Politico’s Ways to Save the GOP

Politico has an article, compiled from advice from prominent Republicans, on how to save the GOP, if not from its current implosion, then at least in the long run:

1. Get a clue: Republicans desperately need to cook up some new ideas and craft an attractive agenda to have any chance of success. […]

The name of the agenda doesn’t matter, but the substance does. Voters no longer think lean government, smart and strong defense, and good old-fashioned family values when they think Republican. They think reckless spenders, misguided war and hypocrisy. Republicans “don’t have a vision,” says former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas). “Their behavior is being governed by a bad political model, and we’re losing races.”

Yup. Armey’s got that right. Legend has it that once upon a time, Republicans stood for individuals’ freedom, hard-nosed realism, and balanced budgets, while Democrats were starry-eyed hippies. Of course, these days, Republicans seem more concerned with who’s having teh buttsecks with whom, replacing our republic with a theocracy, and sucking as much money out of rich donors as they can before they retire or get kicked out of office.

But yeah, if they somehow managed to turn themselves around and stand for things that are worth standing for, I’d consider voting for them.

The other thing about that hard-nosed realism thing is that it involves looking at the world the way it is, not the way you’d like it to be. Obviously, this means no more cooking intelligence to justify bogus wars.

But it also means listening to scientists and experts in other fields. They’re the ones who have spent years figuring out how things are, and what the consequences of your policies are likely to be. Don’t cherry-pick the ones who tell you things that agree with your preconceived notions, and don’t harrass the ones who disagree with you. If you go to ten doctors, and nine of them say you have cancer, then odds are, you have cancer. You can’t make yourself well by firing the nine and only listening to the tenth guy. Likewise, when every reputable scientist is telling you that evolution and global warming are real, you can’t change reality by telling them to shut up.

2. Cut the crap: Republicans are dominating Democrats in one area right now: humiliating sex scandals. […] You can’t run on family values when you don’t practice them.

Also very true. There are two ways to fix this: either stop engaging in behavior that can cause a scandal, or stop preaching what you don’t practice. I recommend the latter: for one thing, it’s hard to be the party of individual freedom if you keep telling consenting adults what they can’t do. For another, it helps with the whole hypocrisy thing.

Speaking only for myself, I think Fossella’s indiscretion is worse than Bill Clinton’s blow job because Clinton (and Democrats in general) never built themselves up to be morally superior. Yes, a governor or president should be expected to be able to keep his dick in his pants, but in the end, he never leaked any state secrets to Monica, so his affair is between Bill and Hillary.

The other thing to consider is that in any political party, someone‘s going to have an affair or do something scandalous, and this is the age of cell phone cameras and YouTube, so it will make it on the evening news.

Oh, and non-sexual scandals and improprieties also count. George Allen was an idiot for calling a Democratic staffer “Macaca” when the guy had a fucking video camera pointing at him. And John McCain really needs to learn that he can’t get away with telling one group of people one thing, and another group another thing. See “age of YouTube”, above.

3. Beg for help: The Republican infrastructure is crumbling. Making matters worse, Democrats are erecting a pretty impressive network of donors, think tanks and activist groups that is exploiting the GOP’s structural weakness.

There are two basic ways to raise a million dollars: get ten people to send you $100,000, or get a million people to send you $1.

Back in the days of carriages and gaslights, if you were trying to raise a million dollars from a million people, it was probably most effective to find the ten richest people, sweet-talk them into giving you a hundred grand each, then fast-talk the other 999,990 people into voting for you.

The problem with this is that people tend to expect a lot for their hundred grand. They’ll want to drop by the White House to tell you exactly what you ought to be doing, then bang your daughter in the Lincoln Bedroom on the way out.

On the other hand, you can get people to part with $1 for much less: tell them you’re for the same things as them, or promise to declare April 19th National Kitten Appreciation Day. And these days, what with the InterTubes and all, it’s easier than ever.

The downside to this approach is that it doesn’t work if people think you’re a sleazebag. They have to like you at least enough to give you a dollar. But remember that what you’re ultimately aiming for is 50.1% of the vote, and the money is only a means toward that end. So you want people to like you enough to vote for you anyway.

4. Burn the Bush: There is something honorable about loyalty. But taken too far, it can start to look downright loony to voters. President Bush is as unpopular as Richard Nixon was in the days before his resignation. Cut him loose — quick, says Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

Absolutely. Do you want to be seen as a party of ideals, not people? Then clean your own house, and don’t be afraid of disagreeing with members of your own party when they’re wrong.

Learn a lesson from the Catholic church: molesting kids is only half of the scandal. The other half is that the church actively covered up the abuse, placing loyalty above principle.

5. Change the pitch — and your face: Several well-known Republicans said the party needs fresh, reassuring packaging and a more diverse crowd to deliver it.

The image of the white men’s club needs to go, too, says Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “The country is changing. The Republican Party has to have a message that reflects faces and voices of America. We have to do a better job of recruiting women candidates, candidates of color and diversity.”

As this stands, it sounds like advocating a sort of affirmative action: make sure Colin Powell and Condi Rice get on as many talk shows as possible, to show people that yes, there really are black folks in the GOP.

How about another approach? Figure out why it is that so few minorities join the Republican party, and change your policies to make the party more inviting. While you’re at it, figure out why so few women and non-whites rise to high positions, and fix that as well. Then you may find that the image problem has solved itself.

6. Fan the fear: Ignore the critics, Republican wise men say — there is still no better way to win than to stir up concerns about Democratic patriotism and their commitment to national security and killing terrorists. It often remains the best call in the GOP playbook, especially with McCain atop the ticket.

Well, sure, you can continue the “Booga-booga!” strategy. The thing about pushing people’s primal buttons is that it keeps working. But if you’re going to descend to that level, why not push the other deep-seated buttons as well?

Hollywood knows that Stuff Blowing Up sells. So use that. Have two cars run into each other at your press conferences, and deliver a memorable quip as you pose in front of the fireball. How about “My opponent is fired”? Eh. Needs work.

Sex is also a perennial favorite. Show tits in commercials. Have strippers and lap dances at fundraisers. Promise to make Steak and Blow Job Day a federal holiday.

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