Changing cheap suits won’t make you a new man, just like changing wording won’t make Republicans a new party. At what point will the GOP realize that it needs new messaging and new messengers, not a new message altogether?
The French have a catchy phrase about identity that has made it into the American lexicon: Raison D’Etre, which means “reason to be.”
The more eloquent and colloquial way to word this phrase in English is “reason for existence.”
But to put it in everyday terms, it’s the simple question: “Why are we here?”
Regardless of how you word it, this is exactly what the Republican Party is desperately asking itself with increasing urgency.
Across our state and nation GOP leaders are debating the foundational values of the party, and what it will take to make it mainstream once again. While I think a healthy sense of self-awareness is important for the GOP and its leaders, debating over whether or not to abandon core values is completely counter-productive.
Recently, US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute that may have made Barack Obama proud – not because Leader Cantor parroted the President’s policies, but because he almost fully adopted his way with words and catch-phrases.
While I don’t oppose co-opting the Left’s talking points around equality, opportunity and freedom – especially since conservative policy actually makes these things possible rather than merely political) –there has to be substance behind these words. Without articulating the ideas that make equality, opportunity and freedom possible, the so-called “GOP Make-Over” will amount to lots of sound and fury signifying nothing, to paraphrase Shakespeare.
A “GOP Make-Over” must return it to the core principles of the party’s platform, not abandon them in favor of socialism and secularism light. America already has a secular-socialist party, the Democratic Party; it doesn’t need another.
What GOP leaders here in South Carolina and across the country need to do is outreach and inclusion, not abandonment.
There is nothing wrong with a pro-family, pro-life, pro-growth, pro-opportunity, pro-freedom agenda, but there’s an awful lot wrong with the messaging and the messengers.
While there are GOP leaders like Ken Mehlman calling for the party to abandon its pro-natural marriage position, the majority of Americans still embrace marriage as the natural union of a man and a woman.
While some GOP governors like Chris Christie criticize the GOP House for trying to cut wasteful spending, the overwhelming majority of Americans rightly recognize that Federal spending is on an unsustainable path.
While here at home in South Carolina some economics-only conservatives in the state legislature and GOP county parties want to abandon social issues entirely, they fail to grasp that their noble goal of more liberty and less government is rendered impossible and implausible if we don’t raise up self-sufficient communities, and those communities are built on the basis of strong and healthy families.
The GOP make-over needs to be concerned with messaging and messengers, not with abandoning half of the conservative platform in hopes of attracting part of the Democratic electorate. The majority of Americans don’t think in the right-left, Democrat-Republican paradigm; that’s largely reserved for people who follow politics and those inside the beltway. Americans are interested in ideas that are effectively communicated as having a positive impact on them and their families.
We need to go way beyond outreach within the African-American and Hispanic Communities, to young people and single women. They must have an equal seat at the table planning the outreach, not being treated as the objects of a PR campaign.
We must raise-up a next generation of leadership that is committed to faith, family, freedom and free-markets, and is fresh, energetic and looks like the America of the 21st Century.
The ideas of the GOP are not the problem, many of the so-called leaders are. We must support and encourage full-fledged social and fiscal conservatives to step-up and lead our party, our state and our nation. We must go beyond the rhetorical remake of Eric Cantor, and remake the entire party apparatus to effectively deliver the message the American people are waiting to hear: that liberty still reigns in America.