Let's Face It: Conservatives Are Not A Majority

Colin Kaepernick's endorsement deal with Nike should be a wake-up call that conservatives need a new strategy.

The news of Colin Kaepernick’s endorsement deal with Nike came as shock to conservatives. It seemed that Kaepernick was a has-been after his departure from the NFL, but suddenly he’s back with a lucrative deal to be the face of Nike. That should be a wake-up call that conservatives do not represent a majority of Americans.

If conservatives were a majority, then selecting the man whose claim to fame lies in taking a knee during the National Anthem as a spokesman would be an act of corporate suicide. In that case, one would expect that the stock would tank and a meaningful boycott would occur. And that’s exactly what many conservative news outlets were reporting.

The truth is a little different.

The deal was announced on Sept. 3. Nike stock closed on the previous day at $82.20 per share. By the close of trading on Sept. 4, Nike stock had indeed plunged… all the way to $79.60, a loss of a little over three percent. On Wednesday, the stock closed just under $79.92, not far under the 52-week high of $83.68. Trading in Nike was much higher than is the norm. 18,548,800 shares changed hands on Tuesday as opposed to an average volume of 7,073,191.

Nike’s stock declined, but it is only slightly off from prior to the announcement. There were a lot of sellers, but there were also a lot of buyers. That observation says a lot about American politics in general.

What’s more, most conservatives have not heard that Nike received an estimated $43 million in media exposure after the rollout of Kaepernick’s ad campaign. Bloomberg reports that almost half of the exposure was positive. Less than a quarter of the media coverage was negative.

The nature of modern communication is that most of us live in an echo chamber. Conservatives read conservative blogs, listen to conservative radio, watch Fox News and talk to other conservatives on Facebook and Twitter. When we don’t have contact with many – or any – people with opposing viewpoints, we lose sight of the fact that not everyone thinks like we do.

The story goes that Pauline Kael, a film critic for the New Yorker, said after the 1972 election, “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” The story is somewhat apocryphal. The quote has been paraphrased to make Kael seem more out of touch than she really was, but the sentiment is real.

This week it is conservatives’ turn to say, “I can’t believe they hired Kaepernick. No one likes him.” Two years ago, it was the Democrats. Just substitute Donald Trump’s name.

If conservatives are to be successful in the long term, they need to face some hard truths. The first is that conservatives do not represent a majority of Americans. Close on the heels of that bitter pill is the fact that most voters do not like Donald Trump. Finally, some conservative ideas are popular, but some are not.

We can look back at Gallup’s survey of political ideology to see that, for the 30 years that the poll has been taken, conservatives have never represented a majority. The survey, taken in December 2017, actually shows a slight decline in conservative identification since the Tea Party revolution. About 35 percent of Americans now identify as conservative.

How do conservatives win elections then? The good news is that liberals are actually doing worse. About 26 percent currently identify as liberals. This represents a long slow climb from 17 percent in 1992.

The mathematically astute are probably thinking that liberals and conservatives only represent about half of the people polled. They’re right. The third major group in American politics is the moderates. Weighing in at 35 percent, the moderate group is as large as conservatives and larger than liberals. With neither conservatives nor liberals constituting a majority on their own, moderates are the deciding factor in elections.

The problem faced by both parties is that they need moderates to win, but moderates don’t like extremism from either party. Primary voters, on the other hand, love to vote for the candidates that promise to deliver the most change for their respective ideology.

What happens often is that a party will win an election by a slim margin and then proceed to govern as if they have an enormous mandate. It happened to Barack Obama, who answered a Republican offer of compromise with the words “I won,” and it is happening to Donald Trump now.

The Trump Administration is pushing an agenda that many voters are not happy with, but Republican voters are ecstatic with the “winning.” The problem for the GOP is that rather than winning the hearts and minds of voters, they have pushed their advantage with party-line votes and executive actions while ignoring public opinion. This is basically the same strategy that cost Democrats both houses of Congress and more than 1,000 legislative seats under Obama.

There is a disconnect on several core issues between the Republicans and the rest of the country. The most notable achievement of the Trump Administration is the tax reform bill, but Republicans have not sold the new law to the public. Nine months after passage of the law, numerous polls show that the country is split but the tax plan remains slightly more unpopular than popular.

