Moving Republicans forward in American hearts and minds

A week ago, I did a post that sought to find issues common to the greatest number of conservatives — and I got a lot of wonderful help from you guys in the comments section. I still hope to turn it into a more widely read article, but I’m a little bogged down in real world work right now (the kind that pays the bills).

In some ways, it was a silly, almost school-girlish effort (or a Rodney King-ish, can’t we all can’t along exercise), but I think it was still an important one. Lorie Byrd might agree, since she wrote a column today pointing out the damage conservative divisiveness is doing to our chances to stop the Hillary juggernaut:

Many Republicans are battling over the reason for the 2006 losses and come down in different camps. Some think the cause was not enough Republicans running as strong conservatives — especially on the issues of spending and immigration. Others think the blame lies with those Republicans who preferred their side go down in defeat to punish those who did not take a strong enough stand on various issues. I think it was a little bit of both. Too many Republican politicians were too squishy on issues like spending and immigration and let the Democrats campaign to the right of them. That never should have been allowed to happen. There were also some in the Republican party who decided they would prefer a loss to punish the party in the hopes that the result would be a return to more conservative principles. Those people sure got what they wanted, but I wonder how happy they are with Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid.

One big problem I see right now for the GOP is that some factions within the party are too busy trying to convince each other they are right about what went wrong in 2006 that they can’t come together to build a strategy that will win elections. There are many things that can be done to elect conservative Republicans, including recruiting attractive candidates with strong conservative credentials. There are also many ways to ensure another Republican defeat. Unfortunately I am seeing a whole lot of defeatist behavior. Here is a short list of things I see some Republicans doing that could ensure another loss in 2008.

1. Instead of taking positive action and doing the hard work necessary to elect strong conservative candidates in the primaries, whine about how the Republicans aren’t any better than the Democrats. It is sure as heck a lot easier to whine than to make phone calls, stuff envelopes and knock on doors for conservative candidates.

2. After a primary candidate is chosen (without any help from you), forget about how many more positions on issues you and the GOP candidate share, and forget how far left their Democratic opponent is, and instead work against the Republican in the general election (or withhold support from them) to “send a message.”

3. Instead of disagreeing in a civil manner over various issues with those in the party, get emotional and accuse those on your side of being mean doodyheads. (If anyone doubts this is going on, I will gladly share evidence of it with you, but will admit that generally a word worse than “doodyhead” is employed.)

4. Bask in the misery of another loss and instead of working to get conservative Republicans elected in 2010, try to pull as many others as possible into your negative state of being.

Okay, those were just a few suggestions. There are literally thousands of other ways to lose elections, but those worked pretty well the last time around.

I particularly like the “mean doodyhead” reference, which could only have been written by a parent!

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  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    The Republicans lost because Presindent Bush (and Republicans generally) were out of step with the swing voters who decide close elections. To re-establish their majority, Republicans either have to change their views to match those of the swing voters (for example, get out of Iraq, no matter what the cost), or state their case better and change the views of the swing voters (for example, on the real threat to America represented by 9/11 but now viewed by the swing voters as something of an isolated incident, maybe even one we provoked by our own actions).

    In the end, Republicans will either (1) abandon their true beliefs; (2) persuade the swing voters to share those beliefs; or (3) lose.

  • JJ

    Hard to go in for broad generalizations like that, DQ. I am not so plugged in to the national psyche as you may be.

    I would suggest that, as is often the case there were the usual panoply of local issues about which the rest of us know little. I say this only because one republican in one of my states got croaked for reasons that I would doubt anyone in the country outside his district ever heard a word about – and that’s always the case. (This happens to democrats too, of course.)

    There is also the historical reality that mid-term elections are usually bad news for the incumbent party, and that Bush reversed that in 2002 says nothing beyond that he did that in that year.

    It also needs to be taken into account that this was an unusual election year. There have been 30 elections in my life so far; and 2006 was only the 8th that was held during a war. Since 1900 there have been 54 election years, only 14 of which were war-time elections – so it’s something of an anomaly. I don’t know that it’s smart to draw broad conclusions from anomalies.

