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November 18, 2008

Part II of Redrawing the Conservative Roadmap: the GOP's Image Problem

Before beginning Part II, a short recap of Part I should help focus the discussion. Last week, I proposed John Hawkins' "GOP brand promise" as an organizing set of principles:

* Limited government.
* Fiscal responsibility.
* Low taxes.
* Traditional values.
* Law and order.
* Clean government.
* Personal responsibility.
* A strong national defense.
* Patriotism.

The first post in this series argued for a broadening of the "traditional values" part of the conservative platform. The theory was that conservatives can no longer afford to ignore the changing social mores and demographics of the American electorate:

1. ... conservatives would do well to frame the debate in a way that both educates the public and focuses on what Congress and the President actually do. We waste enormous amounts of time on distracting debates over subjects the President... has little or no actual influence over while neglecting important issues he does have control and influence over.

2. ...item #1 provides at least a partial answer to many of our "social issue" woes. As a moderate, though I both understand and support the strong convictions of social conservatives, I firmly believe the federal government ought to stay the hell out of the business of legislating personal and sexual morality. We need to start making the case that nearly all of these issues are ones which have traditionally been resolved at the state and local level. We need to frame this as a "freedom" issue: when the federal government imposes a one-size-fits-all moral code upon 50 very different states, we LOSE the freedom to decide and debate amongst ourselves how we want to live.

This is a freedom the Founders very much wanted us to have. ..a true conservative doesn't care about legislating these issues at the federal level, but can and will oppose any effort to thwart participatory democratic decision-making and debate at the state and local level.

3. ...conservatives need to frame the choice facing voters as being between a Party of Opportunity and Freedom which maximizes individual dignity, responsibility, and choice and minimizes government interference in the lives of citizens; and a Party of Pessimism and Control which maximizes dependency on government, waste and inefficiency and minimizes productivity, opportunity, and accountability.

Conservatives seem to have trouble framing our policy positions in a way that makes them attractive to the broad coalition of voters needed to win a national election. Simply put, the GOP has an image problem.

What's worse, elements of the party (i.e., the base) are in complete denial about this. I don't like it any better than you do when David Brooks delivers toffee nosed lectures from his perch atop Mount Pinot Noir. Nonetheless, he and others like him make valid points about how conservatives are perceived by the rest of the electorate and we ignore them at our peril. When you lose elections, getting advice from folks who think exactly the way you do probably isn't the smartest tactic.

It's the folks who don't think like you do who understand how you're perceived, and if your idea of how to win the next election lies in repeating the same losing message over and over (but this time, with 15% more gusto!) you just might be a bit tone deaf.
Being a conservative isn't exactly a popular position to be in these days and people are sheep. When my twenty-something daughter in law isn't able to admit her party affiliation at work, something needs to change.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether these impressions are justified or not. We live in the real world, not the world as we wish it was. Rightly or wrongly, large numbers of liberals, moderates and young people honestly see Republicans as heartless, gay hating racists who secretly can't wait to force a thousand years of jackbooted theocracy on their unsuspecting neighbors and they're in no hurry to be disabused of these notions. If you doubt this for one second, take a midday stroll through the NY Times, Salon or Slate and savor the heartfelt respect for alternative political modalities. Perhaps my favorite graf:

Our kids are raised on a steady diet of tolerance, but, given the chance, they signal allegiance by turning on whomever they can pin as a bad guy. They don't get many chances at that, really. There just aren't a lot of enemies in their lives. Railing against McCain supporters functions as a safe outlet for hostility and even hatred. For my sons Eli and Simon and most of their friends, die-hard Republicans are an abstract concept. They know people who differ from them by race and ethnicity and religion, and they get that it's not OK to judge by those categories. On their soccer team are kids who are working-class rather than well-off, and I think they also understand that class isn't a flag to rally around either. They may have met a libertarian or two, but they've never talked politics with a serious conservative.

That America inexplicably survived 8 years of the anti-Christ George Bush without seeing homosexuals, atheists, and drivers of Volvo station wagons frog marched through the streets in sackcloth and ashes is a point well and truly lost on most of these folks, and it will continue to be lost on them until conservatives learn that it's not enough to walk the walk.

We need to learn to talk the talk, too. We need to make it socially acceptable to be a conservative again.

There's a reason George Bush's compassionate conservatism resonated with voters. There's a reason Bush was elected in 2000 (and again in 2004) and it wasn't just the war or national security. There was no war in 2000. Bush was able to do one thing successfully whether or not the "base" likes it, or him: for moderates, at least initially, Bush put a human face on conservatism while projecting a credible conservative message. The problem, for many conservatives, is that this human face came with too high a price tag.

