, I think, facing the Republican Party is, you know, David Cameron had this really interesting concept as he sort of restructured the conservative party in Great Britain. He basically said the purpose of a political party is not to win elections but to prove you're ready to govern. And ultimately with that philosophy, he ended up being in a situation where he's now prime minister. And I think, to some degree, the Republican Party is facing that same challenge. We have a political class that focuses on winning to the exclusion almost of governing.
WINSTONAnd to some degree, we need to start making an argument for governing. By doing that, that's, in fact, how you can build that majority coalition. And I would suggest to you that one of the things that John Boehner did in 2010 was by laying out the pledge, focusing on the contemporary question in terms of where are the jobs. He was able to build that majority coalition. Let me run through some numbers. Thirty-eight percent of Hispanics voted for Republicans as opposed to 27 percent this time for McCain.
WINSTONIn 2010. We actually won women by one point in 2010. In the previous majorities, we had had under Newton and Denny Hastert, we had never won women. We won independents by 19 as opposed to winning independents by five this time. Ultimately, this is about how does the party define how it's going to govern, and I would suggest that our political campaigns don't, in fact, reflect that particular discussion or that particular debate. Again, going back to, is this is going to be a referendum? No, America wanted a choice.
REHMDavid Winston, he is a Republican strategist, president of the Winston Group. He's a CBS News consultant and has served as an adviser to the House and Senate Republican leadership. Short break here and your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd after Tuesday's election, we, here in the studio, are talking about Republicans, how they need to reassess taking a fresh look at the party, where it appeals, where it does not. And one of the issues that an awful lot of people are raising is that regarding women. Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said yesterday her party must stop treating women as a throwaway.
REHMAnd here's an email, and it says, "I think if the GOP is to be a viable party, it has to get over its 19th century ideas about women. No one wants an abortion. But no one should believe that in the 21st century, women should not have control over their bodies." Leslie Sanchez.
SANCHEZThere is no doubt, you know, this whole -- the message of the last campaign was, was there a war on women, and was escalating that. I think the Democrats played this issue of reproductive health over and over again. And Republicans, I don't think had a response to that. We were trying to talk about...
REHMBut didn't they get themselves into it, Leslie?
SANCHEZWell, if you look at our Senate candidate in Missouri, no doubt about that. I think there were some extraordinarily -- extraordinary patronizing, you know, sexist, ridiculous comments that came out of the mouth of many on the right. And that does nothing but paint that -- it continued to paint that narrative that we are out of touch. But in many cases, these candidates were. You -- it was indefensible what some of these individuals said.
OLSENI think the women issue is part of a larger subtext. To me, the most important question in the exit poll was the one where they asked, which of the four qualities would you like to see most in a president? Romney won three of them. He won on strong leadership. He won on vision for the country. And he won on shares over values. The reason he lost the election is because he lost the one-fifth of Americans who picked the fourth category, which was cares about people like me. He lost that group 81-18.
OLSENThe Obama campaign was painting the Romney Republican ticket as one that was effectively not caring about people like you. Contraception was a message aimed at women. They don't care about you. Bain Capital was an issue raised at blue-collar voters. They don't care about you. Immigration was focused at Hispanic voters. They don't care about you. If Republicans want to rehabilitate or brand among these groups, we must, must solve this problem because, in fact, we do care about all of these persons.
REHMHow do you begin to solve that problem with -- as the last emailer put it, "I live in Todd Akin's congressional district. I can tell you his jaw-dropping ignorance about women's reproduction is far too common to belong in a party that wants to lead the country forward." How do you respond, Henry?
OLSENWell, I think the first thing, what we need to do is we need to recognize that, as most Republicans do, that women are every bit as part of the American dream of self-choice, self-selection and self-advancement as men. And for women, you have a particular difference in the sense of how sex and pregnancy impact you. And we need to recognize -- the government needs to recognize the uniqueness of that to the female experience and that what we need to do is give you, and say it over and over again, the opportunity to control your own bodies so that you can control your own lives.
WINSTONWell, let's start off at a sort of a reframing. And, first off, women represent 53 percent of the electorate. That's the majority. So, first off, they are not a minority group. They are the majority of the electorate. Why were jobs and the economy the number one issue? 'Cause women said so. OK, so let's start off with that, too. What I think happened -- there were two pieces. One, we had these two candidates who decided to raise abortion in a way that just was sad.
