The Republican Party does not have a principle problem or an identity problem. What it does have is a messaging problem. They leadership doesn't understand why their message doesn't resonate, so they don't know what to do to fix the problem (they think they have a plan, but they’re quite wrong). They keep repeating some key mistakes that are costing them elections. They keep relying on decades-old rhetoric and tactics. They keep leaving the people wanting to know more about their policies and not feeling confident enough to cast a vote in their favor because there are too many lingering questions. And they keep trying to pick the most “electable” candidates rather than supporting and emboldening good, honest people who CAN be elected with the right marketing. Essentially, they keep putting all of their eggs into broken baskets. These mistakes are happening again, right now. They will continue to happen until the leadership of the Republican Party admits they have a problem and resolves to do something about it. The hard part is going to be getting the leadership to take off their blinders and open their eyes. The second half of the equation is the easy part. Fixing the problem is no problem at all. I have the fix. It's not complicated or shocking. It's short, sweet and quite obvious to anyone who’s been witness to the last 4 or 5 election cycles. I've got 5 steps to follow, that's it. If the Republicans can follow these steps, and follow them well, the GOP will win this November, and many election cycles to come…
Some might think that Republicans have 2014 in the bag because of Obamacare and the President’s numerous foreign policy missteps, among other things. They’d be wrong. We’ve seen “sure thing” elections in the past that have gone handily the other way. On the other hand, some might feel that 2014 will inevitably end in losses for the GOP, because the media and the Obama campaign machine are just too powerful to allow the Republicans to take back the Senate. They’d be wrong there too. NOTHING is certain, and NO assumptions should be made. The fact is, Republicans can easily take the Senate and put an end to Obama’s reign by taking the steps I’m about to detail. These steps are simple, common sense solutions to the problems plaguing the GOP in election after election. All you need to do to win elections is follow these steps (and spend some money, which the GOP has been doing at record levels anyway without success).
Before I go into what needs to be done, I want to explain how we got here. I have a key, central point that ALL Republicans are missing: We don't have the same America we had in 1864, 1944 or even 1984. This is 2014 America, and Republicans MUST retire old tactics in favor of a new method, based on a new perspective. Let me explain:
For many Americans, the Democrats’ positions rarely need to be defended, because most of the time they sound instinctively good on the surface, whether by accident or design- free healthcare, higher minimum wage, amnesty, more Social Security spending, “give peace a chance” etc. If it sounds good, people don’t ask too many questions, and Democrats aren’t rushing to offer any more info than they have to. Maybe people don't ask because they don’t want to be let down and maybe because they’re really only concerned with the benefits of policies and don’t care about the hidden pitfalls. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the detail beneath the surface of Liberal policies is where things fall apart. So if you think about it, why would they explain more than they have to? Instead of giving details, Democrats come up with positive-sounding names, thrown in a few positive talking points to hammer home, and treat critics as if they're hate-filled bigots for daring to disagree. I can tell you this, Democrats hold steadfast to the adage that “It doesn’t matter what IS true, all the matters is what you can convince people is true”. Now, Republicans on the other hand subscribe to ideas that often sound instinctively negative on the surface- personal responsibility, entitlement reforms, lower corporate taxes, tougher immigration laws, even approving the Keystone oil pipeline to name something specific. But when you get into the details, Conservative ideas make much more sense than what the Democrats propose. Our ideas are more beneficial to individuals' freedom and prosperity, and they’re actually financially sustainable. You just have to get the details out into the hands of the public. Yet, Republicans continue to stick to the surface and won’t show people the best part of their ideas- the details- for fear of having their plans eviscerated before they have a chance to be seen and considered by the American people. Holding back just makes people less willing to trust us and give our ideas a chance because it looks like we’re hiding something when we’re not. At the same time, Conservatives and Republicans don’t do enough to challenge Liberals and Democrats on the details of their own ideas. We can make excuses all day, but the bottom line is we're not doing enough. If we were, the American people would have known before the 2012 election that they could not truly keep their plans or their doctors. That combination of 2 major failures is a huge factor in why the Conservative message neither reaches nor resonates with much of the nation. It’s why we keep losing elections. That is what we have to change. We have to change our entire approach and give the people something DIFFERENT. We need to give them a real choice between the bad ideas and the good ones, and we need to get specific. Often, it’s a simple matter of words. We give Liberals grief for being the “word police”, but in reality they’ve learned to control debates and shape the opinions of Americans by using key words and disguising one thing as another (like “War on terror” becoming “Overseas Contingency Plan” and so forth. It’s stupid, but it actually works!). We have to become better than the Democrats at shaping the argument, and that means changing some key words, but sticking to the substance of our policies. I’m not talking about lying, I’m talking about vocabulary.