Happily, there are other ways to address the GOP's image problem. To win the crossover vote, conservatives need a three pronged approach - education, outreach, and better communication - designed to address our image problem in the following areas.

1. RACE: After this election, this first item may well be more important than ever. Shortly after November 4th Spike Lee characterized the Republican Party as "totally white". Leaving aside the rather obvious question of why it is racist for fewer than half of white voters to vote for a candidate of their own race but not racist for 96% of blacks to vote for Obama (or the corresponding point that blacks are not the only non-white component of the U.S. population -- and that about 1/3 of these folks voted Republican); we are still left with an enormous untapped portion of the American electorate that could be won over. We need to do a better job of talking to them. More and more often, elections are won and lost on the margins; by shifting small sections of various demographic groups to one side or the other.

What George Bush did very well during both his campaigns was to reach out to the Hispanic community without compromising his principles. The tactic paid off - he won over a sizable portion of the Hispanic vote. He did the same thing with the black vote. The single worst mistake the GOP makes with blacks is in talking down to them. We make it easy for the DNC to make us look like narrow-minded racists when in fact, the GOP has a better record on race than the Democrats. But when the media leans left, we can't depend on them to expose the untruths that are told every election season.

We need to do a better job of outreach and education, starting with a focused message on race and the GOP that frames conservative ideas in a positive, uplifting and respectful fashion. Here's a concise framework for discussion:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 - how many Americans realize a larger proportion of Republicans voted for it than Democrats (82% vs 63%)?

In fact, Republicans have a better record on civil rights, period:

A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats have voted for every major civil rights milestone — from the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery to the post-Civil War civil rights laws to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.

We also have a better record on diversity. Much better, in fact.

We need to trust the young black conservatives in our ranks and realize that they may not always march in lockstep. But that's OK.

And finally, we fail to emphasize that blacks, women, and other minorities are being sold a narrative of failure and oppression by the DNC. This false, deeply dishonest and disrespectful narrative would make many blacks angry if we stopped being afraid of a little straight talk. Instead of blaming poor blacks for not succeeding, perhaps we should be looking at how the black community was able to build successful businesses, healthy families, and accountablee schools in a time before government protected them from the evils of white racism? Perhaps we need to ask why all these expensive government initiatives have failed to end black poverty and illegitimacy?

One of the many negative consequences of the emphasis on failure and loss is that most blacks are cut off from a knowledge of the thousands of black men who viewed business enterprise and land ownership as critical to progress, and actively pursued success in capitalist enterprise.

For example, almost a century ago, Henry Allen Boyd, son of a slave, with little formal education, founded one business after another in Nashville, Tennessee, and assisted his fellow blacks to do the same. He was revered as the solid rock of Nashville's black community.

Just about 70 years ago, John Whitelaw Lewis countered Washington, DC's restrictive Jim Crow laws by building an elegant hotel for blacks. Designed by a black architect and built entirely by black tradesmen, it became the center of social life for black professionals and business people. (See Issues &Views, Spring 1992)

About a decade before Lewis, New York realtor Philip Payton and a partnership of black businessmen prevented the eviction of black tenants from two buildings in Harlem by buying the buildings outright. They met racism head-on with economic clout and were praised for their "novel method of resisting race prejudice." (See Issues &Views, Spring 1992, and here.)

It's hardly more than 60 years after Charles Spaulding and his cousin Asa presided over the country's largest black-owned business, Durham's North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company--with Asa's intelligence and perseverance helping the company survive even the Great Depression.

In the 1870s, Robert Reed Church, born a slave, used his brains and savvy to become a businessman prosperous enough to counter racist laws in Memphis by building a splendid park on Beale Street for the black community. Here, blacks enjoyed summer festivities, held graduation exercises and hosted an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the poor--all paid for with black dollars.

George Downing, an industrious entrepreneur in the 1840s, not only established catering businesses in several eastern resorts, he built the luxurious Sea Girt Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. His was one of the most popular establishments in town.

There is also an impressive list of black men who, long before Emancipation, used their ingenuity to counter racism and to meet racial insult with economic initiatives. What did they all have in common? They were pragmatists, men who realistically assessed their options in the world around them, learned the economic principles that drove society, and set out to master them. They did not get sidetracked or bogged down in ideological swamplands, since such digression would not have created jobs for themselves or their children, or produce the capital with which to subvert bigotry.

These men were not aberrations by any means, but were representative of a spirit that once seized blacks, where personal success was tied to a commitment to carry on the "progress of the race." They were part of a tide that had begun to roll long before slavery ended and which endured right into the 20th century.

