The reasons for Republican losses this year and the steps we need to take to rebuild are extensive. Start with the average voter. He or she does not care about (or honestly understand) ideology. Trying to appeal to the average voter with arguments about Adam Smith’s view of government and socialism etc. will likely get a blank stare. The average voter can tell you all the stats about the Denver Broncos but couldn’t tell you the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, couldn’t tell you if Al Qaeda is a Sunni or Shia organization, and has no understanding of the ramifications of Georgia being invaded by Russia. The average voter wants to be able to feed his family, have healthcare, have a house with a big flat screen TV, and make sure his kids have a chance to get the same. The average voter (aside from the base on each side) doesn’t care if it is a Democrat or Republican who gives this to him.
Now with that as a backdrop, let’s look at this election. There were two broad issues that came into play…
1) Contextual Issues: Unpopular war, economic crisis, unpopular president, misadventures in the Minneapolis bathroom, etc.
2) Internal Party Issues: things that the GOP did and didn’t do which shot us in the foot.
As far as the contextual issues, this was a tough year for the GOP. You all know the details so I won’t repeat them here. What I would like to focus on is issues related to the GOP. In terms of pure strategy and tactics the matchup between the Dems and the GOP was like watching a football game between the Michigan Wolverines and Cherry Creek High School. They ran circles around us. A few cases in point…
Lack of Infrastructure
The Dems were incredibly well organized on a local level. They have a well run District and Precinct system with appropriate delegation of authority and support from the higher echelons of command. In Denver County we have essentially no infrastructure and we have completely let the precinct system fall into disrepair. I started as a precinct captain early this year and several weeks ago got promoted to District co-Captain. My other co-Captain, Paul Linton, also assumed his position relatively recently and he inherited a district that was in disarray. I have spoken with several other District Captains in Denver and they are experiencing the same thing. Part of the reason for this problem will be explained below.
Lack of Leadership
I have been rather unimpressed by the leadership that I see in the Colorado GOP. I won’t name any names here but too many people are “looking up” and focusing on how they can advance their own careers and get cabinet positions etc. They are not spending enough time “looking down” and making sure that the components of the Party over which they have jurisdiction gets developed. I spoke with several of the candidates who ran for either State House or State Senate and none of them received anything (money or training/advice) from the County or State Party. I understand that the Party may have decided that it would be better for them to put all their money into the Senate and National race.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that ignoring all of your local candidates is a good idea (I do not agree with this position). Ok then how about having a few candidate trainings at GOP HQ? I know there are some smart people in the party who know a lot about political strategy. It would not cost much to have an all-day “boot camp” for candidates to teach them about running for office. It would also cost very little for a county GOP chairperson to have the candidates in the county over to his/her house once a month to talk strategy and give them moral support.
It would not be difficult for the State Chairman to call each of the candidates in the state and say “stay motivated…keep up the good work!” It would not be difficult for the State Chairman to create an email list for all the local candidates and send them updates and strategy ideas. None of these things would be difficult unless hypothetically the State Chairman was trying to run a major Senate campaign at the same time he/she was trying to be State Chairman.
With the complete failure of our infrastructure that I described above, every Republican who is in a leadership position needs to be focused on rebuilding the infrastructure. I know it is a lot more fun to socialize and attend parties with powerful people but the stables need to be cleaned out and our leaders need to put their boots on and do some work.
Lack of Innovation
The Democrats utilized the internet and electronic media very well and we completely dropped the ball. This is very frustrating. Here in Denver County there are a number of people in the local GOP who fail to comprehend the importance of this. The Denver Democrat website is an order of magnitude better than the Denver GOP website. This is a critical problem that needs to be addressed NOW.
Here in District 3 we just set up a web page (www.ColoGOPhd3.com) and we are setting up Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace pages. We are going to be sending out post cards to every Republican on the Denver side of the district over the next 6 months trying to get them on our email list and trying to get them to connect with our web site. The GOP needs to make a real push to utilize technology as a force multiplier.
The Democrats have made great efforts to reach out to African Americans and Hispanics. In my humble opinion, we have to connect with these folks too or we will continue to lose.
We need to adopt a business mindset. Quite simply we are losing market share. When you really boil it down, we sell red widgets and the other party sells blue widgets. If the red widgets aren’t selling then one of three things might be going on…
1) People just don’t want red widgets anymore because they don’t offer what they want. (We need to change our widget)
2) People just don’t know about the red widgets and don’t realize that they really are a good product. (We need better advertising)
3) The red widgets do not actually deliver the features that they are advertised to be able to do. (We need to walk the talk)
In the first case perhaps our “product” needs to be changed, in the second case we need to do a better job of getting our message out in an understandable way, and in the third case we need to actually do what we claim we can/should do. I don’t claim to know exactly to what extent each of these plays a role but I think that they all contribute to the problem.
In business, if a company doesn’t innovate and compete effectively it goes out of business. In politics, we become irrelevant. Politics will always have two competing sides. Even the European countries that have multiple parties tend to create coalitions that divide up into two opposing sides.
The question is, will the Republicans continue to be a viable opposing force or will the natural polarity develop within the Democrat party causing the direction of our country to be decided every year in the Democratic primaries?