November 12, 2008

We need to get moving!

First off, let me begin by saying I am an avowed Reaganite, just in case there's anything in my previous posts, or posts that will follow that might confuse you on that issue. I recognize that there are many Republicans who believe that we need to moderate the party's approach to reflect the times. And I recognize the fact that some new ideas may be ones that the party should embrace.

However, every new idea must be looked at through the lens of real conservatism - there is a reason that generations have passed down tradition and social norms that have existed for centuries - they work. If a new idea doesn't pass the test of something that meshes with core conservative principles, then it's not something that should be embraced. For example, campaign finance reform puts limits on free speech, ergo freedom. It doesn't fit. It should not be something supported by conservatives, and therefore the Republican party. That the Republican party is no longer the "pure" standard bearer of conservative ideas is a shame. But it is fixable. And it must be fixed, otherwise, as others have said, the Republican party becomes Democrat-lite, and doesn't win. Or if it does, what price victory? If the nation simply moves to the left at a slower pace, it is still moving left.

But now is not the time for civil war. Now is the not time for internal melees. Now conservatives of all stripes must determine what can be agreed upon, and build out from there. Slowly and thoughtfully. Because as I have been arguing, the Republican party has to work very hard on getting it's ground game in place, and it's air (broadcast) game too. A purge/bloodbath accomplishes nothing but handing the Democrats more seats in 2010.

Yes, the party needs to broaden it's base - for example, Hispanics are a growing segment of the population. They need to be a part of any strategy. This is where reformers can meet traditionalists. Broaden the outreach to Hispanics, but in a way that meets the guiding principles. In other words, do not bend your philosophy to fit the circumstances, but rather have a vision and through outreach, guide people to the wisdom of your vision. Yes, the specifics of a particular effort will need flexibility. But therein lies the challenge;

Be creative in applying your principles to new problems.

Find the issues that are important to a constituency, and solve them in a way that follows your principles. Then show them the merits of your ideas, in ways that speak directly to their concerns.

Take illegal immigration for example. If you embrace legal immigration, but remain tough on border security and crack down on illegal immigrants, how does that sit with the Hispanic community as a whole? Are they angered because someone they know is affected? Are legal immigrants happy because they went through the struggle to become citizens or get working visas the proper way? Is it something else they feel? And what are the demographics and raw numbers of specific feelings? Maybe a tough stand on illegal immigration makes perfect sense. Or maybe a better solution exists that appeals to the Hispanic community and still has conservative principles embedded in it.

Creative thinking is needed.

Just because we are conservatives doesn't mean fresh ideas are anathema to us. Aren't we the party of logic as opposed to the party of emotion? Are there no conservative thinkers left? Of course there are. William F. Buckley was not the end of the line for us. We are still thoughtful, resourceful and clever. Get the ideas, then sell the ideas. That's where the branding, positioning and marketing can win hearts by using emotion if necessary.

[UPDATE: After writing this, I found this link today, specific to Hispanics and conservatives and the GOP ]

And that's where having boots on the ground and media on the air helps. Not just in election cycles, but every year, year round. Conservatism requires that people continually be educated about issues. Democrats have the advantage of only talking about feelings. It feels bad that American is in a war in Iraq. Okay, but why is America in a war? You can stick with feeling like the Democrats do - "Bush is an evil person". Or you can talk about freedom, democracy, national security etc. But that needs education of the target audience. That doesn't just happen in a September to November home stretch, it takes time. That's why it's got to start now.

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