These stories are inspiring. If blacks were able to overcome hardship, poverty and deprivation then, doesn't that tell us something about the power of the human spirit? History contains important lessons for us, and the message here is that the victimization mantra being peddled by the Democrats not only fails to fix the problems it is intended to address, it makes them worse. Talk about a failed policy:

Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series “Class Matters” and you still won’t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.

By now, these facts shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto “baby mamas.” Not so; it is a largely low-income—and disproportionately black—phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal—one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.

So why does the Times, like so many who rail against inequality, fall silent on the relation between poverty and single-parent families? To answer that question—and to continue the confrontation with facts that Americans still prefer not to mention in polite company—you have to go back exactly 40 years. That was when a resounding cry of outrage echoed throughout Washington and the civil rights movement in reaction to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Department of Labor report warning that the ghetto family was in disarray. Entitled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” the prophetic report prompted civil rights leaders, academics, politicians, and pundits to make a momentous—and, as time has shown, tragically wrong—decision about how to frame the national discussion about poverty.

The Democrats have had over 40 years to fix a situation they clearly consider the "white man's burden". Isn't that a bit patronizing?

Why don't we call them out on that sort of rhetoric? I think a focused message of respect and equality would go a long way here. Groups like Project 21 and black conservative bloggers (there are some excellent ones) can help. Why don't we ask them? Why aren't we making use of the talent we have in our midst? We need to stop being afraid of race. Conservatives have a better record on real civil rights issues - why are we afraid to engage? Pandering is not the way to win over the black vote. Respect is the way, and respect begins with speaking the truth. Fiscal conservatism is better for all families: black as well as white. Human beings all make decisions in the same way. Black families are rational actors - they respond to incentives in the same way we do. Pandering only comes across as a lack of respect, and refusal to talk to them doesn't work either.

2. SOCIAL ISSUES: On social issues, a big tent party ought to be big enough to encompass both religious and non-religious social conservatives and more moderate voters. The key here is that third rail issues like gay marriage and abortion aren't issues the President has much control over. They only make conservatives look narrow minded when we go to the mat over them. The bottom line is that these are essentially state law issues anyway. A more palatable conservative party line would be to advocate the appointment of Constitutionally faithful judges and push for local control over issues relating to marriage and sexual morality. This strategy is more in line with how the Founders intended our government to operate. It has the added advantage of allowing us to frame our side of the debate as a bottoms up, democratic "freedom" approach vs. a rigid, top down, one size fits all approach imposed by unelected judges.

It allows us to co-opt the Democratic message machine and turn it back on them. What Republicans so often fail to understand is that the way an idea is delivered is often just as important as the actual content. Too often, we deliver our ideas in a way that is perceived as negative. I think there is some truth to the Democratic narrative that we tend to work on a fear-based narrative. The flip side of that though - the side we have inexcusably failed to grasp and use - is that the Democrats use even more of a fear-based narrative than we do. Fear of failure. Fear of our own public servants (how often are they painted as being worse than al Qaeda? How often do Democrats undermine public trust and confidence in elections, in our institutions?) How often does the Democratic party's party line depend upon the belief that ordinary citizens are powerless - that we are being preyed upon by evil and sinister forces beyond our control? That we can't succeed without government intervention? If that isn't fear mongering, what is?

Turn this narrative around, though, and there is a positive way to say almost everything. It's the difference between pushing people from behind and leading them from the front: all too often, conservatives fail to lead: to "sell" our ideas in a positive way that inspires and uplifts. This is what Ronald Reagan was so good at: he conveyed pride, hope, and a positive vision of America that spoke to the higher aspirations of voters instead of the lowest common denominator, to their hopes and dreams rather than to their fears and anxieties.

Admittedly it's a bit of a challenge with conservative ideas because they're inherently pragmatic, but success is inspiring. Empowering people and freeing them to succeed is inspiring. Conservatives believe in the qualities that make America great. What we need to do is talk about our ideas in a way that doesn't sound like we're running the other guy down, that says, "Join us - we're going to the top of the mountain!", not "You're either with us or you hate this country."

Peggy Noonan, though I haven't been too thrilled with her of late, had the right idea with her image of the joyful warrior. It's just that too often we tear down where we should be building up, or we allow ourselves to be portrayed as being "against" when we need to be perceived as being "for".

3. THE ECONOMY: On fiscal conservatism and lower taxes, the one area I firmly believe we mustn't compromise, we need to sell a positive vision of the happier, successful and more productive America which results when free, hard working, creative people are allowed to keep the fruits of their productive labor. We need to educate people about the real world consequences of raising corporate or capital gains taxes, but in a positive way that shows how we benefit from conservative fiscal policy.

