"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." -- Matthew 7:3-5
The only thing that's easier for a conservative than beating up on an establishment Republican is thrashing a liberal. What we don't do so well is figuring out what we're doing wrong.
Most of the people critiquing grassroots conservatives are left-wingers or faux righties like Joe Scarborough, Jennifer Rubin, and David Frum who make a living by telling liberals what they want to hear about conservatives. Nobody respects what they have to say because everyone knows they don't have our best interests at heart. Listening to those mediocrities would be like Apple taking advice from Microsoft. Meanwhile, real grassroots conservatives aren't inclined to pee in their own fishtank because nobody really likes it. Let's face it: most of you would much rather read a clever column from me making fun of liberals than a column telling you what WE need to do differently. Instead of taking a hard look at ourselves, we have a tendency to drop into cliches. "We need to stick to our principles." "Stop listening to RINOS!" "Be more like Reagan!"
Let me suggest something different. In fact, if you don't remember another thing in this column, remember this and you'll have the gist of everything I'm trying to get across.
We need to CREATE MORE CONSERVATIVES. We can do that by getting more people to agree with us. We can do that by blocking liberal outreach. We can do that by winning culture wars. We can do it by helping people on our side who are effective. But, that's what it all comes down to: we need to create more conservatives.
Why are we failing to do that?1) We're not reaching out to people who disagree with us:
Let me say something that most conservatives reading this column won't agree with: we don't deserve to get more of the black vote.
Yes, it's true that liberal policies have been a disaster for black Americans and conservative policies would benefit them. It's also true that Republicans have been the real party of civil rights. Conservative Republicans fought slavery, Jim Crow laws, and segregation while liberal Democrats embraced all those things. Additionally, by and large, grassroots conservatives aren't racists. Sure, there are a few racist conservatives, just like there are a few racist liberals, but they're atypical. Grassroots conservatives love people like Allen West, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Tim Scott just as much as Democrats love black liberals like Barack Obama.
But, do we do outreach to black Americans? For the most part, no. Do we show anything more than superficial concern for the issues impacting their lives? No. Are there conservative Republicans showing up in their neighborhoods, trying to make some kind of difference in their lives? No. Liberal Democrats have been a disaster for black Americans in almost every way, but do they do those things? Yes, they do. That's why they kick our behinds with black Americans....and guess what? The exact same principle applies with young Americans, single women, poor Americans, and Hispanic Americans.
That's why even pandering won't work. Because after the pandering on amnesty or Affirmative Action is done, most Americans who aren't already voting for us see no evidence that we care about what happens to them. When conservatives start showing them that we care and stop expecting them to come to us, we'll start to see a change in attitudes.2) We’ve gotten lazy about making people's lives better:
Conservatives are good at talking about great principles. We can tell you why taxes need to be low, explain the importance of states’ rights, and give a good defense of peace through strength. Where we've gotten lazy and complacent is in actually taking those principles we believe in and pushing to implement them in a way that makes people's day-to-day lives better.
After all, why do most people vote for a politician? It's because they think somehow, some way that politician is going to improve their lives.
You know why it's important to keep the debt under control. I know, too. But, do you know why that doesn't work as a political issue? Ultimately, it's because the average person doesn't see it impacting his life right now in one way or another. Why did hammering Barack Obama on his "You didn't build that" comments prove to be ineffective? For the exact same reason. Why don't the American people care about taxes on the rich or corporate taxes? Because they're not rich or running a corporation.
On the other hand, the big reason Obamacare is proving to be such a successful issue for us is that it's hurting tens of millions of Americans and repealing it would make their lives better in a tangible way.
We do have lots of ideas that can be life-changing for a lot of American families, but we don't talk about them all that much. Vouchers and charter schools can get a good education for kids who are in failing school systems. Unlike Obamacare, our free-market-based health care ideas can actually reduce the cost of care and increase choice for the average person. We believe in law and order; so why aren't we pushing to put more cops in high crime areas so no American has to live in fear of drug dealers and gangbangers on the corner in his neighborhood?
If you don't have a plan to make life better for people, then what's the point? If we have a plan, but treat it like it doesn't matter, how can we blame people for thinking we don't care about them?3) We need to focus more on entertaining than informing:
I like attending Tea Parties and I like speaking at Tea Parties. What I do not like is listening to a string of deadly dull speakers monotonously droning on about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and freedom until everyone is bored to tears. There are gifted conservatives like Mark Levin who can make that interesting, but most of those speakers are no Mark Levin. Meanwhile, the crowd looks like a bunch of kids stuck in detention on a Saturday afternoon. What's wrong with focusing on having a FUN event with a little education tossed in, as opposed to a classroom in the park where we're all supposed to be deadly serious?
