Friends, the Grand Ol' Party ain't looking so grand these days. Even John McCain is saying he thinks the GOP needs a makeover. And while I don't work for Style or We, I think I have a few tips.
1. Oust the Puppets Who Think They Are Masters
In a NY Times op-ed today, David Brooks notes:
Republican voters have not heeded their masters in the media. Before long, South Carolina looms as the crucial point of the [2008 Primary] race. The contest is effectively between Romney and McCain. The talk jocks are now in spittle-flecked furor. Day after day, whole programs are dedicated to hurling abuse at McCain and everybody ever associated with him. The jocks are threatening to unleash their angry millions.
Yet the imaginary armies do not materialize. McCain wins the South Carolina primary and goes on to win the nomination. The talk jocks can't even deliver the conservative voters who show up at Republican primaries. They can't even deliver South Carolina!
So what is the theme of our history lesson? It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche - even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as "The Wizard of Oz," of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.
And much of the problems plaguing the party are based on these illusions of power. But who actually possesses the type of power to create trust and move the people? As Steve Schmidt admits, Sarah Palin does not possess this trait. Neither does Rick Santorum. Nor Michael Steele.
2. Ensure Your Outreach Is Actually Reaching Out
What kind of person is the GOP looking to attract? And who is doing the recruiting? Having met far too many black Republicans who feel the need to make it known (within minutes) that they aren't like other black people and that they are real original thinkers, I have one thing to say to the Republicans: condescension is not a recruitment tactic. THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT HELPING YOU. Get them off the circuit.
In the latest issue ofWords. Beats. Life (peer reviewed global journal of hip-hop culture) recently, and in their "It Ain't My Fault: Blame It On Hip-Hop" issue, they have an interview with Brandon Brice of the Hip-Hop Republicans. He says:
You know in the eighties we were dealing with the struggle. There was a lot of rap music directed toward Reaganomics. But a lot of that—and I question did people really understand it— Reaganomics. There was a lot of negativity towards a lot of the economics policies that President Reagan put out there. And so questioning it is one thing. But actually understanding it and knowing exactly what it is, and breaking it down, I think that's a disservice. I think music is a center of all. And when you are taking your view of things — this is what it is — and you don't have anyone else challenging you, then I think it's a disservice to the listener.
But what is Brice really saying here? Why is there the assumption that people did not understand Reaganomics? Most folks I know didn't like it or were negatively impacted by policies they could trace directly back to Reaganomics. And if there was misinformation about Reaganomics, why was there no example provided of a way those policies benefited the black community?
3. Make Sure Your Party Walks The Talk
You know, perhaps embracing the social conservatives so tightly wasn't such a good idea after all. Aside from the sticky issues of not living up to those lofty ideals on fidelity and heterosexuality, the idea of playing down the intellect and playing up the "folksy" "real American" appeal of the GOP has started to erode a key part of their base.
As Steven F. Hayward writes in the Washington Post:
Today, however, the conservative movement has been thrown off balance, with the populists dominating and the intellectuals retreating and struggling to come up with new ideas. The leading conservative figures of our time are now drawn from mass media, from talk radio and cable news. We've traded in Buckley for Beck, Kristol for Coulter, and conservatism has been reduced to sound bites. [...]
The best-selling conservative books these days tend to be red-meat titles such as Michelle Malkin's Culture of Corruption, Glenn Beck's new Arguing with Idiots and all of Ann Coulter's well-calculated provocations that the left falls for like Pavlov's dogs. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these books. Politics is not conducted by Socratic seminar, and Henry Adams's dictum that politics is the systematic organization of hatreds should remind us that partisan passions are an essential and necessary function of democratic life. The right has always produced, and always will produce, pot-boilers.
Conspicuously missing, however, are the intellectual works. The bestseller list used to be crowded with the likes of Friedman's Free to Choose, George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty, Paul Johnson's Modern Times, Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, Charles Murray's Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, and Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. There are still conservative intellectuals attempting to produce important work, but some publishers have been cutting back on serious conservative titles because they don't sell.
Dubious selections aside (The Bell Curve? Are you serious?) it is increasingly difficult to gauge the stance of a party that is in a values crisis so severe that the only people speaking are the ones willing to bum rush any microphone to broadcast their nonsense. I suggest they re-evaluate, and take the changing demographics of this country into consideration when they do. And knock the Bell Curve off any and all conservative reading lists.
4. Haters Never Prosper
Enough said. Start making actual plans instead of just jeering at what the Dems are doing. And celebrating that we lost the 2016 Olympic bid is just bad form.
5. More Policy, Less Pomposity
Generally, the people speaking for the Republicans generally aren't actual members of the party, who seem to be too busy with sex scandals to be bothered with work. Instead, there are people like Rush Limbaugh (who responded to David Brooks' op-ed with what was essentially "Don't you know who I am? Don't you wish your column was hot like me?") and Glenn Beck becoming the de facto mouthpieces of the movement. What the Republicans need are smart, talented leadership that can work with real issues instead of relying on the bully pulpits of talk radio to stir up animosity that they can play into. Republicans need to sell ideas, not rage.
To conclude, Republican party needs to add Kelli Goff's book Party Crashing: How the Hip Hop Generation Declared Political Independence to the general reading list. (Hey, strategists: Put down The Bell Curve and read something that might actually help you. And stop reinforcing the racism, it's strong enough in the party.) Guess what - young black people are dying to leave the Democrats! We are ready to go! There are lots of conservatives and moderates of all backgrounds currently with the Dems who would love to cross the aisle. After all, it gets really easy to be taken advantage of if a political party thinks your constituency is on lock. So come on people, work with us. As soon as the GOP starts seeing us as a little more than macacas, border jumpers, dangerous/stupid foreigners, and ingrates who should be thankful for the white man's salvation, we're totally over there. And guys - which I say because there is little to no female leadership - you may want to start fast. It's going to take a while before we start to believe you.
John McCain's Mission: A GOP Makeover [Politico]
The Wizard Of Beck [New York Times]
Schmidt: Palin Would Be Catastrophic [Politico]
Hip Hop Republican [Hip Hop Republican]
Where HipHop and Libertarianism Meet [Official Site]
Words. Beats. Life[Official Site]
Bad Day For USA. Good Day For GOP? [Politico]
Rush Limbaugh On David Brooks: 'JEALOUS' [Politico]
Party Crashing: How The Hip Hop Generation Declared Political Independence