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11/26/2008
CHICKEN OR THE EGG?

Pat Ruffini was kind enough to reply to my post from yesterday where I asked how his plans to counter the left’s online advantage fit in to reform of the Republican party.

My point - either not well made or Pat chose not to respond specifically - is one of timing. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does creating this online juggernaut occur in a vacuum? Is it dependent on what the Republican party does to reform itself? Are the two goals mutually exclusive or is their some kind of symbiosis involved where the rightroots’ efforts lead to reform of the party or vice versa?

Pat referred to my “strawman” argument as one of tactics. Au contraire, mon ami. First, if by “strawman” Pat means I was deliberately misrepresenting his position, that was not my intent. If he took it that way, I’m sorry. I am 100% behind Pat’s efforts and, as an aside, believe him to be the best individual to get this idea off the ground and in motion.

Having said that, I believe there to be a disconnect in Pat’s reasoning that would be fatal to his efforts. Quoting from his response:

I would break down the three things the GOP needs to do as follows:

  • Rebuild our infrastructure. There is no question that the left has us beat online and in the new forms of alternative media. We need a strategy for addressing that. This is a main focus of Rebuild the Party but not the only one.
  • Find our message. In the absence of a new Reagan or better infrastructure, we need to find a compelling message that resonates. We need to be more centrist / more conservative. We need to focus more on social issues / fiscal issues. Etc. etc. We hear a lot of this lately. Henke has a framing for this that I like: the unifying narrative.
  • Find new leaders. Only when people have a leader they can rally behind will the movement be activated. This was certainly true of Obama.

The right answer is that we need all of the above. None of these can happen without the other. Perhaps the largest failings of the Bush years can be attributed to the fact that we had a new leader without an ideological revival at the same time.

Rick is right that new technology will be for naught if we keep spending like drunken sailors. Tactics cannot overcome structural deficits or crappy, uninspiring messaging. Good marketing cannot dress up a bad product.

“Rebuilding infrastructure” was not my impression of what The Next Right and Rebuild the party.com was all about. I thought Pat was in the business of creating a whole new ball of wax - online activism, fundraising, candidate recruitment - everything the left is now doing online as well as transplanting some of the Obama model to the right. Certainly we can piggyback some of that on an existing organizational template through the RNC or some other party department but the bulk of what must be done has to be accomplished if not in opposition to the party (do they really want 5 million people trying to tell them what to do?) then certainly independent of it.

As for the “message” or Henke’s “narrative,” that indeed, refers to tactical matters that I agree is vitally important but not relevant to my critique. And whether or not finding a “Reagan” is even possible given the nature of politics and the fact that The Gipper was a World-Historical figure who by definition comes along once in a generation or two would be an iffy proposition at best.

So is wondering about whether the chicken or the egg comes first in this reform process a question of “tactics” or is it a fundamental question regarding the viability of Pat’s ideas? By reforming the party, I think we are both talking about not only issues but structural changes as well (Pat addresses this at RTP.com by calling for RNC reform). I am not sure that the way the national party’s thinking is organized at the moment, Pat’s online ideas fit entirely in the party’s plans for the future. I’m sure they’re grateful for the efforts and would give their right arms for the kind of organization Pat is talking about but are they going to be a help or a hinderance?

So my question from yesterday about why conservatives should exert the energy to become more active before the party takes the necessary steps to reform itself both issueswise and organizationally stands. Indeed, if that question can’t be answered, it puts Pat’s entire enterprise at risk in my opinion.

By: Rick Moran at 12:41 pm
11 Responses to “CHICKEN OR THE EGG?”
  1. 1
    Transplanted Lawyer Said:
    1:43 pm 

    It seems obvious that as a practical matter, technological and infrastructure reform have to take place at the same time as issue reform. In theory, we ought to find a good message first and then use the power of that message as a foundation to build something new. But in practice, there isn’t going to be time to do that. Half a dozen candidates are already starting to jockey for the 2012 nomination.

    So to rebuild the party into something politically effective again will require entrepreneurs, people like Ruffini, to offer their visions for what the future of the GOP should look like and see how the audience responds. I’ve thrown out a few ideas on the issue reform side of things but Rick is 100% right that organizationally, the party is well-suited to win the elections of 1980 and 1982 right now and that must change unless we enjoyed the dusting we just took from Obama. I’m glad guys like Ruffini are out there thinking along that track.

    Agree about Ruffini but am less sure a two track approach is possible. Your “ideal” that they take place together would presuppose an intimate connection - don’t see that happening at the present.

    ed.

  2. 2
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    3:20 pm 

    Hey, while you guys are at it (rebuilding your party, that is) could you do the rest of us a favor and disconnect yourselves from the evangelicals? Please?

    We know you hate them and think they are a necessary evil, but I assure you, they’re not. If you build a better party based on actually conserving something… anything, people will just come. You won’t need scare them into voting like you do with the Evangelicals.

    Heh - you dating Kathleen Parker?

    You are talking about 15% of the party - if that. And perhaps you could give the GOP some ideas on how to “disconnect” from the evangelicals? Maybe line them up against a wall and shoot them? Reading my site you know what I bemoan is their influence. Decrease their influence to what it was prior to George Bush #41 caving in to them in 92 and I think people wouldn’t care as much that they were Republicans.

    ed.

  3. 3
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    4:49 pm 

    Evangelicals aren’t Republicans though. They vote a certain standard of hot button (for them) issues and that’s it.

    My main suggestion for how to disconnect from them is simple. Have a new Republican party that takes no official stand whatsoever on issues that have nothing to do with responsibly governing the country. Why does a party have to have a stance on every issue? Thus, the core beliefs of the party are preserved without all the baggage of the other stuff.

