Thursday, November 06, 2008

Republicans can't win when they act like Democrats

Having been elected as a Republican four times in predominately Democrat areas, I believe I have some expertise in this subject. My four campaigns were intense, targeted and every 'expert' said I was going to lose.

I didn't - and here's why:

Campaigns are won by drawing a contrast and offering the voters something different - and hopefully, better - than your opponent.

When Republicans talk about being 'moderate' or 'appealing to the middle' they mean representing ideas that are just like what is being espoused by their opponents, the Democrats.

When given such a choice, voters are NOT going to select a Democrat-lite candidate when they can vote for, and get, an actual Democrat.

This lesson was clear on the national level with John McCain and locally with the 2006 election of Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop over Republican City Councilman George Sarantou.

In the national election, both candidates voted in favor of the biggest expansion of government - the bailout. There were other similarities in perspective and even the selection of Sarah Palin wasn't enough to give McCain the edge he needed to solidify his base and draw conservative-leaning voters to his side.

In the commissioner race, the GOP candidate said 'I agree with my opponent' more than he said anything else. Especially in Lucas County, which strongly favors electing Democrats, you cannot win by saying you're more like your opponent than not.

Many conservatives are concerned - and rightly so - that the GOP has lost its brand; that it no longer stands for the core principles of limited government, lower taxation, individual responsibility, local control and less government involvement in our daily lives. The reason we no longer 'own' those issues is because our elected officials have drifted so far from them. It certainly doesn't help that the Republican National Committee is more committed to maintaining incumbency than it is in promoting the values of the party.

And the voters, recognizing this, have rejected such Republicans.

Many times throughout my political career I had people disagree with me over my votes or positions on the issues. However, they always said they respected me because my positions and votes were consistent with what I said I believed. It didn't matter to me who was making the request - I first looked to the statutes to see if I had the authority to do it and, if so, I weighed it against those core principles.

Needless to say, I often found people mad - but not at me, personally, because they got what they elected. In many other areas, voters are not so lucky. They've elected "Republicans" who don't hold the line on their core principles and the choice is either to 'hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils' or withdraw from the process.

But it's not just the politicians or the philosophy, it's you and me and our willingness actually do something, rather than just complain.

There is hope, though. Many in the Republican Party are tired of being offered a Democrat or a Democrat-lite. They are forming new groups, on Facebook and other social media networks, and joining with others who are similarly angry. The only question is this: will there be enough of us to actually make a difference, and will we be able to use the tools we've seen the other side employ so effectively to do so?

Time will tell - but as the old saying goes, "If it is to be it is up to me."


Eric said...

given recent democratic gains one might also argue that republicans should act MORE like democrats. this argument that Rs need to be MORE conservative doesn't really make much sense. voters seem to be rejecting conservatism en masse.

Jill said...

Maggie - this is a really interesting post to me. A couple of thoughts:

I read what you're saying as saying that behavior or speech that can lead voters to see a candidate as being hypocritical is a no-no. Is that an accurate reading? In other words, it's not the position a candidate takes, in and of itself, necessarily - but if that position isn't consistent with what the candidate has said or done all along, then there's going to be or there could be a problem with being seen as hypocritical. Something like that?

The other comment I have is this sense that even when people don't agree, we stick with what we believe. I feel very much that way for myself.

The only time I question it is if and when, practically speaking, doing so results in no action or bad action or bad results. Do you know what I mean?

It seems to me that that's a big part of political life as it relates to leadership - it has to do with compromise too.

I'm commenting outloud I guess - but what do you think about that?

gordon gekko said...

I think this statistic says it all.

In Ohio Bush got 2.8 million votes in 2004.

Obama got 2.6 million this year.

McCain didn't lose because flongs of republicans switched to democrats. He lost because flongs of republicans decided to stay home.

Hooda Thunkit said...


I agree wholeheartedly.

That's why I called for the influential conservatives in the media to come together and form a "Conservative U" for lack of a better term.

By collectively preaching Conservatism and core Conservative core values, they together might be able to put Conservatism back in the Republican (or perhaps its replacement, The Conservative) Party.

