Sometimes how you say something is more important than what you say. Listening to some of the potential 2012 Republican candidates and reading lots of conservative blogs, I get nervous that people don't understand the basics of messaging. The key point that seems to get lost: candidates that win are optimists. Some applications:
1. Yes we have a terrible debt and budget problem. Yes Obama and the Congressional Democrats have tripled down on a problem that they inherited from the 2000-2006 Republican Congresses and President Bush. Yes, we run the risk of our kids and grand kids paying for the last fling of the Baby Boom generation. So the political positioning can be that the adults have finally arrived at the party and are beginning an era of austerity or that the Republicans are here to save Social Security and the financial opportunity for future generations. The first loses; the second wins.
2. Yes we have a lot of international problems and President Obama has acted like the rookie that he is jumping on emotion without thinking through an end game or a strategy. So the political positioning can be to focus on the decline of America and Obama's abdication of leadership, or it can be a recommitment to our allies (the UK, Israel, Japan) and a vision of the US as the leader of the Free World at a time when the world needs leadership. The first loses; the second wins.
3. Yes there are dimensions in which the Chinese are doing better than we are these days, the Mexican government seems incapable of controlling violence which threatens to spill over into the US (along with millions of illegal immigrants), and capitalism has not yet recovered from the 2008 collapse. So we can be anti-China, anti-Mexico, and on the economic defensive or we can believe that this is still the best country in the history of the world and that our system of political and economic freedom is resilient and will prevail over government-controlled socialist solutions. Reagan will be remembered for his "Shining City on the Hill"; Carter will be remembered for his call to turn down thermostats.
As you listen to the Republican candidates for president, think not only about whose ideology is the furthest left or right, not only about who has the best experience, not only about who is the most competent. Those are not the things that got the "Hope and Change" president elected or the things that will defeat a "Winning the Future" candidate.
Arthur Brooks' 2007 opus, "Who Really Cares", shows that Republicans/conservatives are more giving of time and money than are Democrats/liberals, and that they are happier - partly because they are more religious; partly because they believe in personal responsibility. Lets hope that this shows through in the Republican 2012 presidential candidate.
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