Blowing up the Deathstar in 2012
11.30.08, by Jeff G
I. Star Wars
It’s hard to remember, but in 2004, Republicans were unstoppable. After a brutal 2000 Presidential Race and Senate gain, 2004 marked a 10-seat Senate gain in the Senate and a gain in the House. We were on a roll. Not only did we have victories in political office, we had a new media, jumpstarted by Rush Limbaugh. Fox News was now on the scene. There was Drudge, Hannity, Coulter, and more. There was Swift Boat. There was the Dean scream. The Clintons were, for the time being, gone. For the first time in over thirty years, the big Titan media seemed to be shaking and the Democrats had not only suffered defeat, but Bush seemed to be rising as some kind of mythic figure. There was now a “Red America.” We all cheered. We did it! We blew up the Death Star. We’d won, right? The Reagan Revolution was here to stay. Right?
II. The Empire Strikes Back
Between 2004 and 2006 the Republicans watched some things change (no pun intended), but didn’t heed the warning. Approval ratings slumped. A constant barrage by the media on Iraq and oil dropped Bush and Congress’s popularity. Don Rumsfeld resigned. Karl Rove resigned. Fox News became the “Hannity Show,” and so did the radio. When Hannity was not on, Fox talked about Anna Nicole Smith’s baby or other things. O’Reilly decided he should separate himself from conservatism, and asserted himself independent. His own man. Howard Dean took over the DNC and everyone laughed. “You mean that crazy Vermont Governor who screamed?” Yep. The Democrats went way liberal. And the Republicans in office laughed and coasted.
After Rove left, Bush and Cheney stopped responding to the media. They REALLY stopped responding after the noble Tony Snow left. So the liberal media pounded away. Recession! Oil companies are evil! Iraq is evil! Bush is Hitler. And the Republicans waged the greatest response in history, and won in 2006, and 2008 with incredible landslides. Just kidding. They didn’t.
2006. The Empire struck back. All the 2008 potential Presidential Candidates, including George Allen and Rick Santorum, were NOT beaten in the Presidential primary. Oh no. They lost their seats in 2006 before they could EVEN run for President. The eerie grin of Nancy Pelosi and the nutty professor Harry Reid ascended to power, and looked down on us with glee. Nervously we all said, “It must be that unpopular war, right?” It’s just that scandal with the page boy, right? So we ignored the plain writing on the wall, and got all geared up for Hillary Clinton. We did, after all, still have SOME good candidates left. And we all had our opinions as to who should be the Republican nominee. The Evangelicals said: Huckabee. The rest of the conservatives said: Romney. New York and Fox News said: Giuliani. Then Giuliani fizzled in FL, conservatives split on Huckabee and Romney (after being disappointed by Thompson), and McCain took the remaining votes and won. What?! How in the world did that happen?! Are we moderate again? So then the conservatives who had brutally ravaged McCain in the primary reluctantly had to get behind a man who constantly undercut conservatives. He was the “Gang of 14” guy. He was the immigration guy. He was the anti-Bush tax cuts guy. He was the Republican the New York Times loved to love and the Conservatives loved to hate. Ugh. Talk about disenfranchisement. But wait, there’s more! Somehow, even with the lowest approval ratings in history, Congress was set to GAIN Democratic seats. How did that happen?! But the horror was not over yet.
Hillary lost. Suddenly we were running a 72-year-old white (very white, I might add) Senator against a 47-year-young minority. Ouch. So we tried to comfort ourselves. McCain was a moderate. Barack is a liberal. That’s a good thing, we told ourselves. Maybe we can win PA. Maybe NH. It won’t be like Dole or George H. Bush or Gerald Ford. We can eek this one out. And like a sixth-grader cramming for a Calculus Final, Republicans stuffed as much information in the old canister as we could, and fired it into the public. And, interestingly…it almost worked. It almost worked because McCain picked Palin. His poll numbers spiked. Like it or hate it, the team seemed a winner. But it wasn’t. One word. Bailout.
