Thursday, October 22, 2009

It’s Because Your Leadership Sucks. . .

There's a Politico article today that needs to be addressed. This article talks about the problem Republican leaders are having with “the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities.” Let’s diagnose the problem, point some fingers, and present the solution.

What The Article Said

Before we delve into the contents of the article, let me say that I dismiss the article itself. This is just another one of those typical articles written by a leftist who wants to “help” us by suggesting that the evil Republican Party is captive to the far right and blah blah blah move left to find voters. I neither care about the author nor their wrong advice.

But what I do want to talk about is what the Republican establishment says in this article. According to the article, many Republican officials and operatives are concerned (1) that the angry tone of conservative activists will turn off the middle-of-the-road voters that the party must attract to regain power, and (2) that radio personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are making life miserable for senators and House members by egging on the activists, so that the elected officials must pander to these activists at the expense of turning off moderate voters (particularly in moderate districts).

Here are some of the quotes and points from the article that you should note:
• House Whip Eric Cantor, described as “one of the party’s up-and-coming leaders” says: “We need more voices. Our party’s challenge has been that we need to be more inclusive -- we need to attract the middle again.” He then adds, “[Obama’s nastiness] gives us an opportunity now to try and harness the energy and point it in a positive direction, so that we can attract the middle of the country to the common-sense conservative views that we have been about as a party.”

• Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty implies (though he doesn’t quite say) that the activists are playing into the media’s hands by letting the media portray the party as narrow-minded. “The commentators are part of the coalition, not the whole coalition. The party needs to be about addition, not subtraction -- but not at the expense of watering down its principles.”

• Mitt Romney, apparently, is keeping a low profile and is sticking to speeches on specific policy issues to avoid (according to the author) “the trade off between placating party activists and appearing presidential.”
Diagnosing The Problem

Let me start off with a surprise. I agree with them about the problem. The Republican Party cannot win if it does not attract people beyond its hardcore base. Despite what you may see in the polls, both parties have a hardcore base of around 43% of the electorate. Beyond that, you get into the leaners and the self-described moderates. If you can’t attract more than half of the leaners and self-described moderates, you can’t win an election.

Yet, the activists, the bloggers, the callers, and the talk radio hosts are making it very hard for the Republican Party to attract those people. Like you, I have visited many other blogs, read many political journals, listened to talk radio and visited web boards. The truth is that right now, the right is not very appealing. So much of what you find is angry, ignorant, beset by paranoia and, frankly, whiny.

And this has many causes. Part of this stems from the fact that the people who are the most upset are the most likely to speak their minds. Part of this stems from the fact that to get noticed in a saturated world, you need to be more bombastic than the rest. Part of this stems from the collapse of journalism and the ease with which the internet allows opinion and rumor to be turned into fact and spread like wildfire -- hence, people no longer know what is true. Part of this stems from the fact that in times of great upheaval, many nuts come out of the woodwork to hide among the normal people, trying to lure them into their little cults.

That’s all true. But there is one more key ingredient: a vacuum.

If the Republican Party leadership had not been notably absent from the field, none of this would have mattered. A vibrant, trustworthy party that addresses issues as they arise, debunks rumors, and takes a clear stand that people can rely upon could have prevented this stew of anger, fear and resentment from ever coming into existence in the first place. But by remaining silent on issue after issue, and by failing to give people something to believe in -- the comfort that they would be represented, the party leadership let the noxious concoction boil away and the wounds it created fester. In other words, my dear Republican Party, your failure caused this.

So don’t whine about it, fix it.

But whine is what they are doing. Cantor is right that we need to attract the middle and that we can do it with conservative principles -- polls show over and over that “the middle” is actually rather far right. But read his quote again. He doesn’t know how to do this. He’s hoping that it all works itself out. Do you see any hint there that he could even enunciate what those principles are?

Look at Pawlenty. He seems to think we’re in a coalition rather than a party. Coalitions are a combination of divergent groups hoping to achieve their own interests through the support of others within the coalition. A party, on the other hand, is a group of like-minded individuals working toward certain goals that they all share. That may sound like nitpicking, but it’s not. This quote tells me that he doesn’t see the party as a collection of like-minded people who believe in conservative ideas, he sees us as a collection of interests.

Look at Romney. Now is the time Mr. President-wannabe to step up and lead. Difficult times forge leaders. Consider again Monday's quote from Abigail Adams:
"These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed."
A leader does not hide and hope not to get noticed.

The Solution

The solution is simple. Stop whining about it and do something. Lead. How do you do that? Easy:

First, come up with a conservative agenda. Outline the conservative principles for which you stand. Tell us what those are and show us that you intend to stick with them. If you need help, which apparently you do, read our on-going Rebuilding the Republican Party series. In fact, why not start with this:
I am a Republican because...