    If you accept – as democrats seem to – that 2006 was a repudiation of the war, fine. But then, what does that say about originalists on the supreme court? Or “s-chip” legislation? Or a fence between us and Mexico? Or a thousand other “issues?” Well… in fact it tells us nothing about them. I’d be a hell of a lot more careful then Nancy Pelosi seems capable of being about her “mandate” – I’m not at all sure it means what she thinks it does.

    My personal belief is that in 2006 a lot of republicans got caught in what would be perfectly normal democrat behavior – “earmarks,” general crookery, etc. – but their base expects better from them and isn’t going to tolerate that kind of crap from the adults in the room. The democrat base seems to have no standards; the republican base does, and with standards come expectations. Republicans voters do “send messages,” and do indeed punish their candidates and office-holders – democrats do not. (This is the benefit of not having standards.)

    That the republicans promptly went out and re-elected the same leadership that engineered the mess does not augur well for the future, either. This bit of splendid idiocy did – and does – annoy a lot of republican voters, and they may well elect another round of punishment: there are those who didn’t have to face the voters in 2006, who a lot of people think are well past their “sell-by” date. The party has pissed off the voters, and they may well turf a few more them out.

    What the party needs to do is state clearly, and then adhere to, the basic values and true beliefs – just the opposite of abandoning them. The 2006 congress tried abandoning those principles, look what happened.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    The swing voters voted Democrat in order to solve the border and Iraq, in your view DQ?

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    JJ is right that some elections swing on strictly local issues, but overall I believe that 2006 was a repudiation of Bush generally and of the Republicans total failure to persuasively articulate why we should be in Iraq. Nationally, it was a one-issue election.

    I’m somewhat strident on the point, because I believe that any Republican who thinks Republicans can take back control by appealing to the Republican base without winning the hearts and minds of the swing voters is delusional. If the party adopts that approach it will suffer a major defeat in 2008. The base has to be satisfied enough to stay in the fold and motivated enough to work actively for the party, but the mass of voters in the middle have to be persuaded Republicans are right, and that is something else altogether. I didn’t feel the original post adequately expressed that, hence my comment.

    It’s all well and good to talk about beliefs we share. But we must persuade a majority of voters to share those beliefs with us. That, we have not done. Until we do, we will continue to be a minority party, only saved from time to time by the fact we turn out our voters better than the other side does.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    P.S. The vote in 2006 was not a vote for Democrats; it was a vote against Republicans and especially against Bush. Few of the swing voters think the Democrats have answers but they weren’t at all happy with the answers the Republicans in charge were providing. When what you are doing isn’t working, try something else, even if you don’t know if the something else will work either.

  • Al

    While I am sure some of the result of the 2006 election was due to swing voter and even some Republican voter dissatisfaction with the status of the Iraq War (how could it not be in the face of the Main Sewer Media distortions of the war), much of the result was due to a very smart tactic by the Democrats. They ran individuals with bonafied conservative credentials in conservative districts who ran to the right of Republican incumbents.
    In politics you can’t avoid appealing to some of the things your voters are against, but most of a winning campaign is based on positives, economic growth, intellectual growth, freedom of action.
    And we do need a healthy infusion of Reagen’s Eleventh Commandment. Don’t speak ill of a fellow Republican. Which also translates into defend a fellow Republican when the left smears him or her. Some of us need a spinal column transplant.
    Al

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    So, DQ, why did the Democrats win seats and elections if their policies weren’t working either? If, as you say, that the one issue was national security, why then would Democrats win for doing the same thing as Republicans?

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Y-man, Please re-read my P.S. The Democrats were not preceived as doing the same thing as the Republicans. The swing voters, who overwhelmingly oppose our continued presense in Iraq were hoping the Democrats would get us out. Having elected a Democrat Congress without accomplishing that, they will vote for a Democrat for President for the same reason unless Republicans do a better job of convincing the swing voters either that Republicans will do a better job of getting us out, or that we shouldn’t leave until we have accomplished our goals there. Both of these are hard sells, but we will lose unless we succeed at one of them, and we certainly will not succeed if we don’t understand the problem.

