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Bryan Preston


March 19, 2013 - 11:12 am

The GOP is full of lose right now. This is mostly unnecessary. It’s always worth taking stock after a defeat, but the 2012 defeat seems to have caused the party’s elites to consider jettisoning many of its core principles. The party’s official autopsy has managed to not only miss some important lessons of 2012, it is now exposing rifts within the party on some issues. This is not leadership, it’s foolishness.

Probably the most important lesson that the autopsy misses is the importance of quality candidates. A strong candidate can motivate base voters and win over voters in the middle, without abandoning principle. This has been the case at least since JFK and the dawn of the television age. In 1960, Nixon was easily more qualified, but JFK won people’s hearts and, thanks to that plus some chicanery in Chicago, won. Two more recent cases in point, from both parties: Barack Obama and Marco Rubio. Obama defeated a field of candidates in the 2008 Democrat primary, all of whom were more qualified than he was, and went on to win the presidency promising “hope and change.” What did that even mean? He didn’t say and the press didn’t ask, and a majority of voters didn’t care. It sounded good and he looked good saying it. Despite his lack of a record, Obama presented a sunny, youthful face and delivered eloquently written speeches with conviction. He didn’t write his own speeches and he didn’t mean probably 90% of what he said in them, but he was convincing when he said it.

Rubio overcame the GOP establishment, stuck to conservative principles, and won statewide in swing state Florida. He defeated the sitting governor, who at the time was Florida’s most popular politician in either party. Both Rubio and Obama won hearts on the way to winning minds, as Kennedy did before them, and Reagan in between. Carter won essentially the same way in 1976, promising to be an outsider who would rid Washington of the stink of corruption. Four years later he’d been revealed as incompetent, but it took sunny Ronald Reagan and his considerable communications skills to beat him. A less inspiring candidate always has a hard time unseating an incumbent. I’m not saying that records and ideas ultimately don’t matter. They do; they just can’t usually power a bad candidate to a win, and can’t often overcome a candidate who looks the part. I’m also not saying that I’m happy about any of this. It would be nice if qualifications and records mattered more than charisma, but mostly, they don’t. At least, not when the race is close.

Quality candidates tend to win; weak candidates tend to lose. That’s just the way it is.

What can the party do about this? Nothing that most activists would like, but on the other hand, jettisoning principle is a sure loser. Voters presented the choice between 90-proof politics and 10-proof aren’t likely to be inspired by the weaker choice. Lack of self-confidence doesn’t tend to produce fervent followers. Nobody will put their body on the line for a whiner who looks likely to betray them at the first sign of danger. To paraphrase John Kerry, how do you ask a man to be the last man to knock doors for a wimp?

The RNC’s autopsy ignores the value of strong candidates and, in signaling the possibility of abandoning principle, is making a major strategic error in not taking the reaction among its base into account. As I wrote yesterday, political activism is an optional pastime for most Americans. Most Americans are too sane to do politics for a living. People get into politics and organize with a party to support some policies and oppose others. What happens to a party’s activist base, though, when it signals abandonment of the policies that have brought its activists out? I’m not talking about occasional voters, but core supporters.

An activist friend of mine in Virginia explains it all very clearly in an email today.

I’m so disgusted with the R’s at this point, especially my governor, who has worked to pass the largest tax increase in VA history.  What’s the point of wasting good shoe leather for these a**holes?

What’s the point, indeed?

Reince Priebus, Bob McDonnell, he’s talking about you. This is someone who has spent hundreds of hours of personal activism and undoubtedly thousands of dollars of personal money to support and elect Republicans just in the past few years, in a critical swing state. This person’s activism was close to full time for more than a year, while also holding down an actual full-time job. This person is a genuine leader in the party and spent considerable time and treasure supporting Bob McDonnell. McDonnell ran and won by being solid on socially conservative issues and as a real fiscal conservative. The tax increase he’s contemplating is reading as an abandonment of the latter. McDonnell is repaying this person’s efforts by doing the opposite of what he promised. “A**hole” may be too mild a response, frankly.

Write this reaction across the entire party. Betray your base, and you run the risk of turning them off. They won’t go over to the Democrats. They just won’t turn up for local meetings to organize the party and promote it, they won’t give to candidates, they won’t give a damn.

This is how you grow a party? The RNC is going to replace people like this…how? With voters who only tune into elections at the last minute and make their decisions based on heart and gut?

The Republican Path to Success now looks like this:

  1. Annoy your base by agreeing to do what the Democrats want.
  2. ????
  3. Win, baby!

The Democrats have figured things out. They’re running a full-time campaign outside the DNC to keep the party’s activist base engaged and motivated. They’re still getting emails signed by Obama himself. There are risks involved with this, mostly in the possibility of burning activists out, but the upsides so far outweigh the downsides. Its base is happy, mostly, and the conflicts within are easier to paper over when they all feel like they’re still on the team and they’re keeping the other team on the defensive. In politics, offense tends to be a strong defense.

