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Robert Wargas

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March 20, 2013 - 1:06 pm

In my previous post, I mentioned in passing that school-vouchers need to be revived as a key issue for Republicans. I’ll broaden this and say that education in general should be moved to the center of the debate. For too long the Democrats have been allowed to slide by without having to talk about how they’ve helped to wreck the American public-education system. Putting education front and center will highlight the absolute devastation that liberal “education” has brought to lower-class black and white kids; it will also target an area of our public life that is a key part of the cultural “narrative” in this country.

There is a caveat to this, though: The issue has to be talked about as though it were a local issue. Voters are tired of hearing issues talked about in the abstract: “We will fund education,” “we will protect our children’s future,” “we will go after unions,” etc. It’s bogus. No one listens. Be like Reagan: frame the issue in smaller, working-class terms. Win over a new segment of Reagan Democrats. There are plenty of blue-collar types out there, many of them Democrats, who aren’t and have never been fully on-board with the interest-group liberalism of that party. I know many of these people. Long Island, where many local Democrats tend to be pretty conservative fiscally and culturally, is full of them.

There are also many younger teachers who are seeing how difficult it is to get full-time jobs in today’s education system. They are stuck with subbing, or teaching in inner-city schools full of apathy and violence. If they do get a full-time gig, it’s with a private school or charter school, and they are surprised at the quality. I had a liberal acquaintance recently tell me she’s sick to death of the rhetoric against private schools by unions and their Democratic enablers.

Do NOT frame the issue in theoretical, abstract, elitist terms. Don’t say you’re going to abolish the Department of Education. (Good idea, but not prudent at this juncture.) Don’t say anything except that Democrats are destroying education, have been doing so for at least 50 years, and that’s it’s time for a change. Then lay out an agenda: better standards, foreign-language instruction at earlier ages, English grammar, funding for science, etc. Lay off tax cuts for a minute and first win over some people with other dinner-table issues.

“But, but, but…that’s abandoning our principles of tax cuts!” No, it’s not. Who said anything about abandoning that? It’s simply forcing the other side to talk about an issue they understandably don’t want to confront. It’s not “re-branding”; it’s putting your full brand forward. Liberals have NO ideas on education. NONE. The record is pure failure.

There needs to be some heavy linkage here too, including tying the issue of education to urban blight in general. Detractors will say that Republicans have tried this before and that it hasn’t worked, the media doesn’t listen, the culture’s rigged, blah blah blah. Well, you have to try. If you hammer away at this loudly and often enough, it will become part of the so-called national debate. It should be part of the more general strategy of putting the Left on the defensive. I know it’s tough with the media. But the way to handle the media’s power is by refusing to answer every little charge of “racism” and instead hammering away at some fresh new issues. They will eventually be forced to cover what we’re talking about.

Keep everyone on their toes by triangulating, linking, refusing to answer “racism” charges, and introducing frequently ignored issues. Change the subject frequently and don’t let them get too comfortable. When they think they have the answers, change the questions. Stage media stunts. Contracts with America, Tea Party rallies in Washington. (How about a Contract with the Children of America?) Take a page out of Rand Paul’s book and hammer away at something seemingly irrelevant and insignificant. Was the federal government about to drone us all to death while we sipped our lattes at Starbucks? No, but Paul dominated the news cycle by essentially staging a 13-hour magic show in which he used a very-nearly-fringe viewpoint to trick even liberals into agreeing with him. If we can figure out a way to do THAT with every issue, or at least a few issues, we can regain some control.

Robert Wargas is a regular contributor to PJ Media. A native of Long Island, he was educated at the City University of New York and Yale University, and has contributed reports and opinion pieces to Newsday and FrontPage Magazine on a range of topics. He also maintains an independent blog at http://robertwargas.typepad.com. Outside of his political writing, Wargas has worked as a professional historian for a large cancer-research institution, documenting the history of biotechnology since the 1970s. He can be reached at rwargas22@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertWargas

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