Look at it from this angle:
If you got to choose your new boss, and that boss was going to have TOTAL control over you and everything you can or can’t do at work (which is exactly how many Americans see government and politicians’ power in their daily lives), would you rather have Boss Number 1, or Boss Number 2?
Boss Number 1
-Tells you everything you want to hear (positive)
-Gives you “free” stuff (positive)
-Tells you everything they do is to make your life better (Plausible)
Boss Number 2
-Tells you what you NEED to hear (negative) but won’t explain why that’s better
-Tells you free stuff is inherently bad for you (negative) and won’t explain why
-Tells you everything they do is to make your life better, again no explanation (Wait, what?)
Do you see it now? I think it's safe to say most Americans, if given a choice, would go with boss number 1. When you get down to the basic logic of it, "I love you all and I want to give you free stuff" just sounds a lot better than "I love you all and I want you to work hard to buy stuff for yourself". Why? Because this isn't 1776, it's 2014. In America today we have an electorate that needs to hear things a certain way, the 2014 way, and if you don't explain your platform right, they will stop listening and vote for the other guy. Too many Conservatives and Republicans assume that the value of hard work and self-reliance is apparent to all, but IT'S NOT. That's why we need to shift from "work harder" to "this is why hard work and self-reliance are better philosophies than waiting for the government to do something for you..." Many of us understand the need to really dig deep and explain exactly why our policies will benefit every individual, but to be blunt, a lot of the Republican leadership and much of the party as a whole is stuck on the same tired methods they’ve been using since Reagan’s 1980 campaign. They keep regurgitating the same one liners people understood and really got behind 34 years ago (I've been guilty of it myself at times) instead of looking for new ways to explain our beliefs and our policies to a constantly changing American citizenry. We have to change that if we're going to win elections.
So in short, the Grand Old Party must become the Grand NEW Party (tagline?). It might seem like a tall order, but it can certainly be done, and in time for November 2014. This is where we have to start...
The 5 steps Republicans must take are as follows:
1. Define your principles
2. Define your plans
3. Go public
Each step addresses a specific pitfall that Republicans must overcome in order to defeat the Democrats this November. Each of these pitfalls must be eliminated if we're are going to win. It can’t be done by completing just 1 or even just 4 of these steps. ALL 5 must be done. Luckily, none of these steps is exceedingly difficult, so it SHOULDN’T be difficult for the GOP to follow them. But that’s also an assumption…
