On Messaging, the Media and Moving Forward
There’s not much that I can say after Tuesday’s beatdown that has not already been said. There have been several posts here on TRS regarding what the GOP and the conservative movement should do now, and I direct you to them for starters: RB says we need to start working on our messaging, and that we lost an American Idol contest, not a presidential election.
Thomas says we need extensive outreach to expand the GOP’s demographics.
Jay believes we have to work on our communications and realize there will be no more elections like 2004. The demographics are too far gone.
Meanwhile, Brady argues we’re losing the culture war and choosing a staunch conservative leader to represent us in 2016 will be necessary.
I’m inclined to agree with all of the above.
Our messaging sucks. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that don’t understand the Republican message because they’re just not immersed in it as we are. These people range from young voters (which we really need to start wooing) to even older, white voters who despite voting for Romney were very much in the dark about Romney’s message. More or less, theirs was a protest vote against Obama.
So yes, let’s get to work on messaging. It’s plainly obvious our message was hindered by the perception of Mitt Romney. Just years after Wall Street got bailed out and Main Street got the shaft, we ran a northeast moderate perceived as the quintessential Wall Street tycoon. That was not entirely Romney’s fault, of course. He faced this branding while he had little money to fight back against it. By the time he could, it was too late and our communications were too soft.
Now, the media. When it comes to the mainstream media, I agree with Jay. Enough softball. It’s time to hijack the the Newt / Christie / Sununu playbook and call the media out on their BS, and to their face. I see this already beginning to spread throughout the movement from surrogates and spokesmen, etc. But it’s time they all acted that way. No more smiling at the camera while we’re lied about. Instead, smile at the camera and say “you’re lying and your viewers deserve better.” Then tell the truth.
There may be some that resist this change, however. To that: purge them. No more Mike Murphys, no more Weavers, not more Steve Schmidts. It will be for the best and our message will prosper because of it.
At the same time, we have to begin to train Republicans to take on this job. There are a few young conservatives up for the challenge. Brad Dayspring is the first that comes to mind. But there has to be more. There has to be an army of them. I liked what Jen Rubin wrote on this very topic:
If you can’t get through a half hour with Jon Stewart, provide information to soften the blow of a “New York Times” hit piece, quietly work with reporters and/or editors who have gotten a story wrong (follow up with new information, for example), be able to shift storylines in a flash based on breaking events or get your surrogates on the air, you’re not ready to be a communications adviser at the presidential level. If there are not such people in the stable of Republican press gurus, the GOP needs to set up a press school to prepare its professionals.
Michael Walsh added this:
The big GOP money should henceforth divert at least a tiny fraction of the dough it poured into Karl Rove’s useless American Crossroads super PAC and its ilk and establish its own, alternative media (not Fox News) that functions both as a sword and shield against the decaying, corrupt journalistic establishment. After all, the Republicans lost with the super PACS, and they can just as easily lose without them, and at a fraction of the cost. But they can’t win without a media operation that can neutralize the 15 to 20 points that MSM advocacy regularly contributes to the Democrats.
Exactly. Things have to change if the GOP is going to move forward.
When it comes to policy, I have a few brief ideas. It’s time to chill on immigration and gay marriage. I won’t go into details here, but we will never begin to trim the deficit the GOP has among Hispanics as long as we are viewed antagonistically by them. Our message obviously is not antagonistic – a rising tide lifts all boats. But again, the superior Democratic messaging has portrayed conservatives in a false light. So to begin to make inroads, it’s time to promote a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – but only after we have sealed the border as much as possible. Then we drive home the conservative message of economic opportunity.
Now onto gay marriage. Believe it or not, this is a leading issue among many young voters. Whether or not they can get a job after graduation isn’t front and center in their heads, it’s whether their gay friend can get married. I’ve always been a supporter of civil unions, and I believe the GOP should move in that direction. Take the libertarian route and argue government should remove itself from any definitions of marriage, give all couples – gay or straight – civil unions at the state level and allow the religions to decide who they wish to marry by their definitions of what marriage is. If we can take the argument away from gay marriage and into economics and spending, we win.
Those last points will likely get me in trouble, so allow me to say that the core GOP message of free enterprise, traditional values and a strong defense is still valid. There is nothing wrong with it, only the way we are messaging it. It’s only these two small changes to the platform I’d argue for.
Oh, and never say the word ‘rape’ again.
That’s my long-winded manifesto on where go from here. For lack of a better word, we must move forward. Dwelling for the next few days is fine. But soon enough, we have to work on marketing, how we deal with the media, and tweak our message to the growing demographics and how we deliver it.