We need to talk about the ethics of personal responsibility. I think one of our biggest problems in convincing voters of the merit of conservative policy positions is that America is an extraordinarily free and affluent country. Voters hear us preach this sort of doomsday message: "If you let the other guys into office, they'll usher in an era of socialism and the abandonment of morals". But then they look around and see that government is already 2/3 down the road to socialism and our popular culture has already abandoned the kind of traditional morals the GOP champions, and it's their friends and neighbors and children who are doing these horrible things and moreover, Armegeddon isn't here yet. The very success of the free market makes it hard for us to show what's wrong with socialism.

And so voters conclude that we're wrong on any number of levels.

The focus ought to be on framing our fiscal policies in such a way that they appeal to the broadest cross section of the electorate. Obviously where that is most challenging is with low income voters, where we must compete with the "goody bag" strategy of the DNC.

I submit that a common sense, "straight talk" approach would work best with low income voters. We need to start appealing to their intelligence and common sense without a lot of hokey gimmicks and pandering. The best argument (IMO) that John McCain got off in the debates was the one on corporate taxes. He argued that the US already pays the 2nd highest corporate income taxes in the world. No corporation voluntarily does business where costs are high. If you raise the cost of hiring workers and doing business, corporations will flee to a lower-cost, more business friendly environment. Thus, raising corporate taxes costs US workers jobs.

There is a similar argument for raising the minimum wage - it has the unintended effect of harming the very people it intends to help: unskilled workers. The minimum wage is paid only to unskilled workers. Those with skills can command a higher wage.

If you raise the cost of hiring unskilled workers, companies will hire fewer workers and allow them to work fewer hours. This is only common sense: their pool of available wages doesn't increase just because the government raised the minimum wage.

Conservatives need to do a better job of educating the public about the real world, unintended consequences of liberal social engineering. Here again, common sense arguments work best:

No rational person believes that if you confiscate more of a worker's income, he will be more productive (or even continue to produce the same amount as he did before). And yet this is the theory behind raising income taxes - that the highest income, most productive workers will work just as hard and be just as productive as they were before!

But this is contrary to all common sense. No sane person trudges off to work every day to bring about "increased income equality" for his neighbor. If you worked harder than anyone else in your office all week and on payday, instead of a paycheck your boss handed you only half your usual paycheck along with a piece of paper that said, "Congratulations! Your pay has been cut in half, but thanks to your efforts every worker in this office now makes exactly the same amount as you do!", would you show up to work the next morning and work just as hard as you did before?

No rational person believes that raising the cost of opening a business will encourage more business owners to start new businesses and hire more workers.

So why do we want to raise the corporate tax rate?

No rational person believes that reducing the rate of return on savings and investment will encourage people to save more or invest in businesses.

So why do we want to raise the capital gains tax?

Again, "fairness" isn't a good enough reason to do stupid things that don't achieve the desired end. All of this, really, is just common sense and yet somehow when politicians start talking about abstract and fuzzy concepts like "income inequality" and "fairness", people forget everything they know about human behavior and common sense flies right out the window. What we need to do is to remind them of what they already know. The American people are smarter than we give them credit for.

And that is the right way to sell our message.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at November 18, 2008 06:14 AM

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None of this works without some antidote to the MSM= all the described stereotypes begin there.

Candidates from American Idol will work too and no one will care about their political philosophy.

Its over folks - have you spoken to the "youts" recently? Personal responsibilty? Please! Never have I encountered a group with a greater sense of entitlement on such a slender basis. the Gramscian march thru the institutions has worked = the nanny state is the desired end of a good part of the population.

Cling to the religious right Republicans - they may be the only group that sill admits that there are real world consequences to actions.

Posted by: fiona at November 18, 2008 10:23 PM

The problem is that liberalism/socialism, like all scams, sounds good on its surface. Anyone who has succumbed to the hype of an infomercial, a bait-and-switch car "sale", or one of those ads that used to run in the back of comics and magazines (see the South Park "Sea People" episode for a funny send-up of this), has found out the hard way about ripoffs. There are always people that believe you can always get a free lunch, that some Nigerian really wants to give them 20 million dollars, or some other get-rich-quick scheme. PT Barnum called them "suckers", and the Democrats are the ultimate carnival hucksters in the Barnum mold.

Eventually, though, the scam runs its course and you are left with a worthless product and a lighter wallet. Most will learn their lesson about such hypes and scams.

In political terms, the end of the scam was called the Carter presidency. Carter innoculated the american public against liberalism for about 15 years or so. Now, however, it has been almost 30 years since we have seen a fiasco like Carter. Anyone under 45 has little memory of the Carter miasma. These people will have to learn a hard and painful lesson when they learn their Savior has feet of clay, and the promised utopia becomes Carter, the sequel.

