Newt Gingrich is right. Republican campaign consultants are probably the dumbest, most short-sighted unimaginative pedestrian minds working in politics today. And, in hindsight, even while acknowledging the great job he did in 2004, I think I’ll lay some of the blame at the feet of Karl Rove as one of the major reasons why in recent years with his 50+1 strategy. On the surface, it sounds smart to “go where the votes are” and write off “unwinnable” districts and demographics, but in the long term, it’s the mark of a dying party. We can’t keep writing off entire regions and segments of the population and expect to remain viable as a party.
A rule in business is that you either grow or you die – and we can’t grow if we refuse to compete in Blue districts and states. Yet this is what out latte-sipping, pencil-pushing army of consultants continue to suggest we do.
An example of this type of thinking is amply demonstrated by this post here. Note that I’m not calling this person out and I mean no disrespect, but nonetheless I feel I have to take the time to show just how utterly boneheaded this sort of thinking is, and how important it is to purge it from the GOP before it does any more damage.
According to the logic of this post, Senator David Vitter (who has been an excellent Senator by all accounts) is “damaged” because of the DC Madam Scandal – and therefore Rep. Ahn Joseph Cao (LA-2) should be put up by the party to Primary challenge him because there is no chance Cao would be able to keep his LA-2 seat (in which 70% of registered voters are Democrats) in 2010 – and we need to “save him” (i.e. Cao) from “certain destruction.”
The first thing to note about this “logic” is how eerily familiar it is to every single Republican who has watched in horrified fascination as Republicans have abandoned colleagues under fire (whether they be Presidential nominees or elected officials) when loyalty, and speaking up, was what was called for. Let me be clear here, it is cowardice, it is wrong, it is stupidity, and worst of all, it gives Democrats and their media organs veto power over the narrative without them even lifting a finger. So the @#%! what if a pornstar is going to challenge Vitter in the Republican primary? Is it that no one thinks that Vitter can’t point it out as a Democratic dirty trick?
Barack Obama is probably President today precisely because of the incandescent stupidity of the ILGOP in abandoning Jack Ryan when his child-custody records were unsealed by a Democrat judge against *both* his and his ex-wife’s wishes thanks to the Chicago Tribune and the local ABC affiliate working in tandem with the Obama Senate campaign in 2004. Instead of opening fire on the Chicago Tribune and ABC for a horrible violation of privacy affecting a minor child that neither the Tribune nor ABC would have tolerated if it were directed at a Democrat, (ILGOP Chairwoman) Judy Baar Topinka and her “moderate” friends aimed their guns at Ryan and pulled the trigger.
We’re now being asked to consider doing the same thing, based on similar “logic” to David Vitter. No. A thousand times no. The man came clean to his wife, and his priest and started attending counselling to save his marriage and himself long before this became public, long before he was elected to the Senate in 2004. The GOP not only would be losing a brilliant and loyal Republican in the Senate (a Rhodes scholar graduate of both Harvard and Oxford – the very first Republican to be elected to the Senate from Louisiana since Reconstruction), but we’d also be confirming two things;  loyalty is not part of the Republican make-up and  we’re the intolerant holier-than-thou Pharisees liberals have been claiming us to be for the past three decades.
And as for Cao, if the GOP were serious, Cao would be used as a test case in developing electoral strategies for Republicans to not just win, but hold Blue seats, especially the majority minority districts around the country that we need to start becoming competitive in.
Here’s an idea for anyone who can get this across to Cao’s Chief of Staff; take a leaf from Strom Thurmond’s book.
Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it, especially considering that Cao represents a majority-black district, right? A lot of people are familiar with Thurmond’s past as a segregationist (thanks to the Press constantly reminding us of it – which they pointedly *don’t* do when it comes to ex-KKK Kleagle Robert Byrd’s own equally as odious past), but most are not aware of the fact that no-one, absolutely no-one in Congress during his time and since then was more dedicated to delivering constituent services than Thurmond – so much so that the South Carolina Conference of Black Mayors honored him with an award in 1983, less than two decades since his legendary 24 hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Acts.
Here’s another thing most people don’t know. Up until his last campaign, no Republican in the South got higher percentages of the black vote than Strom Thurmond. There’s a reason for that – yes, constituent services. For many years, his office sent congratulatory letters to every South Carolina High School graduate (of every race and creed) and he personally called families that had just had a new arrival to congratulate them on the birth of his new constituent.
It really doesn’t require a genius to figure this sort of thing out. All this talk of new technology and new media and using it to win elections will get us nowhere if all we have is the technology and no clear idea of how to apply it.
Cao should become the most responsive, most interactive, most constituent service-driven politician in Congress. He should be holding townhall meetings (both online and offline) every quarter to tell his constituents what he’s up to and explain why he voted this way or that way. He should have young volunteers going around the district with questionnaires every month about their concerns. His office should be sending letters to the editor and op-eds to local papers in the district on a regular basis. He should be hosting online forums on his official House website and any campaign sites he might have. He should be talking to radio, especially black radio in the district, and uploading updates, his views on current affairs in Washington and his district, and video endorsements from ordinary citizens of his district on YouTube on a weekly basis.
Look, half the battle is showing up. Cao showed up at least, and opportunity knocked – good for him and thank you, Mr. Jefferson. But remember, that’s still just half the battle. Now it’s time for him and the Republican Party to fight, to fight for the seat. For the GOP to just give up this seat not only loses us strength in Congress when we have an eighty vote deficit, it also provides support to the already deeply entrenched belief in the black community (and other minority communities) that Republicans don’t give a damn about their votes.
So, Cao for Congress 2010. Vitter for Senate 2010. Donate, help them lay the groundwork for their campaigns for re-election. These are two very good men. After those races are won, perhaps we can get Cao to run for Lt. Governor and get him set up for the run to succeed Governor Jindal in 2015.