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Conservative Politics

October 9, 2008

I was raised a conservative.  My parents have been that way since I was a young kid and they started actually caring about politics, and the Republican Revolution of ’94 was one of the things I cut my teeth on.  Back then, the Democrats were on the run, Republicans were on the rise, and conservative political ideas were ascendant.  It was a great time to start following politics.

Now, however, things have changed.  We’re on the other end of this cycle, where the Democrats are killing.  They’ll get the presidency, and may well get the Senate supermajority.  First of all, let me make the most important point there is to be made about politics: God is in control.  He knows what he’s doing in this election.  In addition, the Republicans are right on issues that are extremely important to me: marriage and abortion.  I could take or leave the economic stuff, but those two issues are issues I cannot cave on.

All this to say that the Republican party really needs to retool their message.  They have become the angry, misdirected party in American politics, rather than the party of ideas.  The Democrats are now the party with the ideas – mainly “bail out normal Americans”, and “get us out of Iraq”.  The Democrats have a narrative, and the Republicans do not.  In my admittedly inexpert opinion, Republicans must change their message to make sense to Americans.

First off, Republicans need to stop deceiving themselves.  They are not entitled to the normal, salt of the earth people vote.  This support is taken for granted, and while I don’t think the rural vote will completely leave, it will be diminished, and if they give no reason for people to vote for them, people will leave.

Secondly, the party needs to develop a narrative.  Republicans need to say why being pro family is best for America.  Republicans need to put together a program that shows things they can do that will benefit people.  I think the party needs to promote family welfare above all else.  (I get most of this reading Ross Douthat’s blog.)  

One of the most important things the Republican needs to stop doing immediately is vicious smears of their opponents.  Voters don’t care about that, and it only makes the Republicans look bad.  Most people don’t care about Obama meeting Bill Ayers, or his association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  We need to debate on ideas, not on marginal associations that no one cares about now.  Now, I’m not opposed to looking at a candidate’s life and assessing his character.  However, nitpicking somebody’s character by trying desperately to associate him with people he knew in the past, when his current life shows no signs of being influenced by them at all is a completely different matter.  This does not work in the long run – it just places your die hard supporters out of touch with mainstream America.  The Democrats did this with Bush for a while, and now the Republicans are responding with Obama.  It wasn’t pretty with Bush, and it isn’t pretty with Obama, and we really need to focus on more important issues then Obama’s marginal association with a 60s radical that most people have never heard of.

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