Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Problem With Language and the Current GOP Debate

November 25, 2008

UPDATE: Ed Feulner, President of the Heritage Foundation, has an interesting post up at the Next Right that address the problems with language from a different perspective.

As my poor friends can attest I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the future of the Republican Party lately.

As I watch the ongoing debate that is spawned by the proposals from the growing litany of voices offering their solutions to the party’s woes I grow increasingly frustrated by the role language is playing in making it difficult for the various coalitions that comprise the GOP to come to some kind of consensus on how we should move forward.

There is a reason why “communication” professionals have become, and will continue to be, an important part of our society’s landscape. Each of us interprets messages contextually, based on our perception of the world around us, the messages vehicle and our own experiences.

This dynamic is a large part of the problem with the current intra-party debate.

One word is particularly responsible for these problems: ideology.

As I mentioned before, David Brooks recently penned an editorial that sought to categorize the two camps of thought currently emerging with the GOP. It’s not perfect but its broad generalities make discussions like this one much easier so for simplicity’s sake I will continue to use his Traditionalist and Reformer groupings. If you haven’t read his article yet give it a quick look before continuing.

I plan on putting together some thoughts about the biggest areas of disagreement I have with the Traditionalists later. For now I will just say that one of their biggest problems is that the phrasing they are using to defend the party’s core ideologies is from a different era with different problems. As such, what many Traditionalists mean when they invoke certain phrases and what voters hear are very different things.

Reformers recognize the need to reformulate our ideological expressions to address the problems of today. The problem is that much of the language they use to make their case is interpreted very differently by the party’s base – a segment of the party that largely comprises the Traditionalist camp.

The problem the Traditionalists have is that they are failing to delineate between ideology and the application of ideology.

Although I identify more strongly with the Reformers I strongly agree with Traditionalists when they say that voters are largely supportive of much of our core ideology. The GOP’s messages of limited, fiscally responsible government, lower taxes and a strong defense have gained broad enough acceptance to force noticeable shifts in the policies of today’s Democrats. Our failure to remain true to these ideals has certainly played a role in our losses.

I also believe that the GOP has relied on decades-old applications of those values. Here is where we have a problem.

Instead of arguing that we must update the application of our ideology to address the problems that most concern voters today the Reformers simply say “we need to modernize our ideology.”

Traditionalists hear Reformers say “we need to modernize our party’s ideology” and they bristle. What they hear is “We need to CHANGE our ideology.” What Reformers actually mean is “we need to modernize the way in which we apply our ideology to today’s problems.”

I am certainly over-simplifying the issue here but if we are to show the American people that we have heard the message that they have sent, with increasing volume, over the passed two elections, those vying for control of the heart of the party must pay heed to the importance of language.

If we do not, the leaders with the ability to renew the GOP’s ability to proactively provide solutions to today’s problems will fail to earn the support of the party faithful and we will be stuck making our case with phrases and arguments that will not resonate with voters.


The Republican Party of Strategies and Tactics

November 21, 2008

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…

My Independence Day Wish

July 4, 2008

Today is the United States of America’s birthday. I am going to forgo the part where I gush about what a wonderful country the U.S.A. is and how blessed I feel to have been born here – you will get enough of that during your History Channel binge today.

As an inanimate object, my country not able to submit the wish it has coming to it so I am going to arrogantly stand in the gap on its behalf. For my friends from other countries I ask that you mold my surrogate birthday wish so that it can apply to your interactions with those of us here.

My wish is simple (and, unfortunately, rife with cliche): disagree without being disagreeable, argue passionately for your view but always remember that it is possible to see a different solution to the same problem.

We live in an imperfect world – some have been unable to rid themselves of ignorant xenophobic or racist tendencies, others despise the country that has given them more than it has ever taken. In neither case are these individuals representative of the whole.

If I, as a Republican, turn a deaf ear to your thoughtful concerns and dismiss them as the errant and biased ramblings of a naive, unpatriotic, liberty despising communist I do us both a disservice – myself because I have lost the opportunity to learn and you because I have ignorantly forced you into a ideological corner inwhich you probably do not belong.

If you, in turn, sweep aside my considerations, labeling me a “neocon” or member of the “Radical Right” bent on legislating morality and eviscerating individual rights through fear mongering, you do the same.

I’ll end with an offer – it is easy to misappropriate the intentions of those who maintain values different from our own – if you consider yourself liberal and, as such, believe that those of us on the other side of the ideological divide bear nothing but contempt for the rest of mankind I invite you to come visit me in DC. We will have drinks with staff members from various parts of the Bush Administration from the White House to the Pentagon to the Department of Homeland security so that you can see that they don’t fit neatly into the Neocon, Hyper-conservative categories you would like to cram them into.

I’m doing my part to better the quality of debate in our beloved country – will you?

What do a liberal blogger and a Republican campaign operative have in common?

June 25, 2008

Well…yea…about as much as you would expect ideologically – what’s great though is that the social web is doing everything I had hoped it would to facilitate an honest debate of ideas.

