Barone On The GOP
I made it a point to click into CPAC's Ustream feed yesterday to listen live to Michael Barone's thoughts on the GOP's electoral challenges going forward. Barone's typically insightful analysis provided plenty to think about that could help the GOP plan a pathway back from the wilderness in less time than one might think.
Barone pointed out the GOP's dreadfully weak performance with the Youth vote in 2008, noted how turning that around is central to any future success, and even offered some tips in that regard.
Discussing what he termed the Millennial or Mouse-click generation's desire for the freedom of many choices and the ability to customize their own lives based upon those choices, he stated that genuine conservative (to Libertarian, I'd add) thinking is more in line with that desire, than is Obama's Big Government, one size fits all approach.
Combining that with what I sense many on the Center Right believe, expressed here by Rick Moran, led me to think more about actual strategy. While the GOP certainly must reform itself in deed and action, there is little need for some vast new intellectual re-thinking, than there is for something I'll call "inversion". Also see Understanding the Wurzelbacher Effect on the need, or lack thereof for significant intellectual reform. h/t Instapundit.
Classic conservative principles are timeless; immutable tenets that have inspired great changes in government over the last 400 years and spoken passionately and plainly to the needs and hopes of ordinary people.
Put aside for now the obvious need for the GOP to once again start looking and behaving like a genuine conservative, or individual-freedom loving party. What I mean by "inversion," is that the GOP must re-orient itself away from always looking up at Big Government and demonizing it in an effort to convince voters a conservative view is one that can protect them from it. The GOP certainly hasn't done a good job of that in the past two decades anyway.
Instead they need to orient themselves toward voters and step away from the always failed sales approach of emphasizing features, as opposed to benefits. In essence, what good is it to simply cast yourself as the party of small government if you haven't translated that into how such a view would actually benefit voters? I believe preserving freedom from an internal Big Government or an external tyranny is something that American voters of every age are always going to embrace. But only if they truly understand what's in it for them on the ground level.
To accomplish that the GOP must also come to appreciate the need to drop some of its tactics and approaches that may have served in the past but won't do so going forward. You cannot be a party arguing against the failure and expense of a Federal War on Poverty, yet support the just as failed, if somewhat less expensive, Federal War on Drugs.
You cannot be the party of individual freedom while advocating sweeping federal approaches like a national ban on abortion and Constitutional Amendments against any type of so-called marriage without portraying yourself as a party of no real principle at all, but simply one with a willingness to exploit issues even if it means embracing the type of Big Government you claim to oppose.
That doesn't mean casting off those values or visions, it means respecting the Constitution while informing voters your approach argues for them to be resolved democratically, more often than not through State ballots and elections. As that approach is significantly closer to the people who would be ruled by any legislation, it will always prove to be the most democratic means of resolving complex issues the Federal government should have had no hand in resolving in the first place.
This is only a thin start. But I believe that if the GOP wants to be successful in the future it needs to begin thinking and acting along these lines. The old lines that drove wedges and didn't always jibe with a smaller government theme no longer work. I believe an approach based upon a more genuine appreciation for individual freedom and consistent with a truer conglomeration of conservative, libertarian, and classically liberal thinking could.
In the end, that's the line of thought the GOP has always purported to represent. Perhaps it's time it actually did.