Thursday, November 6, 2008
Where Did the Republicans Go Wrong?
In a word, Competence.
The autopsy on this election cycle for Republicans has already begun. Two camps are forming, like they do after every Republican loss. Should the party go to the right or to the center?
The political scientists believe that the Republicans should go to the center. After all, it is easier to find uncommitted votes in the middle. They want to plot a strategy that will satisfy those waffling centrists.
The party faithful, mostly want to move more conservative. They argue that conservative principles give a passion to the race that motivates the base and draws all Americans to a distinct difference between the two parties. They believe that the Left withers when a clear comparison of the ideals of the Left and the Right are placed against each other. Some would even prefer to go down fighting for what they believe in, even if it is not a winnable strategy.
The reality is that the political scientists have it all wrong, and the party faithful have it mostly wrong. The difference between John McCain and Ronald Reagan was not position on the issues, it was command of the issues.
While John McCain may be supremely qualified to be Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces, when he said, “The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should”, not only was it a gaffe exploited by the Democrats, it was also an admonition of incompetence. Before the economic storm hit in October he seemed to be satisfied with his ignorance, and was left scrambling for answers. When Barack Obama dropped his guard and let some of his soft socialist sentiments slip out, John McCain lacked the wherewithal to offer a different vision. Sure, he could note the dark connotations of Obama’s words, but his understanding of economics was too poor to score the kind of knockout blows that flowed so freely from the mouth of Ronald Reagan.
The fatal mistake that Republicans have made for a decade now, is wanting to win politically and strategically, but not morally and intellectually. We need to stop complaining about the coach and start hitting the weight room. We need to do our homework. Those who want to be the Republican leaders of tomorrow need to stop trying to “Rebrand” their ideas, and make them deep and clear. They must know what they believe and why, to be expressed with an elegant ease that burns through the slick veneer of silver-tongued salesmen.
The problem for McCain and all of the other also ran Republican primary candidates was that no single person was fully competent in every aspect of their belief. None rose above mediocrity in their grasp of economics, defense, and social issues. So you disagree with the party base. Who cares? So the political center doesn't agree with you. Doesn't matter. Know what you are saying and stick with what you believe. If you are confident, passionate, and accurate, you will persuade.
So my advice to Republicans? Stop trying to look better, just be better. Get to work.
Addendum: This Ann Coulter piece just cracked me up. You can hate her, but you have to admit she's funny.