The Bailout happened, and McCain’s numbers plunged. But there was still a chance still. Dick Morris predicted how: McCain wouldn’t vote for the bailout, and it would be a brilliant move, as McCain could finally separate himself from Bush, call Barack a big spender, McCain the real change, and then win the Presidency. What a great idea! He’ll do it and we’ll win right? Wrong. Instead he’ll suspend his campaign and let it at least appear that he really was inept. Combine that with lackluster debates, and suddenly everyone was relying on a very talented rookie called Palin to somehow win it. This can’t be happening can it? Didn’t we blow up the Deathstar? Maybe. But the Empire had come back. Big time. The mega effort by the John Stewarts of the world, a fallout on the economy, and a polarized party did us in. We conservatives were left with a staggering truth: conservatism sounds, to many people, like liberal does to us. Why? Because people equated conservative with things it does not mean. It does not mean spend, spend, spend. It does not mean Wall Street greed and extreme right-wing “Nazi” Christian (thank you Bill Maher for the term of endearment). But people think it does. That’s the truth. We can deny it like we did in 2006, or we can dig down and show people our real message. To change things, let’s look at what we’re up against. To understand, we’ll want to go back. We’ll go back to the ghosts of the 2004 primary.
2004 primary. If anyone does remember the Democratic Primary of 2004, they remember one thing: the Dean scream. What they don’t know about is the Dean laugh of 2008. Howard Dean. Yale University. Former Vermont Governor. In 2008 he’s stepping down as head of the DNC, like a football coach leaving on top. Dean had inherited a very troubled party, and seemed to conservatives the least likely person to bring the DNC back from the dead. How did the screamer do it? Two words: community organizing. While Howard Dean did lose the 2004 Primary, he did something unprecedented: courtesy of guru Larry Biddle, Dean lead a brilliant fundraising campaign. Dean raised the most money out of the Democrats, largely off Internet donations. Even more impressive, his average Internet donation was only $80.00. That’s a lot of donors. He was on to something.
So when Dean took the helm of the Democratic National Committee, he knew how to get the money, he just needed to communicate the right message. People said “Dean, go moderate, maybe even let some pro-life Democrats in.” He did the opposite. “Go left,” he commanded. Why? Well if you go back to the Bush/Kerry poll numbers, you’ll see why. A lot of people in 2004 heard that the moral vote won the Presidency. Ok, Dean and the DNC said, how do we solve that? We’ll we look closely at the numbers. What did people actually vote on? According to Zogby, people believed that war was the major moral stance, people liked Bush, and many of the voters happened to be Christian. Ok, said the Democrats, let’s take them out. Democrats can be Christians too, I mean Jesus only cared about the poor. Well, that’s what we’ll say. Maybe we’ll even con people like Rick Warren. Then we can pound G.W. Bush and get Karl Rove to resign. We can get people to hate the war. And we can do it Dean style. We’ll put up a new initiative. And so the DNC did. Dean set up a 50 state plan, saying he would win “Election by election, state by state, precint by precint, door by door, vote by vote…” So while the Republicans began to spend like Democrats and fall into corruption, Dean went to work. He went on the attack. Enter the strategically announced scandals in the Republican Party in 2006. Enter the continued harsh attacks on the Iraq War, G.W. Bush, and the attack on the Christian right. Enter polarizing the Republicans. Enter liberal leaders Pelosi and Reid in 2006. Bam. Bam. Bam.
So Republicans lost. Then Republicans got scared. And they went back to a worn out play book: they went moderate. Suddenly the RNC seemed to be implying: We don’t like the war either! We hate Bush too, he’s a spender! We aren’t Christian, we don’t like talk radio, we are just like you. We like…um, McCain! We are populists, that is, we’ll even bend on the social issues. We like anything that will make you vote for us.