Opinion on the president’s policy of separating families at the border as a disincentive to immigration is not even close. Numerous polls found that Americans opposed the separations by more than a two-to-one margin. However, the opinion of Republicans was just the opposite with an average of about half of Republicans supporting the plan.

On Colin Kaepernick and the anthem protests, opinion is also split. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken last week before the current brouhaha erupted found that voters felt that taking a knee during the National Anthem was not appropriate by a margin of 54-43 percent. However, a Quinnipiac poll from June showed almost exactly the opposite.

The bottom line here is that the target market for the Nike campaign is not white conservatives. Nike almost certainly test-marketed the Kaepernick campaign before they launched what they had to know was going to erupt into a tornado of fecal material, yet Nike is confident enough that the campaign will make money for them that they did it anyway. The logical answer is that Nike understands that, while millions of people will be angered by the ad, those millions of people are still a minority. In fact, Nike may be banking on conservative outrage to generate more publicity… just as Kaepernick has used the outrage to make his name a household word over the past few years.

The collective clout of American conservatives showing their anger can’t make a mainstream sports apparel company decide against hiring one of the most infamous men in sports because aggrieved conservatives are just one small segment of the population. Nike has apparently determined that angry conservatives don’t buy enough of their merchandise to make a difference. The left learned the same lesson with protests of Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby.

What both parties seem never to learn is that in order to propagate real and lasting change, you have to win over the voters in the middle. That isn’t likely to happen by being shrill and calling athletes traitors. If conservatives could find a coherent spokesman for the movement who could reach the moderates in the middle, then maybe one day conservatives will be a majority. Until that day, conservatives do not have the mandate to force their will on the rest of the country. They must remember that or pay the price.

Comments
No. 1-13
Dave_A
Dave_A

Beyond that, what is the demographic mix of Nike's customer base...

Vs, say, New Balance or Brooks....

TomUSMC
TomUSMC

I do not care who hires the bum , he still disrespected the flag and all the men who have fought and especially those who died for it . If nike wants to hire this person thats on them . If Americans do not care it only proves America is in decline because people are to self indulged to worry about DUTY ,HONOR , COUNTRY .

centerright
centerright

The last conservative to really have that middle appeal was Reagan.

A fair question is, "What is conservative?" Is it social conservative? Is it military conservative? Is it fiscal conservative? Is it white supremacist? Four different groups whom each call themselves conservative, with often conflicting agendas.

If we were to dismiss the fourth group as band-wagoners, is there anybody who has ever truly been strong in all three branches of conservatism?

GWB's presidency fell apart because fractures grew into earthquakes and self-identified conservatives were tearing into each other.

DriverZn
DriverZn

I found some more information that is relevant here. When I refer to the focus on imposing "conservative" values on the population, this is why it's a losing issue.

Argh: the graph didn't show, it's roughly 2 to 1 in favor now.

We really need to get back to the Reagan era, live and let live, attitude. The movement to impose social values on the population is going to trigger a revolt. We should be focusing on a more inclusive approach.

JamesJWilson
JamesJWilson

Occasionally I bring up the idea of an "economic civil war", and boy does it touch a nerve.

The idea would be for every single business in the USA to be either "democrat" or "republican", and people would choose one or another for every single product or service they buy. They would work for either D or R companies, buy their house from either a D or an R, get gas at a D or R gas station (buy their car from a D or R car company), they would hire a D or R babysitter, and so on.

As somebody who is going to vote Democrat for at least the next two election cycles (meaning, I guess, I'd be on the "D" side of the economic Mason-Dixon line), I feel pretty confident in my ability to obtain all of the normal goodies I always get.

On the other hand, a Republican in this war would be missing out on the better part of modern western civilization. Forget anything technology-oriented for starters--that's all owned by a bunch of Left Coast limousine liberals. Things would look pretty Amish in a hurry for them.

Anyhow, maybe the results of that thought experiment is a signpost underscoring the thesis of this article: Republicans are in the minority of Americans.

Voters, of course, are another story. In the last election an equal number of them of them showed up to the polls in the right states and districts, winning them a bunch of seats and the presidency.

And of course don't even get me started about Texas, which is a Blue state that votes Red because of turnout and only turnout...