There are over 500,000 elected officials in the United States. As shocking as that number is, the bright side is that surely we can find one percent of that total to step forward and truly lead. Imagine the potential of a nationwide sales force of 5,000 people intelligently articulating the problems with Obama collectivism and why GOP platform-based solutions are the way to go instead.
That 5,000 divided by 50 states would mean we’d have one hundred leaders per state. One hundred people with a credible bully pulpit could start to effectively move public opinion, and they could easily multiply their numbers several fold by reaching out to and joining forces with like-minded talent that is not elected.
The reason elected officials must be at the head of the battle for public opinion is that the public isn’t going to follow self-appointed speakers from organizations that wield little political power. Americans look primarily to their political leadership (of whatever stripe), like it or not.
Independent organizations serve an important role, but they are not the answer to the political communications problem we face. Anyone who clings to the idea that outside groups or outside voices alone can win over enough of the political middle reminds me of the article which ran a couple of years ago on the satirical website “The Onion” under the headline, “Soup Kitchen Thinks It Can Solve The World’s Problems With Soup.”
Unfortunately, many high profile conservative commentators on the Internet, talk radio, cable news, or print media approach the political arena thinking they have more reach than they actually do. Guys like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity do fantastic work on radio and TV. But their near-mental breakdown when McCain secured the presidential nomination resulted because either consciously or unconsciously they were coming to grips with the sad fact that a profitably sized talk radio or cable news channel audience will not solve the world’s problems.
Rush and Sean and all the others need to spend more of their time encouraging real political participation by their audiences so more voters will be reached and better leaders elected.
Rush encouraged activism, albeit in ironic fashion, through his “Operation Chaos,” which encouraged GOP voters to participate in the Democratic primary process. Hey, it’s a start. Those same people should now engage their efforts into local and state Republican Party organizations.
New leadership is needed because too much of the current bunch is concerned more with advancing themselves than they are with advancing real policy reforms. That misplaced emphasis has led to a decrease in grassroots political activity, since ordinary people could care less about the local legislator or congressman taking the next step on the career ladder.
In the past I’ve referred to this as a needed domestic political troop surge. It’s my view that we’re going to need a lot of boots on the ground to regain lost territory.
An energized political organization is in part the answer to the cry, “the media is against us, the media is against us!” Okay, we get it. The media is against us. This decades old excuse is getting truly tiresome. I didn’t like hearing it from a nationally known conservative Illinois Republican Congressman back in 1991, and it’s even more pathetic today with all the additional knowledge and resources available to us.
When I write that our side needs to get aggressive, I mean it needs to quit listening to the small minded political hacks that profit from the broken campaign system. For years I’ve been calling on Republican leaders to outsource and hire accomplished marketing, public relations, and advertising professionals from the private, non-political sector, to connect with busy Americans.
We’ve probably all experienced seeing a clever advertisement that conveys a substantive message so effectively it actually changes our perception of an issue. How people think and feel can be changed. When will the guys and gals who hold political power on our side grasp that fact? Let’s hope it doesn’t take an Obama presidency to get our leaders to think and act differently.
Ronald Reagan wasn’t deterred by the media in 1980 and Newt Gingrich wasn’t in 1994. Since then, the leadership team we’ve fielded nationally and for the most part in the states has been lacking imagination and courage to say the least. Today’s Republican leaders need only follow good examples and take good advice.
From the tens of thousands of political and party leaders we only need a relative handful to set a new course. The vast majority of them who are back-slappers, baby kissers, or career builders aren’t winning the battle for public opinion. The dilettantes and socialites need to be replaced with a new generation of leaders.
This is only slightly altered from the orginal version of this article that first posted in June 2008.
Image credit: barbwire.com.