The Republican Party of Strategies and Tactics

There is an enormous amount of talk right now in the Republican Party about what the election results mean and how they should impact the future of the Republican Party.

It appears that there is a consensus that we lost – that’s good I suppose – and it also appears that there is an understanding that the nearly abusive level of voter-administered corporal punishment was caused by some sort of systemic failure within the party. Trouble is we can’t quite agree on what that systemic problem is.

David Brooks has labeled the two camps that have developed the Traditionalists and the Reformers. As he explains, the Traditionalists believe voters support our small-government, lower-tax principles but rejected the Party because we abandoned those principles with big-government initiatives. The Reformers, according to Brooks, argue that times have changed and our defeat was the evidence of a party whose priorities and concerns are out-of-step with those of the voters.

They are both wrong. They are both also right.

Of the two generalized camps I certainly agree with the Reformers more strongly – in fact my only disagreement with them is a very slight and very nuanced level of focus. The Traditionalists, on the other hand, are dead-on when they say that the general voting public subscribes too many of our core values and that part of our losses can be attributed to our inability to remain true to them. Where they grossly miss the mark however is in their prescription for the problem.

Who am I and why should my thoughts on the matter be of any consequence to you? I’m no one – just a mid-level campaign hack who loves his party who can no longer stand silent as I watch my party reach a hand out of the toilet to grope for the handle. Based on my name alone there is no good reason why you should pay attention to a word I say – so don’t filter what follows based on what you think of me – base them on the arguments themselves. If I am wrong, I would love to hear your thoughts as to why.

The Republican Party of Strategies and Tactics

There were certainly a number of factors that contributed something to our losses this November – I would even grant that some of those factors were completely out of our control as a party. That said, our problems did not begin with the 2008 election and I strongly believe that there was one factor that, far above any other, has lead to our downfall: We.Stopped.Solving.Problems.

We elect our leaders to solve problems in accordance with the values and priorities we express through the electoral process. If we feel the government is getting bloated and taking too much of our money in the process, we support candidates who commit to trimming government and cutting our taxes.

Problem is for years now the Republican Party has made strategic and tactical perfection in both the policy and campaign arenas our focus at the expense of generating ways to solve the nation’s problems in accordance with our philosophy. And make no mistake, until recently we have been VERY successful to that end.

Am I saying strategies and tactics are bad? Absolutely not – like it or not the best-intentioned candidate with the best ideas in the world who pays no heed to the need for strategic and tactical excellence will have a very hard time winning against an opponent who is largely devoid of ideas but superior in their strategic and tactical approach.

Strategies and tactics in the political realm provide candidates and parties with the ability to efficiently and effectively share their ideas with voters and make the case that they are the better choice. They are tools that are vital to success but they are, at the end of the day, still only tools. They are both the cart and the horse but the greatest vendor in the world, with the strongest horse and most beautiful and ornate cart will still go home broke if they take rotten, moldy fruit to sell at the market.

For a few years now a question has been brewing: what does it mean to be a Republican? A few weeks ago, voters got tired of trying to figure out the answer.

Some of them may not have liked everything he stood for and some of them may have wished for a more detailed list of solutions but they supported Barak Obama anyways because he was able to convince them that he was more likely to solve the problems that concerned them than his opponent.

More to come…

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5 Responses to “The Republican Party of Strategies and Tactics”

  1. Dereck Says:

    Actually, I think you’ve summed it up perfectly. The voters picked the guy they believed would do what they wanted. Good post Aurelius.

  2. Dinwoody Says:

    Not to expose too nakedly my cynical side, but I think a very strong argument can be made that Aurelius, and most all hyper-politically minded folk, is over thinking the issue a bit. As Aurelius aptly points out, “strategy” and “tactics” can crush an opponent (e.g., Rove ’04). But the terms “strategy” and “tactics” are code for prepackaged and contrived political theater. I will admit, many voters actually have values, do more than five minutes of independent research about candidates, and genuinely endeavor to make an informed decision. To those voters I tip my hat, and about those voters Aurelius writes. Those are not the voters that decide elections, there are just not enough of them to stem the tide that this nation’s political system has brought down upon our heads. Look no further than the debates. Not a single genuine moment. Stump speeches? Are you kidding?

    The problem with the republican party is simple. Marketing. Every time I hear a pundit speak of the “Republican Brand,” I chuckle. Can we really say with a straight face that America’s values have changed so much in the last 4 years that the democrats’ values are more in line with American values? Has anything really changed? Abortion? Health Care? Social Security? NO! Take this “big government” shtick for a moment. Aurelius is wrong when he says that the republicans defied their values and became big government conservatives. They have always been for big government. Reagan purposely exploded the budget deficit to outspend the Russians and “win” the cold war. Huge government expenditures happen under BOTH parties. Both are for massive government infrastructures, they only “spread the wealth around” a bit differently, at least historically. The point being, the only thing that has changed for republicans is their marketing strategy. People used to buy that we were for small government, just like they now buy that President Obama can bring Nirvana within reach.

    Bush killed us. He believes what he believes and the devil may care. It’s why I voted for him, twice. But we are now paying the price for his arrogant view of the world. History will judge, but his inability to sell his policies allowed the democrats to stop licking their wounds from the last decade and find a character that knew how to market. The democrats put on an amazing piece of political theater this cycle by finding a villain and destroying him. Always makes for good entertainment. I just hope that the republicans do not perform the script of the poor child waiting for scraps as the democrats grow, forget about the skit that got them there, and act surprised with something more interesting and palatable comes along. Republicans have great values. They need to sell them instead of trusting that most American’s share them. Most Americans have no values, but they sure love their remote controls.

  3. aureliusmaximus Says:

    Dinwoody –

    1) the need for effective “marketing” of messages and candidates in politics does not negate what I am saying – without a message that resonates, all the marketing in the world will not help you.

    2) Reagan and Republicans have always made it clear that defense was the one government expenditure where they supported growth

    2) you actually contradict your own argument and support mine with your thoughts on where President Bush went wrong. You have to differentiate core values from the application of those values to the problems of the day.

    You say “people used to BUY that Republicans were for small government” – I ask: what changed? The answer? We stopped proposing solutions that fell in line with our core values and started proposing solutions that were politically (i.e. strategically) expedient instead.

  4. Jonathan Trenn Says:

    You’re missing something here that is affecting the “Republican brand”. Actually a few things. Look at many of the rallies. The indoor fundraisers. Not a very diverse crowd by ethnicity, race, and age.

    Then there’s the aspect of some on the religious right. Not conservative Christians per se, but right wing ministers that tell us that God deliberately sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans because of a parade that gays had a few days earlier. Or that Catholicism (my religion) is “the great whore”. Ministers like this are being sought out for major endorsements. No thanks. I was very happy that McCain then repudiated Hagee, but it’s telling that he felt he had to get Hagee’s endorsement in the first place.

    And you’ve got to mention the Happy Warrior. Ronald Reagan. Then compare him to Tom Delay, who told us that opposition to the war in Iraq amounted to treason.

    Until the Republicans realize that it isn’t just the marketing (my field) but its also to a great extent the message, then they will continue to suffer.

  5. aureliusmaximus Says:

    Couldn’t agree more Jonathan – we are actually saying the same things.

    Everything you have mentioned can be traced one step further by asking the question “Why?” – a focus on tactics instead of solutions is the root cause of everything you have mentioned.

    When the prevailing strategy dictates that the goal for each position you take is to maximize the enthusiasm of your base those are the results.

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