The reality is that the conservative base within the Republican party has been continually shrinking for years. In fact, as of last year, only 42% of Republican voters self-identified as both socially and economically conservative. 24% see themselves as moderate or liberal on both social and economic issues, while the rest see themselves as being either socially moderate or economically moderate.
Even within the 42% who self-identify as both socially and economically conservative, there’s a huge variation in dedication to conservative principles. The percent of Republicans – of Republicans – who self-identify as “very conservative” is smaller still. As the 2016 campaign opened, only 18% of Republican voters wanted a “very conservative” nominee.
Here is a reality that hard line conservatives like everyday readers of RedState absolutely must internalize: it’s going to be exceptionally difficult to force a candidate who is in total ideological agreement with us upon the Republican party, and if we are to do so, that candidate will have to have exceptional skill at persuading moderate voters. And at the risk of having tomatoes thrown at me, I must point out that moderate voters are not persuaded by repeated recitations of how very conservative a candidate is.
Honestly, the “how” of improving conservatives’ persuasion skills with non-conservatives is of decidedly secondary importance to the idea that conservatives need to persuade moderates and liberals at all. Right now, many are stuck in the belief that just being conservative enough is enough, and that voters should just flock to the most conservative candidate available via instinct – and if they don’t, hey, their problem, not ours.
And until that happens, there will continue to be folks like Trump who will come along and appeal to these people who have felt stepped on all their lives, and who will know how to push the emotional buttons that conservatives have been ignoring for too long. And once those buttons have been pressed – well, as we saw, almost nothing can un-press them. No amount of evidence that a particular candidate is unfit for office can dislodge a voter who is truly emotionally connected to a candidate. And we are doomed to repeat the experience of Trump again.
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