Several months ago I wrote an article condemning the manner in which we conducted our tax arguments. I felt they were too divisive and failed to teach anyone why our policies were right. In short, while it feels good to hold up a piece of paper complaining that the 53% pays for everything, it does little to convince the 47% to vote for us. And while there is certainly overlap between the two factions, there is no doubt that Barack Obama dominates the latter of the two because he appeals to their daily lives.
It’s all well and good to say “I’m for the 100%” after being caught on camera saying the 47% aren’t pulling their weight, but it doesn’t change the damage done to the Republican image and it doesn’t win elections.
As I listen to the post-election analysis, so many of the talking heads think we should alter our policies in ways that will appeal more to demographics we are losing. They want us to take winning Democrat issues and convert them to Republican issues.
The overriding problem that we as a party have is that we have two distinct camps. The Tea Party wing and the Establishment wing. Whether or not the names are fair, they basically summarize what people have come to know as the competing interests in the party. Unfortunately, both miss the most crucial part of winning elections: messaging.
When the Democrats had their historic loss of the House, the Senate and the Presidential election in 2004, they regrouped and came back further left than they’d ever previously dared.
In 2008, far from John Kerry, who had worked hard to make himself almost indistinguishable from George W. Bush other than that he complained more, chose the charismatic candidate that is now our president. All of Barack Obama’s substance, or lack thereof, aside, he was able to package far left ideology neatly into a pitch that the independents could buy. Even some Republicans purchased his wares.
While it’s true that We won in 2010 by being brutally honest about our conservatism, lets face it: mid-terms are not a bellwether for Presidential elections because too many people simply don’t vote.
Brutal honesty, like the “I am the 53% movement” feels great but doesn’t earn us votes because it doesn’t educate. It insults and divides. Is it unfair? Perhaps. But fairness is not our guiding principle here. Winning is.
Our rhetoric must change. It must stop only preaching to the choir. What our messaging must do is inform and educate. Not only the portion of the electorate that we currently aren’t winning, but our own base as well. Too often I’ve heard the angry tones deriding the welfare recipient for being a taker instead of a producer. And while I agree with the sentiment that entitlements are bankrupting our country, the problem isn’t solved by simply adjusting the numbers. We can’t fix things by addressing the fiscal problems associated with entitlements until we’ve changed the minds of the people that are entitled.
But instead of working together on this messaging, we’re at each other’s throats pointing fingers and declaring that one side is the problem. The principled vs the strategic. The conservative vs the moderate. The Tea Party vs the Establishment. Both sides are wrong and both sides are right. We must be strategic and we must be principled. But we must also be intelligent. We must also be compassionate. We must also be empathetic and we must also be clever.
Without those additional qualities we are doomed to continue failing to win while retaining our principles, or sacrificing our principles to achieve our victories.
Look to the Democrat party for guidance here. Keep our principles. Keep our practicality. Win hearts and minds. This can only be achieved by making our case. Not by complaining that people aren’t getting it.
I spent the last four years fighting. That much will remain the same but added to that list, and I hope for the Republican Party as well, will be working to craft our message so that it appeals to the people that don’t vote for us yet. Honesty and principles must prevail. If not then what’s the point of fighting? The cost of winning can’t be so high that we lose ourselves. But our ability to explain how & why others should agree with us must improve.
I reject the notion that we must oust the Tea Party after our senatorial losses. Nor do I think the so-called Establishment should be thrown under the bus for our presidential loss. The principles of the Tea Party and the practicality of the establishment must find a way to merge or we truly will be lost in the wilderness.