This week’s Guest Dispatch by Arthur Freyre takes a look at GOP, the recent RNC Winter Meeting, and the future of the party. Before you read it, a few words from the Editor.
A lot has been said about the future of the Grand Ol’ Party. Most of it, not good. Some of it is hype and wishful thinking, from Democrats and mainstream media. Like the foul odor in an alley behind a restaurant in the morning, most of the criticism emanates from the deep dark recesses of the extreme Left of the Democratic Party. Then there are genuine and well-meaning critics, from within. I’m not that pessimistic about the future of the GOP, but we do have some work to do for the long haul.
The gloom and doom brigade seems to forget, or purposely tune out, that Republicans control a majority of the governorships as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republican Party also controls a majority of state legislatures. About 27. The White House? Why are we so obsessed with gaining power in Washington? Are we not the party of states rights? Peek under the Big Tent. The biggest whiners and trouble-seekers tend to be the very consultants that make a living off the the perceived troubles of our party.
Let’s focus on the basics. Winning races, locally. One county and one state at a time. Let’s give our elected officials something to work with. There is strength in numbers. When you win locally and govern conservatively, the rest falls in place. With regards to national messaging, the challenges are no different that those faced by the Democratic Party.
The electorate is evolving and I think more to the right, especially on fiscal issues and on the role of government. America is a center-right nation. This is good news for us. We should begin leading that way and harness all the tools available to do it. Around the clock if we have to. If not? Read on. — Jason Poblete
GOP, Relevance or Irrelevant
Arthur Freyre, Miami, Florida
“Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near,” Eleanor Rigby-Beatles.
This weekend the Republican Party had its organizational meeting; and I could not help but recall that above-reference Rigby-Beatles quote. Based on Byron York’s column about the RNC winter confab, it appears that the GOP is on its way to irrelevance. Or is it? Review York’s piece when you can, it is worth a read.
For those who are not familiar with the business world, business consultant Jim Collins studies and teaches how companies survive and thrive in difficult times. Collins’s books on leadership and vision are not only applicable to the business world, but the concepts can be adapted to other organizations, including political parties. One of the most interesting books he has written was titled, How The Mighty Has Fallen. A summary of this book can be found in here. Collins explains a company’s decline in five stages. Using these five stages, I am going to explain why I believe that the GOP is on its way to irrelevance.
Stage 1: Hubris: Excessive pride or arrogance. Collins defines this “when people regard success virtually as an entitlement and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.” The GOP was successful in both the 80’s with the “Reagan revolution” and in the 90’s with the “Contract with America.” The Reagan revolution and the Contract with America had one thing in common-vision. It was a vision of America that resonated with people. With the election of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, the GOP began to stray from communicating its vision and relying on techniques. The RNC began speaking with the “rhetoric of success”-relying on their get out the vote mechanism instead of building their vision.
Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More: The GOP suffered its first setback in 2006. It was the year that Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel engineered the Democrats regaining of the Congress. What happened? Inconsistency. The party of small government began to become the party of big government, especially with reckless spending. Instead of relying on the core principles that brought them to power, the GOP began to rely on the get out the vote to spur its coalition for turnout. What they did not realize was that voters that voted Republicans were mad. They were angry at the tone deafness in both Congress and in the White House. Bad policy makes bad politics. Bad politics makes angry voters.
Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril: Instead of assessing the damage, the GOP continued going on its merry way. Instead of focusing internally, (i.e. vision, communication, etc…). Once a company reaches this stage you begin to focus on the externals instead of asking the hard questions. When asked why they failed, the GOP explained it on the lack of communication, lack of outreach. Although these things played a role, what the GOP is failing to realize that there is a bigger symptom.
Stage 4: Grasping for salvation: This is a dangerous stage. It is at this point that the GOP is at the crossroad between relevance or irrelevance. It is at this stage, where an organization fails to take the time to ask the hard questions and begins to hope and wait for a “messiah” or “a big idea”, or “a radical transformation”, or “a dramatic cultural revolution.” At the winter meeting in Charlotte, Byron York wrote that the Growth and Opportunity Project, the committee in charge of assessing the GOP’s election failure that they would not address the issue of the Republican vision of the future. Instead they would defer to the future Republican nominee. Relying on a big idea or the charismatic leader will doom the GOP to irrelevance.
Consider the 2012 GOP primary. We had two congressmen that did absolutely nothing, except vote and talk about the issues; a former governor, a Speaker of the House who had brilliant ideas, but enough baggage to fill an airline, a former Senator, a businessman with only one good idea and slogan, and a technocrat. In 2012 primary, each candidate was a niche candidate. There was not one candidate that gave a vision of America that attracted people outside of their niche. Mitt Romney survived because every other candidate eliminated each other.
It is the RNC chair’s responsibility to ask the hard questions about the future of the party. It is Chairman Reince Priebus’ job to discuss what are the visions and the core ideas that defines the GOP. It is not Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul, or Chris Christie’s responsibility. They can participate, but not dictate. To defer to the candidates will be nothing more than a repeat of 2012- niche candidates appealing to a narrow group of people and hoping that they will win.
Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death: After relying on messiahs, and big ideas, the foundations begin to crumble, people will begin to question the GOP’s relevancy and give up. Collins describes this stage where the leadership of an organization throws everything but the kitchen sink. I am not sure how far away the GOP is from stage 5.
Throughout these stages, there is always the opportunity to correct the mistake. However, as one progresses through the stages the work at hand becomes harder and harder. Decline is a part of life, but it does not have to be fatal. As Collins concludes, “Failure is not so much a physical state as a state of mind; success is falling down-and getting up one more time-without end.”