WINSTONYeah, just staggering, and raised it in about the singularly most negative way that could've been brought on to this sort of public discourse. For other Republicans who were trying to talk about the economy to women, all of a sudden now, here they found themselves in this particular discussion. I -- I'm going to go back to women were fundamentally focused on the economy. But where Republican candidates are having difficulty is, how do you translate these economic policies into what women are dealing day-to-day with in terms of their own economy?
WINSTONWe did a focus group. We had a woman who used this line, she said, look, you know, the economy is the most important issue to me. I run my own economy every day. And one of the things that they were upset about was this sort of condescending nature in terms of, oh, we're not going to worry. You know, candidates saying, we're not going to worry you about economic issues. We're going to talk to you about other things.
WINSTONAnd, truth be told, there was a frustration with both the Democratic and Republican Party in the sense of women wanted to engage in this economic discussion. And, instead, they were sort of being drug off into other discourses that they were not -- that they didn't necessarily want to have as their top priority. They wanted a real discussion in the economy, and they never actually got that chance.
KIBBEI think the lesson in this election is not so different from other ones. The core issues are about economics. They're about who controls decisions. And if you look at the makeup of the Tea Party, broadly underreported, most Tea Party leaders I know are women. Most Tea Party women leaders are moms. All of them are concerned about the opportunities for their kids and their grandkids. And I think that that is what links these basic fiscal issues to winning in elections.
KIBBEVery -- if you go back and look at the debate, and even -- let's take in Indiana. Both candidates were pro-life. The only conversation leading up to that comment was about fiscal issues. That's how Richard Mourdock beat Dick Lugar. He talked about the economy. He talked about the debt. He talked about the risk for future generations. If our candidates allow anybody to change that conversation, they're going to lose.
REHMWell, awful lot of people lost because, perhaps, of women. Linda Sanchez, what specifically do Republicans need to do woo more Hispanic voters and female voters?
SANCHEZThe good part about that that we saw from data going back to 1999 that is if you were appealing to Hispanic voters, you were looking like a party that cared about their needs. You were addressing the issues of faith, family, patriotism, economic growth, economic prosperity, personal responsibility and limited government. If you wrap that together and looked like a party or a candidate that was appealing to those issues and inclusive, we were able to close the women's -- the gender gap as well.
SANCHEZSo it was double positive in that sense. And if we look back at the election night in 2010 and the Tea Party effort and the women leadership and that, too, it's interesting to the extent that it was an economic driver. Women have been driving this issue of economic impact on the family, but we talk about it differently. I've said this consistently on the Hill. You know, a lot of my colleagues will say, oh, 0.2 percent unemployment rate or this and that.
SANCHEZAnd I said, no, women are saying, I have no money to put in savings for my children's college education. I am concerned about my husband getting on the subway every day to go to work. What kind of security do we have? What kind of protections do I need for my family? Do -- it was this nesting of the protecting of the family. I'm getting -- I'm having to take care of my aging parents.
SANCHEZAnd I don't know if our -- not only our finance -- my family's financial security is going to be attacked, but also the federal security is going to be attacked to ensure that we are going to be OK. No one was really speaking to the heart of that matter. So if you look at women, you know, in 2004, they were the security moms. It was post 9/11, and they were driving that conversation. In 2008, it was the soccer moms. It was the family, the suburbanites that Republicans needed to capture.
REHMSo what do Republicans need to do to change their stance to bring in more Hispanics and women?
SANCHEZNumber one -- and it's a different answer -- I think we need to work harder at recruiting more candidates to run for office.
SANCHEZWe start that on the local level. It becomes an issue where not only at committee campaigns, but we aggressively speak to business leaders, suburban moms, different individuals to get engaged in this process and move them into leadership starting at the state and local level.
REHMHere's an interesting email moving on to yet another issue. It's from Randy in Oklahoma. He says, "I'm a registered Republican in a deep red state, but I cannot vote GOP until they cease conflating political agenda with biblical dogma. I cannot overstate how disturbing this has become more than any other issue. The seemingly theocratic tilt of the modern GOP has turned voters off." David Winston.
WINSTONWell, this, again, gets to: what are the problems that Republican candidates are solving that people are facing, OK? And so when you're defining a choice -- which Gov. Romney, for a long time, was unwilling to do 'cause, again, it was a referendum from his viewpoint -- when you're defining a choice, what you're saying is, here's what you get if you vote for me. Here's potentially what you get when you vote for them.