Hopefully, that painful experience will immunize this new generation to avoid falling for the same old liberal scam.

Posted by: a former european at November 18, 2008 10:41 PM

Run against the Democrats not the democrat. I would challenge a republican to pick a democratic district and run against bankrupt blue states, Barny Franks and Fannie/Freddie, Pelosi/Reid, corrupt Dodd, Jefferson, et al. Every election the republicans compete against the democrat and people vote for the Democrats.

Four S's of the Democratic Party: Slavery, Secession, Segregation and Socialism. The republican party was created as the Emancipation Party. Surely there's some contrast there.

Posted by: J at November 18, 2008 10:44 PM

Every election the republicans compete against the democrat and people vote for the Democrats.

That's because the Democrats are the party of *all* the people -- including all the dead ones who show up at the polls on election day.

In Union and Hudson Counties in Jersey, if a Dem runs and *doesn't* receive 110% of the vote, the ward bosses are severely chastized...

Posted by: BillT at November 19, 2008 12:38 AM

So...you are a Federalist. Good show!

Posted by: camojack at November 19, 2008 03:35 AM

I dunno, Cassandra...

I've looked at your country's left-wing and right-wing representatives; suffice it to say that I do not hold out much hope, if any, of turning the really die-hard Democrats from their socialistic dreams.

I agree that conservatives need to stand for something - and more importantly, need to communicate their stance effectively - but seriously, how effective were the samizdatists in Soviet Russia? It was the economy, and ultimately, Gorbachev's lifting of the crushing State machinery of oppression, that destroyed the USSR - and behold, Putin has restored it in all but name.

Not by nature a pessimist, but without something transcendant to rally around, I don't think it would work.

Posted by: Gregory at November 19, 2008 04:01 AM

> We need to do a better job of outreach and education, starting with a focused message on race and the GOP that frames conservative ideas in a positive, uplifting and respectful fashion. Here's a concise framework for discussion....

The big hoary lie of right==racist, is probably THE biggest con job of the 20th century, if you know the history.

You can hit them quickly with a lot of easy points on this — start out with the REAL history of Dems in the South, of how they fomented race tensions right from the get-go in opposition to Republican Reconstructionist policies which called for black equality.

Follow up with facts like the Dixiecrats in 1948 (they were Dems in 1944, they were Dems in 1952) (Contrast with this (see "Negro")), and then hammer it home with the events of the 1964 DNC, where duly elected BLACK representatives were disenfranchised by Johnson AND Humphrey (showing that northern Dems didn’t give a damned about blacks any more than the southern ones did) in order to get the support of the South. And top it off with notes about Dem racist comments about Powell and Rice that would have had people calling for heads were they to have been uttered by anyone in the GOP, and the fact that the Kerry campaign had NO –repeat NO– blacks in high positions until finally someone noticed, after which they quickly hired a few token showpiece blacks.

Democrats: a century and a half of racism.

Posted by: OBloodyhell at November 19, 2008 10:22 AM

I think the institutional racism people talk about as the reason they vote Democrat is exactly what the Democrat party is trying to maintain and expand.

But people don't often say this, since it would be like the Left calling us racists. And we don't like that.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 19, 2008 11:47 AM

Eventually, though, the scam runs its course and you are left with a worthless product and a lighter wallet. Most will learn their lesson about such hypes and scams.

When you are using other people's money and they get to pay for the consequences of your identity theft, why is there any need to "learn their lesson" eventually?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 19, 2008 11:48 AM

I was referring to the scammee, of course, rather than the scammer/politician.

Posted by: a former european at November 19, 2008 11:35 PM

I was referring to the scammee, of course, rather than the scammer/politician.

This would then mean we must prevent the scammers from turning the scamees into scammers simply to avoid financial destitution.

If people can be convinced that their financial loss was due to the REpublicans, as they were in 2005-8, then those people can be turned into scammers or at least their accomplices.

As for a rebranding of conservative whatevers, these are my thoughts.

Race: Keep bringing up Abraham Lincoln and quoting facts about the Civil War and slavery. Also listen to black conservatives and learn from their strategies, like Cass's recent vids of the guy who mentioned Bull Connor. These things matter to blacks and they should matter to us as well. Emotional appeal may not be our forte and certainly isn't our preference, but needs must drive the Devil make due (or was that the other way around).

Education: Teach children how to defend themselves against violence by using violence. Teach them the meaning behind social structures and restrictions so they understand emotions before being controlled by emotions (emotions created by the Democrat party and entitlement). Get them young always works, even if special individuals need not apply. These two points, the teaching of physical self-defense and the education of children in matters of psychological warfare, will make them resistant to the two types of elements the Democrats most need for their army: fear of violence, guns, and the 'white man' as number one and number two being the inability to defend oneself against propaganda because one doesn't know how propaganda works.