I believe in limited and accountable government. I believe in the Constitutional separation of powers between the branches of the government, between the federal government and the states, and between the government and its citizens. I believe in state’s rights. I believe in the protection of civil liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights. I reject judicial activism and the shift of power from the legislature to the executive. Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.

I believe in fiscally responsible government. I reject deficit spending, unfair and excessive taxation, and unnecessary and irrational regulation.

I believe in free market economics and the protection of property rights. I reject government ownership of private business and the confiscation of private property. I believe in free and fair trade.

I believe in a strong national defense, and in promoting the values of democracy, freedom, and human rights around the world. I reject isolationism, but I also reject adventurism. Walk softly, but carry a big stick.

I am the Republican Party. I believe in freedom, liberty, and responsibility.
Then take those principles and apply them to the issues of the day. Show us how you plan to use conservative ideas to solve the nation’s problems -- and don’t just wait for the public to tell you something is a problem. It’s time to remake the country, issue by issue, along conservative lines.

Next, start introducing legislation to implement that agenda. If it passes, take the credit. If it fails, make an issue out of it.

At the same time, start taking a firm PUBLIC stand against the things Obama does wrong and supporting him openly on things he does right (if any). And don’t just criticize, tell the American people what you would have done differently and point to the legislation you’ve introduced to do that.

The American people want solutions to problems, not just finger pointing. And they hate cowards and they hate whiners.

Which brings us to the final point: stop whining about the activists and the guys on talk radio. Nobody trusts a “leader” who whines that his followers make things difficult. Gain our respect and this whole problem goes away.

** Update: Mike Pence (R- Indiana) calls the Politico story "hogwash."


LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Excellent reminder of what our absent leadership needs to do. I want to add that after nearly ten months of Obama, the basic Credo you propose is still pitch-perfect, but one thing Obama has done which should be addressed at every opportunity would cause me to include: "I believe in one nation, under God and indivisible. And therefore I believe that race division and class warfare have no place in American politics. I believe that equality of opportunity is a gift from God and that government's job is to protect that equality,not to manipulate it to the benefit of some and the detriment of others."

Joel Farnham said...


I disagree in that we have to attract Moderates. I don't want them in the Republican Party. The reason is that we can not trust them. I want conservatives. The more the better. We did it with the MODERATE McCain. We lost.

We are winning without leadership. Check out the races in New Jersey and Virginia. There are several others around the nation that have voted overwhelmingly Republican. One here in Tennessee. A district that has been in the Democrat pocket for years.

There is one very important man who was not included in that list. Mark Levin. He is friends with Rush and Hannity. He wrote a book called "Liberty and Tyranny". It has a Conservative Manifesto. It also has a history of how we got to where we are at. He is a constitutional lawyer. He was in the Reagan Administration. He has no use for Moderates.

Whenever I hear that we should "moderate our message", I cringe. So far, the angry rhetoric has not turned off people. It has re-ignited the conservatives which according to polls are the majority of this country.

The "Angry People" are the Tea Party goers who have found their voices.

Elections go to the people who get out their own vote. Not to the ones who appeal to the middle. If you look at the ones who won in those moderate districts (that the Leadership is so concerned about) is it asked are they squishy Republicans? In other words, do they vote consistantly conservative? If no, why are we interested in them?

Right now, the Elected Democrats are LOSING because they are voting liberal/socialistic on National Issues. The Republicans are winning because the Elected Republicans are voting conservative on National Issues. When the Elected Republicans voted on National Issues liberal/socialistic is when we lost big.

Without Rush, Hannity, Levin, Beck and many conservative bloggers such as yourself, who I don't even think are close to being moderate, we would have socialism well on our way to communism.

What you have written here is anathema to liberals. Very much close to what Beck, Levin, Limbaugh and Hannity espouse. They all have no use for moderates and the leadership of the Republican Party. Yet Republicans are still winning. Can you explain that?

If Steele came to you and said you are scaring the moderates, would your change your rhetoric?

I have been listening and reading. The only people I see scared by the "angry rhetoric" are Elected Politicians and leftist pundits who are from the Washington Beltway. They are the ones who are complaining.

I am speaking of Cantor. Pawlenty better get his act together. There are far more conservatives who want to be President. As much as I like what Romney did for the Olympics in Utah, I view him as another McCain.

If the current Republican Leadership wants to lead, they should embrace conservative values or they will be gone.

Sorry for the length, but when someone even remotely says we should tone it down or appeal the the moderates, I cringe and get angry, especially when this country was founded by Conservatives. Not moderates.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I would avoid tossing in attacks in a statement of principle. Also, I would be careful saying that the government has a job.