Maggie Thurber said...

eric - you incorrectly assume that elected a Democrat over a Democrat-lite candidate is akin to a rejection of conservatism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact that Democrats are elected over 'sound-like' democrats just shows that given a choice between a 'wannabe' and the real thing, voters will choose the real thing.

When true conservatives run as Republicans, they are elected. My electoral successes are just one example.

Maggie Thurber said...

Jill - yes, a hypocritical stance is a big part of it. Calling yourself a Republican and acting -through your votes or comments - like a Democrat is not a winning approach. The same could be true of the reverse, though my experience in Toledo shows that Dems here will elect Dems regardless, just to promote the party's candidate. Perhaps that's why we have an A-Team and B-Team in our local Democratic Party.

As for compromise, there's a diffence between working together and sacrificing your principles. Perhaps that's why I don't think I could ever be good in a legislative position - too much compromise to attain too!

If, for example, you support limited government, no matter how good a proposal, a vote in favor of expanded government could be seen by the 'core' as a contradiction. Some of the ability to vote in such ways depends on the individual's ability to 'explain' the logic of the vote or perceived contradiction.

So...thinking aloud as well...I think we agree.

The A-Hole Lawyer said...

While during the concession I speech I was happy McCain showed some class, I soon realize he was doing so well because, now that he had lost, he could be himself again. A RINO.

During his campaign he did not argue conservative ideals, did not attack Obama on true weaknesses, and could not get away from his true colors, a centrist moderate semi-crat.

Now we see factions of the McCain campaign turning on Palin. This is more evidence that McCain and his crew are not truely conservative Republicans and they resent Palin for who she is.

Add to that fact that she refused to be "handled" and strayed from the weak script the campaign was proposing, and now they are throwing her to the wolves - to blame her for their failings and protect against her rising popularity.

Whether she finishes her term as Governor and then runs for Senate, or runs for Ted Stevens' seat when he steps down - I hope her future is bright.

The point being - McCain lost because he is not a solid, true, conservative Republican. As I heard on the radio today - you can't aim for the middle/moderates and hope to pick up a few of your base -- you have to aim for your base and hope to pick up some moderates.


Jay Ott said...

I think it's true that Republicans can't win when they act like Democrats.

I would add that it's also true that Democrats can't lose when they act like Robin Hood. . . . UNLESS people believe and stand on the principle that it's morally wrong to covet and to steal people's property.

While I believe that talking about slippery slopes is itself a slippery slope, I also think that once gov't gets the idea that it's o.k. to covet and to steal property, history tells us that this philosophy *could* lead to the gov't taking people's lives in one form or another.

historymike said...

I can only speak as an independent and a former Republican, but I think the Rove-esque negative campaign tactics McCain used had as much to do with his defeat as his perceived lack of conservatism. I was ambivalent about the candidates until the McCain camp went ballistic with the negative ads in late September, and I was driven away from McCain.

Ronald Reagan won my vote in 1984 based on his upbeat vision of America as much as his fiscal conservatism. "Morning in America" was much, much more effective than "Obama is a Marxist" or "Obama is a radical," IMHO. Yes, the GOP needs to retool, but the destructive politics of negative campaigning do not win over independent voters.

Finally: though conservative values have been a core of the GOP, a retreat into "pure" conservatism is a recipe for disaster, since there are not enough "pure" conservatives to win an election. Moreover, pandering to the paleo-social conservatives on wedge issues like gay marriage only serves to drive away independents for whom fiscal conservatism has appeal.

Maggie Thurber said...

Mike - I appreciate your imput...

The fiscal issue has to be, in my mind, the #1 issue. But fiscal issues are only a part of the bigger 'freedom' theme. The 'freedom' to does as YOU want with your money, your state, your property, etc.

I'm a big one for state's rights and the ability of states to have their own 'experiments' on issues, like gay marriage.

But it's not just the GOP that will have a problem with that issue. The success of gay marriage bans can be, imho, attributed to the large turnout of African American voters who are traditionally much more socially conservative than the Democrat Party is.

That's one of the reasons I support the ability of states to make such determinations on their own without interference from the federal government.

As for 'paleo conservatives' or 'neo cons'...I have yet to find any good definition that everyone agrees accurately describes such people. If you have one, please pass it along.

If we focus on the core principles, I think such distinctions will go away...or, at least, I hope. :)

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