Jay Reding doesn’t write nearly enough, but when he does, it’s always good.
And he does in one post what I did in about ten with my “What the hell is wrong with the MNGOP series” in this piece, “Winning on Principles”:
Everyone looks at the GOP’s problems through the lens of “conservatives” versus “moderates.” That is the wrong way to look at the issue: what this battle really is about is “principles” versus “politics.” The moderates want the GOP to play towards what they see as the political “center”—or the left. The principle-minded factions wants the GOP to stand on a bedrock of principle.
The dichotomy in Minnesota is best shown by watching “Sturdevant-approved” Republicans railing against “extremism” in the party on the one hand, and conservatives calling Tim Pawlenty a “RINO” on the other.
The moderates have a point. If you want to win as a party, you go where the votes are. It’s classic Anthony Downs, the voters fall along a bell curve and the party that can capture the most votes in the middle will win the election.
But the problem is that if the choice is between the Democrats and the Democrats-Lite, why not vote for the real thing? If Republicans start advocating for more government control, they lose the conservative and libertarian wings of the party and end up losing anyway.
Also the country; so many Democrat policies are irreversible; the nation’s addiction to other peoples’ money booms every time the Dems have unfettered power, and short of an epochal catastrophe will never go back to where it was.
There has to be room for both. The GOP cannot win by turning its back on its principles, but it has to be able to advocate for those principles. Being the best conservative in the world does absolutely nothing unless the GOP cannot get others to understand the importance of that stand.
That is the problem with the GOP today. They have no ability to connect with the average voter. They’ve lost the popular imagination, they’ve lost their political “brand” and there is no message coming from the GOP today. Even when they do have a point, they are so ham-handed in making it that they end up hurting each other.
I’ve written it before; conservatism is difficult. When you get beyond single-issue advocacy on abortion, guns and taxes, conservatism takes some serious thought to wrap your arms around. P.J. O’Rourke framed it well in Parliament of Whores; Liberalism is Santa Claus – happy, indulgent, with only hypothetical consequences (did anyone actually get a lump of coal? C’mon) and, in the end, nonexistant; Conservatism is like God – there are immutable rules and consequences, and judgments get made! It can be difficult selling “abstemiousness, principle, consequences and eternal truths” when the alternative is “Barack Obama is going to pay my mortgage and my heating bill”.
It should go without saying that it’s harder when the media actively sabotages that message – and worse still when the likes of Duke Cunningham sabotage it even more. Still, that’s what we’re here for.
Reding notes something I’ve been trying to discuss with my Dem friends:
All is not lost. Obama is a mule—a rare character that comes out of nowhere, establishes power, but leaves no lasting coattails. Obama is a rare individual, which makes him dangerous to the GOP, but the more the Democratic Party becomes a cult of personality, the worse off they are. Obama becomes largely irrelevant no later than 2016, and by then the sheen will be off.
This is a good point. If people thought we had Bush fatigue – for an administration that, leaving the war aside and ignoring for a moment his spending (which was un-conservative but seems almost quaint looking at Obama’s budget) didn’t really do all that much – then Obama is going to leave a toxic hangover, even if he does win re-election.
Now is the time that the GOP needs to regroup and experiment.
That is what the GOP ultimately needs to do. They can’t be afraid of failure. They’ve already failed, now is the time to be bold. Yes, the GOP needs to stand on its principles, but what they really need to do is win on those principles. That means trying everything they can to advocate for their values and seeing what sticks. As badly as Michael Steele’s first weeks on the job has been, at least someone is trying new tactics.
This is a good point. In my job – designing user interfaces – sometimes you need to show the customer a design that isn’t quite right. It gets them thinking about what they do want things to work like – which is the goal in the first place.
Moving in a direction will help people figure out how to move in the direction.
Politics is cyclical, and the Democrats are already sowing the seeds of their own downfall. They will grow complacent and arrogant (and have already), and the GOP will get their opening. Exploiting that weakness will take time and trial. But the Republican Party must learn to stand for something and be able to make that stand one that others will join. That is a tall order, but it is the way politics work in America. Politics is cyclical, and any claim of permanent Democratic majority status is as premature now as claims of a permanent Republican majority in 2002 were then.
Heh. Anyone remember that discussion?
Anyway – go read the whole thing.