Tuesday’s elections swept Republicans across America into office, but what do freshly elected Republicans need to do next?
1) Realize They’ve Not Sold the American People
Victorious Republicans should enjoy their election victory, but they should also understand it does not mean that the American people have bought wholesale into conservative political philosophy, as is so tempting to believe after a big election. After George W. Bush’s victory in 2004, Hugh Hewitt wrote Painting the Map Red. After 2008, James Carville wrote 40 More Years: How Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation. Both books turned out to be overly optimistic political pornography that played to the fantasy of what victorious political activists wanted to believe rather than what really happened.
The American people have not been sold on conservatism any more than they were sold on President Obama’s left-wing philosophy when he was elected. The waves of the last three elections indicate Americans are unhappy with both political parties. Voters expect a competent, responsive government that does not tread on their rights. They have not been given that.
This does not mean conservative ideas can’t be put on the table. On the contrary, the ideals of limited government and economic opportunity are essential. However, any legislation needs to be approached with the understanding that the American people have not already signed off.
2) Develop a Communications Game Plan
Democrats have traditionally sacked incumbent Republican governments when the Republicans failed to plan how to communicate their actions to the American people. For example, in 1995, President Clinton vetoed a continuing resolution to keep the government running because it required the budget be balanced within seven years. This led to a government shutdown, which to this day is referred to as “when the Republicans shut down the government.” Republicans could have done better in their public relations battle had they had a plan. Instead they let the Democrats and a hostile media define the event. They should have been on the air with ads attacking Clinton for not agreeing to balance the budget more expeditiously.
In the twenty-first century, the focus need not be on paid television advertising alone, but Republicans need to have a plan for overcoming media bias and explaining what they’re doing to the public.