  • pacificus

    The losses of ’06 can be laid, at the margin, to the inability of republicans in general, and the administration in particular, to explain why we HAD to go into Iraq and take out Saddam, and why the bold neo-conservative plan to establish a democratic bulwark in the midst of the Middle East was and is the best alternative. We need allies in the region as much as we need to prevent Iraq from being a part of the problem. This is also why it is imperative that we stay in Afganistan as long as it takes to quell this Islamofascist onslaught. But these important points have not been articulated well enough or often enough to influence that margin of voters that made the difference in 06, and will again in 08 if it is not properly addressed.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    The Democrats were not preceived as doing the same thing as the Republicans. The swing voters, who overwhelmingly oppose our continued presense in Iraq were hoping the Democrats would get us out.

    So your position is that the swing voters will believe Democrat lies, aka promises, because the alternatives are harder? To me, it is pretty hard to be continuously fooled like that, without some intense work put into it.

    Do we need allies because the swing voters perceive America as weak or do we need allies because we can’t rely upon the swing voters to hold the shield wall? The answer drastically changes the allegiance game. This is a simple reference to what pacificus said, to flesh out the theme over swing voters.

    either that Republicans will do a better job of getting us out,

    If the swing voters can so easily be deceived by Democrat promises of pull out, why then can the Republicans not be able to sell a chance at victory rather than withdrawing from the Middle East? As I noted before, America is not against occupation, it is against living enemies that are in the same territory that we occupy. Without those enemies, Americans can sustain occupations lasting in the numerous decades, as with Japan and Germany. Why then do the Republicans have to conform to your strategy, Don, and do the same thing as the Democrat are planning to do, given that you said that the Democrats won by doing something different than what the Republicans were pursuing?

    When what you are doing isn’t working, try something else, even if you don’t know if the something else will work either.

    Yet you would predict that the swing voters will continue to try what failed, which is to get Democrats to pull out of Iraq. The Democrats have been voted into the House of Representatives and the Senate, and they have not yet successfully pulled out of Iraq or conducted any radical policy changes from before. So why is it when the Democrat plan isn’t working, you believe people will keep on trying the same thing to make it work while when the Republican plan doesn’t work, you then counsel the Republicans to change to become more like the Democrats?

    or that we shouldn’t leave until we have accomplished our goals there.

    In the end, what saps Republican foundations is the fact that they are agreeing with the Democrats that US forces will eventually leave. This weakens the foundation to the point where you are at a disadvantage in terms of negotiation power. The Democrats already have what they want, they just can’t get it implemented immediately or even soon. If the Republicans succeded in convincing swing voters that we won’t leave Iraq until the goals have been accomplished, this simply is another form of retreat and getting out.

    This strategy position was created by Bush’s beginning responses and initiatives, and can’t be radically changed by current individuals. Whether Republicans succede in pulling out before the Democrats or convincing people that more needs to be done, doesn’t change anything since the underlying foundation will still be “when are we leaving”. That is a foundation that provides innate advantages to the Democrats and disadvantages to the defenders, the Republicans or anyone which prefers a permanent alliance and base in the ME.

    The Republicans cannot effectively counter-attack by trying to get ahead of the Democrats in becoming more Democrat than the Democrats. Although, they have tried this as election season panics in before and now. There is no long term gain to such, however.

    Your premise, Don, is incorrect concerning what the swing voters want. Since anyone that can be deceived by Democrat promises essentially does not know what they want nor how to get it. What they want then is determined by outside forces, outside forces that are more powerful and strategically more secure than the swing voters.

    The Republicans cannot defeat such systems simply by playing politics. Even if the Republicans succeded in convincing people to support staying in Iraq for some nebulous “other” goals, they would still be powerless in the sphere of real strategic control, initiative, and power. Those three things are contained in convincing people that what they want is what you want.

