Copying Democrats’ Identity Politics A Loser


 Posted 03/27/2013 05:14 PM ET

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Republicans lost the election by failing to pin the Great Recession on Democratic housing policies mandating affirmative-action lending. They’ll lose even worse if they adopt Democratic racial politics.

Democrats have perfected the dark art of identifying and dividing Americans by race and class and promising favored groups special economic “rights” and entitlements. Republicans will always lose to them in a pandering contest.
Republicans win — and win big — when they transcend tribal politics and appeal to all Americans as individuals, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980. They also win when they shoot straight with voters, using hard facts and logic to explain tough issues.
Mitt Romney failed to do this. He made a strategic mistake by not re-emphasizing the origins of the mortgage crisis and recession. By letting stand President Obama’s false narrative that “Wall Street fat cats” like him caused the mess that Obama couldn’t get us out of, Romney became a victim of that very narrative.
The Republican National Committee thinks the long primary season doomed Romney. In fact, the primaries offered a raft of free airtime to sort fact from fiction about why so many Americans lost their jobs, incomes, home equity and retirement.
Only, Romney never took advantage of it.
He had numerous prime-time chances to explain to voters that Washington, not Wall Street, was responsible for the vast majority (70%) of the 28 million subprime and other weak home loans that went bust in 2008 (by virtue of the “affordable housing” quotas government enforced through HUD-regulated Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA and through the Community Reinvestment Act).
He could have easily documented how the government ordered lenders to “target” low-income minorities directly in marketing efforts to satisfy regulators; how the lines between subprime and prime were “blurred,” intentionally, on government orders; and how Obama doubled down on these reckless housing policies, even reappointing many of the original architects of President Clinton’s disastrous minority homeownership strategy.
Once lower affirmative-action lending standards — nothing down, weak credit — were incorporated into Fannie’s and Freddie’s automated underwriting programs, they became the standard across the entire mortgage industry for all borrowers. They also contaminated the mortgage-backed securities industry.
During those 20 televised debates, Romney could have at least forced some national media coverage about the government’s role in the crisis. It could have changed public opinion just enough to win the election.
He didn’t. Instead, exit polls show a majority of voters blamed Republicans and Wall Street even for Obama’s jobless recovery.
Because Republicans failed to correct the record, the historic revisionists on the left were able to cover their tracks and steal the election.
Astonishingly, none of this appears in the RNC’s 97-page post-mortem report examining what went wrong in 2012.
GOP honchos instead think they lost because they didn’t mention blacks or Latinos enough or pay them enough attention during the campaign. So to make up for that, they mentioned the groups a total of 138 times in their report, while proposing partnerships with the NAACP and Latino pressure groups and spending millions on a national “inclusion” campaign.
“We need to demonstrate that we care about them,” the GOP report intoned.
OK, but the best way to do that isn’t by patronizing them. It’s by showing them that government does them no lasting favors. Democratic affordable-housing policies, for example, targeted them for bum loans and unintentionally set them up to fail — all so a bunch of white liberals could feel good about themselves.
Republicans have to do a better job of explaining to minorities that government will not create sustainable wealth for them. They must convince them that they have a better chance of prospering in a robust free-enterprise system.
Of course, this message would best come from other minorities. To that end, the RNC wisely advises recruiting and grooming more “ethnic conservatives” as media surrogates and candidates for national office.
This shouldn’t be hard to do. The pool of talent runs deep, and includes:
Mia Love, Artur Davis, Ben Carson, as well as Dan Garza, Jaime Herrera and Brian Sandoval. These thoughtful minority political figures see America not in black or brown and white, but in red, white and blue. They see her not as a nation of haves and have-nots, but as a land of opportunity for all.
Their self-reliant politics would offer minority voters a powerful alternative to the left’s racial politics, which is at the very root of our financial problems.
Republicans may be loath to say it for fear of sounding racist, but it was in fact racial politics that brought down the economy and destroyed the greatest amount of wealth in history — including billions in minority assets.
The last thing Republicans ought to do is co-opt this craven and divisive brand of identity politics practiced by Democrats.
• Sperry, formerly IBD Washington bureau chief, is author of “The Great American Bank Robbery.”

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