Let's not sugarcoat it: we got our teeth kicked in on Tuesday. Sure, we added governorships and held our ground in the House, but we went backwards in the Senate and lost to an out-of-touch, incompetent, petty man who centered his campaign around Mitt Romney's bank account and Big Bird. We didn't get beaten by Bill Clinton in a great economy; we got beaten by another Michael Dukakis in the midst of a terrible economy. On the upside, if people have ever wondered what Jimmy Carter's second term would have looked like, then they're about to find out.
Since that's where we're at, we have two choices. We can sit in the dirt for a couple of years, nursing the boo-boo on our collective knee while we moan about freeloaders and wonder what went wrong with America or we can stand up, brush ourselves off and get back in the game.
"Oh, but it's over, Hawkins! We've reached the tipping point! We're done!"
Really? It's done? It's over? What if the soldiers in George Washington's army who were suffering through a winter without shoes had that attitude? Suppose Andrew Jackson had looked at the ragtag band of pirates and mercenaries he had to defend New Orleans during the war of 1812 and said, "Screw this, it's too hard!" You think the Americans driving state-to-state, looking for work during the Depression had it easy? How about the American soldiers fighting for their lives in Korea against limitless waves of Chinese soldiers who were determined to push them into the sea so they could enslave South Korea? Remember when Reagan said, "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose?" They laughed at him -- but, nobody's laughing now.
I can't speak for anybody else, but I have a very simple goal: I want to kick their ass.
We do that by taking back the Senate in 2014 (which is doable if we have a good year) and then, in 2016, we're going to beat whomever they run like a rented mule and step over their political corpse into the White House.
However, if we want to do that, the first thing we have to accept is that what we're doing right now isn't working and isn't likely to work if we keep doing it. There's a reason Albert Einstein said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." It's time for the Republican Party to stop the insanity and go in a different direction. 1) We need a better get out the vote campaign: Did you notice that Romney's crowds were bigger than Obama's audiences down the stretch? Yet, Obama still won. What does that tell you? That tells me that Obama did a much better job of turning out low interest voters than Romney. It was well known that Obama had an incredibly sophisticated, well staffed GOTV campaign but the Romney campaign was supposed to match up to that with its own system, Project ORCA. Unfortunately, Project ORCA turned out to be the biggest disaster since the Hindenburg. Tens of thousands of volunteers sat idle all day because the system wasn't working and eventually it just crashed. It seems entirely possible at this point that the Romney campaign lost multiple states because of the complete and utter failure of his get out the vote campaign. This one factor alone could be the difference between victory and defeat in 2016.
2) The primary system needs to be reformed: Here's a thought: Maybe allowing our nominee to be chosen by two moderate, lily white states that seem to choose their favorite Republican candidates based on who shakes the most hands in diners and county fairs isn't the best idea. There are a lot of other workable suggestions that would break the tyrannical hold New Hampshire and Iowa have over the Republican Party's presidential nominations and it's time to start pursuing other options.
Additionally, Mitt Romney's dirty, overly negative campaign created an extremely poisonous atmosphere in both the 2008 and 2012 primary campaigns. Eventually, the other candidates and their supporters became tired of Romney's sleazy campaigning and fired back even harder, which made the entire primary season look like a piranha tank at feeding time. As primary voters, we need to punish candidates that do that in future elections instead of taking an "All's fair in love and war" approach. We also need to consider whether the long campaign season is to our advantage or whether we'd be better off having a candidate wrap it up early so he can begin defining himself and raising money for the general election.
3) The establishment doesn't get to choose the next GOP nominee: What have we been hearing over and over again from the D.C. establishment and the Old Guard in the Republican Party? We have to choose a moderate candidate who runs a bland, safe campaign and doesn't talk about social issues. Well, guess what? We just lost two straight elections against a weak opponent with candidates who fit that mold perfectly. Next time around, we need a full spectrum conservative who can actually inspire people to turn out to vote FOR HIM instead of just AGAINST the Democratic nominee.
4) Stop losing votes to fraud and count those military ballots: We have such a third grade, stick your vote in the shoebox style voting system in this country that it's hard to even figure out how much fraud is occurring. While it's important to make sure every eligible American has a right to vote, it's JUST AS IMPORTANT to insure that no one has his legitimate vote cancelled out by fraud. Making sure that both Democrats and Republicans are confident in the integrity of our elections needs to be a higher priority than leaving the system open to fraud in order to make it as easy as possible to vote.
