If you’re familiar with the presidential election of 2012, you’re aware that social conservatives are allegedly the reason we lost. Yes, they just had to bring up abortion and gay marriage and spoil the whole thing. Clearly if we had just stuck to policy, which the American people love to hear about, we’d be redesigning the Oval Office right now. Am I right?
I’m betting a portion of you agree strongly with that position. As a matter of fact, throwing social issues and the conservatives that support them under the bus is not a new position. What is new, however, is the growing realization that the aforementioned belief is the exact opposite of a winning strategy. Think about it. Do the Democrats really get into the details during campaigns? Did Barack Obama’s reelection website have any actual data on it? The answer is a resounding “no.” What the Democrats do well and, frankly Republicans suck at, is connecting with people on the things the public really cares about. Does that mean we have to change what we stand for? No, but it does mean our messaging has to change and the culture could give a darn about your latest economic data points.
A popular Christian axiom that is often misunderstood says, “Be in the culture, not of the culture.” Indeed, as this post explains, “We must be counter-cultural, not anti-cultural, if we want to be seen as authentic.” Many Christians, in their misunderstanding, believe that they shouldn’t engage the culture because they may be tainted by it; you will hear them referred to in some churches as being in “a holy huddle”. They believe if they just convey Jesus’ message, people will obviously understand how awesome it is and convert to Christianity. I’m not sure how they get across the Truth that Jesus loves and accepts everyone without actually hanging out with those that aren’t Christian... Unfortunately, what often ends up happening is people like this on display, giving the world a very wrong impression of Christianity.
Note: There are pictures of children holding signs like the ones above, which hurts my heart to no end. What is wrong with people?!
Thankfully, many more Christians get it right. They understand that, “Communication occurs when a message takes up residence within a listener’s life and heart.” They don’t stand above the culture in condemnation, they engage the culture and form connections with actual people. Only after true connection can the truth of Jesus be presented.
The Democrats, while often times not completely understanding the full message of the Bible, do understand the importance of being in the culture. They connect person to person and speak the language that people understand. The general public does not feel threatened by the Democrats and thus do not react defensively when Democrat ideas are presented to them. Is it because their ideas are the best or is it because no other ideas are being brought to the table?
Republicans will continue to lose if they stay in their holy huddles and speak at people instead of speaking to them. People want to be understood and while many say they get it, they obviously don’t. Put your research down and talk to people; and after you’ve actually listened to them, tell their stories. Earn the public’s trust by proving you hear them and maybe, if you’re really courageous, allow them to see you aren’t perfect. You don’t have to dabble in elicit drugs like our Democrat presidents of late. Take the lead from superstars like Marco Rubio. People love Rubio because they connect with him. He has a real story and he doesn’t try to hide it. In fact, like so many of us, his story highlights why conservatism rocks.
The city I live outside of, Charlotte, North Carolina, is notorious for having a church on every corner. If you want to attend church, you’ve little excuse for not being able to find one that fits you; yet it won’t fit you perfectly. You could travel the city of Charlotte in search of a church that allows you to check off all the boxes on your list and you probably wouldn’t find it. This one has a great message but the music stinks. This one has great music but they wave their hands in the air and that’s just weird. That one sounded good in both message and song but they meet in a school gym and I really want a sanctuary. The list goes on... the truth is that we settle into the church that most fits us and we focus on the big things that matter the most.
As much as both sides would like to paint each other within narrow parameters, the left and the right are diverse. Not everyone agrees with everything on either side and that is okay. There are some key points that throw you in one camp or the other and you go from there. Pointing to the left side of the isle and trying to define them does nothing for our message. At least on the left the public knows what they stand for. Conservatism is so misunderstood and has so much hostility against it (for what people think it stands for) that the majority of people believe they can’t fit in our itty bitty club. While you’re working on getting across to people that you aren’t out to get them, you may want to work on accepting the people who are already on your side. Republicans aren’t going to win without social conservatives so get over it already. Stop allowing the other side to define us and show the public we aren’t all old, white guys in stodgy business suits (though we love our old, white, stodgy guys too). Why are there so many people in the middle and on the fence? Because they don’t know what we actually represent. Stop with the public infighting for power over the party and get down to business. Four years isn’t a long time to address what has been destroyed.
Once upon a time there was a great leader who united the country, not because they agreed with everything he said, but because they knew he understood them. We can’t behave like bickering children while we wait for a leader to show us the way. People trusted Reagan but they don’t trust today’s GOP. Many in the GOP don’t trust today’s GOP and with good reason. If you’ll throw out an entire leg of the party to win, which leg will be next? Reagan already showed us the way. Connect with people, listen to them and show them you are listening. Then and only then can you begin to convey what this party really stands for. The good news is that there is room for enough people and that, with hard work, the right can rise again.