By Douglas MacKinnon
Published March 24, 2019
Back in the day, I was involved in three winning presidential elections.
The winning formula which then as now, has not changed one bit. That being if Candidate “A” can flip one-eighth of a percent in this district, one-fourth of a percent in that city, one-half of a percent in this county, and one percent in that state, then that spells victory.
Poaching votes from the other team’s side is essential for success in political campaigns. Most especially if you happen to be a Republican candidate where the tide of the media, of demographics, of young people, of “Climate Change,” and of “Free is for me,” is strongly going against you.
I am as conservative as anyone out there on a number of issues, but I am also someone who grew up in a totally disenfranchised, completely ignored slice of America many in the GOP – as well as many high-profile Democrats – have little or no experience with.
As a child, I grew up in abject poverty and was homeless often. By the time I was 17 years of age, my family had been evicted from 34 homes. Most of those homes having no heat, no electricity, and no phone.
During that time, we often ended up in poor, majority-minority neighborhoods and projects. Moves in which I was also sometimes the only white kid in class.
In the years since, people have asked me if there were any silver-linings to growing up in such an environment. There were two major benefits as far as I was concerned. The first being that I discovered at a very young age that Black and minority America was a great America. As I have stated in the past, my heroes and role models growing up were the single African-American moms working two or even three jobs to support their children. Often, while sacrificing any happiness for themselves. Truly remarkable women who were simply the best people I had ever met.
The other major benefit and eye-opener for me is that I got to observe mindless, hateful, and often violent discrimination up close and personal. I saw it in the way my African-American friends and their families were sometimes treated and I saw it in the treatment of me, my older brother, and our younger sister. Three malnourished, dirty, smelly poor kids who simply did not count for many with more money than us.
While it’s difficult for some of my liberal and Democratic friends to understand, it was precisely because of my childhood that I became a conservative. For me, it became imperative that I figure a way out of that life and spirit crippling poverty which did not involve any government assistance and would allow me to succeed and stand on my own.
Conversely, it is precisely because of my childhood that I believe some of my conservative and Republican friends are making a critical mistake when assessing the popularity of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and former first lady Michelle Obama.
If you hope to win elections in the future, the goal must not be to attack those two women on personal terms, but rather to understand why they are connecting with millions of your fellow Americans.
With regard to Ocasio-Cortez, I could not disagree with her more strongly on certain issues or some of her rhetoric. My main disagreement with her is the “Free is for me” mantra. Somebody has to work. Somebody has to pay salaries. Somebody has to pay taxes. Nothing in life is truly free.
That said, I honestly do believe there is much to admire about her story, her background, the jobs she has worked and her real-life experience.
A story – like it or not – which is resonating with millions of Americans.
Much the same with Michelle Obama.
As I mentioned earlier, I could not disagree with her more strongly on a number of issues.
That said, the massive success of her book titled "Becoming," should and must not be ignored. Rather, it should be applauded.
The book has sold millions of copies in but a few months. On a recent trip, I came across 11 people reading the memoir.
That is especially a question conservatives and Republicans need to be asking themselves.
No matter what you may think personally about Ocasio-Cortez or Michelle Obama, the fact remains that there are tens of millions of Americans out there who are hurting and suffering in ways you may not imagine.
Millions of Americans who are now hearing the voices of Ocasio-Cortez and Michelle Obama.
If Republicans and conservatives hope to continue to win elections in the future, they are going to have to poach many of these voters to survive politically.
But to do so, they will have to convince those voters that they truly do understand and empathize with their plight.