    The Democrats convinced the swing voters that the swing voters wanted what the Democrats wanted, which is to pull out of Iraq. The swing voters and other forces, such as the Democrat’s allies, convinced the Republicans that the Republicans wanted what the Democrats wanted, which is an end to the bloodshed in the Middle East and the eventual withdrawal of US forces there. This is real power and it sets the conditions and strategic possibilities for all else, including political maneuvers.

    The Republicans are trying to do a better job, and they are failing precisely because they are not doing a job, rather they are fighting a war. The two are diametrically opposed, although sometimes they complement each other.

    A job may be seen as a work done through teams and teamwork to create something constructive. A war is fought with teams but with the express intention and goal of annihilating and defeating the other team, maybe not for all time but at least for one or two generations. It is essentially destructive, not constructive as a job would be primarily classified as.

    Certainly the Republicans can win at some temporary persuasion and political games, Don, but in the greater war they will always lose until they can step outside the Democrat narrative and create their own terms for negotiation and their own strategic possibilities not limited by Democrat designs.

    The constant defensive crouch, represented in Bush’s actions as only reacting to attacks, is a losing proposition in war. You must attack and bring the war to the enemy’s territory, if you wish to win. And the Republicans are still fighting on their own territory and trying to defend it, whenver they say that “we will leave when…”. Such actions have essentially given up useful terrain that could have been defended.

    War has its own arena of convincing people. It’s called insurgency and counter-insurgency. The US system has succeded partially because the enemy was always something foreign to the national consciousness. Therefore insurgency and counter-insurgency was always, or mostly, practiced by a united America against a foreign exterior enemy. This changed during the Soviet Era and changed even further after America was the lone superpower left.

    Now America is so powerful that people don’t really feel the need to pool their energies into fighting an external enemy. Now they have time and energy to plot against each other, since fighting other Americans under the shield of the Constitution is far cheaper and more effective than waging wars of conquest or defending foreign territory like Iraq or France. Far more profitable too.

    None of this is going to change if the swing voters vote Democrat or Republican or Independent.

    Rather than have the Republicans try to convince people how to leave Iraq, I would forward the proposal that the Republicans start convincing people to stay in Iraq, indefinitely. And if that doesn’t work, then you can depend on the terrorists and the Democrats to ensure that in the future, America will be weakened enough that she won’t have the time or energy to fight amongst ourselves. We wjll either end up as Britain, a socialist paradise for a time, or engaged in total war. This solves most of the problems and will probably win the war in the long term. However, this would be a pyrrhic victory at best.

    It doesn’t solve the issue of honor though. America will never be great until she recovers her honor, integrity, and will. Without those things, the Constitution is meaningless and powerless. British Common Law certainly didn’t protect the subjects of Britain from another aristocracy in the guise of bureacrats.

    Iraq may be the last and final chance for America to regain her initiative and her motion in human affairs. God does not give such opportunities every century.

    But these important points have not been articulated well enough or often enough to influence that margin of voters that made the difference in 06, and will again in 08 if it is not properly addressed.

    The broader strategic vision relies upon smaller tactical successes. In this case, haditha, Plame Gate, RatherGate, Abu Ghraib, WMDs, UN Resolutions, etc. have clearly demonstrated that the Republicans can have well articulated strategic objectives out the wazoo, it will not matter since all the tactical battles are won by their opponents.

    Tet, of course, demonstrated that you can lose out tactically while winning strategically. Although that was partially due to dumb luck and primarily due to allied infiltrators working inside the walls of the US. A spy inside the walls is worth 30 soldiers outside was, I believe, the age old formula.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Come on, Y-man, it’s not that complicated. The swing voters want America out of Iraq at whatever cost. They believe the Democrats are more likely to get us out than the Republicans. They forgive the Democrats from not having done so already because the President has been an effective roadblock. Solution? Replace the President with a Democrat and watch the boys come home.

    Either Republicans accept the will of the people (by agreeing to withdraw from Iraq in defeat) or change that will (by persuading the majority of voters that there are good and sufgficient reasons for staying) or lose.

    I assume you don’t want Republicans to lose and I seriously doubt you will accept a withdrawal in defeat. Thus, I’m guessing you will try to persuade the majority that it is in America’s best interests to stay as long as necessary. I hope you succeed. But to have any chance of succeeding, you must understand the nature of the task.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    The swing voters want America out of Iraq at whatever cost.

