Our Path Forward Is Not Moderation, It Is Infrastructure
As has been addressed in detail by many of the editors here at RedState the usual suspects have gleefully sounded the call for a purge of social conservatism, as they always do, as a political, cultural and structural solution for all that ills the GOP. Those rushing to the media to make these pronouncements are acting like frightened children lost in the woods, an unsurprising development considering the immaturity of thought found in the consultant class.
This isn’t to say that the GOP is doing all that much right, in fact I am drawing a blank attempting to think of something for which to give them praise this cycle.
I don’t believe our answers lie in the GOP any more. As a friend said to me, parties exist to win elections, if they aren’t doing that what is the purpose?
In many states, some of which are key swing states, the parties have been essentially banned from running a coordinated, unified campaign that has the ability to enlist actual grassroots support. At the national level attempts to do so often result in disasters such as Project ORCA.
The structural failures that took place on Tuesday should have been predictable, and I blame myself for getting sucked in to the Romney bubble and not seeing it sooner.
My concern now is that, in our rush to finally purge the Grand Old Party of those damn Christians, many are trying to fix the wrong problem. We actually don’t need to be talking about who to kick out right now, we need to be talking about who we can bring in and subsequently turn out, and how exactly we go about doing this.
The parties cannot engage in a permanent ground game that encourages out of cycle voter outreach efforts. For one, it would put the parties at risk of violating some obscure facet of our mash of state and federal campaign finance laws, which were purposely built to diminish the role of parties in their own campaigns.
What donors need to understand is that the infrastructure that we must build must be built on the outside and maintained long term until they become self sustaining operations able to provide investigative journalism, opposition research, voter identification and outreach, and various other tasks that many still believe the parties are capable of and actually doing.
Building the infrastructure in the individual states and leaving them in control will allow for a diverse system that can play to their individual strengths in state level races while also providing a conduit for coordination at the national level.
This infrastructure should be fueled by causes, not policy, not white papers, not poll tested messaging meant to peel away small portions of your opponents base. Causes are what inspire people to act en masse, a candidate with no clear cause is bound to lose.
We do have a serious problem with our ability to reach voters, especially minorities. Immigration policy has been a thorn in our side and whether you support amnesty or a border fence, if you are a Republican, you are still a bigot. No matter whether one is for, against, or evolving on the issue, they are sure to be wrong. This suggests there is something greater than policy positions at play.
We can choose to moderate our positions on issues like gay marriage, immigration, abortion and more, but simply changing policies does not guarantee any lasting relationship with supporters of those policies. Additionally, this unnecessarily limits the battle field at the state level to economics, and contrary to recent popular belief, this isn’t enough to win an election.
Instead, I suggest we champion our causes and build an infrastructure to engage. We need to take a page from the Special Operations community and train force multipliers who can go into communities where we are not engaged and meet these voters where they are. We need to do this not to attain forgiveness for our bigotry, we need to do this because the conservative message of freedom and opportunity espoused by Reagan and Kemp is exactly what many of these people came to America for in the first place.
In addition to minority outreach, this infrastructure should have a focus on properly training activists in the state. Looking back on election day, I am stunned by how many poll watchers I saw with cameras. It gave me a lot of hope that we would be able to break some big election day stories. One snag, many of these hard working activists had no clue how to get a video off of their phone and uploaded to either youtube or a shared cloud drive.
Overall this may seem like a minor thing, but if we haven’t trained our activists to use basic equipment, I am sure we failed to train them on a multitude of other levels as well.
In Colorado I have noticed that the progressives dominate the Twitter hash tags for state and local politics. This shouldn’t be. New media, such as twitter, is taking over as the preferred delivery model for messaging and at the state level I believe conservatives are falling behind.
The left is represented very well at the state level on social media. ProgressNow, Common Cause, various gay activists groups and pro-abortion groups, are always on responding in real time to news and events. Their infrastructure gives them quick access to a stockpile of unified messages produced by New Media Outlets, friendly pollsters, non-partisan issue advocacy groups and more.
We have no such ability and most of our time on twitter is spent fighting national battles rather than state battles. With our absence the left is able to put forward a narrative that ties state level candidates to national races and messaging, putting our candidates in the position of defending policies they never intended on running on. You don’t win elections when you are forced into a defensive posture.
The Democrats have built this infrastructure and have tuned it finely enough that I mistook a serious drop in funds flowing to the infrastructure in Colorado as a sign of their decay rather than their efficiency. I could not have been more wrong.
As Al Shaw reports on Pro Pulica, the infrastructure created on the left spent less than $2 per vote while the combined effort of Team Romney and disparate outside groups resulted in a cost of $6.35 per vote. Clearly were are at a serious disadvantage.
GOP donors, or more specifically conservative donors, need to realize that our future as a movement is dependent upon us creating an infrastructure that provides a coalition of forces working year round to inform, build relationships with, and turnout voters at all levels in all elections.
This will provide us with greater longevity long term than the misguided idea of trying to be a better Santa Claus and sacrificing large portions of our base in a purge of Social Conservatism.
The path forward isn’t moderation, it is infrastructure.