1. Define your principles- because the party needs consistent, tangible positives to rally around.
Due to a combination of the liberal media, biases in popular culture and the DNC distorting facts, much of the American electorate does not know what the GOP stands for. Often it appears that Republicans aren’t sure where we stand either. In order to defeat the Democrats this November, Republicans have to create a list of principles that we can ALL agree on and run on (Something to this effect was released a couple of months ago. If that’s what the party chooses to rally around then great, but everyone has to come together to celebrate and sell those ideas). Republicans must present a united front if we expect to succeed. How do we do it? Easy- be honest and upfront. We have to tell Americans what we stand for, be detailed and most importantly explain WHY we stand for what we stand for. It's not enough to be for the Constitution, we have to tell America WHY the Constitution is so great, why we need to follow it, and why doing so will make our country stronger, freer and more prosperous. Republicans keep making the mistake of assuming number one- that everyone knows why Conservatives champion small government, individual liberty, free markets and personal responsibility, and number two- that everyone innately agrees with these concepts. There was a time when people simply understood, because of family, faith, education and culture, that small government, free market capitalism and common sense are inherently better than socialism, communism anything else that restricts our liberty or increases the size of government. Not so anymore. They're not learning it at home or in school, so Republicans have to treat every encounter as an opportunity to teach someone about the genius and the greatness of small, separated government and the strength of the individual. Republicans must never ever assume that our principles are known or understood. We should always state them and always explain them, sparing no details. We shouldn’t be just “Pro-life”. We should be “Someone who believes that life is our most basic and important right, and if we cannot be free to exist once conceived, for any arbitrary reason, then we can never truly be a free society at all.” We should be “Someone who believes that the more we learn, and the more we trust science to answer the question for us, the more obvious it becomes that a fetus is more than a collection of cells. It’s a unique individual with unique DNA who deserves a chance at life and liberty.” We should back up what we say with facts, figures and studies, know the ones that liberals will likely use against us, and have responses ready for them. This topic is just one example, but the same goes for every issue, especially the hot button issues like abortion, gay rights and immigration. If we over prepare our candidates for these topics we’ll avoid devastating gaffes (the GOP can’t afford another Todd Akin). People don’t want to know every detail of every experience that lead Republicans to our principles. They want to know that Republicans can empathize with their situation, and they want to know how Republican principles will affect their lives and their wallets. That’s what we have to show them.
2. Define your plans- because Americans are convinced we’re the “Party of NO”.
It’s one thing to have a set of principles. It’s quite another to have ideas, plans and policies that you believe will benefit America. Republicans can’t rely on Americans’ dislike for Obama or other Democrats to get them over the 50-Senator threshold. Americans are in the dark about just what Republicans truly think will make good solutions to the problems we face. That’s partially because of the media, and partially because Republicans tend to shy away from giving too many details about their policies. As I explained above, they’re afraid that if they give too much, the Democrats and the media will tear their ideas to shreds before they’re ever given a fair shake. They’re afraid the “bigot” “sexist” and “racist” cards will be thrown down and the game will be over before it begins. And for some reason Republicans think that playing it close to the chest is the way to combat this, but in actuality it makes it look like they’ve got something to hide, even though they don’t. If one candidate tells you “I’m gonna give you free stuff” and the other says “That’s bad, we should do it my way instead and not give people free stuff” then they don’t explain what they mean or WHY their way is better, OF COURSE people will go with the first candidate over the second! Republicans have got to show Americans exactly what they want to do AND why. How do they do this? Again, we must be honest and upfront. We must tell America EXACTLY what we want to do and why. We must detail our policies and get specific. We must explain that we don't have all of the answers but do have great blueprints for building better foundations and allowing the people to shape their own futures. Republicans need to thoroughly differentiate our policies from the destructive, freedom suppressing, success limiting, self-righteous policies of the left, and we need to frame it in those terms. Every time a Republican criticizes a Liberal policy, they need to site specifics and explain exactly how it limits freedom, makes it harder for people to succeed (particularly the young, the poor and minorities) and takes money out of people’s pockets (again focusing on key Liberal demographics- if you can prove that the Democrats are harming the very people they claim to be protecting, AND give those people a better alternative, you can get their voters on your side). Republicans should even ask for input from the people, ask them what they want from their government and respond with either how our policies will do just that, or how our policy is actually a better way that will help them achieve more than they thought possible. We must tell Americans WHY our policies are better than those of our opponents, and tell them how our plans will give the people more liberty and more prosperity. People want government out of the business of making decisions for them, and out of their wallets. Republicans should tie every policy back to those two points, and explain how each specific policy we support will afford Americans more liberty and put more money in their wallets. Republicans need to let the people know we are going to give Americans the ability to decide their own fates, and get government out of their way. And we cannot forget to explain exactly what it is about big government that hurts people and keeps them from reaching their full potential. We’ve got to tell voters what is wrong with Nanny State policies and tell them exactly what’s right with individual responsibility and self-reliance. Republicans can’t assume that people either know or like our ideas anymore. A fair tax or flat tax may make perfect sense to you and I, but we've got to explain it and sell it to every voter at every opportunity. The same goes for every policy we've got. Whether it’s immigration, foreign policy, taxes, education, healthcare or anything else, the GOP has to detail what we want to see happen and we have to sell it directly to the people. We should never assume our ideas make sense to everyone, or anyone at all for that matter. We should instead assume that our policies are confusing, and explain them in terms that anyone can understand. Republicans must explain our policies again and again so that voters know why our ideas are better for them than what they've been getting from the left. We should spare no details. Couple this with an explanation of the principles behind the plan, and we’re well on our way to victory. The next step is making sure that the people actually receive the message…
