In August of 1996, former U.S Senator Bob Dole took to the stage at the Republican National Convention in San Diego to accept the Republican nomination for President of the United States. In his speech, Dole took the time to thank his Republican predecessors and outline his vision for both his party and country. While it is certainly not uncommon for presidential nominees to do as he did, it is Senator Dole’s vision, particularly that of the Republican Party, that stands out from the rest.
About halfway through his speech, the subject turned to immigration. It is there that Dole made clear who the Republican Party represents:
“The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view. But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits, which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”
Despite being twenty three years old, his vision remains a relevant criticism of Republican Party to this day: that they should look to expand their base. Although this is not a new take on the GOP, it is one that has gained a substantial amount of attention since Dole’s RNC speech in 1996. The most notable case in which this occurred followed the 2012 presidential election when the GOP released an “autopsy” of how their 2012 campaign was operated and how they could improve for the future.
In the report, titled the Growth and Opportunity Project, a large emphasis is placed on the GOP to have a more appealing message to African-American, Hispanic, and female voters in future elections. However, the focus of the GOP shifted come the next presidential election in 2016, as then-candidate Donald Trump’s priority was to court blue-collar voters in the rust belt states.
While President Trump’s strategy was successful in 2016, the same cannot be said of the Republican Party as a whole following the 2018 midterm elections. According to an analysis conducted by USA Today of the 2018 midterms, over “80 suburban counties and cities leaned more democratic” than in 2016, resulting in those seats in the House of Representatives being flipped from Republican to Democrat. By relying on the same group of voters every election cycle, Republicans put themselves at risk, more so than the Democrats, of losing.
Despite losing the House of Representatives, the 2018 election presented Republicans a unique opportunity to expand their base and better the odds in their favor for future elections. In Florida, then-Governor Rick Scott (R) ran against Bill Nelson (D) for his seat in the U.S Senate. Despite the same suburban voters abandoning Governor Scott in Florida, he ended up defeating Senator Nelson by 1/10th of a percentage point. What turned out differently for Rick Scott in Florida than with the unseated House Republicans was that now-Senator Scott pursued the votes of Hispanics rather than just simply sticking to the traditional Republican playbook. It was because of this strategy that won Republicans not only an additional Senate seat but also control of the Senate itself.
Given what transpired with the 2018 election, there’s at least one conclusion which can be drawn from it: a larger base of voters means a larger chance of electoral victory. House Republicans stuck with the traditional GOP base and lost while Senator Scott sought to expand his base of voters to get more votes and succeeded. With the 2020 election on the horizon, Republicans can make Bob Dole’s vision of a “broad and inclusive” party a reality as a way they can not only win that election cycle but also expand their party’s base so that they can win future elections.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.