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GOP: Play it Conservative, Not Safe

It’s the common wisdom of Washington’s allegedly “smart” crowd that Republicans need to reach out. They need to broaden their appeal. They need to show how nice, how tolerant they are. They need to work some political correctness into their message, or they’ll never overcome the otherwise unconquerable “math” of the Electoral College.

And the purveyors of the common wisdom think they have come up with something new. But it’s the same thing they say every election cycle.

And they’re wrong every election cycle, because what has carried a candidate to victory in practically every presidential election since 1980 is ideology, or at least, the appearance of an ideology. If Republicans reject conservatism in 2016, they risk needless defeat yet again.

Enthralled by their databases and drinking the Kool-Aid of the rest of the Beltway crowd, the Washington hands don’t understand what really animates American voters.

It is not any specific poll-tested position. It is, rather, the sense that a candidate stands for something, that he or she have a philosophy, a theory of politics and life.

What has carried a candidate to victory in practically every presidential election since 1980 is ideology, or at least, the appearance of an ideology.
Let’s take a look at who has won every election since Ronald Reagan shocked the sensibilities of the smart people in 1980. Reagan’s nomination by the GOP was viewed by then-President Jimmy Carter’s camp as a gift that fell out of heaven. Reagan was too conservative to ever take up residence in the White House and would be sent to the Home for Defeated Ideologues to live out his days with Barry Goldwater.

And yet Reagan trounced Carter and then won 49 states in 1984 without ever apologizing for his conservatism.

Let’s skip George H.W. Bush for a moment and consider Bill Clinton. While often viewed as a “moderate” Democrat, it is increasingly forgotten that Clinton offered his ideas as a philosophy, calling himself a “New Democrat” pursuing a “Third Way” toward prosperity and justice. The idea was that government would continue to provide benefits, but that it could be limited and recipients had to in some way earn it.

He defeated the hapless Bush, extinguishing his “thousand points of light,” or whatever it was he had that passed for an idea, and then in 1996 swatted away the ideologically bereft Capitol Hill dealmaker Bob Dole.

George W. Bush turned the “Third Way” on its head, pledging to limit government but provide some benefits, packaging the idea as “compassionate conservatism.” Never mind that this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of conservatism, which is the most compassionate of the ideologies, even if it sometimes administers a dose tough medicine in the short run. It sounded like Bush was some serious new type of conservative.

Conservatism is the most compassionate of the ideologies, even if it sometimes administers a dose tough medicine in the short run.
While he took some pains to hide it in 2008, no one every really doubted that “spread the wealth around” Barack Obama was a left-wing ideologue who wanted to go about “fundamentally transforming” America. His campaigns confounded ideologically impure Hillary Clinton and then his successive moderate GOP opponents — John McCain and Mitt Romney — by digging down into the Democratic base and unearthing every last liberal vote.

It’s true, George H.W. Bush won in 1988 possessing no particular set of organized thoughts. But, as the vice president to a stupendously successful president, Bush was really running for Reagan’s third term, and he vanquished someone dryly pledging “competence,” Michael Dukakis.

Having nominated a couple of nice guys who finished last in 2008 and 2012, the cognoscenti are again counseling Republicans to select a person of moderation and supposed broad appeal, someone without the sharp edges of a conservative ideology. For example, another Bush, this one a man named Jeb.

But America is not the country these operatives think it is. With their micro-analyses and trend charts, they are tapping sap from individual trees while missing the larger forest.

Americans, unlike people in most other nations, are not bound by race and ancestry. They are assembled out of many into one by ideas. And it is ideas that Americans look for in their candidates.

Republicans are threatening to focus-group themselves into extinction. A candidate who can articulate a conservative philosophy and then, with some charisma and forcefulness, explain and sell it to voters, will win the nomination and defeat Hillary Clinton and her assortment of poll-tested, carefully selected slogans.

This piece first appeared in LifeZette.

