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There is a myth in politics that elections are won and lost in the middle. The premise is that "independent" voters support tenets of both major political parties and candidates must craft their message to attract a majority of these "moderates." Despite the fact that nearly twice as many Americans self-identify as conservative as compared to liberal, conservatives are often referred to as "extremists," or worse.
Prominent political operatives write op-ed pieces proclaiming that Republicans win elections by ignoring the base of their party and that sticking to your principles is a "self-defeating strategy." Yet, these same political operatives commission polls whose results state the opposite to be true.
One such poll was commissioned by a mainstream Republican advocacy group in early June of last year. Several months before millions of Americans discovered that their health insurance premiums and deductibles were set to skyrocket in 2014, nearly two thirds of Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike told a pollster that the top priority of health care policy should be reducing the cost of health care.
Before the defund debate had begun and Senator Ted Cruz stood for 21 hours to implore his U.S. Senate colleagues to defund Obamacare, a cool two thirds of Republicans and Independents told a pollster they wanted Congress to take whatever steps possible to "dismantle" Obamacare now.
The most startling fact of all: when asked whether people should be allowed to purchase insurance across state lines, more than 75% of Democrats, Republicans and Independents agreed. In fact, the greatest agreement was seen among Independents, a cool 85% of whom do not want the government restricting their choice of health insurance.
This brings up a larger point. A record 42% of Americans self-identify as Independent rather than Republican or Democrat because the major political parties do not advance policies that are important to those voters. As an example, while few agree that our present immigration system is ideal, Republican and Democrat politicians press the immigration debate despite only 3% of Americans viewing immigration as the most pressing issue of the day. It is no wonder that pollster Frank Luntz suggested that the most effective political soundbite of 2013 was one where Senator Ted Cruz observed that the President and Congress are not listening to the American people.
In the aftermath of the 2012 election, a prominent Republican political operative suggested that Republicans could regain their political swagger by deploying an "army of computer engineers, mathematicians and social scientists" as the Obama campaign had done to mine electoral data and achieve electoral success. The creation of Para Bellum Labs within the Republican National Committee would seem to indicate that the RNC has heeded this operative's advice.
As a mathematician, I would suggest that the answer is much simpler. Do not target voters, target the message they are sending. When three fourths of the voting public tells you something, LISTEN!
Republicans should offer a simple alternative to Obamacare. Suggest that if you elect us in 2014, we will allow you to buy whatever health insurance plan you want, wherever it is offered, and we will not punish you if you choose not to purchase anything at all. Pass a one page bill out of the House of Representatives and offer it up in the United States Senate with every Republican Senator as a co-sponsor. Take a clear unadulterated stand and follow through! Freedom works!
Conservatives were excoriated during the defund debate last fall as being outside the mainstream. It was a question of tactics we were told, notwithstanding the fact that those doing the questioning were sitting on polling data stating that they ought to have been following the conservatives. It is no wonder that a recent Freedomworks poll found nearly half of its respondents listing health care as a top concern.
The Obama administration told Americans recently that it is "good news" that they will have the "opportunity" to work less as a consequence of Obamacare. Only in a dystopian Orwellian fantasy is more unemployment "good news." By that economic scorecard, Washington should be celebrating with parades every month!
Washington is not listening to the American people. If Republicans are not proactive in fighting our decline into dystopia, their political fortunes will get sucked into its vortex.