WINSTONWhen you're not laying out that policy and instead what you're doing is you're just simply saying, I am not the Democrat, and that's the option that you're leaving, then what you're creating is you're creating this sort of vacuum for other discussions to then sort of enter this discourse. I mean, I -- look -- in looking at Gov. Romney's best moment, it was that first debate. 'Cause it was the first time that he actually laid out, here's an alternative. And, guess what, he got a surge out of that, OK?
WINSTONAnd that is the challenge -- at least in terms of the Republican Party across the board -- and that is, at some point in time, there's got to be a confidence in ideas and a confidence in policies to put them up against the Democrats in a fair way -- not necessarily distorting what Democrats are saying so you can make the contrast, you know, by distorting them, it somehow it looks better -- just simply having confidence in your own ideas.
WINSTONAnd one of the challenges to the party and what you saw in 2010 that occur, where John Boehner laid out the pledge -- there was a confidence there and we did well -- the question is -- and -- but I will tell you that Speaker Boehner ran into a problem from the political class who did not want us to put out a policy plan.
WINSTONAnd, again, you go back to -- at one point in time, there was a discussion in terms of Gov. Christie saying, the worst thing he did in his campaign was he laid out his policy position so it could be attacked. That is not a way to win an election, ultimately, in terms of a long-term building a majority coalition.
OLSENI think there's two things that Republicans need to do: one is a narrative switch and the other is an attitudinal switch. What David was talking about I've written about in National Affairs, which is that, for 30 years, the Republican Party's won campaigns on an anti-liberal coalition. And what they need to do is to create a pro-conservative coalition, and that requires not thinking what I'm against, but requiring thinking what am I for.
OLSENWhat can I do to help people get their aspirations? And then what Linda was talking about, all the things she was talking about with women are things that government can do. And I like to talk about it as what people want in America is for government to give them a hand up. They don't want a handout, and they don't want hands-off. Too often we sound like we're the party of risk, not the party who values security and that we want hands-off and not hand up, and we don't get the voters we need.
REHMHenry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Going forward, how much compromise are we likely to see on the issues that the Congress and the White House now have to take up, for example, on immigration, Leslie?
SANCHEZYou know, I think there's a very telling thing very early in the president's administration. There was a message from Rahm Emanuel that said, we will take up immigration reform the second year -- the first year of the second term of the president. And everyone said, we're just beginning this term. And now here we are. So I think it was very pointed and insightful at that moment, but it frustrated many in the Hispanic community. Republicans have always been engaged in immigration reform. The biggest immigration reforms we've had in this country have been because of Republicans.
SANCHEZMost don't know that. It's a very difficult thing because it involves fear, tremendous anxiety and a lot of political capital. And you're going to see a book come out by former Gov. Jeb Bush, talking about the need for immigration reform this year and taking strong strategic steps because if you look at Latinos, for example, we're very split on this issue. We want strong border enforcement, but individuals want to know who's here. What is their intention? Are they paying taxes?
REHMAnd, of course, the term self-deportation did not help in the presidential campaign. But what happens, going forward, on this issue, Henry?
OLSENWell, one poll in the exit poll show -- one question in the exit poll showed the challenge within the Republican Party. They asked the question of, should people who are here illegally be given a chance for a path to citizenship, or should they be deported? And among the 65 or so percent who said that they thought should be given a chance to move ahead legally, Obama overwhelmingly won that vote.
OLSENAmong the very small minority, 28 percent who chose the deportation office -- option, Romney won 73 percent of that vote. So that was going to be a tension between where the base is and where the party needs to go. But for a first step, I've never understood opposition to the DREAM Act because what Americans and conservatives and Republicans are about is the opportunity that America gives to make your own future and to better your own life.
OLSENAnd the DREAM Act says you can be part of that, even if you are here illegally, if you act to protect our country and you act in a way that says you're going to stay here and provide. That's the first symbol that we can do that would help begin to rebuild the credibility among the immigrant community.
REHMAnd, David Winston, what happens on the fiscal cliff? Will there be compromise?
WINSTONWell -- and, clearly, that is the legislative and policy challenge facing the country at this point. And knowing where the speaker's at and, again, given where they almost got to, OK, a couple of years ago, I think there's certainly hope that we can get to that point. Now Speaker Boehner kind of laid out where he wanted to start the negotiation in terms of taxes, in terms of -- you know, we're not talking about tax increases. There's a difference between tax increases and increasing tax revenues, and so starting that discussion. But, ultimately, this is going to come down to the process of governing.
