“On the really big things it is repetition that matters. I think our leadership has to get back in the habit of understanding that if you truly want to have a dialog with America, with over 300 million Americans, you have to pick a handful of big ideas, you have to talk about them endlessly, and gradually, over time, you’ll build an echo effect and a resonance and the country will learn and you’ll have a genuine dialog.”
— Newt Gingrich
In the spirit of repetition, what follows below is what I posted a year ago today. A year later the challenge is still the same – the construction of a real Republican Party. Without political infrastructure in place, don’t expect the message to reach enough people.
Posted: February 08, 2008
The sniffling anti-McCain conservatives meeting at the annual CPAC conference had better blow their noses and wipe away their tears and wake up to their failures when it comes to building a real political movement.
The CPAC attendees that I saw interviewed in media reports are probably good hearted, well meaning people. It’s probably a good guess, however, that they don’t exactly understand what the word “action” means in “Conservative Political Action Conference.”
Let me be clear: I am a conservative who agrees with that crowd on most every issue. What we disagree about is who is responsible for where we’re at today, and what every conservative in America needs to do about it. Attending conferences isn’t on the to-do list.
Their most important work is to hold accountable all those so-called “conservative” elected officials who are already in government or party office – not just U.S. Senator John McCain. A lot of toil and treasure has been poured into getting all those other men and women elected. If most of them were doing their job, we’d be winning the policy debate nationally.
Next, a lot of those CPAC types need to refresh their memory about what it takes to build a real local and state party organization. Are they helping to raise money for good conservative candidates? Are they finding ways to work the press? Are they presenting credible conservative solutions to busy Americans who need to hear them explained clearly? Are they recruiting new people into the process?
I’d bet most of them spend a lot more time listening to talk radio than they do engaging in real grassroots political activities.
Hearing them whine is much like listening to retired Congressman Dennis Hastert complain aboutJohn McCain. For crying out loud, Hastert was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for eight years – the equivalent of two full presidential terms. His problem never was John McCain – it was his own lack of vision and inability to advance conservative principles.
During all those years no one except the President of the United States had more power than Hastert to build something. Instead, Hastert and his merry band accomplished so little that voters saw Nancy Pelosi as preferable. That wasn’t John McCain’s fault.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who are so slow to learn that politics is about moving public opinion – and that labor will only be successful if more people pitch in and do their part. We’ve said it before – citizenship can’t be delegated.
Republican candidates and office holders, especially, have been lax in engaging in activities appropriate for the task at hand (see here and here).
It’s time for big money Republican donors to also wake up and realize that they need to spend their resources wisely. Funding individual ego trips, ivory tower think tanks, corrupt party organizations, and ineffective issue groups isn’t getting the job done. A little soul searching and honesty about the return on their investment is in order.
The left gets it. The right still doesn’t. One good case in point is the American public school system. Thousands of school districts around the country fail to adequately prepare their students for life, but they never fail in the public relations battle. School district employees give an inordinate amount of time and energy to driving media coverage and as a result, the public mind is impacted. Their P.R. efforts are ongoing, and they pay off in protecting the status quo.
If conservatives are ever going to make up the ground they’ve lost, they’re also going to have to quit relying on the political hack class to save the day. The Karl Roves of the world are auto mechanics, not people fit to run BMW. Clever campaigns that trick or cajole accomplish nothing except the advancement of one person’s ambition to hold office.
©2009 John F. Biver