I would rather say, "I believe in equality under the law." And maybe adding: "I believe in equality of opportunity, but not of result." Though I'm concerned that might be used as a justification for all kinds of anti-discrimination legislation.

AndrewPrice said...


I agree, and that's the point to my post -- the leadership needs to adopt conservative principles, needs to convince us that they mean it (by acting on it), and needs to learn to promote those ideas to the public.

I don't see that they know how to do that. In fact, I don't see anyone in the party that knows how to do that right now.

But when it comes to the idea that the base can carry the party, that's simply not true -- they are 40%. That's too small. You need to bring most of that other 20% that share conservative beliefs but don't identify themselves as part of the base.

And the only way to do that is to adopt a positive, intelligent sales pitch for conservative ideas. Not change your principles, but find a way to explaining them that makes these people comfortable and feel like associating with the party. Anger and fear won't sell these people. It makes the hardcore feel good, but it turns off everyone else.

Unfortunately, until and unless the leadership gets their act together, they will continue to face this wall of anger because people feel like they aren't being represented.

Anonymous said...

I like your list. I wish I could believe the party thought the same thing, but I don't know what they think.

MegaTroll said...

I agree about the anger and stupidity on blogs and talk radio. There are times when what I read or hear makes me want to just chuck the whole thing and go about my life. That's why I like coming here. You guys are always calm and smart about things. It's like talking to adults around here.

This really does show a leadership failure. If they were capable leaders, they shouldn't be afraid of their rank and file. Also, I can't imagine a Ronald Reagan being unable to refocus the rank and file in a more productive way. He wouldn't cry about what the rank and file or saying, he'd point them in the right direction.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, Thanks. I don't know that they could come up with a list either, and that's what troubles me. When I hear most of them speak on tv, I get the sense that they know a few buzz words, but that's about it.

AndrewPrice said...

Mega, Thanks. We try to keep things rational around here because it doesn't do any good to send people off with bad information or insane theories.

It may feel good sometimes to believe things that aren't true, but it doesn't really help for achieving any goals.

Writer X said...

Cantor, Steele, Pawlenty, Romney--all completing uninspiring. Not only can't they communicate, it's as if they're confused by their own beliefs. Who wants to follow that?

I'm tired of Republican politicians who seem more concerned about how things look than expressing what they believe in. Or, even worse, saying one thing and doing another (Best example: McCain) You're completely right, Andrew. Craft a coherent message, stick to your beliefs, and people will follow, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. It's not rocket science.

I agree with MegaTroll. It's nice to know you can come to a blog like this and have an intelligent and insightful conversation with people about issues that impact all of us, even when you may not agree with everything.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, What do you mean not agree about everything?!!! Just kidding. I have always believed that it is better to defend your views against other opinions and to know when you are wrong, than it is to live in the false comfort of thinking you are right all the time.

Thanks for the kind words! We're happy to have your comments too. You've always got a good insight.

You're absolutely right that this isn't rocket science. It's not that hard to believe in conservative ideas, or to express them if you truly believe in them, or to use them to shape policies. Yet somehow, our leaders seem incapable of doing that.

It is befuddling. At times I wonder if they are simply working on some lousy strategy or if they can't get the message out because the media distorts it. . . but then, when I hear them unfiltered, they always underwhelm.

Writer X said...

Andrew, I do think the message is distorted somewhat by the media--look at the Politico piece as an example. However, these guys need some serious communication skills/training. Because they waffle and can't communicate, people can't trust them (myself included) because of being burned too many times before. They're always playing defense. I keep waiting for one of them to play offense.

As an aside, the more the media goes after a Republican, that means they're behaving effectively/inspiring people. It's a blessing and a curse.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I know what you mean. They seem to be ashamed to stand up for their views. Or just incapable of expressing them. I'm not sure which. But in either event, they need to learn to communicate.

The media certainly goes after prominent Republicans. But I would argue that those Republicans also give the media ammunition to use. The media used to go after people like Reagan all the time, but it never got any traction because the things he said and did and stood for were so common sense that the public easily saw those attacks as partisan slander.

Many of the people currently attacked by the media have brought it on themselves by saying/doing really stupid or outlandish things. Perfect example, Mark Sanford. He didn't just have an affair, he turned it into a game of "where is the governor." So while the media treated him worse than it would have a Democrat, he is the one who made that possible.

Writer X said...

Andrew, Agreed, most of the Republicans don't make the situation with the media any better either. Reagan was truly a master at it. Still, I think he was just being himself and he was comfortable with that.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, That's actually one of things that concerns me. You're right, Reagan was just being natural. So why don't we have any other elected officials who seem to be as comfortable/natural being conservatives? Why do we seem to have a bunch of hacks trying to fake it?

