The absolutely incredible victory of Narendra Modi is already being analyzed in the other large vibrant democracy – the United States of America. Political lessons from one can be applied easily to the other because the two democracies are similar in their essence as we pointed out in America & India – Political Look Back at 2011 and Ahead to 2012-2020.
The first serious application of Shri Modi’s victory to the GOP was written last week by Jeremy Carl of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. In his article titled What GOP can learn from Modi’s election, Carl wrote:
- “His positive message was about growing the pie, not sharing the crumbs, and could have been taken out of the playbook of free market conservatives from Jack Kemp to Ronald Reagan.
- “Republican cultural and religious conservatives could do well to study Modi’s campaign tactics for winning with unapologetic social conservatism without scaring off moderate voters“
- “Modi won on not just substance, but style: He refused to let the traditional media play gatekeeper, instead skillfully using social media to reach out to India’s rapidly urbanizing professional classes, to whose aspirations for good governance he spoke so strongly. At a time in which the Republicans find themselves flatfooted in technology compared to the Democrats, Modi ran technological rings around his liberal adversaries”
- ” … the GOP could learn a number of lessons from his successful campaign, one that showed how an allegedly “extreme” candidate of a party disdained by media and cultural elites can achieve unprecedented electoral success without sacrificing its principles“.
Carl began his article by imagining Senator Ted Cruz as the GOP nominee against Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2016. That is not a smart parallel in our opinion. Shri Modi’s credibility comes from his successful track record in generating economic growth in his state of Gujarat. Senator Cruz will not have this “Modi” credibility because he has not governed a state. But there is another man who fits the parallel drawn by Jeremy Carl.
That man is Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas. Mr. Perry is as ridiculed by the NY-DC media intelligentsia as Shri Modi was by the Mumbai-Delhi media intelligentsia. Virtually no one thinks his economic success in Texas has any real carry in the rest of America just as no one thought two years ago that Shri Modi’s success in Gujarat would find resonance in the rest of India.
Just as we were thinking of Rick Perry, we saw the long article in the Politico Magazine titled Rick Perry’s Wild Plan to Take Jobs From Blue States. As we read the first paragraph, the parallel hit us – the story of how Shri Modi took the Tata Motors plant from Bengal to Gujarat.
For those who don’t know or remember, Tata Motors had decided to locate their new automobile plant in Singur in the State of West Bengal. Farmers in Singur rose in stormy protest about the acquisition of their land and an ambitious opposition leader named Mamata Banerjee led the protest. Just when the Tata project looked like a major loss, Mr. Tata got a text from then Chief Minister Modi of Gujarat. The text simply said “Welcome to Gujarat“. In a story that became a legend, the Modi Government cleared the land for the factory and delivered all clearances in just days and Tata Motors moved their plant to Gujarat.
Governor Perry scored his own “Tata Motors” coup last month when, as Politico writes,
- “Perry got the big score that seemed to justify all his travels when Toyota announced it had selected Plano, a Dallas suburb, as the home of its new North American headquarters. “Toyota understands that Texas’ employer-friendly combination of low taxes, fair courts, smart regulations and world-class workforce can help businesses of any size succeed and thrive,” a glowing Perry said the day the announcement was made.”
Governor Perry has been single-minded in this pursuit according to Politico:
- “Since as early as February of last year and as recently as April of this one, Perry has made eight trips to six different states, all of which have one very particular thing in common: They’re run by Democratic governors. Perry has used his visits to hammer on a consistent theme: Texas is a great state for business; the state he’s currently in is not; so wouldn’t it make sense then for all those companies that aren’t currently located in the Lone Star State to correct their error?”
Politico sees a 2016 national agenda in Governor Perry’s trips:
- “Perry’s focused national tour is built around a message that’s tailor made for a presidential campaign whose central issue will likely be a lagging economy. The “Texas miracle,” the idea that Perry’s policies produced job growth in the worst climate since the Great Depression, first emerged in his initial failed campaign and has lived on ever since, buoyed by the fact that the state’s unemployment rate remains below the national average.”
- “The ideological fuel powering Perry’s trips out of state says that, unlike the weather, that vague term known as a “business climate” can be engineered, and that no one’s done a better job of parting the clouds than Texas.”
Isn’t this a real parallel to “Gujarat is Development & Development is Gujarat” mantra of Chief Minister Modi?
The 2016 Election
The American majority is facing the same problems the Indian majority is facing – unemployment or chronic under-employment, diminishing or stagnant incomes coupled with a steady rise in food prices, a debilitating sense that the country is going in the wrong direction.
President Obama and the Democratic Party have won two elections using this unhappiness & prescribing government assistance to the middle class. We get the sense that this message is wearing thin. And unless the economy & the incomes of the American majority improve in the next 12-18 months, the American people will be ready for a new economic message by November 2016. It seems that the Democratic Party intends to run on the curse of inequality, the traditional message that problems of the middle class stem from the riches of the wealthy. The success of the Republican Party nominee will rest on the ability to win on an optimistic jobs & development platform.
The Indian electorate has been used to getting money and material handouts f
rom political parties. Giving Government’s money to the needy & poor was the platform that won the last two national elections for the Congress Party. This message was rejected in 2014 by the majority in India. They stood up and said that they wanted jobs, not handouts. This was a revolution and Narendra Modi engineered it with his drive, his ability to connect his success with the aspirations of the Indian majority and the promise to deliver Gujarat-type growth to all of India.
Just as in India, the largest new bloc of American voters are the young. The 95 million strong millennials will be the swing vote & the key to the 2016 win. Support for President Obama has reportedly plummeted in this segment as they struggle to find jobs and repay their huge college education debt. They might just be ready for a new jobs & growth message just as the new 100 million young Indian voters were for the “development” message of Shri Modi.
But who among the GOP candidates is best positioned to win on a conservative jobs & growth message? You cannot sell such a message with mere words. You have to demonstrate prior success in delivering jobs & growth. That requires a Governor and not a Senator. That just about sidelines almost all leading GOP aspirants of today except Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and a almost laughable underdog named Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas.
Virtually every American voter remembers Perry’s catastrophic “oops” moment from the 2012 Republican primary. Candidate Perry of 2012 was thoroughly unprepared, hopelessly uninformed and completely unimpressive. That is why his candidacy in 2016 seems almost laughable at this point.
We have no idea whether a 2016 candidate Perry can effectively
deliver a passionate full-throated optimistic message of economic growth
with an unspoken commitment to social conservatism. We have no idea whether he can build a national election machine to target the various segments of the American electorate, whether he can create a Clinton-Modi type war room to respond quickly & effectively to deadly media attacks, or whether he can create an Obama-Modi type social media team to quickly & constantly reach large numbers of voters.
But we do think that Governor Perry is today’s most interesting bet to replicate Shri Modi’s success in America.
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