Additionally, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of military votes aren't being counted every year because the same military that can coordinate a bombing run anywhere on earth within twenty four hours can't manage to get our troops' ballots to the polls in time for an election. It's a disgrace that the same soldiers who risk their lives to ensure our freedom can't even be sure that their own votes will be counted. The Democrats may not care about that because the military leans heavily to the right, but it's time for the GOP to start caring, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because we're leaving tens of thousands of votes on the table in every election.
5) We need to start doing some REAL minority outreach: For the Republican Party to continue to be viable over the long term, we're going to have to do better with minority voters. Period. Unfortunately, the primary way most people seem to be suggesting that we do that is by backing amnesty to bring in Hispanics or Affirmative Action to draw black voters.
Let me be extremely blunt: That is a desperate and stupid argument that flies directly in the face of reality.
Take an issue that conservatives care about dearly -- like the 2nd Amendment. If the Democrats suddenly became a pro-2nd Amendment party, would half of conservatives vote for them en masse? Of course not. Do Jews vote for the GOP because we're the pro-Israel party? No, they don't. So, why would anybody think Hispanics are going to go for the GOP if we support amnesty? The Democrats certainly don't think that. The reason they support amnesty is because they think it will bring in millions of new Hispanic votes for them. They're right about that.
The reason some Republicans take this dumb position is because the real fix would be playing the same game that Democrats do with minority voters and they've had decades to get ahead of us at it. The fact of the matter is that we need to create, fund, and support our own La Raza, our own NAACP, and our own NOW. Groups like that already exist, but they get minimal amounts of support. What we need are Hispanic Republicans on Hispanic radio shows making our case, black Republicans pointing out racism in the Democratic Party and prominent conservative women's groups slamming the Democrats as sexist for reducing them to nothing more than the sum of their "lady parts." The truth is that no matter how much Republicans may cherish the notion that we should all be "judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin," a lot of Americans don't agree and the GOP is going to die in the political wilderness waiting for everyone to come around to our way of thinking.
6) It's time to refresh our agenda and messaging: Principles may stay the same over time, but agendas should change.
For example, it may make sense to oppose tax increases for middle class Americans, but it no longer makes political sense to push tax cuts. The 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes certainly aren't going to be swayed by that and although we should certainly defend the rich on principle, fighting tooth and nail to make sure the wealthy never pay a dime more in taxes when we have a trillion dollar deficit is a dead dog loser of an issue.
Also, although I believe we should be doing more to promote our stands on social issues, not less, it's time to ask whether candidates that oppose abortion for victims of rape and incest are making perfect the enemy of the good. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both lost on that issue and there's a better chance that the American people will make the cockroach our national bug than there is that they will go along with banning abortions after rape or incest. So, why shouldn't politicians focus on what's politically possible instead of taking a position based on what we'd like to see happen in a perfect world?
Last but not least, our messaging has gotten way too wonky as a party. We talk about Supreme Court cases to people who've never heard of Antonin Scalia, free trade issues to people who think NAFTA is a government agency, and we talk about the size of the debt to people whose eyes glaze over when they try to figure out how to split a check at a restaurant. We need to get back to basics with a much more simple premise when we pitch a voter: Here's what we're going to do to make your life better and here's what they're going to do to make your life worse.
7) We don't spend our money wisely: The GOP spent over a billion dollars on the 2012 campaign just to flip North Carolina and Indiana, hold our ground in the House, and lose seats in the Senate. Meanwhile, we're doing a mediocre job of voter registration, we do almost no minority outreach of consequence, we're doing very little to reach out to young voters and much of the conservative new media is withering away and dying for lack of funds. Consultant Sean Hackbarth and I don't see eye-to-eye on some issues, but his advice for conservative groups is spot-on.
Specifically to conservative groups here’s some additional advice:
* Hire consultants who want to transform current campaign approaches. Don’t accept tried-and-true. Or better yet, bring them in-house and let them play to their heart’s content.
* Create an environment where talented people want to join you in taking big risks and be willing to pay them.
* Scour America for savant tech-heads willing to work for the cause. Visit MIT, Stanford, and other top schools. Go to tech conferences and read tech weblogs to find top-notch talent.
* Quit expecting great content to be delivered for free from supporters. Pay people to write, tweet, make videos, make infographics, develop apps, etc. With the millions spent by super PACs we know the money is out there.
* Be willing to give credit to other groups. Don’t let your egos stop you from cooperating. We’re all on the same team.
* Share ideas that work.
* Find ways to amplify what allied groups are doing.
Maybe instead of expecting grassroots conservatives to produce miracles out of whatever pocket change they can pull out of their couch cushions, some of the deep pocketed donors could try funding them. After all, isn't it time that donors start demanding to see results out of conservative organizations, think tanks and TV ads just as they do out of government?