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Once again, we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't see that as an attack on anyone or any party, but a statement of what we stand for and what we believe the government's role is. If leftists take it as an attack, well that just means the shoe fits. But it also says "we will make sure government is doing its proper role, and no more."

You're definitely on the right track about mentioning equality of opportunity as something that the government should affirmatively promote (it's really about what the government shouldn't do), and we have a great example: The Equal Opportunities Commission is nothing more than The Affirmative Action Commission.

DCAlleyKat said...

I'll speak as one of those 'die hard' Republicans that finally got tired of waiting, left the party, and became an Independent. Many would consider me one of those not among the 43% and therefore in need of wooing. I have no desire to be wooed.

I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent filling out Republican party mailers, and I always write my stance, I don't just check the box. To this day I communicate with the R party officials from my conservative point of view.

I agree with many of your points
Andrew, especially the one about each party needing a certain percentage of the "center" without which one cannot win, well - unless a 'Ross Perot' gets pulled on the electorate again.

The political landscape is changing. Voters are leaving both national parties. More and more people associate themselves not as Democrats or Republicans but as Independents/Libertarians. If ever there was a time when Republicans are being gifted with a 'close the deal' opportunity it is now. but to do that they need to deal with the heavy hitting old time money power players that are keeping the party from, excuse the phrase. moving on.

The nation is poised and ready, and awaiting modern day Patrick Henry's, etc.

As for me...former Republican - I ain't goin back again!

StanH said...

The Republicans that we have now believe in Washington politics, the only difference between the two parties is how fast they are going to screw us. I know that’s cynical, but prove me wrong. The only politician that came even close to conservatism in my life time was Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater before him. Even the great Reagan granted amnesty, with provisions, to four million illegal aliens. We must have politicians that have the courage of their convictions, be conservative and be victorious, be liberal light and drift into socialism. What’s up with Newt endorsing the Rino in NY, just wow! It may be anecdotal but gives merit to my cynicism. If I could be king for a day, I’d fire then all, and we’d start off again with the Founding Documents.

Tennessee Jed said...

An excellent and very interesting post and some great comments thus far. There is a long way to go to 2012 and I do think there is probably an artform to running. Realistically, the electorate is split enough that is hard to govern to far too the right or to the left. Look what happened to Obama's popularity when he started to go all-in on rad/lib doctrine.

In order to win the presidency, you just need to show you are less undesirable than the other guy. To get things done, you need comfortable majorities in both houses. You also need skilled congressional leaders who can, whenever possible, provide political cover for Blue State Republicans as long as they support you on the big items.

Even with good leadership, we don't have much of a chance if the economy happens to get lucky and improve enough to buy Obama a second term. I am hopeful we can make enough hay in 2010 congressionals to make Barry's final two yearsa tough go.

No easy answers, but I do think Dr. Frank Luntz has it right when he says data shows people who have their own positive agenda spelled out in advance will do well.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, You're right about the EEOC -- messed up agency.

DCAlleykat, The Republicans make it difficult and I think that the level of frustration is really high -- possibly higher than I've ever seen it before. But I fear that in the end, we will need to take back the Republican Party, they won't hand it over.

And while forming a third party sounds like a good idea in principle, I don't see that as effective under our system (NY notwithstanding).

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Truthfully, I've had problems with Newt for a long, long time. In my opinion, he wants to be loved, and that's the worst weakness a politician can have.

In terms of conservatives, I agree about Reagan and Goldwater. I would add a few commentators -- maybe a Buckley, a Walter Williams, a Thomas Sowell. There have been some politicians, but they are not as common as they should be.

I wonder if we could come up with a list of good conservatives in Congress if we put our minds to it?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed my friend, you are truly the voice of reason and I totally apprciate that! Great comments.

There is a huge difference between spouting off on a blog or the radio and actually being a politician, where you have to deal with parlimentary procedures, constituents with different concerns, and plotting political strategies.

Bloggers in particular want an immediate all out response, but the most succesful politicians are usually those who take their time and strike at the right moment.

I do think the Republicans have talked themselves into too much inertia, but I understand why they don't jump on everything.

In the end, to me, the most important thing (as you also say) is to lay out your own postivie agenda so that people know why they should vote for you -- as compared to voting against the other guy.

patti said...

well said. if the repubs let this opportunity to lead get past them, then they deserve the backlash that is coming. i have a goofy, slacker, high school nephew who would make a better leader than most of these money/power driven out-of-touch infuriators.

AndrewPrice said...

Isn't that unbelievable Patti? How can it be that a group of people who do this professionally and have been in the field so long can be so bad that we honestly think our friends and neighbors (with no training) would make better leaders.

Something is wrong here.

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