We're at the 'Do What Reagan Did' Phase of Republican Advice-Giving

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Republican consultant Mike Murphy, writing for Time magazine, has the party's future plans all sorted out. Given that "we need to get a lot more creative," he has an idea: Hold the 2016 convention in Detroit, like Reagan did in 1980. Done and done.

This isn't Murphy's only point, to be fair. "[T]he GOP has won the Powerball of politics" with the Obamacare roll-out, he says, noting only in passing that the Democrats won October's big payout. Murphy laments that the party's "policy cupboard is embarrassingly bare." He doesn't offer to restock that cupboard, really, but suggests that the party worry less about social issues and "mov[e] the party dial away from AM talk radio and toward the occasional salsa beat."

This is mostly the same-old, the sort of suggestions that were made the day after Mitt Romney's loss and continued up until the Tea Party got tired of hearing it sometime around August. And then we get to Murphy's one concrete suggestion.

… [P]olitical tactics are important, and we need to get a lot more creative.

Ronald Reagan launched his campaign to make America great again in Detroit in 1980. Let's go back to the Motor City and hold our 2016 national nomination convention in Detroit. What didn't work in Detroit was decades of big Democratic government fueled by public-employee unions. What is working now is a comeback in the central city fueled by young entrepreneurs and free enterprise. Detroit is going to be a comeback story, and it will be done on GOP principles. What better place to show the country that we offer a way forward with room for everyone?
  1. How is doing the same thing you did 36 years ago "creative"?
  2. This may come as a surprise, but non-Republicans don't consider Ronald Reagan with the same sort of reverence as do people in the party. The reverence isn't really the point, but it's clearly part of it.
  3. Also, Reagan didn't win in 1980 because of where he held his convention. He won nearly every state — and Michigan was one of the closer ones. This is why "Reagan 1980" holds such sway, of course, this idea that you can reiterate the trigger to that success. (Which, unfortunately for the GOP, was Ronald Reagan.)
  4. When Detroit was hailed in October 2012 for its job growth, the focus was the growth of manufacturing jobs. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report from June pointed out that manufacturing was the city's largest growth sector, by far. Relatively little of that manufacturing growth stems from young entrepreneurs.
  5. "Room for everyone" in this context means "room for black people."

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But the biggest issue is not in that list. The biggest issue is that everyone is aware that Detroit serves as Republican political ruin porn, a place for the party to come and tut-tut and hand-wring about Democratic leadership. (Democratic leaders in other, more successful cities, incidentally, don't usually serve as similar examples.)

This is the place that Mitt Romney — a native! — preferred to have serve as a free market lesson-to-be-learned than actually back a bailout of the auto industry. The bailout happened, and it's part of the reason that manufacturing in the city is growing. Detroit was the big comeback city during the 2012 Super Bowl, you may remember — because of resurgent car manufacturers and the public-private partnership that saved them. Then very real budget issues — including tax base problems in a city that's as good a symbol of white flight as anything — caught up.

What was the aftermath of Reagan's 1980 visit, anyway? Did he save Detroit? If he didn't, wouldn't the message be less "Republicans are coming to the rescue" and more "every once in a while, we'll fly over and offer our condolences"? Why not just have former FEMA head Michael Brown run the convention committee?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.