Conservatism's center of gravity is moving to key states, away from DC

Conservatism's center of gravity is moving to key states, away from DC
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We are more than halfway through President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE’s first 100 days, and Republicans are going through all the stages of realizing exactly how painful and consequential it is to lose the White House and congressional majorities. While the D.C. GOP broods, the center of gravity of the party’s power has moved south, where open economies, schools and churches have attracted thousands of new residents and are shining a spotlight on common-sense, conservative elected leaders. 

Establishment Republicans, using their dog-eared playbook, were quick to blame President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE for everything from the Capitol Hill violence of Jan. 6, to the Georgia Senate losses, to Trump’s failure to win the hearts and souls of the power elite in the Acela Corridor and white women generally. Their strategy was to “Make the Republicans Great Again” by dumping Trumpism and potentially chucking forever the future support of millions of “America First” supporters.

Having just finished another CPAC conference (which moved to Florida because Gov. Larry Hogan canceled it in locked-down Maryland), where Trump got his highest approvals ever in our straw poll, it is certainly now a settled question that Trump and his presidency were overwhelmingly positive. Many D.C. Republicans still fret about trash-talking and mean-tweeting. But for conservatives, Trump’s eight years’ worth of accomplishments jammed into four years of sometimes-chaotic policy achievements united our coalition and made us remember that winning is, indeed, more fun.

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All the same, establishment D.C. Republicanism is now the fad as corporate America, most GOP consultants and many politicians all think they will get ahead by playing defense and kissing up by sounding a lot like the other side, which wants to usher in an aggressive socialist agenda. Those in the GOP scolding Trump and his supporters are doing what is always done when politicians in power no longer have to kowtow to one who has lost power. Just ask any Bush-Cheney staffer who stayed till the bitter end.

Both Trump and the National Rifle Association have fled the prosecutors of New York for the sunny welcome mat of Florida and Texas. Corporate headquarters are announcing switches from blue states to red states on a regular basis; their public statements all mention “regional synergies,” etc., and do not mention taxes, regulations and persecution by prosecution. But, make no mistake, they are escaping the socialist policies of mega-blue states on the brink of collapse.

Just a few years ago, it seemed as if everyone wanted to leave rural America and join the fun and adventure of San Francisco, New York or LA. In less than 10 years, there has been a near-complete reversal. Out-of-control taxes, regulations, crime, insane theories on race and gender pushed in schools, and a growing hostility to those who are succeeding has driven residents away by the tens of thousands.

States that had severe outmigration in 2020, like California (98,000), New York (126,000) and Illinois (100,000 in Chicago alone), will all lose congressional seats in redistricting. This is the first time in California history that the Golden State will lose a seat in Congress, and the second census in a row for both Illinois and New York. At the same time, Texas and Florida will continue to their third census in a row of gaining seats with explosive population growth, and they continue to claim bragging rights on new company headquarters. Remember, only some of the ongoing migration to red states can be captured in a decennial census.

The center of gravity for the GOP is indeed in the South. And states like Texas and Florida (and potentially Tennessee and others) are becoming mega-red states and forming a very powerful region of the country. The coronavirus has exacerbated the problems of the failed blue cities because of chronic shutdowns of schools and businesses. The cancer of the shutdown mentality is acute around big cities. 

Perhaps this is why so many in the Washington, D.C., consultant class no longer feel it mandatory to live near D.C. A growing list of prominent players, like members of Congress, fly in weekly and escape as quickly as possible to return to states with warmer weather, cheaper housing, little traffic and open schools.

America is changing quickly as the country sorts between red and blue. Most argue that as more Americans leave failing blue states, they will bring their left-wing politics with them, and Florida, Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee will become more blue.

I believe this current trend of economic refugees is different from what we have seen in the past, however. Americans are not just seeking beaches, mountains, golf courses and warm weather, but a home that provides them an end to the hostility of cancel culture, defunded and depleted public safety, and the prospects of building wealth for their families and for retirement.

Republican leaders who understand that it takes a lot of concern to pick up and move should watch the trend and follow the example of GOP Govs. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisMore voters would pick Trump over Biden if election were held today: poll 17 Democratic state AGs back challenge to Florida voting limits The Memo: Media obsess over Trump's past as he eyes comeback MORE (Fla.), Greg Abbott (Texas), Bill Lee (Tenn.) and others. There is a reason why Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemHouse passes 8B defense policy bill South Dakota governor proposes spending B on infrastructure, state employee raises Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill MORE (R-S.D.) was so popular at CPAC and why she and Gov. DeSantis performed well in the straw poll; they both were seen as calm and science-based in their responses to the virus. Churches were never closed in their states, and their economies are benefiting from mom-and-pop stores being treated like the big chains. These governors have helped rebrand conservatism, from wise talk to life-saving action — something they learned from watching President Trump. 

And so, establishment D.C. Republicans, enjoy your moment as the power shifts to a new crop of political leaders who are tanned, ready, and not at all resting. 

Matt Schlapp is the chairman of the American Conservative Union, host of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).