But, since nature abhors a vacuum, we cannot simply teach children defenses only. We must also teach them methods of attack or things to fill in the vacuum. On this note, Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand are nice vectors of attack concerning high school and college aged individuals. If people are taught that conservatives are crazy xtremists that love guns and love exploiting people, then Ayn Rand will provide a far truer portrayal of "exploitation". Because AYn Rand is not associated with the conservative movement (she is not Rush Limbaugh, Rove, or Hannity), one can stealth sneak in ideas PAST the Democrat and fake liberal mental defenses against GOP ideas.

This also has the benefit of forcing the Left to react to us. The Left says they are the party of the downtrodden, of diversity, and what not. Well, once you expose the historical truth of the Left by simply pasting and quoting numbers and facts, you can substitute facts for arguments. The Left substitutes personal attacks for arguments because actual arguments take individual time and can't be whipped on immediately on demand, especially in conversations. We must substitute actual arguments with actual attacks, but we cannot adopt the Left's brand of personal destruction because we are just not as good at it. We don't have the proper type of soldier in that kind of war while they do. So it isn't an option to us even if we wanted it in the first place. But we don't need that option if we have an alternative.

Part of the effectiveness of the Left's propaganda on the young is that Democrat initiatives combined with the media create a "bubble" where everyone thinks the same because they talk about the same things in the same way. Changing the narrative becomes vital in such situations. You cannot fight on their terrain and pre-chosen place of battle and expect to win. You cannot fight under their assumptions about the UN, WMDs, and Bush and win. You cannot compromise and say "well, the UN is valid and Bush shouldn't have launched an invasion before he had final authorization, but this was a special case". Nor should you say that the "UN did provide justification for the invasion of Iraq". You are fighting on the enemy's ground then, giving legitimacy to the UN and implying that AMerica's actions are only legitimate if the UN approves or has a Resolution.

Get off their territory and make them come to ours. If blacks say that we can't effectively racial profile Muslims because Timothy McVeigh was white, figure out how to change the narrative instead of constantly fighting on their territory or constantly defending yourself against their progressive arguments. It is not about what makes sense to you; it is about what makes people pay attention to your narrative as opposed to the Dem's narrative. That is what matters: at first.

On national security matters the answer to driving a wedge against Hollywood's portrayal of soldiers (and America) is through Video and Computer games. Young people, my generation and older, pay more attention to the PLOTS, CHARACTERS, and interactive action in games than they EVER did to the news. This won't provide much beyond superficial penetration of Leftist brainwashed individuals, but it will give those that have the capability to break their conditioning a chance.

In the MSm and popular culture, including the administration, whenever there are signs of the US military going into propaganda (the proper business of Socialist and Marxist revolutionaries, killers, and MSM editors), there is an incredible outcry and attempt to suppress it. Just like there are attempts to suppress military recruiting on campuses by banning ROTC. The Left knows the US military is a competitor and the Left knows exactly how to hobble competitors. But people should not forget America's Army, an incredible success story of the Army going into propaganda and having it work. People do pay attention and that is far better than leaving people in the hands of Hollywood and the Left's stories.

This is not going to enlighten people so much as force people to resist Leftist brainwashing by introducing alternative venues of thought. South Park applies in the same manner. You aren't going to get any deep thinking or wisdom out of it, but you may start to get some critical thinking skills and you may be able to get some moral courage to challenge other folks by the examples you have seen.

Individuals learn much simply by observing the behavior of others. THis has been proven in psychological studies. A person afraid of snakes becomes less afraid of them after watching an actor, acting afraid of snakes, reaching out and handling the snake. This is a derivative of leadership and it is why human beings gravitate towards strong leaders and away from weak ones. People want to feel strong so they support strong leaders, not weak ones.

Showing people, through visual entertainment, modes of behavior different than what the Left would decide to show is very important in creating cracks in the conditioning of those that have been successfully targeted by propaganda. Those that believe the US military to be what Code Pink claims are not going to be switched and converted in a year or even two years. Their journey will depend largely on when they were indoctrinated (worse it gets the longer and younger), their own personal will power, the amount of time they can spend on introspection and de-conditioning, and external psychological shocks provided by guess who (us).

This strategy is more in line with how the Founders intended our government to operate. It has the added advantage of allowing us to frame our side of the debate as a bottoms up, democratic "freedom" approach vs. a rigid, top down, one size fits all approach imposed by unelected judges.