WINSTONAnd you're going to have two folks who just won their respective elections. And how are they now going to sit down and resolve? Given the majorities that they put together, how do they actually sit down and begin to work through it? Having said that, both sides have very deeply held beliefs, and so what's the process to getting to the governing part of that once you have those basic beliefs to start with? And it's going to be complicated and hard, but also the consequences of not getting to a conclusion are significant.
KIBBEWell, I think one of the things that you have to deal with -- and I thought a lot of the debate over the debt ceiling, a lot of the debate over the fiscal cliff the last time -- remember that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid extended all of the Bush tax cuts. They did that. So there is a solution here with that. But if you're going to deal with the budget, and revenue is part of the budget, how do you do that when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, hasn't passed a budget resolution in three-plus years?
REHMMatt Kibbe. He's president and CEO of FreedomWorks, author of "Hostile Takeover." Short break here, and your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. It's time to go straight to the phones to Houston, Texas. Roosevelt, you're on the air.
ROOSEVELTThank you, Diane. Just want to say that I love you.
ROOSEVELTOK. I just wanted to make a point here which has been very difficult for me to make. But let me start by saying that I think Mitt Romney won -- lost the debate, at least from my perspective, on that first debate. I'm sure a lot of people think that he won, but from a minority -- I'm a minority, and I feel that, when I looked at it, I saw a picture of myself all in this country. Every time I ever faced a cop, it looked like Romney was a cop and Barack looked like the (word?).
REHMOK, Roosevelt, let's not go back. Let's look forward.
REHMWhat do you want to see happen?
ROOSEVELTYeah. I want to see something done about the idea of presentation. I think the country has moved towards a big -- spending a lot of money to make a presentation but not really being authentic. So I can take a bad product, package it and present it. And I think we need to move back to something, like, where we are being more authentic.
REHMAll right. David Winston.
WINSTONNow -- and this idea of how do you present your ideas -- and I'm going to go back to Jack Kemp and suggest to you in terms of when the whole 47 percent issue emerged, this is, in fact, what I think the governor was trying to say and where the Republican Party basically is. And as Jack Kemp used to say, the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats judge themselves by how many people government can help, and Republicans judge success in terms of how many people government doesn't have to help, right?
WINSTONAnd to some degree, it is driving that concept of what is the real outcome of what you're trying to do in terms of policies. And unfortunately, I think the way that 47 percent remark came across was that we don't care, right? And that wasn't the point. It was that society didn't get to a point that there are enough people the government doesn't have to help, and that's the direction we need to go. And that's an example of what he was saying. How do you drive that narrative and present that policy position?
REHMAll right. To Palm Desert, Calif. Hi, Tim.
TIMHi. Good morning, Diane. And good morning, friends. The Republicans have made the narrative of the struggling business their controlling narrative in the forging of public policy. Other narratives like, for instance, the narrative of the struggling wage earner are reduced to mere footnotes in the Republican script, minor problems that will all be solved if only the self-described job creators can go their merry way on untaxed and unregulated.
TIMThis Republican narrative is all about can't: can't repair our crumbling infrastructure, we can't pay for it, can't maintain our schools and public services, we can't afford it, job creators can't prosper if they can't dodge taxes, industry can't flourish if it can't pollute.
TIMIt can't thrive if it can't cheat labor.
REHMOK. I think we get your drift. Henry Olsen.
OLSENRepublicans need to say what we all know, which is that government helps 100 percent of the people. We believe in education. One hundred percent of Americans get a hand up because of public education or other assistance. Americans want a hand up in life. They don't want a handout. And when we don't talk about what government can do, what we do is we lose -- like our caller, we lose a ability to connect with them. And it's sad because -- in fact, Republicans do believe when you look at the heritage...
REHMBut haven't demonstrated that, Henry.
OLSENBut if you look at the actual -- and this is the gap between narrative and fact. When you look at Paul Ryan budget, what the Paul Ryan budget does is that it's a different way to fulfill our commitment to helping retired people live in dignity and be protected against fear of unnecessary medical expenses.
REHMLet's be realistic here. In the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney would have cut, for example, FEMA by 40 percent of its budget. How would that have helped the people in New York? David Winston.
WINSTONWell, again, to some degree, what you're doing is you're taking one specific item or talking about a broader element in terms of how do you make...
REHMBut doesn't that specific item represent a larger picture?
WINSTONYeah. But again, when you're looking at that 40 percent, what did that 40 percent represent? I mean, to some degree, I mean, he picked this particular number, and what exactly was the impact going to be? And I don't think that discussion ever really occurred. So to say, OK, here's the situation here. He identified some number. We all, you know, think FEMA does wonderful things. So therefore, FEMA needs to hold on to every single dollar 'cause, of course, it doesn't waste anything, right? And I mean, it's a perfect organization that runs at a scale that we've just never seen before.