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69 Responses to GOP: Play it Conservative, Not Safe

  1. Spot on Keith. There are roughly twice the number of conservatives as there are liberals in this country. Throw in those independents who are sick and tired of being held back by big government and you’ve got a real coalition that no matter how big the bag of FREE STUFF promised, Democrats would remain till eternity where they rightly belong: In perpetual insignificant minority status.

  2. People keep talking about Trump, not because they “like” the man and his outlandish comments, but because they see a fresh, direct approach that appeals to many voters center and right. Its not the same blather we’ve heard all along, its shocking but awkwardly refreshing.

    Trump has his place in the play, albeit most likely not as the lead. There are others that will step up, unafraid to voice a similar strain of conservative thought without delving into the snarky chatter.

    Witness Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich; one a hard nosed, experienced and savvy business person, the other a veteran of the DC wars. Could one of them lead the way?

    Or is it the ever quick, ever smart Ted Cruz who finds a way to the top?

    We shall see, but the likes of Huckabee, Christie, Carson, Paul, etc., they will soon be in the cheap seats.

    Trump is a cartoon of himself, yet there is plenty we can learn in the process….


  3. “Focus-group themselves into extinction”, yes, very well said. People are looking for politicians who show spontaneity and candour instead. By the way, I read that Trump said in a CNN-interview that he thought that he would be able to work with the Russian leaders. I believe that he would be a pragmatic leader with business in focus and that he would hopefully keep all the war-hawks in Washington in a short leash. Good for the US, good for the world in my humble opinion.

  4. The Reps better concentrate on their platform this time around. Not go crazy ideo on birth control and abortion. Deporting non-felonious illegals already here would also be a mistaken plank. I comment several other places besides this and believe me, they have bought into the women war thing, think all Reps hate the commonfolk, are aligned with the fat cats, are obstructionist, etc. All the usual claptrap the Dems have tried for yrs–well, it stuck.

    • No disrespect, Star, but I do not believe that the majority of people who bought into the “war on women,” republicans are fat cat obstructionists,” etc. are paid commentators and democratic koolaid drinkers. Most women have jobs to attend to and children to care for and don’t have time to post snide remarks on blogging sites.
      And abortion? I hope the Republican candidate screams it from the rooftops! Abortion is murder. I for one, do not believe that abortion is ever a viable alternative simply because I am assured that God given life begins at conception. If women believe their body is theirs to do with as they please – then practice birth control prior to conception. And don’t sleep with a man because you want him to love you, or you were drunk, or he was sexy or for any other asinine reason. If you want to be respected and be successful, then treat yourself with respect.
      End of Rant.

      • I said what I was seeing in the comment sections was that these memes on Reps have been absorbed as received truth. I am sure not all or the majority of voters go to comment sections–but I will wager that a percentage of those who don’t have absorbed the same positions. We shall see, I guess. As a rape survivor, I faced the “what if” question on pregnancy–only with a twist–I was already 8 weeks pregnant and somehow in my agony thought maybe the crime caused another miss and a new pregnancy might have started. Sounds wacky now, but I wasn’t thinking straight. The first sono (two days later) showed the gestational sac was there–I was still pregnant and 8 weeks so. I am just saying maybe women should have some say in this. My fear of it being one of the four’s babies was that violence or even that extra chromo possessed by many in prisons might have been passed on.

      • By the way–I think cutting back on birth control is stupid–it is key to fewer abortions. Yet, at least one candidate is iffy on birth control–and there was argument over Plan B.

  5. Spot on. Enough with playing around with focused group generated words, pretending to be “nice” just to get elected and at the price of a strong conservative philosophy. Ban the consultants. Put them in jail during the election season if need be. Tell the truth, always. Stand for something genuine, believable, constitutionally-based. Be strong, courageous, and have a visible, believable, positive and consistent set of values and principles. Be an adult, and not a spoiled brat, or a petulant, dangerous goofball as we have now in the White House. Have the skills and sense to work with everyone, even those who oppose your positions. Have a real joy in life, and a living personal philosophy based on more than self satisfaction.

