Post-election Republican strategy: Change the message or change the style?

Pundits and strategists are analyzing Tuesday’s election results. But are Republicans in danger of heeding to the wrong advice?
Photo: Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, November 8, 2012 — As Republicans lick their wounds over Mitt Romney’s loss, everyone has an opinion about exactly what happened. There are as many Monday morning quarterbacks as stars in the sky. Pundits, politicians, and preachers all over the country, are using their 20/20 hindsight to launch a barrage of criticism. Some are offering useful insights. Others simply do not know what they are talking about.

Guesses range from a lament that Romney hadn’t pressed Obama more on Benghazi during the third debate, to the effects of our mainstream media ignoring a foreign and domestic fire that would have been used without hesitation to roast George Bush like a hog at a Hawaiian luau. In addition, there is a cynical analysis of Hurricane Sandra, the October surprise, fatal to many unfortunate occupants of New Jersey and New York, but perhaps eerily life saving to Obama’s campaign when one photo op with Republican Governor Chris Christie appeared “presidential” and “bi-partisan” enough to help disgruntled swing voters forget four years of uncompromising legislation.

Some critics blame Romney for being too moderate. Still others blame Romney for being too extreme.

The greater truth may be a lot simpler: Good men sometimes lose elections. The lesson is not to ask a good man to compromise his values, but rather to figure out how a good man might have done a better job of sharing his message.

Advice is especially ironic when Democrats decide to “help Republicans” as if they are anxious to see the opposing party do better next time.

Chuck Todd is not only the Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News; he has also been involved with a variety of Democratic causes, including Senator Tom Harkin’s 1992 presidential bid. Last Tuesday night, Todd had some “words of wisdom” for Republicans.

“The story of this election … is demographics…The Republican Party has not kept up with the changing face of America. That explains what’s going on in Florida. That explains what’s going on in Colorado. That explains, frankly, what’s going on in Virginia and North Carolina. … The Obama campaign was right. They built a campaign for 21st century America. The Republican Party has some serious soul-searching to do when you look at these numbers … they are getting clobbered among non-white voters” (Chuck Todd, MSNBC, November 6, 2012).

Many Republicans are saying similar things themselves. GOP leader Al Cardenas put it this way: “Our party needs to realize that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late … Our party needs a lot of work to do if we expect to be competitive in the near future” (Politico, November 7, 2012).

Too old, too white and too male? Explain that to Mia Love, a 37 old, African-American House of Representatives candidate. She lost the Utah congressional race to incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson, a white male. But she was still nominated by Republicans who loudly applauded her brave words at the Republican convention:

“President Obama’s version of America is a divided one, pitting us against each other based on our income level, gender, and social status. His policies have failed. Mr. President, I am here to tell you we are not buying what you are selling in 2012.”

While you’re in the conservative neighborhood, take a closer look at Republican Governors such as Nikki Haley, an Indian woman, and Susanna Martinez, a Hispanic woman, both of whom also spoke to the GOP in Tampa.

And please walk down memory lane, back to the primaries, and try to explain how Herman Cain was so popular with the Tea Party, far more than Mitt Romney.  

There certainly is a need for more Hispanics, African-Americans, single women, and younger people in the Republican Party. But when Democrats tell lies such as “Republicans are on a war against women,” or “Racism is the only reason Republicans don’t support Obama,” they sabotage the process.

When these same people give patronizing lectures about how Republicans do not reach out, the hypocrisy smells like a hidden skunk.  It should also be noted that while Democrats talk smugly about diversity of age, gender, and culture, they are not nearly so open to a diversity of ideas. In their minds, women and minorities are traitors if they share Republican values. Such an attitude betrays a true agenda. They are not asking Republicans to reach a different demographic. They are asking Republicans to compromise their message. Herman Cain was called an “Oreo.” Sarah Palin’s treatment from the left is so obvious, it needs no further comment.

Incidentally, in reverse situations, we see very few Democrats engaged in the same kind of soul searching.  Were the lessons of 2004 and 2010 that Democrats needed to reconsider their tax and spend policies or reach out more to the Pro-Life community?

Republicans do have something to learn about extending their demographic base, but not at the expense of their souls. Instead the conservative message can be better explained and better debated.

The most glaring example is when Republican candidates like Rep. Todd Akin and Indiana Treasurer, Richard Earl Mourdock said stupid things about abortion and rape. In all fairness, many have quoted Mourdock out of context and both men apologized. It didn’t matter. The candidates should have known it wouldn’t matter. The Politically Correct have trouble including forgiveness on their list of compassionate virtues, unless they are asked to forgive Democrats such as Bill Clinton when he complained about Obama to Ted Kennedy:

A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags” (The New Yorker, September 10, 2012, claiming sources supplied by Tim Russert).

Akin and Mourdock received no such pass. Some Republicans think the solution is to jettison social conservatives and turn the party over to fiscal conservatives. This proposed divorce would be unnecessary if politicians with strong social convictions could learn better strategies when the media tries to bait them into talking about controversial subjects. There are alternatives to floundering around in search of the right words, only to allow some verbal stallion to break out of the corral with a ludicrous explanation.

Supposing a Republican candidate said, “I believe it is imperative for a compassionate society to protect the rights of all women, including baby women.”

Or, “Inasmuch as cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the mother are usually offered as the three reasons why the right to an abortion must be protected, and inasmuch as many Pro-Life advocates would allow exceptions in such cases anyway, supposing we proposed a law that stopped abortion in general, making exceptions in those specific areas? If your answer is no, then can we agree that most abortions do not happen for these reasons?”

I’m not suggesting this would be immediately persuasive. And of course, a multiplicity of reactions would ensue, but at least the ground is now fertile for a rational, constructive dialogue instead of quick demonization.

Abortion is only one example. The idea is for Republicans and conservatives to find better arguments for all of their positions, instead of being driven by polls which tell them which values are behind the times.

Truth is not determined by the majority. Power is determined by the majority. Remember, there was a time when the majority believed in slavery too. If the first abolitionists had used popularity as a moral gauge, civilization would not have advanced beyond this shameful practice.

The reading on majority opinion doesn’t align with one party anyway. While 62 percent of Americans want some kind of restriction on abortion, only 44 percent are against same-sex-marriage . On fiscal matters, the country is almost evenly split in its view of entitlements and taxation.

Republicans are still told that a failure to confront America’s changing demographics will keep them from winning future elections.  This idea ignores a rather big elephant in the room (a GOP mascot at that): Republicans held the House on Tuesday night even though every single seat was up for reelection. This includes many representatives of the “extremist” Tea Party.

It has not been proven that moderation always wins over enthusiastic conviction. Sometimes the exact opposite is true. According to the American Spectator, “Romney received some million Republican votes less than Moderate Nominee Number 9 — John McCain in 2008” (American Spectator, November 8, 2012).

In the minds of most conservatives, Romney was the most moderate candidate in the 2012 Republican primaries. How has this moderation been working out? 

Republicans would be well advised to stop apologizing for their message and instead figure out how to better communicate the message.

This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.

 

Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.

 


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Bob Siegel

A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations.

In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Park radio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah.

Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Newsroom and San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach.  Bob has also published two books;  A Call To Radical Discipleship, and I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...

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