For college aged students, the topic of choice is always costs and college. That's the point of weakness. You talk about economy, jobs, whatevers, and you will not get as strong an interest.

You need to get a "progressive" agenda. Something that requires organization, a goal, money, and support. When conservatives talk about all these problems that come with "changing things", they may be right but they are also going to be seen as naysayers, barriers to progress, and old foggies that are too afraid or not ambitious enough to take risks.

The GOP is actually losing votes amongst younger generations because it is seen as being unable to take risks and do the things that need doing regardless of complaint. And yet, isn't the truth that the Democrats are more like that then the GOP? And yet, the Democrats, because they offer progressive changes, can brand themselves the party of change and progress and free spending while the GOP cannot do the same, even if it tries.

THe GOP fails amongst the young because the GOP doesn't create initiatives that will use money to THWART the direct consequences of Leftist socialism, corruption, and weakness. If the GOP created a National Bill requiring all schools to use municipal/state/federal funds from boondogles, special interest projects, and pork to fund a self-defense class (taught by former or current military servicemembers) for all men and women on college campuses, what do you think the response from the women would be?

Combine this with a refund (paid from federal aid to schools, not an additional federal subsidy), in cash, of dollars students or parents spend at their college, if students take and pass this "self-defense class" and you will have made a far stronger argument for lower taxes and stronger national defense than 10 years of talk radio or conservative advertisements.

People have to obey the law in this nation or suffer the consequences. Conservatives should be using that as a weapon, for that is the only defense when the Left has already made the law into their weapon against all of America.

When schools kick out ROTC and get more and more money from fed aid, alumni, or tuition costs, why should they stop doing so when the costs of their actions are nothing? Worse than nothing, they are an empty threat. We need to increase the penalties for people breaking the law and we need to make new laws to undermine the Left's old laws.

Being conservative, not wanting to change, is not going to do anything against the Left in the long term. You can block a few Leftist initiatives but eventually, as from FDR's time, Democrats will keep wanting things and keep wanting things and the GOP will compromise a little here, a little there, until they find themselves with an Obama in the white house.

Being classical liberal and fighting the Left and the fake liberals, exposing them for what they are, helping the victims of LBJ, Democrat prejudice, and basic human beings, however, will produce dividends in this nation. (The idea didn't for the Shah in Iran, but we're not Iran).

Also, the GOP disinclination to interfere with the markets has to go. When it comes to gas prices, you had better go in and destroy anything that is blocking the costs or you will suffer electoral defeats. Part of the reason for 2006 was high gas prices, but not just that, but increasingly high gas prices every day or week or month. People notice that and I can't calculate how much that is worth in advertisement dollars. All the Left then has to do is to say that the GOP fat cats in league with Big Business is exploiting everybody and then tie it in with the Blood for Oil propaganda campaign and you have just reused the propaganda for the Iraq War for today's American economy. If the GOP is going to be damned if we work with businesses and damned if we let the businesses do what they think best, then we had better choose the former rather than the latter.

Work with oil companies, collude with them, support them, find what they need to DECREASE gas prices in 4 weeks or 4 months and then GIVE IT TO THEM. Give it to them and it won't matter how many Democrats scream about GOP corruption because people will see their gas prices going down.

It is 1.80 dollars a gallon here, unleaded, in Georgia. A few months ago it was over 4 dollars. Do people understand that Obama will be able to get the credit for this? Do people understand that this will give Obama the power and the support he will need to kick in more laws to support Dems and the Left?

Do what you have to do with the oil companies and don't let the Left's complaints, your friends or your neighbor's complaints, get in the way.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 20, 2008 04:01 PM

Just found your site and am well entertained so far. It's nice to hear the music that suits me so well.

I think it's always a good idea, after a loss, to try to find the reasons why. I agree with most of what I've read here. Looking forward, to fix the problem, I really think you're skating on thin ice. The problem is the same one that will sink Obama's presidency and keep it at one term: Moral Relativism

Why fight if there is nothing to fight for? The biggest reason we took such a beating this time (beyond just historical cycles) is because we did not believe the guy at the top was a true believer.

Democrats are defined by moral relativism. Whatever works now, and is popular now, and will get us votes now, is what we'll do. Obama is a law school professor. The most important lesson I learned in law school was the power and danger of someone who does not believe in right and wrong. This person says what you want to hear. You see it now that Obama is elected. He does only what is popular. The only way to defeat that is to field a candidate who truly believes what he's saying. Gore should have won 2000 in a landslide. Bush won because people believed him.

The social issues conservatives care about are not about moving backward or even holding lines. Every society progresses. Conservatism simply seeks to ensure that progress is not sought for its own sake.

