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February 17, 2014

A Plea To The GOP: Enough Already! Stop Talking About "Tactics". The Country Needs More From You.

Team GOP keeps talking about how conservative insurgents don't understand tactics and how we all want to get to the same place but disagree on tactics. "Tactics" is the new "electability" (which itself is really a tactical concept) and we all know how well that worked out.

Tactics exist to advance a strategy which in turn is the plan to achieve a goal. This focus on tactics is masking a major flaw in the Republican party...it has no overreaching goal let alone a strategy for achieving it. Republicans lack a reason for being beyond winning elections and enriching the various donor and political structures that exists in its orbit. There is simply no Republican vision for the country, no coherent ideological vision that it presents to the country as a viable alternative to the Democrats.

The Democrats can broadly be said to have a vision for America that is based on an ever growing and more powerful public sector (especially at that the federal level). From that basic vision all other things flow. What is the corresponding vision from the GOP? It's clearly not the opposite. No one seriously suggests that the overreaching vision of the Republican Party is to shrink the government at every level and to minimize its impact on the lives of Americans. At best one could argue that the GOP wants to present a somewhat less grand vision of the role of government in people's lives. And they certainly want to be the ones running that slightly smaller beast. But actively shrink it? There's no evidence of that. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of evidence that the GOP is quite comfortable with increased spending and the scope of the federal government as it exists.

I'm not saying there are no differences between the parties but they aren't as great as some pretend or as they should be in a healthy democracy. Don't believe me? Think of the areas where the GOP-Democrat divide is supposedly the greatest...social issues. And then look at how many Republicans want to de-emphasize abortion and surrender entirely on gay marriage. At one point national security/defense was a significant point of distinction between the two parties. But as many onetime hawks sour on the notion of a robust program of intervention, which is a distinction that has narrowed greatly. With the rise of Rand Paul within the GOP, that’s an area that will continue to lose its ability to differentiate the parties.

Only on spending is the gap still large and when it comes to elected officials that gap is mostly rhetorical.

It's this lack of a stark competing vision from the Democrats that forces the GOP to constantly focus on "tactics".

Look at how the GOP is responding to ObamaCare. They have gone from "repeal" to "replace" to "repair". There is simply no one on the GOP side that is saying, this is not something the federal government should be doing.

Where are the "establishment" voices saying something lik, "The manifest failure of ObamaCare to deliver on any of its promises represents the first real opportunity to fight back against the liberal vision in a generation. We have here the club to beat the statists over the head and to begin to rollback there decades of failed big government."


No, that's not good "tactics" you'll be told again and again. But if the GOP isn't willing to stand against big government now, when its failures are laid bare for all to see, when exactly will it will be roused to the offensive? When exactly will they be attacking the underlying narrative of the left instead of offering dry alternatives that rely on government intervention in the lives of Americans, just of a slightly different flavor?

The complaint against Ted Cruz's forcing 60 votes on the debt ceiling is that he didn't have "a plan" to win. That shows just how out of touch Republicans are with anything beyond "tactics". Cruz never intended to "win" a concession for a debt hike, he wanted to demonstrate that some people have an alternative view of how the parties approach governing. Yes, he wants to set himself up as the leader of that wing, but at least he offers an alternative.

If you want to be a majority you need to offer an alternative and fight for it. Voters need to be inspired. They need to believe that you have principles that when turned into policy will make their lives better. They need to know that you really believe in these principles and will stand up for them. In short, people want to see bold leadership. They want to be motivated and to think that you offer a legitimate alternative to the awful status quo.

In short, winning requires everything the modern GOP is against…an alternative vision, expressed in a confident and inspiring manner.

The GOP has a terrible habit of thinking people care about detailed policy proposals. Barack Obama ran against the individual mandate in 2008. He ran on “hope” and “change” for a bigger government. The GOP responds with “tactics” and “73 point plans” because they don’t have an overarching vision for the country beyond keeping their own comfortable offices.

You might not win every fight, you’ll even lose some elections, but you’ll begin the process of changing hearts and minds. If all you offer is an echo of the other party and endless lectures about “tactics”, people can either take or leave you. They have no compelling reason to stand with you or to think you have anything worth offering.

Winning elections is a necessary step in the process but it’s not the last step. Election victories are means to an end. Unless and until the GOP can articulate a compelling end it wishes to achieve it will focus on tactics. And it will never deliver anything to people who don’t have a vested personal or business interest in GOP, Inc.

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posted by DrewM. at 01:15 PM

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