Taking Back the Tundra: an After-Action Report

Tonight AM 1280 the Patriot, the station on which we formerly had our local radio show, sponsored an event called “Taking Back the Tundra,” featuring Hugh Hewitt. In addition to Hugh, the event featured a reunion of the original Northern Alliance Radio Network: Scott and I, Mitch Berg, Ed Morrissey, Chad Doughty, Brian Ward, King Baniain and James Lileks all participated. The event, like most Patriot programs, was attended by a large and enthusiastic crowd of several hundred.

Hugh broadcast part of his show from a room where a smaller group ate dinner, and then we convened for two hours in a larger area with all of the attendees. Hugh began with 20 or 30 minutes of solo commentary on the current scene, and then introduced the Alliance. The leadoff topic was immigration. I won’t try to summarize all of the disparate views, but my own contribution was to observe that Hugh’s emphasis on border security–the fence–is misplaced. Under the Gang of Eight’s bill, estimates of the number of additional legal immigrants, overwhelmingly from Mexico, range from 30 million to 57 million. Thirty million is more than one-fourth the population of Mexico. This is a demographic transformation of almost unimaginable consequence, and the greatest fence in the world won’t do a thing to stop it, since all of this immigration, under the Gang’s bill, is legal. The strain on our welfare system and the devastation of the market for low-skilled, low-wage American workers, many of them African-Americans, are huge concerns.

Scott on the left, then Hugh; me, leaning back, then Brian Ward and Ed Morrissey

We talked about Minnesota–what went wrong, and how do Republicans get back in the game. Again, I won’t try to summarize the many insightful comments from the group, but I emphasized the fact that Minnesota is a blue state. Every now and then we conservatives do well–always in an off-year election–and think we are making real progress. That happened in 2002 and 2010. But then the next presidential year comes around, and the state’s Democrats turn out in droves, dashing our hopes. That happened in spades in 2012, fueled by the Democrats’ cash advantage of better than two to one. Actually, I think we will do relatively well in 2014, especially in the legislature. Unfortunately, we lack strong candidates to take on Governor Mark Dayton and Senator Al Franken, both of whom are vulnerable in principle. Which doesn’t mean that someone can’t emerge over the next year.

Hugh asked the question, what do Republicans need to do to regain power? There were lots of useful suggestions. My answer was twofold: one, we need to compete for all the votes. We need to stop writing off entire states and ethnic groups. In 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan won California, Illinois and New York. Now, Republicans don’t dream of being competitive in those states. We need to get back to competing for every vote. Campaign consultants never recommend this, because they are focused on the short term and they think in terms of bang for the buck. So why waste money on radio ads on inner city stations where we will lose 90-10 anyway? That is the thinking we need to resist: we need to develop long-term relationships in minority communities and we need to invest in party organization in less-fertile soil, if we want to be in the game for the long term.

Second, we need to teach. Most voters are not intuitive conservatives, and they are not learning free-market principles in school, on television, in the movies, or by reading newspapers. No one will teach free market principles except us conservatives, and we need to get back to doing it on the largest possible scale. We conservatives suffer from many drawbacks, but we have one major advantage: Our ideas are true. The facts support us. Our proposals, when implemented, work, whereas the liberals’ don’t.

So the evening ended on a happy note.

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