I always enjoy a good conversation about politics. I find few topics more meaningful than the nature of justice – how people achieve power over others and how to prevent the abuse of that power. Through these conversations I’ve found that people have many different views on many different subjects.
The myth is that America is a two-party nation. No two parties could possibly encompass the broad views of a nation of free thinkers. The major parties only exist because they position themselves to coalesce the minor groups into a common cause, thereby creating a party capable of significant influence in government. Therefore Americans typically get to choose between having either a few things their way, or nothing at all their way. Sure, there’s probably a minor party out there that represents your precise views – but if you want to do more than yell from the outside of the room, you’ve got to compromise. People see compromise as a bad thing, so I’ll put it a different way – it’s called “working together.”
In contemporary U.S. politics we have the Democrats and the Republicans. They are separated not so much by policy positions, but by two very opposing philosophical views. One view (D) is that people are victims or beneficiaries of their surroundings, and in order to preserve justice, individuals must be protected and even uplifted. Therefore, government takes on the parental role. The other view (R) is that people are victims or beneficiaries of their own choices. Personal strength, success and security are primarily an individual responsibility. Therefore, justice requires that one’s freedom to make choices for oneself must not be impeded. In this view, the government becomes less involved and less necessary.
The result of these two views is that Democrats tend to favor a larger, more intrusive government, funded by high taxes and dedicated to solving all of society’s ills, even if it means people will continually lose liberties, while Republicans favor a smaller, more limited government that allows individuals and businesses to resolve their own problems, even if it means a few people get hurt in the process. Thus Republicans rail against Democrats for massive taxing and spending, and Democrats criticize Republicans for allowing economic inequalities and not regulating enough.
Determining which party you most agree with comes down to asking yourself which is more important, liberty or equality?
Therein lies problem numero uno for Republicans. They’ve forgotten that they are they party of Liberty. Instead, they’ve pandered for votes by contracting themselves with the “Christian Right” as the party of family values, and played power politics by thinking that playing the game right could guarantee their spot in the big chair without actually listening to what people wanted and needed.
Had they listened, they would’ve understood just why Americans embraced the message of hope and change when those two words are so empty by themselves, and why McCain was the wrong pick from the beginning. The problems didn’t begin in 2008, nor with the 2006 congressional elections. These events were a verdict, delivered by an increasingly frustrated populace, but ironically rooted in events that led to a Republican majority in 1994.
Republicans recognized that with over 80% of the voting population calling themselves Christian, they could co-opt the largest voting block across all genders, ages and ethnicities by replacing the core message of Liberty with that of Morality – hence the “Moral Majority.” They seem to have forgotten that moral coercion is like any other. It stands in direct opposition to liberty and freedom of choice.
So what happened to the millions of voters who believe in liberty and limited government, but also believe that this principle extends to the sphere of religion and personal moral convictions? To where do the champions of Federalism turn when both parties seek to increase the size and power of Washington? Many who championed the cause of William Buckley and Ronald Reagan became alienated from the party in the 90’s, creating a large group of independent voters, unsatisfied with the leadership of either party. They suddenly had trouble defining themselves in mainstream political terms. We started referring to them as “fiscally conservative/socially liberal.” Baloney! They were conservatives.
In all of this muck the message of Liberty has been lost to an entire generation of kids who grew up in the Bush-Clinton-Bush era, and who have been nurtured by a biased and politically over-correct educational system. I’m 27. I voted in the last 3 presidential elections, but I had no idea who William Buckley was until after his death last year. I didn’t really know what Reagan said about small government until videos of his speeches showed up all over the place during the 2008 race.
And there is the second major problem. Now that Republicans seem to be returning to their foundational principles it appears they have no clue of how to get the message out. There are a lot of intelligent people saying profound things… on FOX News,… on AM talk radio,… in conservative publications and blogs,… at conservative events, et cetera. Someone should tap the preacher on the shoulder and tell him he’s facing the wrong direction.
Of course, the choir needs preaching to occasionally. Recent national discourse among those who oppose Obama’s spending spree has brought GOP leaders and an energized young conservatives back to the same table to refine and re-tune their message, but it is time to package and sell that message to the broad public. Unfortunately, marketing has not been a strong point for the Republican Party. That’s got to change.
Liberals have done a fine job pushing their talking points into the public mind – though that’s not difficult when you’ve got the entire entertainment industry at your beck and call. But I believe our message to be more powerful and more effective when articulated and presented well. If conservatives fail to make their message clear to young voters in this pivotal time, it is likely that conservatism itself will be lost in the very nation that promulgated its ideals to the world.
First, conservatism must be defined – again. I believe we are in this process now. We have to know exactly why we believe in small and limited government, and we have to be prepared to offer solutions that are in line with our principles. Conservatism isn’t about eliminating government, it is about reducing civil adversity by creating a free environment conducive to the flourishing of creativity and innovation that drive social and economic progress. It is also about protecting our people without trampling the liberties of individuals, families, churches, businesses and states to provide for their own security and advancement
Second, we have to get out of our comfort zones. We have spent far too long basking in our own opinions and yapping at each other about things we all agree on. Instead of excluding those who disagree with us, we should engage them. We can’t let the Us vs. Them mentality ostracize us into a solitary minority opinion. There are millions of independent voters who are inundated with leftist rhetoric every day. We should make sure they are hearing both sides.
Third, we have to be creative. As a graphic designer I know that my political views are a minority in the creative field, but we are out there. The GOP should be searching out and recruiting young conservative writers, filmmakers, designers, musicians and web developers. We should also be working with top-notch marketing agencies to develop an effective strategy. The marketing and design aspects of the Obama campaign and subsequent administration are still talked about and studied in graphic design blogs because they were developed and presented with excellence and originality. They were not simply promoting a person, they were creating a brand. They implemented social networking before anyone else because their team understood its potential and was willing to try something new.
Consider this an open letter to Republicans, from the top down. Return to the message of individual and economic liberty, start conversations (not debates) with people who don’t share your views, embrace the creative arts, and the present the message with clarity and logic in such a way that offers solutions instead of stop signs.