The Republicans barely engaged their base during the election, and have done nothing to counter OFA afterward. The autopsy tells many in the base that the party really doesn’t care what they want and will take their activism, their money, and their votes for granted. This is not a recipe for success.

Oh, look — Republicans didn’t cave on a core issue, and they won despite not even having the majority in the Senate! Will they learn anything from this?

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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Top Rated Comments   
The R elites seem obsessed with the Hispanic vote. That is political catnip. the Hispanics vote as a block, the look to the government as the source of wealth and prosperity, and they are securely indentured to the Democrats, save a few hardy individualists among the R's. Doing what would have to be done to swing a measurable fraction of the Hispanics greater than the number that vote Republican now would kill the party with whites and others who would be sickened by the pandering.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Republican party has done worse than merely "cave" on issues and not energize its base. Its putative leaders have in effect bought into the far-left Democrat definition of issues hook, line and sinker.

There is no fighting back in the face of a blizzard of race cards that would do the conclusion of Alice in Wonderland proud. There have been no policies, no pronouncements, no statements on race to fight back against being wrongly portrayed as the party of the KKK, instead of the party that fought the party of the KKK, which is KKKurrently in power.

Had the Republicans an articulated position on race, it would not be looking to cave on amnesty in the futile and fatuous hope of picking up a few Hispanic votes in the role of Panderer #2. The current Republican me-tooism on this issue shows that the "leadership" of the party is basically a mangy dog looking to score the Democrats' voting-base table scraps.

Nowhere has the Republicans' sheer wimpiness been on display more clearly than in the same-sex marriage debate. Same-sex marriage is a trivial issue in terms of the problems facing the Republic, which is one reason the Democrats are pushing it so hard---but the Democrats are also pushing it hard because it is a wedge issue that cuts through the entire society, as it was intended to be when the communists founded the gay-rights movement.

One need not go into the pseudoscience that undergirds that movement or the history of the movement's communist origins; these require the ability to think and to read history, and the public schools have ensured that these skills are as lacking on the Republican as on the Democrat side of the aisle. One need merely point out that marriage is not a civil right; that a movement which has been based, from its inception, on its members' DIFFERENCE FROM the rest of society has no basis on which to demand---demand!---that its self-described different relationships be treated identically to those in society at large. Domestic partnership protections, yes; "marriage," no.

A principled opposition on this issue would also take advantage of what is a "teachable moment" on the Bill of Rights and equal protection, and point out that the objective of this political push is not merely to divide and marginalize the Republicans, but to gut the protections of the First Amendment. There is ample evidence for this---but the Republicans remain silent.

On all three issues---race, immigration, same-sex marriage---the Republicans have persisted in allowing their opponents, nay, enemies, define the terms of the debate. If you play according to the enemy's rules, with the enemy's equipment, on the enemy's field, you have all but ensured your defeat before you begin.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (16)
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EVERY Republican that I know is disgusted with the party. The turnout for the next election should be abysmal and Hillary will walk into the Oval Office to continue the destruction of the country. Just the thought of listening to her shrill lying voice for eight years is horrifying.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Some chicanery in Chicago town"?

Not in effective use by kingmakers/kingbreakers of monopoly media? RICHARD Nixon, rival to their "king" their permanent villain? Media To which the hierarchy of the GOP, e.g. Karl Rove and followers, pander?

Plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose. From the 1960 presidential election, the first after the 1957 launching by the Soviets of their Sputnik.
Kennedy the First to carry the flag for the "revolution of the 1960s" .

To their "New Kennedy" of Chicago in 2008.

The "New Kennedy" BH Obama's logo a circle with the sun from the East rising over a "new dawn". With promise/intention to "fundamentally transform" America. 1960 - 2008 !

Who is, what is this BH Obama who recently spoke triumphantly of HIS "Sputnik Moment"? WHAT do We The People known about him other than the "metaphor" put forward by his "congregation"?

This the" Messiah" of the DNC and troops? Who now openly tells us openly he is to finish the job of that "revfooution" that began in that 1960 Chicago. That "revolution to Fundamentally Transform" to CHANGE the USA,

That social enterprise, that "community" of which he and his supportive spouse volunteered during their campaign for the job of POTUS they were both "ashamed".

DESPITE which announcement the members of that "community" gave him/them the "keys to the kingdom".

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Keyes to the Republic Vol. 4 Constitutional Debt
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama is a photogenic Front Man for the faceless, unelected masters
of the Democratic Machine. Rubio is an Hispanic, in Florida.

What the Republican _National_ Committee thinks is irrelevant because
national office is irrelevant; It cannot avoid and will not be able to cope
with the coming economic collapse. State and local office is where the
action is, where the potential to wield real power lies, power earned
the old fashioned way, by meeting the needs of the voters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Autopsy Report blames the Republican Party for being too involved in process and not enough involved in people. Then it goes on in length about changing the processes within the Republican Party to make it more effective.

(More training, more education, we need to hire a chief digital officer - by May, 2013, by June 2013 - we need to increase our field staff, we need better pollsters, and on and on.)