    If it’s a hot button issue for the evangelicals, then drop it from the platform and take no stance. This might take a small portion of the evangelicals out of the equation, but I guarantee that you’d get a migration of people like me who share a great deal of the fundamentals of conservative ideology, but simply can’t stomach the other baggage.

  4. 4
    M. Wilcox Said:
    1:26 am 

    As a suggestion the Republican party can just die a quiet death if Juan McCain is the best they can do, a candidate for the countries Chief Law Enforcement Officer that calls people that expect laws ohh like ILLEGAL ENTRY, ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, ILLEGALLY BEING IN THE COUNTRY .. calling these people RACIST for expecting laws to be enforced might be a crappy choice for Chief Law Enforcement Officer of our nation, just a thought!

  5. 5
    John Howard Said:
    7:02 am 

    …you’d get a migration of people like me who share a great deal of the fundamentals of conservative ideology, but simply can’t stomach the other baggage.

    In other words, people willing to sacrifice the “fundamentals of conservative ideology” because of an intolerance of intellectual diversity. Like academics following the truth wherever it leads, as long as it stays on paved roads.

  6. 6
    Dale Said:
    7:59 am 

    As an evangelical, I caution you: you can de-emphasize them, but do not insult them. And I think theat they (we, I guess) should be de-emphasized. For example, reframe the debate on abortion. Leave Roe out of it and concentrate on more practical aspects of it which are winners: partial birth abortion, abortion as birth control, as examples. Primarily, use these as areas where the Dems are vulnerable to the charge of serving individual constituancies at the expense of other constituancies.

    However, if you start the conversation, and I know I am responding to Chuck not to Rick or Pat, if you begin by extracting evangelicals, you are merely repeating the same mistakes made previously, although in a different way. The last two election cycles, the Republican party had a message of what we are not, rather than what we are. We are not Bush, we are not inexperienced, we are not mean, we are not going to take as much in taxes.

    We must define it as what we are: we will keep you safe through forward looking military expenditures, we will keep the government out of your business, we will select judges who don’t make stuff up, we will protect the borders. In short, the new infrastructure is useful as a means to define the debate rather than being defensive against dems reframing our positions to mischaracterize them. The decision now is one of focus. What are the issues we wish to rally around? I agree that school prayer, creation vs. evolution, and abortion are silly topics to use as base issues. Abortion is virtually decided, and the other issues undercut religious (including irreligious) freedom.

    Pandering to religious kooks like me is pointless. We should be treated as the Dems treat black voters: a loyal constituancy that can be taken for granted. But kicking us out is as stupid as the Dems intentionally insulting blacks. And the Christians may be the key to turning conservative blacks toward a more open-minded voting pattern. But as long as Obama is in office, they will be effectively out-of-play.

  7. 7
    ajacksonian Said:
    9:28 am 

    How about some of the good, old federalism that leaves things up to the states and gets the federal government out of telling folks what to do?

    Or reading the Constitution to tell you what government is given to do and keep it at that?

    You can’t get there overnight, but a KISS platform and crafting policy from that would help… otherwise you are just a bunch of programs with a few semi-stated ideas and no real coherent idea of what it means to be a Republican. Then mandate the KISS platform to all candidates high and low? You know, have some idea of what a governing ethos actually *is*, instead of doing things spur of the moment? Structure follows simplicity, and that would mean strong State party structures which follow the more general outlines but can adjust by State. So you can have State level diversity and adhere to a common view of federal government.

    That does mean going beyond the bland ‘conservative’ label and having to identify the few vital concerns of the Nation and get rid of the distractions and hand those back to the States. I would vote for federalism that had the old ’structural’ view and applied it across *all* of the federal government, not just the judiciary. I will not vote for a Big Government party or candidates any longer: they are the problem.

  8. 8
    John Howard Said:
    10:28 am 

    In about 4 hours my house will be reveling in Thanksgiving. Participants will include mostly Christians, 2 atheists, a Jew, and a Muslim. The only people who won’t fit in are those who can’t “stomach” other people because of their religious beliefs.

    They’ll be down the road in a fully-tenured professor’s house.

  9. 9
    ew Said:
    12:10 pm 

    Some of the things the lefty illuminati did correctly tactic-wise should be noted in the reform. The grassroots efforts, especially, would serve a lot of people well. The conservatives did a bad job of targeting specific groups, also. These things should also be considered in reforming the party and making it ready for another win.

  10. 10
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    1:53 am 

    Nice diversion there John. I refuse to allow you to frame my discussion. Keep trying, but your intellectual dishonesty is as pathetic as your attempts at sarcasm.

    And Dale, maybe you’re right. If all it takes is for someone to put the word gay or god on a ballot and 80 million of you come running to the polling place, then maybe your party does have it figured out.

    Just because the dems treat minority voters the same way doesn’t make it right. You’re equivocating, and making absurd assumptions to justify how the republicans use your religious group.

    If the party is going to reform itself, then it should do so. In my eyes, reform does not mean - figure out a way to get a tiny bit above the 50% threshold. Reform means sitting down at the table and saying, ok we had nearly eight years of absolute and total power. We squandered it in a spectacular way and were systematically removed from power because of it. What the hell went wrong?

  11. 11
    headhunt23 Said:
    2:38 pm 

    You have to have the dissatisfaction of the base first - get their dander up if you will. In the meantime, you can build some mechanisms to take advantage of some of the resulting early energy of the bas after it gets pi$$ed off, but most of those will be disregarded and new avenues will be created by the grass roots.

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