Getting Conservatism Back on Track
Chaos -- it might be the number one reason I never considered working in politics. Not elective office, mind you, although that's bad enough, but the office stuff: The overworked and underpaid staffs, the constant rush, the cramped quarters. Well, that last point counts mostly when your party is in the minority. Which is where I spent my afternoon, with the Colorado State Senate Republican Caucus.
Our Republican caucus finds itself in the unwelcome and unfamiliar position of being the minority party, and they aim to change that. But getting there from here is like negotiating back roads in New England. Without a map. In a snowstorm. And the locals aren't exactly falling over themselves to help. I wouldn't say that "you can't get there from here," but it's not going to be easy, either. And give Colorado's Republican state senators credit -- there's nowhere they aren't willing to look for help, even the blogosphere.
Their first smart move might have been hiring blogger Darren Copeland to serve as caucus communications director. I've known Darren for years -- mostly on a drinking buddy basis -- but I can tell you that he's sharp and, of course, he "gets" this whole new media thing. Speaking of his predecessors, Copeland said, "They were policy people," when what his bosses really needed was someone who knows "how television and radio should go, and how not to get a blogger pissed at you. They wanted exposure, and someone with new media savvy." That's a good start.
A better start was the luncheon held Tuesday afternoon across the street from the state capitol building, where the senators and their staffs got to grill a few local bloggers, this intrepid correspondent included. Our moderator for the session was Brad Jones of FaceTheState.com, who gave plenty of floor time to ResurrectionSong.com's David Jones, Ross Kaminsky of Rossputin.com, and Independence Institute policy analyst/blogger Ben DeGrow. And, of course, my Pajamas Media partner in crime, Charlie Martin.
If you're reading Pajamas Media, then you're pretty up-to-speed already on this new media business. You might even have a few ideas about what we should be doing. What interested me was how interested our state Republican senators were in cracking open the blogging egg and getting to the good stuff inside.
It's safe to say that our state government -- as opposed to the elected officials who supposedly run the giant, messy affair -- doesn't get it. We bloggers were asked point blank, "What can we do for you?" My answer to the question was, "Give us wi-fi when we cover live events like these!" If you want to make bloggers happy, let them, you know, blog. Senator Greg Brophy (District 1) immediately replied, "It took me four years to get on the wireless network in here!" That's your tax dollars, hard at work building the electronic infrastructure of the future.
During the conference, my main point was one I've been trying to hammer into people since the 2006 election debacle. Given a choice between a fake Republican (pretty much the entire majority of the 109th Congress, or John McCain in 2008) and a real Democrat, the American people will choose the real deal, every time. Elections are won and lost on ideas, and the Republicans are out of ideas -- or rather, abandoned the ideas which won them power in the first place. If Republicans want to be a viable, conservative majority party, they must first wage a successful battle of ideas.
To do so, they should look back to Barry Goldwater's disastrous 1964 presidential campaign. For in the disaster the seeds of eventual victory were sown.
Goldwater didn't run as a "me-too" Republican. He ran as a conservative, and an unapologetic one at that. While Goldwater knew he would lose, he also knew that his ideas would live on long past '64, if he didn't abandon them permanently for a little temporary popularity. Looking to the future, Goldwater left the Republican Party with a couple million dollars in the bank, and the world's first political direct-mail infrastructure -- hi-tech stuff for back then.
The mood of Colorado's elected Republicans might best be summarized by Sen. Kevin Lundberg (District 15), who asked us, "What communications do we use in 2012" to help win elections? "Are the days of door-to-door over?" All the bloggers agreed, there will always be a need for retail politics. However, none of us knew what particular technology might work best four years hence -- who dreamed of Twitter in 2004? But what was intriguing is that Sen. Lindbergh is so willing and eager to adapt his campaign to whatever demands the future may place on it.
Of course, Copeland described Lindbergh as willing to do "anything" to "communicate with his constituents," which makes him sound to my ears like one of the good guys.
Today's Republicans have a tougher road ahead of them than even Goldwater did 45 years ago. The national Republican Party has, by and large, ignored, forgotten, abandoned, or outright repudiated its principles, something "Mr. Arizona" never dreamed of doing. The current party leadership needs to be swept aside, probably wholesale.
New leaders will have to come from places like the Colorado statehouse -- and after Tuesday's lunch, I'm feeling a little bit better about their prospects.