REHMI don't think anybody believes it.
WINSTONRight, right. No, exactly. So what he was saying is there are efficiencies potentially there that could be achieved so that you could do other things with those dollars. And again, going back to exactly what you were saying, this idea that Republicans clearly support elements of government that they think deliver needed services, whether it be education, there are health care pieces, there are retirement pieces, that's all there. There's debate at scale. And one of the things that I would suggest, as you've just described, that that debate of scale was not effectively engaged.
KIBBEYou know, I've been talking to a lot of my friends in New York and New Jersey, and I'm not sure FEMA's so popular right now because they're not performing any better now than they did during New Orleans. The point that David's trying to make...
REHMI think there's a question about that, Matt.
KIBBEThe point that David's trying to make is that every federal government entity, because of the very nature of politics, wastes money. FEMA has not always focused on the big national crisis where there is extraordinary need. They sometimes clear streets. They shovel snow because every committee chairman and every constituency in the Congress reallocates those resources based on their needs, not necessarily the national need.
KIBBEThat's a reality of the government, and I think the question is not what government can do for you. The question is what can the American people do? What's the opportunity if we unleash that potential for all Americans regardless of who you are, where you came from or who your father was?
REHMAll right. To Barrington, R.I. Hi there, David.
DAVIDGood morning, Diane. How are you?
REHMHi. Fine. Thanks.
DAVIDI'd like to just share with the panel here. I mean, I'm a 50-year-old white male, middle class, and for the first time in my life, I did not vote for a Republican presidential candidate. And I -- and even in listening to the conversation, there's a sense of incongruence between what is said and what they do. And I think when they -- when the panel talks about values being a distraction from the issues, I think, in essence, it came right down to values and the notion that the Republican Party sees people as either makers or takers.
DAVIDAnd I'm just curious as to what the implicit message was when one of the guests mentioned that people voted based on their values that are in touch with their aspirations. And I wouldn't -- I'd like him just to comment on that -- that was way back in the beginning of the show -- and what exactly they meant by that.
OLSENYeah, that was me. What I mean is that people want to hand up. They do not want the government that is basically in night-watchman state that runs Defense and the Department of Justice and little else. What Republicans do in practice is actually work through problems of scale and management that try and deliver value. But what they don't do in rhetoric is talk about it.
OLSENAnd what we lacked was the ability to say not what FEMA should cost but what FEMA should do. FEMA was created in 1927 after a massive flood in the Mississippi River. It was passed in a Republican Congress with a Republican president. And the fact that it's not working well doesn't mean that it should be abolished or cut willy-nilly. It means that we should make it fulfill its purpose.
REHMYou know, I think the frustration I am feeling and I think is suggested by our callers is that all of you are talking about what the Republican Party and the Tea Party are, but not how it could be going forward recognizing not only changing demographics, not only changing values, not only the defeat of the Republican presidential candidate. You're continuing to talk about what you believe the Republican Party does well and simply changing the ideas that people may have about the Republican Party rather than changing how the Republican Party is. David Winston.
WINSTONThe Republican -- let me put it in this context. Think of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party as a screwdriver, OK? A screwdriver has not inherent value. It's what you do with it. It's, you know, repairing a chair. It's hanging a painting or a picture. It's, you know, building a swing set. And what we're talking about is you have some basic principles that the Republican Party represents.
WINSTONAnd what we need to do is translate that into outcomes that matter to people, as opposed to just simply laying out, here's this ideological construct. Isn't that awesome and shouldn't you appreciate that? No. It's , how do translate that ideological construct in that belief system into outcomes that really matter to people? And I would suggest to you what has occurred on the Republican side in our political campaigns, we don't discuss that.
WINSTONI'm going to say, one level, you know, if it weren't for the Democratic Party, what would our Republican campaigns do? They wouldn't have anything to talk about. And I think that's the challenge to the Republican Party. Not just simply hear these beliefs but how do we turn them into outcomes that matter to people and then how do we describe that.
REHMAnd how would you, as a Republican strategist, lay out the first steps of doing that?
WINSTONYou know, I'm going to go back to the Cameron remark. I mean, we as a party have got to figure out how we prove to people that we can effectively govern this country, meeting the needs of this country using the principles that we have. And we have to engage in that discussion as opposed to just sitting back and saying, gee, did we raise $2.1 billion to spend on campaigns or 2.3?
