John Andrews

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Did I hear that from Hallmark, my mom, or in Sunday school? Turns out the words are from Stephen R. Covey’s self-help classic on good habits. They hit me on election night. My Republican party needs self-help if anyone ever did.

Some of our gripe sessions about this year’s Democratic sweep feel like a sales meeting where everyone blames the customer. There are echoes of the East German party boss who said if the people didn’t like his regime, they needed to be straightened out. I mean serious denial.

Having been a highly ineffective party since 2004 in my state of Colorado, and since 2006 nationally, drunk on excuses and worse yet in 2008, maybe the GOP should check into detox. Supervising our rehab could be the stern Dr. Covey with his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Bad habits such as credit card binging, entitlement, victimhood, and not practicing what you preach can entrap groups as well as individuals. Republicans better do an intervention on ourselves after Obama’s blowout of McCain and Colorado Dems’ pickup of two US Senate seats and three congressmen in four years. What would the Covey cure involve?

To maximize effectiveness, according to his 1989 bestseller, one should be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand and then to be understood, synergize, and “sharpen the saw.” Let’s talk about how these might apply to the party of Lincoln and Reagan. Eavesdroppers from other parties can snicker all you want. We’re too desperate to care.

To be proactive, we’ll quit whining about Bush’s blunders, the Messiah’s millions, media bias, or anything else in the rearview mirror. GOP congressional leaders will roll out a 2009-2010 Contract with America before the new president names his cabinet. Colorado conservatives will forge a cash-rich, hydra-headed counterpart to the progressives’ amazing Democracy Alliance.

To begin with the end in mind, we’ll write a Republican president’s 2013 inaugural address and post it on the Web this coming January 1. We’ll map the states our ticket must carry to make Obama a one-termer, then target the issues to win those states. Next write a game plan for taking back Congress in 2010, as we did in 1994.

Putting first things first means a laser-focus at all levels of the party on economic recovery, abundant energy, healthy families, fiscal integrity, and national security, period. The American dream was co-opted this year by a smooth talker with a European agenda. We can unmask that ruse. Retake the high ground, team.

John Andrews

John Andrews is former president of the Colorado Senate and the author of "Responsibility Reborn: A Citizen's Guide to the Next American Century"