The Autopsy Report didn't mention if it was a particularly bad idea to call a review of the Republican Party an 'Autopsy', but it did seem to like the word.

I applaud the RNC for looking to improve it's success, but unfortunately it did not. It was a report from perfunctories about perfunctories. No heart. No soul. No life. No life? Yeah, I guess 'Autopsy' was a pretty accurate term.

RNC, the path to success is through the culture. Rip back the culture!. We've ceded cultural territory to the Liberals for years, decades even. We are left to watch helplessly as the Liberals use the Hollywood Media to define us as Troglodytes. No matter what we do, or say, our message is distorted.

We are Pro-Life. The Hollywood Media calls this Anti-Woman. We are Anti-Porn. The HM calls us Anti-Sex. We are Anti-Welfare. The HM calls us Anti-Black. We are Pro-Legal Immigration. The HM calls us Anti-Hispanic. No matter what we do or say, the Hollywood Media distorts our message.

The road to success is clear, but we have a lot of work to do. Take back the culture. Never apologize to the Hollywood Media. When they attack, we attack. Reject them when they try to define us - reject them vehemently.

The TEA Party is the shining grassroots success of the Republican Party. Welcome the TEA Party with open arms. They know how to fight. They know how to win.

(The TEA Party is the General George S. Patton wing of the RNC. They sure as heck know who the enemy is and how to go to war.)

The first thing the RNC should do, however, is round up all the perfunctories who created the Autopsy Report. Move them to a tall building in New York or DC. Tell them, "Great job. We need more data. We need you to create a new paradigm for us." Have them file quarterly reports, and maybe, just maybe, we can keep them distracted long enough so we can find a way to win an election or two.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Add to McDonnell's list of sins his refusal/reluctance to sign the voter photo ID bill in a country where many of us have lost all confidence and trust in the ballot box, coupled with his rush to reinstate voting rights for convicted felons.

Who's side is this guy on, exactly? The law and order, law abiding Virginian or is he simply a nicey nice guy who gets rolled by every grievance mongering group that puts the slightest bit of pressure on him?

Law and order, play by the rules people are mostly silent, in case the good guvnor hadn't noticed. And why would he? We don't bang our spoons on our high chairs incessantly. We just vote for people who say the right things and we expect them to be true to their word.

Just do the right thing, Bob.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Just do the right thing, Bob."

Too late! His signature policies have disqualified him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If, miraculously, the party got behind a decisive conservative candidate with a winning personality, there would still be the problem of Republican etiquette: a Republican NEVER tells the American People just how viciously destructive the Democrat agenda is of their future and what a gang of knaves and thieves the Democrats are. The country is being murdered. And yet...nice people don't say such things. The curse of Republicans is that the bottom line for them is that they be seen as respectable. More important than survival itself. The Republicans will not engage in a no holds barred fight...ever. And that is why the country is a dead man walking
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My governor in Ohio, Kasich, is doing the same thing McDonnell wants to do in Virginia -- raise taxes. Kasich isn't worth my shoe leather, either. I emailed the Republicants in Columbus to let them know I won't support Kasich's idiotic tax scheme to tax services that were never taxed before. I doubt I will get a reply from the RINOs that run the party.

Kasich campaigned as a conservative, but he's now acting like a RINO.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>>Oh, look — Republicans didn’t cave on a core issue, and they won despite not even having the majority in the Senate! Will they learn anything from this?<<

No, they will not learn from it. It's called "The Stupid Party" for a good reason. Hopefully, its leadership has finally taken the stupidity far enough that it will cease to exist. The U.S. is stuck with a two-party system under current rules/regulations, but the GOP does not have to be one of them. Given how its treated its members over the years, it doesn't deserve to be.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The R elites seem obsessed with the Hispanic vote. That is political catnip. the Hispanics vote as a block, the look to the government as the source of wealth and prosperity, and they are securely indentured to the Democrats, save a few hardy individualists among the R's. Doing what would have to be done to swing a measurable fraction of the Hispanics greater than the number that vote Republican now would kill the party with whites and others who would be sickened by the pandering.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In other words, where the party is headed, will lead to it's ruin. Constitution Party, here I come!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Seven Principles Of The Constitution Party:

1) Life: For all human beings, from conception to natural death;

How is that going to happen? Abolish involuntary manslaughter/war?

2)Liberty: Freedom of conscience and actions for the self-governed individual;

Yes! As long as self-governed individuals' consciences and actions do not harm innocents!

3) Family: One husband and one wife with their children as divinely instituted;

Singles excluded? Or is there a divine exception for them?

4) Property: Each individual's right to own and steward personal property without government burden;

Yes, but what if my personal dogs are rabid?

5) Constitution And Bill Of Rights: interpreted according to the actual intent of the founding fathers;


6) State's Rights: Everything not specifically delegated by the Constitution to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution to the states, is reserved to the states or to the people.


7) American Sovereignty: American government committed to the protection of the borders, trade, and common defense of Americans, and not entangled in foreign alliances.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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