By Bill Wilson
Prescriptions and advice on how to repair, restore and revitalize the conservative movement and the GOP brand are as numerous as attendees at an Obama rally. Unfortunately, these bromides they utter are just as dense and blind to the facts as the Obama-zealots’ incantations.
Most of the writers are honestly looking for a way to rebuild. And many of the suggestions have merit. But far too many still refuse to acknowledge clear, undeniable facts.
First, some put forth an argument that we are trapped in a fight between “traditionalists” and “practitioners.” The thrust of this seems to be that those who want to follow a traditional set of values and issue sets are somehow ignorant of reality, that they do not want to address real problems and concerns of the People. Naturally the practitioners are the noble “realistic” ones who are trying to save the movement from itself.
All this argument boils down to is a rehash of the old liberal, establishment Republicans ruefully putting on a Reagan button while they look to undercut the conservatives at every opportunity. Falling for this divide, even accepting this conflict as the source of conservative troubles, is a delusion.
Sadly, it appears that the GOP standard-bearer has fallen for it. When John McCain and his sidekick Lindsay Graham state that they see their job as helping Obama and the Democrats in Congress, it is worse than a white flag of surrender; it is the “White Feather of Cowardice”. Making socialism, dictatorial social policy and outright censorship of political speech more palatable is not noble. It is suicidal.
Second, the conservative candidates and the GOP didn’t lose because of Sarah Palin, or the hostile media, or even the financial meltdown on Wall Street. They got their heads handed to them because the American people lost all faith that what conservatives say is the truth. All credibility has been thrown away. In an orgy of spending, corruption, and incompetence bred of cronyism and nepotism the GOP and many in the conservative movement treated the people as badly as they could. Can anyone really blame the people for taking a chance on someone new, even if that someone is the least experienced, most radical individual to ever be elected? I think not.
Third, the GOP didn’t lose because it didn’t have the “right message” or “not enough rating points” of TV. It lost because it was fighting a 21st century political war with the equivalent of 19th century weapons. There were outgunned, out manned and out thought at every stage of the battle.
While Obama is mining the internet to build files of supporters in the millions, training those supporters and allowing them to spread the message on their own, and organizing this army into effective blocks that worked specific geography to take specific precincts, the GOP was gleefully bragging about their Facebook pages. It was Pee Wee Herman vs. Hulk Hogan. Not even close.
Worse than the immediate technological deficit, the GOP seems stuck in a time warp. Most of the favored consultants still talk in terms of the right TV ad. But TV advertising, a.k.a., “air power,” is reaching an ever diminishing audience. Meanwhile, Obama was building an on-the-ground force and doing what you are not supposed to be able to do, win with a ground game. Now, it is no big surprise that the GOP consultancy doesn’t look favorably on ground games. After all, there are no commissions in ground operations. But it was the ground game that killed the GOP this time and will continue to kill them until they come to realize that times and communications mediums have changed and changed markedly.
And finally, there is no acceptance by the elite within the GOP or the Congressional wing of their won assets. Obama ran as a tax cutter, not Walter Mondale proudly proclaiming he would raise taxes. He ran as someone who could get things done, not on narrow wedge issues that may now actually be a net negative. He ran on competence and community, two things Democrats have not been known for. In short, Obama ran and ultimately won on GOP and conservative issues and themes.
He stole GOP issues and was able to get away with it because the GOP itself had so badly damaged their right to even speak about them. Who believes the GOP will cut taxes and rein in spending after the eight years of waste and sky-rocketing debt? Who can believe the GOP will put community first when it works against local communities through policies designed to enrich a few at the expense of all. And who can believe the GOP is dedicated to individual liberty when their votes for the treasonous McCain-Feingold and the over-reaching “Patriot Act” are their claims to fame?
Nothing short of a total house cleaning will repair this damage. Nothing less than total commitment to battle Obama and his minions in Congress will energize America. And only a total revamping of the communications strategies and methodologies will enable the GOP and conservatives to take and make their case to the people in a way that might get heard.
There is blame to place. And it is the entire movement that came to believe in its own invincibility, its own genius, and its own right to rule. And acceptance of these facts are the necessary first step. Nothing will happen of any import until it is taken.
Bill Wilson is the president of Americans for Limited Government and a veteran political strategist with 30 years of experience in Washington and at the grassroots. If you would like to interview him, please contact Alex Rosenwald at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 703-383-0880.