3. Go Public- because the media won’t deliver our message, so we must do so ourselves.
Republicans have to contend with a highly critical, liberally biased media. That's just the way it is. We have to contend with Democrats who have become more and more brazen in lying to the American people, and it doesn’t help when the media gives them a pass on their deceit. Republicans get harder questions, more scrutiny and no benefit of the doubt. People are either aware of this fact or wouldn’t care if they were. Pointing out the injustice isn’t getting us anywhere, so it’s time for a shift from whining to circumvention. The GOP has to combat the media with a full frontal assault. They must stop relying on the networks to fairly relay their message to voters. That’s like asking Al Qaeda to fairly represent America’s positions to their recruits- it makes absolutely no sense! Republicans need to take their message directly to the people. How? Once again, we need to be honest and up front. We should utilize ads that QUICKLY point out SPECIFIC flaws in our opponents, then explain EXACTLY what we will do differently to be better and to fix problems. Americans become desensitized to negative ads, but pointing out an opponent's flaws or failures in 5 or 10 seconds, then focusing on positive solutions will give them the positive alternative they’re looking for. The GOP should utilize EVERY available social media tool to constantly and consistently spread our message. We have to go into heavily Democratic counties, knock on doors, ask the people what they want in a leader and show them how we have what the people want. People respect candidates who will offer themselves up for tough questioning from constituents who they know disagree with them. It's something the Obama administration refuses to do because their candidate can't answer tough questions without weeks of prep or a teleprompter. Republicans have to give voters a reason to go to the polls and vote FOR our candidates rather than against someone else. We have to offer an alternative- candidates who will take questions from EVERYONE, and address EVERYONE's concerns, even people who have never voted for a Republican. THE GOP should buy time during network news broadcasts to run ads that directly counter media bias. We can run 30 to 60 second ads simply detailing our principles and summarizing our plans (1 principle or policy per ad). We can buy 1 hour blocs on each network spread out over time, and use those slots to stand with other members of the party, speak directly to the American people and detail exactly what we want to do, exactly why and exactly how we plan to do it. We must appeal to the people the way Ronald Reagan did if we're going to be successful. Again, if we explain to the people that the Conservative way will get government out of their healthcare, education, businesses, etc. AND out of their wallets, people will listen and the GOP will win elections. Again, some Conservative plans sound negative at first. Words like “responsibility” aren’t very attractive, especially in the new America, so Republicans have to oversimplify and over explain EVERYTHING in order to show people that we actually have very positive, highly beneficial ideas. We're going up against people whose “gimme” policies just simply sound more attractive. You don’t have to like it, but you’ve got to understand it, accept it and also understand that the only way to fight back is to show America that our plans are definitively and demonstrably better for America in the short AND long term. I know, it's not fair that people gravitate toward liberal policies because they sound good on the surface. It's unfair that people don't like Republican policies, even though they don't understand them, just because they sound harder or less “fun”. It's not fair that Republican plans receive more scrutiny and more criticism in the media. But life is not fair, and the GOP has to accept the fact that we're going to have to work much harder than liberals do in order to win elections. It's just what we have to do, at least in the short term. So we need to go Nike and JUST DO IT.
