By Robert Capehert
John Fund weighed-in on the attack of the Republican Party consultant class, echoed at this year’s Conservative Action Committee’s (CPAC) conference.
Pat Caddell, whom I wrote about made these same points. I do think they’re valid. Really valid. At the same time, I’ve been thinking about it some more and would like to expand upon earlier statements I wrote here.
Though a problem, G.O.P. consultant-class intoxication cannot be the underlining reason of electoral loss for Republicans. All major Republican candidates, including ones who are routinely successful (past and present) have their campaigns organized by big-money consultants.
Hard to create an alternative. There is big money in the big leagues. It’s reality.
The most successful conservative Republicans who are elected term-after-term rely on big-time consultants. What the difference may be, however, is classical liberalism being at the center of those winning campaigns’ communication—rather than seen as an unimportant detail to be ignored.
In reality, a larger problem is G.O.P. campaigns headlined by shallow ideas and an inability to communicate the ideological consistency of conservatism. All political ideology has to meet voters where they are—it has to be seen as being useful to the everyday concerns and life of the electorate. I.e., “theory” has to work “on the ground” where diverse peoples live, work, and struggle. One should not think I’m saying concern should not accompany the world of Republican consultants.
First, consultants should be appreciated by their success rate of electing classical liberal Republicans to high office. Are these consultants successful? Secondly, the consultant class’s tendency is to war against innovation and ideology, a way of considering political campaigns that need be rejected. Consultants need to be regarded for their ability to find innovative ways to spread classical liberal ideas about the state and individuals, not a way of ignoring message for bare numbers.
Message creates numbers. Good communication creates successful politics.
Likewise, as with all group thinking, consultants often disavow introspection—the root cause of losing campaigns. In other words, tactics become the focus rather than electoral clarity of communication. Nothing made this more obvious than the Romney campaign sprinting to election night in November with a specific state-to-state rush—focused on what combination of states would create a bare-minimum Electoral College victory.
I’ll call this the chessboard approach. When it’s in effect—most often, it portends bad things. As in—the candidate has not effectively communicated his or her message.
It often means the candidate in question is fighting an uphill battle and is unable to communicate the philosophy behind his policies to a wide swath of the electorate. The crucial lapse Romney’s campaign was its lack of an ideological message—one that would’ve attracted voters from diverse backgrounds. A concerted effort to achieve cohesion between classical liberal ideology along with innovative communicative tactics; i.e., a campaign concerned with the quality of its message—it’s clarity, it’s applicability, it’s ability to exegete the differences between the bureaucratic directionless of statism, verses the individual empowerment of conservatism—should have been the Romney design, over and above bare numbers.
Even if Romney is given a pass—as Ann Coulter boasts need be the case since Romney did better than most Republicans, according to demographics—one could still argue that it was voters impression of the G.O.P.’s message overall, that dictated Romney’s defeat. But good communication reaches all demographics.
Part of me thinks conservatism is communicated so shallowly of late G.O.P. consultant classes’ rightly presume its irrelevancy and more probable unpopularity.
Certainly, a “conservatism” bound up in minding everyone’s private business as much as progressivism presumes is wholly, unpopular. Too many Republicans are snake-oil sales representatives for such “conservatism.”
Such an ideology is better left out of a campaign, of course.
But what is often left over was what animated Romney’s campaign: a few good policy ideas here and there, infused with a whole lot of nostalgia about “times past.” Obama and his minions did a great job getting the electorate to assume conservatism and its promoter’s were stuck in the mud of the past—good folks all, but misguided—and unable to deal with modern life.
Sadly, too many who claim the title of conservative do have large problems living in modernity.
Needless to say, whether we are looking at Romney individually, or the G.O.P. generally, the same problem describes both: an absence of ideology. And the absence of a ideological focus: a conservator of 18th Century liberalism.
If the CPAC attack upon the Republican consultant class has a point, it’s the recognition that a Republican Party sans classical liberal ideology is woefully out of touch with common men and women of America—and worse, losing often to ideological statism.
If those of free minds and individual sovereignty can reach agreement on anything, might it be this: losing to statism’s anti-liberty designs, nationally and locally, is unacceptable and unnecessary.