Barone On The GOP

By
February 27, 2009

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.



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Comments:
  1. WBestPresidentEver says:

    Good article of interest.
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/02/how_he_did_it_a_diagrammatic_a.html
    OT
    http://www.capitolclimateaction.com/
    Nightmare on Elm Street. The crazies of AL GORE and company. These people are insane.
    http://www.capitolclimateaction.com/?page_id=517
    Capitol Climate Action Day, Biggest Civil Disobedience on Climate in U.S. History, to Go Forward
    Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid released a letter asking the Capitol Architect to switch the Capitol Power Plant from coal to 100 percent natural gas by the end of 2009. Pelosi and Reid’s call comes just three days before more than 2,500 people from across the country are coming to converge at the power plant for the biggest civil disobedience on climate issues in U.S. history. Prior to the announcement of the Capitol Climate Action, pro-coal legislators had been able to prevent the switch from coal to natural gas.

  2. Ro says:

    Bobby Jindal gave a pretty good account of the problems of large government in that story of the volunteer rescue boats after Katrina – that is classic Reagan. People need to understand on the level of examples as to why conservatism is the answer. Part of my transformation to conservatism as a 20 something was going swimming at a local pool when visiting my parents one summer. The lifeguards had ceased being the pleasant characters on towers from my youth, insisting that we refrain from pushing people’s heads under water and jumping on one another to prison guards screaming about every rule under the sun. “One person in the diving board area at a time or you’re out of here,” “You may not jump anywhere,” on and on it went, the rules so oppressive I vowed never to swim in a public pool again. But the state parks were the same – “You have to pass a swimming test before you can swim to the raft, yes, even you adults.”
    We have lost the ability to make mistakes or be allowed to make mistakes – this “housing crisis” is a prime example of that. Conservatives need to frame the argument about being treated like adults by government or being treated like children. Obama has basically told us we are children that need his guidance with his paternalistic tone and programs – “make those nasty rich people share their wealth” – and that’s understandable given a large majority of his voters’ tendencies to look to government to fix their problems. I don’t know what we do with those who are intelligent enough to take care of themselves personally, but want government to take care of those poor others.

  3. George B says:

    I would like to see more emphasis on federalism. Citizens should be able to agree to disagree about the size and role of government. I prefer to buy smaller helpings of government, but there is no reason citizens of a liberal city couldn’t vote to buy more government for their own community as long as they also have to pay for it at a local level. My problem is with those who want to impose a one size fits all large and intrusive federal government on the whole country.
    Ron Paul, 73 years old and sometimes out to lunch, had a significant youth following with a mostly libertarian message. While other candidates had bumper stickers, a young Ron Paul supporter in my town showed support by painting a Ron Paul message on his car. I guarantee John McCain never generated that level of passionate support from any age group. Imagine what a younger and more coherent candidate who walks the walk could do with a campaign emphasizing consistent expansion of individual liberty.

  4. Greg Toombs says:

    “Instead they need to orient themselves toward voters and step away from the always failed sales approach of emphasizing features, as opposed to benefits.”
    You are absolutely correct here. The GOP and Conservatives need to focus on their customers, voters, and what’s in it for them personally. What are the benefits to low personal taxes for the individual? What are the penalties to the individual when business taxes are raised?
    And so on.

  5. Dave Eaton says:

    I think a big problem is that few young people understand the scope of what can go wrong.
    Lifeboats during Katrina is a salient, easily digestible example, but if you haven’t also lived through the horrors of huge housing projects, “Urban Renewal”, or the sorts of programs that just eviscerated families and led to multi-generational dependence on government largess, you can’t necessarily see how bad it can get.
    I think that we need a cadre of communicators to explain the reasons conservatives are such skeptics of government. I have explained personally, many times, that I might have, occasionally, precisely the same social goals centrist Democrats claim to have- a safety net, assistance for those unable to fend for themselves, reasonable and affordable health care- and yet oppose vehemently attempts to have government deliver them. Scoffing at the government gets misinterpreted as scoffing at the problems. It is just easier to hurl invective than to explain something, but I think if conservatives are to have a future, there is a lot of education that must happen.
    Sometimes, it is necessary to go a step further, and explain why one thinks that it is important to have a philosophy based on reason and logic and personal accountability as opposed to ‘pragmatism’. Once the vocabulary and assumptions are established, it is easier to make headway with people who assume that the reason to support gov’t action is because it is virtuous to help people, that only government can help, and that private concerns are only about narrow, short-sighted self-interest. Kids can be really wooly-headed. It makes sense to be ready to explain what you are about to them.

  6. Dan Riehl says:

    “What are the benefits to low personal taxes for the individual? What are the penalties to the individual when business taxes are raised?”
    How’d that messaging work out for the GOP this year? Because that was the extent of their game. Aside from cultural issues, it has been for some time. Freedom is larger than money and being without freedom is harder to endure than being with a few extra bucks.

  7. “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.”
    A great point, but there are two flaws:
    > banning abortion is hardly a blow against “individual freedom” if the unborn child counts as an individual. Was favoring the prohibition of slavery, everywhere, contrary to being an advocate of individual freedom? Yes, yes, I know many people don’t share the presupposition–but the presupposition, that an unborn child counts in this case–is hardly illogical.
    > The bigger flaw is in asserting that the GOP is above all, a party about individual choice–i.e., merely a limited government party–as opposed to a conservative party. (At present it is neither, which is why I don’t want to be associated with it at all.)
    Indeed, many of the things you cite as inconsistencies are not inconsistent if conservatism is the key. I.e., being conservative is about a whole lot more than limited government, although that is certainly part of it.

  8. Dan says:

    “The bigger flaw”
    But I did not advocate abandoning certain issues, only being more honest in that they should be left to the states. One can support a value por position without believing the Federal government is the correct place for it to be resolved.
    “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.”

  9. red says:

    You had me till you threw marriage under the bus.
    Marriage is the little society that is the key alternative to Big Government. That’s why socialists want to destroy it and the attack by gays is just the means to do it. Valuing and promoting marriage and family is a freedom issue that doesn’t have to conflict with gay relationships. Only a small percent of gays want marriage, and mostly because of this ideological underpinning. No one cares if gays make a life together – like some in my family. Pay the 150 bucks to do powers of attorney and joint ownership deals, that’s way cheaper than a wedding ceremony. Just don’t demean the rather old institution of marriage. Its having enough trouble as it is.
    Look at Europe where gay marriage is legal. Marriage rates have plummeted, and where are the children? When we were in Italy – there were none to be seen.
    You like dying aging populations? Demean and destroy marriage and family life and watch your society collapse.

  10. red says:

    –How’d that messaging work out for the GOP this year? Because that was the extent of their game. —
    Pardon me, but that was the message of John McCain. It was the extent of his game. I won’t demean him as a man, but as a candidate he was less than mediocre. He couldn’t make those messages believable because he didn’t believe them in his core. He couldn’t speak the language because it wasn’t his native toungue. Remember, he never received more than 35 percent in a Republican primary. I believe that he was selected for us by the media.
    And remember when the chance came for him to address the big government program that will be killing us for decades, the mortgage crisis, instead of highlighting government’s role (Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and yes Barach Obamma and Freddie Mac/Fanny Mae) a role he had warned us about 2 years earlier, he attacked Wall Street.
    Nope – not a Republican message – not a Republican messenger.

  11. red says:

    Maybe that message isn’t that out of synch with the voters.
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/59_still_believe_government_is_the_problem
    Despite all that, a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows that the basic views of the American people have not change: 59% of voters still agree with Reagan’s inaugural address statement. Only 28% disagree, and 14% are not sure.