We do this with movies, too. Liberals put out movies like "Avatar" which focuses on an entertaining story with some liberal propaganda thrown in. In the rare cases when conservatives do make movies and do TV, we tend to make "An American Carol," which was so on the nose that a five year old could figure out that it's conservative propaganda in the first five minutes.
We've also ignored the very best cultural tool we have, which is the Christian church. Show me a devout Christian who takes his beliefs seriously and I will show you someone who's going to be perpetually disgusted by liberalism. Conservative donors, instead of pumping ten million into a couple of Senate ad campaigns for candidates who'll probably lose, how about buying a women's fashion magazine or a massive celebrity gossip blog and dragging the editorial direction to the center right? There's nothing wrong with a little wonkishness now and again, but it's a mistake to confuse that with entertainment.Make it fun and more people will come.
4) We get too impressed by the "more conservative than you" game:
The whole "Tea Partiers have thrown away lots of seats by backing bad candidates" meme pushed by establishment Republicans is mostly vapor. Yes, Christine O'Donnell was the wrong candidate to back, but after that, it's a lot iffier than people make it sound. Sharron Angle was a weak candidate to run against Harry Reid, but it's debatable whether any of her primary opponents could have beaten him. Todd Akin wasn't a Tea Party candidate and although Richard Mourdock said something dumb and lost a seat in Indiana, he was a decent candidate who blew it. That happens as the establishment-backed George Allen could tell you. You hear a lot about "electability" from the establishment Republicans, but they were the ones who stuck us with John McCain and Mitt Romney. How'd that work out? They also stood behind Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist, Lincoln Chafee and Dede Scozzafava. When you don't have a great track record of picking winners AND you bet the bank on liberal candidates who leave the party, you don't have any room to lecture other people on the candidates that they're backing.
So, that's not what I mean by the "more conservative than you" game. What I do mean is that we conservatives often become overly impressed by candidates taking conservative positions that have no hope of becoming law if they're elected. I like the Fair Tax, the flat tax, and Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, but none of them is getting passed by the next President. I'm pro-life and I have no problem with a candidate who's against abortion, period, but everyone should recognize that the chance of the American people forcing women to bear babies after they've been raped is zero. In other words, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost their races advocating a position that had no hope of becoming law in the first place. ANY CANDIDATE who tells you that she won't ever raise the debt ceiling is full of it. ALL THE GOP CANDIDATES in 2012 saying they wouldn't take a deal that cut the deficit $10 for every dollar of taxes raised? That's hogwash. There wasn't a person on that stage who wouldn't have taken that deal in the real world in a second.
Candidates take these great-in-fantasyland, not viable-in-real-life positions not only because they think you want to hear it, but because they're afraid they'll get called a RINO if they don't. I'm a big believer in voting for the most conservative candidate who's viable in a race, but it's time to stop being impressed with big promises we should all know these candidates have no intention of keeping. It doesn't make you "more conservative" to advocate an unrealistic position that isn't going to become law; it just turns off low information voters and moderates and makes you less electable.5) We refuse to challenge liberal control of cultural institutions:
Liberals have completed their long march through America's cultural institutions and they control Hollywood, the schools, and the mainstream media. This gives them an ENORMOUS political edge because they're constantly feeding the American people propaganda through non-political channels. This is why polls of "adults" tend to skew 7-8 points to the Left.
Since there are twice as many conservatives as liberals, this is only possible because of conservatives’ support. We go to the concerts of artists who do fundraisers for Obama, we watch the movies of actors who say we're fascists, we don't complain when our kids’ teachers trash our values, and we buy newspapers that tell everyone we're racists.
Stop doing that, stupid!
You're paying people who hate you to insure that your grandkids wear rags and eat stone soup one day while they reminisce about how great America used to be before our generation ruined it. If a kid gets kicked out of school for saying "gun" in a sentence, demand that the principal be fired. If a musician does a fundraiser for Obama, don't go to his concerts. If an actor mouths off about Republicans, don't go to his movie. If a newspaper trashes Republicans, get your news online and use something else to line your birdcage.
Stop being the guy who's worried about whether you're being polite enough to the guards who are forcing you on the boxcar and refuse to cooperate with the people who want to destroy your way of life!