Over the past year, particularly in the last few months, the talk of the Republican Party has been about strategy and tactics. Essentially, it comes down to two methods of fighting.
- Try to appeal to a wider variety of voters, particularly the independents.
- Fight hard-line on the issues that the party platform was established on.
This fight has become bitter as both sides of the split within the party are vying for control and attempting to make their case. The figurehead of “our side” (RedState, other conservative activist groups) has been Ted Cruz. As an outspoken opponent of the stagnation within the party and and advocate of traditional conservative values, Cruz is a lightning rod for both sides. Ben Howe has already gone over Thomas Sowell’s piece on Cruz, so I won’t re-hash that. But, Sowell is a conservative icon in his own right, and the split deepens when those two names are pitted against each other.
Sowell, like others among D.C. Republicans, feel that the best strategy is not to divide, but to unite. The problem we face, however, is that those same Republicans are also dividing, attacking conservatives and doing everything in their power to work against them. The idea of “uniting” for a Republican majority is somewhat absurd right now, given that neither side can really prove who attacked the other first. Unity, as it stands, seems a distant goal.
So, with the Republican politicians and pundits divided on policy, how can one expect their strategy, the strategy of broad appeal, to work?
The other problem with that strategy is that the Republicans advocating it are the same ones who are silent in Congress and provide few ideas of their own, recycling party-line soundbites to make it appear as though they have a plan. The strategy is flawed when the “strategists” sit on the sidelines and offer nothing of any particular value.
The “conservative” strategy (I didn’t put it in quotation marks to belittle it, only to offer it an easier name than “the second one from the top of the post”), meanwhile, is one of strong rhetoric and outspoken opinion. It’s not hard, then, to see why people shy away from it in the more grandiose D.C. circles. It’s not bad to be outspoken and strong in your speech, but when it comes down to a city of “Who You Know” being important, offending the wrong person is a bad, bad thing.
However, polling across the states is showing more and more that the voters, the base of the party, prefer the strong rhetoric and outspoken demeanor. Why? Because it means the politician is sitting idly by while the country goes to Hell in a Dodge Viper.
While it seems obvious that the conservative strategy is the winning strategy, the D.C. circles don’t get involved. Why? Because their interest is not in those ideals espoused by the conservative strategy. It restricts their power when conservatives want to shrink government. So, they create a strategy that fits their needs and go with it. The problem with that strategy is that it has the opposite effect they’re going for. Voters lose more faith in Congress as simply nothing gets done.
Those Republicans in D.C. who cry out against Cruz want a Republican majority. Karl Rove tried to engineer a permanent one (for those not keeping track, he was unsuccessful). But, when Cruz and Mike Lee spent the summer talking about defunding Obamacare, and controlled the narrative, the polling followed them. Voters were engaged and their ideas were, if not popular, more heavily considered.
The winning strategy is simple: The outspoken reach the voters, the strong appeal to them. Right now, Obamacare is flailing, reports show the Democratic idea of raising minimum wage would hurt jobs, and other plans prove just as expensive and unhelpful. Seizing that narrative should be a given. But it’s not. The Republican leaders intend to just coast to victory, but it’s harder to coast on flat ground than on a slope created by negative Democratic polling.