the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Runnin’ with the devil

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One of the givens in Republican campaigning is that you run toward the right in the Primary and then run to the center in the General.  The thinking goes like this; you need to appeal to the more conservative, particularly the social conservative, base to capture the nomination but then you have to appeal to the great centrist voting bloc to win in November.

Looking back over the past thirty years or so, I think a fair-minded person would admit the results have been mixed at best.  When you focus on the last decade, it would appear this way of thinking has reached the point of diminishing returns.  And yet, it’s still the conventional wisdom, and I think it’s high time to re-examine the assumptions and the merits.

After the Reagan revolution, Republican strategists locked on to one of his best-known admonitions – to not speak ill of a fellow Republican.  Somehow, the thought that we don’t need to tear each other apart got morphed into an assumption that conservatives would always support Republicans.   “After all,” goes the logic, “what are they going to do?  Vote for the Democrat?”

The flaw is, of course, the base has another choice – to not vote at all.  Oh, sure – some of the conservatives would support even a weak Republican in the face of Democrat control, but they wouldn’t be all that excited about it.  Since passion drives politics and an unexcited base makes for a lackluster campaign, an uninspired and uninspiring race usually ends up in the loss column.

Meanwhile, Reagan and, in the mid-1990’s, Newt Gingrich showed us how Republicans should run and will win.   They galvanized their base, motivated the middle and recruited support from across the aisle.  How?  By standing on conservative principles – even so-called “right wing” principles – and showing leadership.  They were hounded and mocked by the press and the left, and yet they won.  Big time!

So, what’s the lesson?  As long as our candidates abandon the base after the Primary and run to the center, we will lose more than we gain.  No one gets excited about “Democrat light”; if there’s a choice between someone who says what they’ll do and someone who says “me, too”, most people will take the original over the copycat, even if they don’t agree with everything.   Republican leadership and Republican candidates need to remember from whence they have fallen and either lead, follow or get out of the way.

With the mood of the country colored by the race toward socialism practiced in Washington and most states energizing a large and vocal foundation, those who soft-pedal conservative principles in this election cycle will find themselves dumped.  That’s true  regardless of their party affiliation.  A word to the wise is sufficient – and don’t say we didn’t tell you.


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

14 January 2010 at 2:20 pm

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