4. Mobilize- because without votes, nothing else matters.
Election wins will not come without very high voter turnout. Voter turnout elevated Obama to the Presidency in 2008 because Liberals were fed up with George Bush and minorities were excited about finally breaking through the most prominent glass ceiling in politics. In 2012, Conservatives turned out, but not nearly in the numbers we saw from Democrats in ’08. Obama’s team pushed hard, scared a LOT of people and got the necessary voters off their butts and out to the polls. In many cases they physically brought them to the polls. Obama's team mastered the art of voter turnout, now the GOP must PERFECT it! If Republicans are going to get the wins we need, we HAVE TO beat the Democrats at mobilizing voters. That’s all there is to it. We can learn from their tactics (the legal ones that is). We have to rally the base by telling them the truth about the situation- this November is going to be very close, and the GOP needs EVERY single vote we can muster. We’ll need to rally independents, by telling them that this country is governed by those who show up and let their voice be heard, appealing to their patriotism and appealing to their sense of duty. Republicans should tell the people that we all have the right to vote, but when you don't exercise it, you relinquish credibility, and so when you take issue with the policies of a government you refused to take part in, you have no standing. We need to demonstrate the failures of the Obama administration and tell independent voters exactly what we will do to fix his failures and set us back on a solid path. Independents want a CHOICE, not Obama light or an Obamapublican. Republicans can't be afraid to be bold and different. We need to get people excited about our policies. Local chapters of the RNC should organize voter sign ups and organize transportation to the polls for EVERYONE who needs it. It’s going to cost money, but we all know you have to spend money to get results, and if we spend like this is a presidential election, we will win. Republicans need to get young voters excited about their futures. We need to get older voters nostalgic about returning to a strong and prosperous America. We need to get minority and low income voters excited about a positive alternative to big government, and get them excited about having more freedom to make choices on their own, more money in their pockets, and being treated as equals rather a than pawns in a political chess game. Republicans have to give people a reason to be motivated and give them a reason to vote FOR our candidates. It's not nearly enough to rely on people voting against Democrats. If we can do this effectively and produce a large enough voter turnout, the GOP can easily take the Senate and pick up extra seats in the House this Fall.
5. Repeat- Practice makes perfect. Don’t try until you get it right, try until you can’t get it wrong.
The Grand Old Party must become the Grand NEW Party (tagline anyone?). Day in and day out, Republicans must speak directly to the people and tell them about ourselves. We must let the people know who we are, what we believe, and why we believe it. We must tell Americans what we plan to do to make this nation whole, put people back to work, and restore our standing in the world. We have to tell them just how we plan to do it, and why our way is better. We must spare no details, and no expense. We must speak to our fellow Americans early and often, through every outlet we can get our hands on. We must utilize technology, but should not forget the old stand-bys like mailers or a good old fashioned knock on the door. It’s not a one-size fits all situation either. We have to cater our approach to specific states and counties to achieve the best results. Republican candidates must be open and honest at all times. If the GOP does this, exactly this, on a wide scale across the nation, we can't lose. But as soon as we let up or begin to cut corners, we’ll condemn ourselves to failure.
For this plan to succeed, it’s going to take cooperation from Republicans and Conservatives in every corner of America. From the establishment and rank in file members to the tea party and the libertarians, we must stand together, and let America know who we are and why our way is better than what the liberals have deemed their best try. We have the better principles, and we have the better policies. We have to sell them to the people, which shouldn’t be too hard considering how much better we can make America with our ideas. If we follow these guidelines, we will see a stronger, freer, more prosperous America in the very near future. We can make it happen, but we need a plan of action and a set of agreed upon principles. The party must decide how inclusive it wishes to be. We must find common ground among the libertarian wing, the tea party and the longstanding establishment members of the House and Senate. That's where this plan comes in. It’s a road map to victory. Blanks will need to be filled in, and agreements to disagree in the short term will have to be struck, but we can win with this plan. This plan is not all of the answers, but it’s the beginning of a new direction. It's short and simple. It's subtle but assertive. It will win, I guarantee it. The only obstacle is getting Republican politicians to agree and take action, particularly those who are stuck in their ways. But together, we can do it. We've got to do it- for America, for our children and for all those who came before us who sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for you and I to be able to enjoy liberty. If liberty is to endure, we must act, boldly, and it must be now.