  6. Sounds like good advice – if we had an honest and impartial Press and Media.
    Since the powers that operate the whole of Media get to set the conversation, make the PC rules, and have the power to destroy those who they either don’t like, or seem to want to upset the status quo.
    What Repub candidate is going to go after the Obama regime, which one is going to say that MrObama is a thin-skinned, insult-hurling incompetent – none. Why; well the charge of RACIST would be shouted, printed and sung from every MSM banner or stage.
    What candidate is going to suggest that if the Obama administration can fly in illegal aliens, then we can fly them right back to their homeland – none.
    Who’s going to take on the IRS, the DEA, the HHS, et al and promise to gut their powers and reverse their crippling regulations- none.

    The Repubs in Congress, along with their Dem cohorts, couldn’t even get enough votes to stop sending taxpayer’s money to Planned Parenthood after the videos showed them bargining with teeny livers from human babies. What kind of monsters walk the halls of Congress that don’t see the horror of that?
    The Repub candidates can only do and say what they see will keep them on the right side of the fine line between what they believe will keep the MSM dogs off of their campaign and what they truly believe is best for our country.

  7. Spot on Keith. Nice to be hearing from you here.

    Along these lines re. the Party it is also being played out at Fox News around Trump. Here is a little peek into what might be going on from AOS.

    Who knows if we keep chipping away maybe we can get a conservative leadership that will help us free the country from the rule of the Obamobots. And “fundamentally retransform” America.

  8. I need some education. When did it happen that all kinds of riders could be added to bills (is the word pork?)that would sway votes away from the intended outcomes? I’d appreciate the history of that. Thanks!

  9. semi OT

    I am so sick of the blowhard, out of control trump

    there I said it!

    you can “say it like it is” without being an ass**le

    I feel like a palin naysayer-what vitriol an anti trump statement creates!

  10. OT: The contaminated dangerous material that has flooded into the river in Colorado. It is so very sad. I was blessed and was able to go to Colorada, and Utah last summer. :(

    • Amen! Where does he find the panelists in those groups?
      Why doesn’t someone put on their big girl/boy panties and FOCUS on us “hillbillies.”
      We know a thing or two – and most of us are educated in one way or another.
      And we can spot a shyster a mile away.

    • Luntz has a tendency to pose leading questions to his groups. I’ve noticed it often. At the very time he should keep his big mouth shut to let a group process a comment, he jumps in and chinwags to show how smart he is. This is a serious violation of the spirit and nature of focus groups, which are a questionable excercise when you’re digging for political leanings. Might be OK for seeing how a new cereal tastes but it’s very iffy when it comes to politics.

  11. Yea, they need to be more like DEMOCRATS!
    That’s the usual campaign from the republicans and then……………….they lose.
    Bunch of idiots.

  12. Classy Bret Baier.

    I had sent him a note (polite) about how disappointing his role in the Fox debates was and overall disappoint with Fox. And praise for his program.

    I did not say I was leaving but I did say it looked like Fox was not accepting responsibility, remarking on Bret’s own charge that DT obscured the rest of the field — when in fact Fox had.

    Anyway, Bret said a nice, sad to see you go, thanks for watching note. Classy.

    • There’s a report that MrTrump will be on Fox and Friends tomorrow morning after the FOX boss, um, got on his knees to The Donald.
      ot; somewhat
      The question about a ‘third-party’ run; what if he does go that route, do the party regulars think he can’t win?
      Suppose he does win? oh boy oh boy.
      BernieSanders goes his own way with his massive support – where does that leave MrsClinton? Suppose he wins, too, holy moly.
      A socialist vs a indie. wow.

      • Trump and Fox. I assume there is an internal battle at Fox — Murdoch/Ailes. Murdoch wins the debate/fails/Ailes in to self correct. Maybe.

        Suspect if DT wants to run Rep. he and Fox need one another. Don’t expect it will be smooth. Not much trust on either side — nor should there be.

        Trump, the businessman, knows the squabble not worth the prize.