WINSTONOh, that was all the difference in the world. Ultimately for Republicans, our belief in our campaign system, in terms of what we thought we had for get out to vote, was the moral equivalent of the French relying on the Maginot Line. It was an outdated strategy.
SANCHEZI agree completely. I'm going to go back to the Hispanic vote in that context. If you look at it -- and it's the argument I've made -- you can't put a bunch of great, you know, let's have some piñatas and fiestas and a few tamale parties in a bus with some beer, and, you know, we're going to a great time, and all of a sudden, we have Latino vote. It's so ridiculous. That is what was done in the '60s and '70s. You know, it was go back to Viva Kennedy. This is not new. And I say this to both sides.
SANCHEZNow, its Web ads, you know, and hugging our children and the flag. What we have to look at or what were the pragmatic solutions that government can provide and this type of leadership and voice can provide that make sense for our families. On the Republican side, just the simple thing like a -- it wasn't simple at the time, but passing the American GI Forum, the federal charter for the American GI Forum.
SANCHEZThe Hispanic veteran's community was the last one to receive that. They did it -- it took 40 years, but they did it under a Republican Congress because we recognized we had to make an exception, Hispanics are Hispanic families not just the veterans themselves. A simple understanding made a difference.
REHMLeslie Sanchez, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's take a call here in Washington, D.C. Good morning, Patricia.
PATRICIAGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
PATRICIAI love your show.
PATRICIAI think that a point that needs to be made is I think that the Republican Party had been very hampered by their reliance on conservative media. I think that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the other talk radio shows tend to reduce complicated and nuance political issues to hateful and demagogic sound bites. And I think that, when thinking people hear those things, the Republican Party sounds very unreasonable.
PATRICIAIn a way that that came out in the election was that the candidates Akin and Mourdock had absurd things about women's biology that anyone who has ever taken a biology class knows they're not true. But those are sound bites taken from the propaganda machine of the -- well, what I would refer to as an anti-choice movement or the pro-life movement. So I think that if they want to attract thinking in young voters, they need to be more intelligent and less in lockstep.
REHMDo you agree, Henry?
OLSENI think Republicans and conservatives need to understand that we're not automatically the majority. That we've often thought that there is this automatic American majority that already agrees with us from narrative down to specifics, and all we need to do is call them forth. I think what a fair reading is is that we might be the largest single faction in American politics, but we are far from close from being not natural majority.
OLSENThe first step to become a majority is listening to what people who aren't part of your majority want and desire, and then figuring out how it is that you can reach that, that you do that better by using calm tones than harsh tones. You do that better by rethinking your -- not your principles but by rethinking how you can apply them in ways that legitimately respond to the needs and aspirations of the people who aren't already part of your group. And it differs from person to person.
OLSENWhat a woman may need to have a hand up in American society may be different from what a Latino may need, may be different from what a struggling wage earner may need. And a majority Republican Party will understand that those are not -- meeting those desires is not inconsistent with limited government and individual freedom.
SANCHEZAbsolutely true. I think there's an education that needs to take place among Republican leaders and Republican candidates. And certainly, our grassroots community that embraced the idea of building our coalitions does not mean that Latinos or women or any of these other minority groups are looking for a vast expansion of entitlement programs.
REHMPatricia talks specifically about Fox News, Rush Limbaugh. What's your thinking on that, David?
WINSTONLook -- and going back to what Henry said -- the Republican Party cannot -- is not a majority party. It needs independents. It needs other groups to build that majority coalition. That's a group of individuals that talks to the base of the Republican Party. But ultimately, the base is not large enough if you, in fact, are going to find yourself with the majority coalition. So you need to expand beyond that.
REHMAnd finally to you, Matt Kibbe, what do you say about the harsh voices and language out there?
KIBBEI don't like it. It's not my style. I don't like it on the right. I don't like it on the left. If you -- if you're upset about Fox News, you should watch MSNBC for a while because you get a different version of the exact same thing. I happen to think that media has become so decentralized focusing on those two mega stations. It really doesn't tell the story because most people now get their news from multiple sources from an RSS feed. I think it's beautiful chaos. It comes from the bottom up, and we let people choose for themselves.
REHMMatt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, David Winston, Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez, Republican-affiliated consultant, and Henry Olsen, he's vice president of the American Enterprise Institute. Whatever happens, let's hope it's for the good of everyone. Thanks for being here.
KIBBEThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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