Resolved: 2009 Will Be a Better Year for the GOP
New Year's resolutions for the era of "Hope and Change."
December 31, 2008 - 12:00 am
It is the season for New Year’s resolutions. In keeping with the tendency to turn resolutions into advice columns I’ll join the brigades of advice-givers and offer some guidance for those both in and outside of the Beltway.
For my fellow pundits, everyone enjoys a good take-down of an intellectual opponent, but when it devolves into “Blogger A is all wrong about his criticism of Blogger B’s take on the fight between Bloggers C and D,” just stop. Really, no one other than Bloggers A-D is following. More importantly, there’s a world out there of events, politicians, legislation, and campaigns. That’s where the action is. The danger to the right blogosphere is that is becomes a closed circle of inside gossip, increasingly irrelevant to the political and intellectual life of the country.
For the RNC chairman candidates and the voting members of the RNC, remember how the Republicans lost the White House and control of the Congress. The voters don’t like Republicans much these days (and that includes conservative voters). Who is going to be a positive, effective, and articulate leader of the minority party? If none of the current crop of candidates fits the bill go draft someone who won’t embarrass Republicans on Meet The Press, doesn’t think Twitter is a bird, and understands that a majority party means getting more, not fewer, adherents to your cause.
For the Senate Republicans, choose the battles wisely. If there are one or two cabinet nominees whose public character and current legal predicaments are troublesome (you know who they are), grill them at the confirmation hearings and make the case against their confirmation. But the other guys won and the vast majority of the nominees deserve a swift and courteous confirmation hearing. Likewise on legislation, the filibuster can only be used for the big stuff — card check, for example — when the Republicans have the better of the issue and a hope of prevailing. So the rest of the time the most the Senate Republicans can do is offer alternatives, warn against the foolishness of the majority, and fight to investigate wrongdoing and abuse.
For the 2012 presidential candidates, just pipe down. Go do your job if you have one or, if you don’t, be a constructive force to reform and revitalize the party. But no one really wants to see you lurking around coffee shops in New Hampshire or attending prayer breakfasts in Iowa. There is no such thing as “inevitability,” so save your money and frequent flyer miles until 2011.
For the Republican governors, ignore Paul Krugman. Cut spending, balance your budgets, lure business to your state, and reform your schools and health care systems. There will be plenty of bailout money sloshing around the states, so resist the urge to try to spend your way out of a recession. Be an example for Washington, not a proponent of fiscal sloth.
For young Republicans, ignore the official Republican Party. Organize yourselves and your friends, network, run events, draft up-and-comers to run for local and state office, and ignore the ideological squabbles that transfix the national party. Talk radio and the right blogosphere want to hear from you and will give you a platform to make your case, if you can say it well. (But hint: no one over 30-years-old, which is most of the voters, understands technology so when you go out in public forget the tech-speak and tell them what you want to do, not how you’re going to do it.)
For conservatives, resist the urge to scream “But he was against that in the campaign!” each time President Obama embraces a center-right position. Yes, he swindled the left, but that’s a good thing. If you want a sane approach to the war on terror, no tax increases, free trade agreements, and a halt to the war on traditional values make it easier, not harder, for the new president to move right.
For Republican candidates, remember that media bias is a fact, not an issue. No one wants to hear you whine or complain about the skewed coverage. Deal with it. Use alternative media and don’t become unhinged even if the MSM is “150% in the tank” for the other side. Remember, Ronald Reagan won twice with no talk radio, no Internet, and no Fox News.
For the conservative base, don’t make Republican candidates crazy and boring. Winning candidates rarely please the most ideological elements in their party on all topics. Forcing contenders to get a 100% rating on all the conservative interest group questionnaires will make for inauthentic and unelectable candidates. Interesting people with a rich life experience often adopt eclectic ideas. They need not be rudderless, but neither do they need to be pale imitations of dear-departed conservative icons. Give the gals and guys willing to seek office some running room — they are going to need it.
Just like resolutions to learn a foreign language or exercise more in the upcoming year, these faux resolutions likely won’t be kept beyond Valentine’s Day. But we can hope for the best. It is the era of hope and change, isn’t it?