        • I also wonder about the Ailes/Trump relation ship. Here we have two huge egos battling it out, it would seem, for what? Influence on the election? A school yard rivalry? A basic animus? Who gets the last word? Long ago insults to one another? Who knows?

    • Although I watched Special Report today, I’m likely done with Bret & Co. from here forward. On the panel, “Chuck” Lane called Trump’s supporters “emotional” and implied they were morons, and Dr. Krauthammer was generally dismissive of them as well.

      Only Laura Ingraham stood up for the 20-25% that continue to support Trump in the polls, saying that people are ticked off and want something different…even if he’s not the specific person to carry that message all the way through to the end. Bret asked her if their debate moderating was fair, and she didn’t come out and directly criticize the moderators, but said if Trump is going to fade or implode, let him do it on his own and leave it up to the public to decide when he’s done.

      Bret was unapologetic and defended himself and his cohorts. Megyn did the same at the top of her program tonight, saying she wasn’t going to apologize for “good journalism” (?!)

      Think I’m done with all of them.

      • I began watching Special Report tonight and lasted about five minutes. Not ready to resume hearing them justify, yet again, the behavior of the Fox panel on “debate” night. They will not, in a thousand lifetimes, admit they should have done much better to inform their viewers about the candidates. They screwed up, simple as that. As proof–I challenge any normal person who watched the debate recall three critical things any one the candidates said to explain their position on anything. Additionally, there are hundreds of news sources and intelligent blogs on the net that give us a much wider view and in depth assessment of what’s going on in the world and in the country.

        • Thanks for the update on the show this evening. I did not watch the show all day.
          They could at least met 1/2 way with the matter.
          Some people look down upon a person who lives up to their mistakes, by maybe giving an apology for example.
          Some think it makes a person look week if they admit to wrong doing.
          The news channel makes mony off off us by selling commericial. However with out us. They are nothing.
          Long story short. I am disappointed as well in what was stated.

          • Especially disappointed with Bret…he’s always been the one who points out that many folks on the right feel the Republicans in Congress have let them down, constantly reminding the dismissive panelists of the frustration that’s out there. To me, Trump is just an extension of this frustration, but for Bret and the network, they felt the need to quash it…openly and without shame.

            For me at least, Bret threw away his good reputation for ratings and defending the company line.

  13. “reaching out” does not mean “becoming like Democrats.” it means “not actively turning off huge swathes of the public by being stupid.”

    and as a card-carrying Republican I hope you will allow me to note that my party is frequently stupid.

    Romney lost because 2 million ideologues decided that there was really “not much difference” between him and Obama, so they pouted and held their breaths and stayed home and didn’t go to the polls. how’s that not-much-difference thing working out for you? does anyone think a President Romney would have caved to Iran, just to name one item.

    I get why people are attracted to Trump. but my GOODNESS, there’s got to be somethin between the clown show of the Donald and Jeb! the front-runner nobody likes.

    • It’s early and someone will rise. In the meantime, Trump is very good in bringing the real issues and frustrations of the people into the sunlight. Or, as they say, “out of the shadows”,

  14. I think most R’s here would heartily agree with you that the Republican Party often does stupid things, elects stupid, spineless Congressional leaders and has a habit of shooting itself, publicly, in the foot. That’s one of our major complaints.

  15. Somewhere (can’t find link) Hillary Clinton is praising Megyn Kelly and welcoming her to the War on Women Wymen’s Group. If Carly Fiorina is not careful she will be co opted as well.


    • This has nothing to do with the phony war on women. Hillary recognizes a Liberal when she sees one! She also recognizes a talented opportunist when she sees one. She also knows Megyn can be easily persuaded to join Huma et al as a ‘personal assistant’ if the price is right.

      Who knows, Megyn could even work her way up to the Oval Office if she plays her cards right.

      Hillary is so diabolical!!! Will stay tuned….

  16. Good morning. OT: Why do these people keep stirring things up?
    I read on
    the Hilla. tells Sharpie on radio ‘The reason more African American men are arrested more than whites is because the police are biased’
    Golly another person who wants to tear this Country upside down, Apart, divided, etc.