The pro-life and protect-marriage movements are essential to the identity of the party. Abortion and gay marriage are prime examples of moral relativism in action. Because it can be done, the argument goes, it should be. In fact, it must be allowed. If I'm not hurting you directly, let me do what I like. The self-centered nature of moral relativism is what appeals to so many. More for me to have and do. But people do get hurt, and suffer. We must not abandon these ideals, or we'll cease to exist.

Posted by: Hally at November 26, 2008 03:32 AM

Hally, I think you've made an excellent (and thoughtful) point.

But I don't agree with it. At least not all the way. Let me explain why.

The GOP's great blind spot is here:

The self-centered nature of moral relativism is what appeals to so many. More for me to have and do. But people do get hurt, and suffer.

Regardless of what you may think of abortion or gay marriage, the fact of the matter is that for pro-choice or pro-gay marriage folks, their positions involve suffering too.

Try looking at this from their point of view.

Raising, or even just bearing to term and delivering, a child you did not plan to have involves both sacrifice on your part and no little measure of "suffering". Anyone who says otherwise is simply not being honest (or has never been through childbirth, and I had two relatively uncomplicated deliveries!). Childbirth is not like having a tooth pulled. It does change your body - permanently. And there are risks - of diabetes and other problems. Now in my mind the moral duty of saving an innocent life you started outweighs those risks. But that's not the question we're asking here.

Raising children (because adoption wouldn't always be an outcome either) can involve significant suffering. While I loved raising my sons, there were times when they nearly drove me to distraction, and I raised them within the context of a strong marriage.

On to gay marriage: whether or not you approve of homosexuality, if you love another human being the urge to make that bond permanent in the eyes of the world is an ancient and honorable one.

I have many times thought that from a public policy standpoint, gay marriage ought to be a thing society encourages (at least theoretically). We ought to want gays - especially male homosexuals - to be in monogamous stable relationships instead of hooking up in short-term, promiscuous one night stands. This is better from both a disease prevention standpoint and a public morals standpoint.

My problem with gay marriage, frankly, (and this is uncomfortable to talk about in this day and age when we're not "allowed" to be judgmental) is that I do believe it debases the institution of marriage. I have read countless articles now about gay couples who frankly admit that having been married for quite short periods of time, they have already "renegotiated" the marriage contract so that it is essentially meaningless: partners can have sex with whomever they please and come and go at will. Why be married at all?

My second reservation concerns adoption. While I have no reservations about the moral character of gay parents, I do have concerns about the psychological effect of large numbers of children growing up in households without a male and a female. That is how we are "wired". It's one thing to ask me to accept that for whatever reason, Joe is gay. OK. Got it.

It's entirely another to ask me to take a baby and say: "We're going to raise this baby in an environment - intentionally - that we know from experience doesn't lend itself to healthy sexual development of gender roles because the baby not only won't have parents of both genders as models to imprint with, but is going to have a confusing model imprinted from birth". I'm not sure we really understand what we're doing. Maybe it's OK. But what if it isn't?

I think there's a *huge* difference between looking at one or two cases where this might happen in isolation and you say, "OK - I can live with that." and making it a widespread model that is replicated throughout society. I think you have to be very, very careful making changes like that. Human societies have developed over centuries and many of our rules and even our fears are there for a reason. We may not understand or may have forgotten what that reason is (or it may not be politically correct to admit the reason, as with a lot of feminist stuff). But human nature has remained fairly consistent over the centuries - even with the advancement of social mores and technology, on an individual level, *people* behave in the same way they did centuries ago.

And I think we forget that at our peril.

To the rest of your argument, I think part of Bush's appeal WAS his deep conviction. But that is also part of why he is so hated and I know (for instance) that his views on abortion and gay marriage were NO PART of why I voted for him or why my husband voted for him. People who either remain silent on those issues can still believe passionately in conservative issues.

Again, I think some social conservatives have a bit of a moral "blind spot" here themselves and this is partly why they turn so many people off. It's that inability to see how any person of good conscience could disagree with them. You can honestly believe someone else to be wrong without thinking they are a bad person or that they must be cast out, and until the party learns to convey that, they are going to have real problems attracting and holding the center.

And they need the center - much of which is fiscally conservative - to win a national election.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 26, 2008 07:41 AM

I think you have to be very, very careful making changes like that. Human societies have developed over centuries and many of our rules and even our fears are there for a reason. We may not understand or may have forgotten what that reason is (or it may not be politically correct to admit the reason, as with a lot of feminist stuff).

That's your conservative side showing ; )

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 28, 2008 08:46 PM

Btw, Cass, VC has filtered some of my comments for moderation from a day or so ago.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 28, 2008 08:47 PM