Professionalism and practicality too often the missing link for conservatives

We’re just about two months away from the February 2nd primary election and it remains to be seen how many of the good guys will live to fight in the general election. Readers of this column know who I’m referring to when I say the “good guys.”

To get those worthwhile candidates to victory on primary election day is going to require a lot of practical political activism, as well as more competence than Illinois conservatives are known for. If that’s too harsh in your view, I’m open to explanations of how we’ve arrived where we’re at as 2009 comes to a close.

Politics, like government, isn’t business. But like business, it’s typically not difficult to see if an operation is being run effectively. Is a campaign going to be celebrating on election night? Are the candidates being supported by all those independent groups on the way to victory? Like quarterly earning reports and weekly sales receipts, it’s possible to see the trajectory early on and know whether or not success is on the horizon.

The TEA Party movement, the 9/12 Project, and other independent focal points for conservative activism are heartening to see. The town hall meetings back during the Congressional recess in August were encouraging for all of us who have been working to awaken a previously sleepy electorate.

Now that we’re seeing concerned citizens get up off their couches and in action like they haven’t been in years, it’s critical that all that energy isn’t wasted. For decades, conservatives have entered the arena only to burn out due to failure. Instead of practical activities that are sustained, poor leadership and wasted energy causes good people to throw up their hands and exit the field.

Since the late 1970s, conservatives have formed countless organizations and held countless “conventions” and conferences. Despite all of that, we got Obama, Pelosi, Reid, governmental failure and debt no matter which party held power at the state or federal levels. Exceptions exist here and there – a few states have been more prudent – but they only prove the rule.

My colleagues and I aren’t saying we have all of the answers. But we are saying that after decades of watching much trial and mostly error, it’s not difficult to see when mistakes are being repeated.

One quick example: How many of the TEA Party and 9/12 Project folks are currently helping on a political campaign? Helping how? As a volunteer – doing anything from door to door, manning a phone bank, helping to raise money, or the myriad other activities that every good candidate for office desperately needs in order to win.

And how many are merely talking amongst each other, planning yet another meeting or rally, or spending an inordinate amount of time setting up organizational apparatuses instead of doing the kind of work that will actually get good people elected?

Conservative principles aren’t the problem – the people who would attempt to advance those principles are. Are they honest about measuring progress? Changing direction if what they’re doing isn’t working? Are they honest about what they don’t know about the political business? Do they know the difference between those who know how to get the job done and those who don’t?

In business the chain of command exists to foster circumstances where those who understand how to succeed are in charge. It’s very common in business even for outside experts to be brought in to identify and fix problems. That’s a practice that should be witnessed far more in conservative politics.

It’s not difficult to figure out why conservatives fail in the political arena: they don’t utilize the best methods, tools, tactics and strategies, or take direction from the most experienced and accomplished political players.

Political conservatives have a lot to be hopeful about as 2010 approaches. But as many Americans have learned from the Obama 2008 campaign – the word hope comes with no guarantees and can leave people empty.

The day after the primary – February 3rd – will tell us a lot. In a year when Republicans should gain ground – a lot of work will be required during the last two months of this primary season. We desperately need the right Republicans carrying the banner into the general election.