    Meaning, if it was more complicated than that, this would undermine your position?

    Essentially, if the swing voters could want something more than that which you just stated, it would create more opportunities and choices, would it not.

    As it is, you are giving an either or scenario which naturally limits the choices available to Republicans. Such scenarios are strategically limiting precisely because they don’t allow the participants much choice. Could be good if you are winning, could be bad if you are losing.

    Replace the President with a Democrat and watch the boys come home.

    Certainly the logic might go that way, if the premise was correct. But I don’t think your premise is correct, Don.

    or change that will (by persuading the majority of voters that there are good and sufgficient reasons for staying) or lose.

    And how do you propose to change that will given that people already know that the US will be out of Iraq, that it is just a matter of time? Why would the American people view Iraq as a long term benefit if the US is going to leave there? Long term benefits are usually seen by long term relationships and occupations, at least from the American historic perspective.

    Thus, I’m guessing you will try to persuade the majority that it is in America’s best interests to stay as long as necessary.

    I don’t think that’s the right path to go. In that you can try to persuade or convince or explain things, but events have progressed to the point where such things are no longer effective. Even if America agreed to stay, it would only be temporary until the next Haditha or psychological warfare operation changes their minds. I would prefer a more permanent solution, one which won’t be as susceptible to the notorious tendency that democracies and republics have with turning on their own heroes, leaders, and causes.

    The nature of the task seems to be quite mercurial. Bush convinces people, then Democrats convince those same people that Bush lied, and here we are so to speak. Are we to continue this cycle? It is like the cycle of violence, it must end somewhere and somewhen.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Okay, Y-man, what plan do you propose the Republicans follow in 2008? What is the right path to go? Your comment on “the tendency that democracies and republics have with turning on their own heores, leaders, and causes” sound like an excuse for dictatorship. Sure, it’s possible to turn the swing voters away from their “heroes, leaders and causes” and even against their own, and their country’s, best interests. That’s why the Republicans have got to take seriously the business of persuading them to share the Republican view of what is best for them and their country. Aside from defeat or capitulation, what other alternative is there?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    what plan do you propose the Republicans follow in 2008? What is the right path to go?

    I think in general, I can sum it up as “defeat the Democrats at their own game”.

    Or if the Republicans can’t stretch that far, they can and should shore up their defenses so that the Democrat attack machine can’t do the damage that it has been doing. That’s not too much to ask, is it.

    sound like an excuse for dictatorship

    It is just a reality people have to deal with, as Plato had to deal with when his mentor, Socrates, was ordered to take poison by the Athenians Socrates served.

    The FOunding Fathers recognized the fallacy of democracy and majority rule, long ago, Don. It is a problem that has to be dealt with, and the Republicans are not dealing with it while the Democrats are taking advantage of it for their own purposes. Such is not the way to wisdom or success.

    That’s why the Republicans have got to take seriously the business of persuading them to share the Republican view of what is best for them and their country.

    Except the swing voters were never persuaded into the position that they are in. They were mislead, lied to, and etc to get them into the position that they are in. You can beat the Democrats at their game and still be more ethical than them, except for the fact that ethics is hard. The Republicans may not be able to do such, and if they can’t, then they may settle for short term damage control. Meaning, they might settle for what you proposed, Don.

    I’m not saying persuasion is a step back, Don, I’m just saying it won’t win the Republicans anything in the long or short term. Not given the current strategic situation, anyways. If things change, say an attack or an asteroid destroys Mecca, well then obviously things would be different.

    Aside from defeat or capitulation, what other alternative is there?

    In war, there is always an alternative, with proper planning of course. You have to have the right pieces in place, and currently the Republicans are lacking pieces because they keep giving it up or misusing them. The right pieces at the right time, such as a Cronkite, equals a victory.

    So my focus is more on strategy rather than demographics or numbers. I am more concerned about convincing the right people to do the right things, rather than persuasding the swing voters on any given subject.