I have always enjoyed spirited exchanges of ideas – 9 different schools from  K – 12th grade, brought on by a move approximately ever 2.5 years growing up tends to blunt one’s willingness to disassociate with someone because they don’t see eye-to-eye with you. Even so, we tend to congregate with like-minded individuals and eye dissenters warily making it difficult for us to meaningfully interact with a truly broad range of opinions.

Enter social media.

To say that the Twitter and FriendFeed landscapes are dominated by those with a left-of-center mindset would be an understatement. As a result I wasn’t the least bit surprised when my attempts to widen the nozzle on my information stream brought with them a slew of interactions with other users who looked at Republicans the same way Jaguar Paw looked at the strange wooden objects coming ashore at the end of Apocalypto. This is to be expected, its human nature – the less we have in common with or understand about another person, the more likely we are to distrust them and jump to hasty conclusions about them.

The power of social media is that it allows us to find and interact with one another based on common interests. The Twitter and FriendFeed communities are largely made up of social media types – some who work in social media and others, like myself, who are drawn to the new avenues of communication it opens up. Either way there is a common bond that allows us to build a relationship based on a mutual understanding.

Want an example of how powerful this is? Tech blogger Robert Scoble posted a message on his FriendFeed account that Republican Congressman John Culberson uses Twitter sparking a flurry of excited reponses, many of which indicated they would now follow the Texas Congressman as well. I can guarantee you that many of them are not predisposed to enthusiasm over anything that has to do with Republicans – especially when they come in the form of Republicans in Congress. Had Scoble posted something about Representative Culberson’s stance on an issue the comments would have very likely been dominated by generalizations disparaging Republicans but since a common interest was shared Representative Culberson just found scores of new friends on Twitter.

This past Sunday I received an IM from HuffPo/BlogHer/MOMocrat blogger, Queen of Spain asking if I was interested in jumping on her web show later that evening to discuss current political topics including the FISA re-authorization. She runs in a different world than I. A few months ago I didn’t even know she existed (and vise versa) but through our interactions on Twitter we were able to prove to one another that, despite completely different ideological approaches, we both wanted the same thing: to make the world a better place.

I joined her that night and had a blast trying to convince the shows participants that my views (or conservative views in general) were not the result of some nefarious desire to wreak havoc on the lives of others – who knows if I succeeded. What I do know is that, like many voters, I have grown tired of a climate that prevents me from expressing my reasoning for holding a certain position or hearing the reasoning of someone who disagrees. I am thrilled to see that social media is doing exactly what I hoped it would: restoring our ability to disagree without being disagreeable (sound familiar?).

Obama is going to break the internet(s)

June 18, 2008

Had dinner with a friend last night – at some inevitable point we began discussing the online chasm that currently (<- attempted optimism) exists between McCain and Obama and he shared this interesting piece of information: When the Obama campaign wants to send an email out to its list of supporters it has to dedicate everyone of its servers (with “its” meaning the company they use to do these things) to the process along with THREE HOURS. Apparently that’s how long it takes to send out 15 million emails.

Rumor has it that the Obama campaign began sending out a blast email right before the and Firefox outages (just kidding).

And Then Sometimes We just Watch…

May 6, 2008

It just occurred to me that one thing has been largely missing in the whole gas tax holiday hubbub…US.

Interesting, no? You get the sense that our collective consciousness is attuned to the fact that it is a gesture containing no real benefits other than to garner our good will.

I haven’t seen any anti-tax groups making a big push to help the idea gain momentum or anti-anti-tax groups furiously compiling and releasing statistics on how many school children will go without lunch as a result of the lost revenues (yes, yes, I know the gas tax money goes to road construction, etc – I’m taking creative license here).

All I have seen are candidates floating the idea, the media working as hard as they can to make some kind of story out of it (“Not even conservative economists agree with McCain”, “Not even Paul Krugman agrees with Hilary”) and We, the People, sitting on the sidelines with a bemused smile on our faces, elbowing each other with a quick “Awwwwww, they’re trying to connect with us.”

Its cute.

The Race to Screw Up Least

April 17, 2008

Will be highly surprised if anything ground breaking comes out of tonight’s debate. Unfortunately the race devolved into a strategic tightrope act which means the platitudes will keep on coming.

The more time that goes by the less I believe the whole ‘change’ for D’s vs ‘security’ for R’s narrative. Too many things just don’t add up for it to be true – it’s a jacked-up race and I think it is the only thing that voters or pundits have been able to latch on to.

I want to look at a couple of things before I can determine whether I am completely off my rocker or not.

DCCC Prepares Forti’s Welcome Gift

April 16, 2008

Paul Kane has a story in today’s WaPo about the DCCC’s intent to file a complaint with the FEC alleging that the NRCC drafted a script for a tv spot that Freedom’s Watch was planning on running this week in support of Woody Jenkins.

From the article’s details and knowing the parties involved I am highly inclined to believe McCarthy’s explanation but that won’t stop the D’s from doing everything they can to convince the public that we (Republicans) just sit around in smoky back rooms and dream up ways to break the law.

This should be taken as a neon warning to the Freedom’s Watch folks that the Dems aren’t going to give them an inch – going to be an interesting year…