Driving home from a monthly Saturday morning meeting with like-minded women who have a passion for politics, I was feeling quite disheartened. This is not a feeling I fall prey to very often as I try to remain optimistic that the American voter will come around to some common sense. However, when I listen to women who are educated, articulate, extremely well informed on current events and passionate as conservatives/Republicans go down a road I feel so strongly is the very worst road to travel to rebuild our party, I have to stop and ponder. Is the Republican party truly lost for the next generation or so?
According to recent Gallop polls, only one in every 4 voters now identifies as a Republican. The party has been badly damaged by squandering a dozen or so years of political dominance in Washington, by falling prey to corruption and the greed. Republican leaders, including former President G.W. Bush, acted as though money grew on trees and spent like Democrats. The argument that Republicans manage our nation’s piggybank better than Democrats was lost. Add the ill-conceived planning process of the Iraq war with an absolute complete failure to communicate with the American people and we have a whole lot of ground to recover as a political party.
Like many I know, the last national election ignited renewed determination in myself to become more active politically, especially at the local level. I confess I find national and international politics far more interesting than local and state politics, but the only way to rebuild a political party is to begin at the grassroots level with local and state organizations.
This can not be said enough – we need the help of all like-minded people. All effort is important and no job is too small. Everyone can truly make a difference, one person, one event, one meeting at a time. And, here is the key – we need outreach to all communities.
And, yes, we have to listen. Get out of the echo chamber – you know, only reading blogs written by writers with whom you agree, only talking to people with whom you agree politically, watching only the tv or radio stations with conservative dominance – and listen or read what the other side is putting out there. How can arguments be made to counter the opposite view if you don’t know what the opposite view is and are ready with a different idea? Maybe your head will feel as though it will explode (mine does) but it is very important to listen to the other side.
I am active in a local Republican women’s group. I vote every election. I went to a seminar recently given by an organization out of Arlington, Virginia that taught how to be a successful political candidate and how to organize a political campaign. And, yes, I am a wonk. Not everyone will be interested at this level but we have to encourage others to become well informed and interested.
And, please, may I respectfully ask that the tossing of the “RINO” bomb be stopped? There is no such creature. This is perhaps the most destructive conversation of all. Who is anyone to judge another’s political thought? Let us remember that we, as Republicans, share a common belief that the best government is limited government, that taxes should be kept low, that our nation’s security is the foremost responsibility of its leaders and citizens, and that we were all created to live in freedom. Fiscal conservatism is the core of the Republican party. Social conservatism is a part of both Democratic and Republican parties. Moderates are in both parties and also a part of those who identify as Independents. How have the Democrats turned former red states into purple and blue states? By running conservative Democrats and winning votes of Independents, they have discovered the successful ways of the Reagan glory days.
Ronald Reagan, the greatest American president in my lifetime, knew that politics involves the art of compromise. He was not afraid to sit down and talk to political enemies. Reagan taught Republicans that social conservatism is good but not everything. In today’s world of those wishing a litmus test on Republican candidates using the strictest of social tenets, Ronald Reagan would not measure up. He was divorced, a former Democrat, a union member, and leader, and yet he was not afraid to keep his core political beliefs while reaching out to all. Reagan Democrats and Independents put him into office. There are still conservative Democrats and Independents out there waiting for the chance to vote Republican again. We have to earn those votes.
I cringe when I hear “kick him/her out” of the Republican party. That is the same intolerance we point to in the far left. I am saddened when I hear “it’s a waste of time” when speaking of a listening tour by politicians. Isn’t that what the Tea Party movement is all about? Isn’t the goal to get the elected officials to listen to us? And when recently Jeb Bush said we need to move past Reagan, he was right. He meant no disrespect. His father was VP to Reagan! Bush meant that we need fresh leadership and stop relying on the past. Reagan would be the last person to encourage stagnation. He would be out there encouraging the Big Tent. The Big Tent theory brought him into the White House. Now it needs a makeover. Maintaining fiscal conservative values and encouraging the values of family and community is a winning strategy.
Start a conversation. Reach out. Bring another along. Country first.