David McCullough, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book John Adams, was once quoted as saying that if you want to understand something you need to “marinate” your head in the subject material.
A lot of long-time observers of the political arena who have done just that are coming to the same conclusion about the prospects for the GOP: if it doesn’t return to its principles and learn to aggressively articulate a reform message and reach more voters, Democrats will be elected and taxes will be raised to historic levels to increase funding for failed policies.
Many of our Republican elected and party leaders at the state and national level continue to do grave damage to the cause of good government by their refusal to change their own approach to the jobs they hold. During the past several years these men and women have received plenty of excellent advice about what has to change — from messaging to practical grassroots and communications strategies.
Unfortunately, the Dennis Hastert led debacle, which cost Republicans the Congress in 2006, hasn’t been enough to change the behavior of our leadership.
There is nothing wrong with the Party platform. The limited government, personal responsibility, and traditional values planks found there are as solid as they were when they were adopted.
Everything that ails the GOP is due to our government and party leaders’ failure to take good advice. Instead they act as if they’ve got things figured out, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Too many of them still argue that advancing a limited government message, to cite just one example, is politically impossible. Those who hold that view are too dense to grasp the fact that they have the power to alter what’s politically possible.
They’re not reaching enough people. It really is that simple. Busy Americans don’t find the time to tune into the goings-on in state capitals or up on Capitol Hill. So if Republicans want to be heard, for example, on the subject of expanding oil drilling here in the U.S., they’re going to have to do something besides hold Capitol Hill press conferences. They are going to have to take the message to the voters.
Their failure to get aggressive and work to shape public opinion makes it seem like their entire communications strategy is summed up in the word “hope,” — they hope the media back home will print their wonderfully drafted press releases.
Again, Republicans aren’t reaching enough voters with their message. That’s obvious. The question becomes — what can be done about it? To my knowledge, few people who hold power are even bothering to try and answer that question.
For anyone out there who thinks the best and brightest are serving in the nation’s capital, please think again. What’s worse, most state legislatures are lucky if they have members of the political B-Team.
The most important first step that must be taken for the Grand Old Party nationally is to somehow find a way to elect a Republican president. The second most important step after that is for all the political donors on our side of the political divide to start taking stock of where they contribute their campaign and issue advocacy dollars.
By now it should have dawned on most donors that they’re not getting their money’s worth. They are quickly moving past the time when writing yet another check (big or small) to some knuckleheaded incumbent advances anything. More often than not it’s merely funding someone who through inaction is a barrier to progress.
The money men and women need to set benchmarks for the recipients to meet. Other changes should be considered as well by those who generously help fund the political right.
Some Republican large dollar contributors have complained for years about the mainstream media. It’s not too late for them to put their money where their mouth is by purchasing radio and TV networks. The journalism crisis facing modern American won’t be solved any other way.
No one is a bigger fan than I am of the D.C. think tanks or the State Policy Network organizations. But it seems to me that paying for yet another year’s worth of studies or policy papers begins to produce rapidly diminishing returns.
If an increasing percentage of voters were being exposed to all that wonderful information, I wouldn’t complain. More likely what happens is that with the passing of every year another forklift lifts a pallet full of terrific research and commentary and rolls it into a storage room to make way for the fresh new pallet that is laid out on the floor.
We already have all the material we need. It’s sitting on those pallets in those think tank warehouses. Obviously in the information age much of it actually resides in website archives, but my point is unchanged: too much of it is unused.
The excellent insights that can be found in the non-partisan realclearpolitics.com archive, or in the conservative townhall.com archive is the virtual equivalent of the storage room scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. And it might as well be in that hidden away place for all the good it does us.
Our side has to be fighting on every battlefield. We’ve ceded too much of the media. We’ve also ceded K-12 and higher ed.
Just think about one demographic—the 18 to 30 year olds. Many of them are graduates of a failed public school system, and still others have matriculated through colleges and universities that forty years ago wouldn’t have been able to grant a decent high school diploma. Only in recent years has our side begun to address the unprecedented levels of left-wing indoctrination taking place in educational institutions, many of which are funded wholly or in part by tax dollars.
Is it any wonder that that age group is gravitated to the vapid Barack Obama campaign? Empty heads make a perfect audience for a guy who, as Rush Limbaugh says, can say nothing better than anyone.
The people with the power to do something right now—our state and national party and political officials—no longer have any excuse for inaction. Those with power need to heed David McCullough’s advice and let their heads marinate in reality.
If they fail to heed good advice, change their behavior, and do what it takes to open up more lines of communication with voters, their sorry legacy will be publicized far and wide.
And unlike in the old days where such failure would be hidden away in some dimly lit warehouse, future generations will know with a point and a click that when today’s Republican leaders had a chance to do the right thing, they didn’t.
This is only slightly altered from the orginal version of this article that first posted in June 2008.
Image credit: wikipedia/CTsabre14.