They sounded like, well, politicians. I hadn’t seen Republican pandering like that since the Clinton scandal in 1998. (Note: one person in particular did not bend, and that was Rush Limbaugh. One example was him badly embarrassing Harry Reid when Reid tried to attack Limbaugh on the floor of the Senate, showing that the numbers are there when conservatism is tried).
On top of the Dean and DNC, something else was being constructed: the Barack machine. We conservatives knew about Barack’s radical connections. We knew about the tax hikes. We knew about the liberal social policies. We tried to tell people when “Big Barack Inc.” emerged, but to no avail. First, who would believe Republicans or conservatives? They were all divided, and had failed to adequately defend themselves for four years. Moreover, John McCain would not discuss Obama’s past. His pandering weakened conservative voices.
Even worse: Republicans somehow failed to recognize that while a community organizer might not be an expert on foreign or domestic policy, there is one thing that he is good at: getting people to vote. Something else we had not noted was that the Dean method of voting had been perfected in Barack Obama. Obama’s machine was the “Dean machine 2.0.” Obama’s Internet and community organizing just frankly outworked McCain. While the RNC hung Palin on a pike, the DNC hailed Obama and told the old guard Clintons, “Get in line or get out, period” (Note the Kennedy support of Obama).
Well, the Clintons, albeit reluctantly, got in line. Then the DNC and Obama campaign combined as a well-oiled super machine. Meanwhile the RNC and McCain tried to get in lock step. The problem? McCain and the RNC somehow thought that voters would follow them if they said they were conservative and weren’t. We conservatives found ourselves on the edge of a precipice, with the old Republican moderate Party, hand outstretched, saying, “Join me, and we will rule the Galaxy together.” “Nooooo!” We screamed. And so the 2008 election ended up with our ideas frozen in carbonite, our hands cut off, and our political body in shambles. The Empire Struck Back.
III. The Return of the Jedi
People would look at the Republican Party right now and say it’s chaos. In some ways they are right. But, ahem, there’s hope.
We have heard of a man that defied the odds, our Yoda in the battle against the Empire. His name: Ronaldus Magnus. He is a legend in our party. We love him. We talk about him all the time.
You might not know, but in 1984 he won 49 of 50 states.
He won as a pro-life, pro-defense, low taxes President coming off of a liberal Congress and Presidency in 1980. He won, pretty much by himself. No media. No Limbaugh. Nothing. And the country literally was thrilled. Then George H. Bush, repeating Reagan’s platform, destroyed Michael Dukakis. The conservative mandate. Oh the glory days. But guess what? Reagan is gone. And we DO NOT need people trying to clone Reagan. He’s not a sales pitch. “Yoda” clones do not work. No. What we need are some Luke Skywalkers.
Unlike the Reagan clones of the 2008 election (who all the conservatives looked at and said, “Well, I like this part, but that other part is just not right”), young conservatives need to refrain from stepping up and saying I am “Ronald Reagan.” They need to insert their own name into this phrase (while Jabba the liberals laugh): “I’m Luke Skywalker, a Reagan conservative, and I warn you not to underestimate my powers.”
While these new conservatives step up, they can be assured of one thing: having a backbone gets votes. Howard Dean knew this, and that’s why he took his party liberal. He disregarded fear. And he won. We all told him he was crazy. Maybe he is, but nevertheless, his plan worked. But BARELY. Nota bene: when conservative is tried bravely, we clean house. The proof: Reagan in ’80, Bush 88 (perceived as conservative, lost when perceived as moderate) and Gingrich in ‘92, and even Bush 2004 (perceived as conservative, when perceived as moderate, got beat…bad).
While we are dominant when we speak accurately Obama could only muster 53% of the nation, and that was when he was preaching tax cuts!
So let’s kill the rancor go save our friends.
How? Here’s how to blow up that Death Star a second time.
1. We don’t get scared or radical. We get determined. And we get back to our core principles. Limited Government. Low taxes. Above all, family values and integrity. Say these principles…loud. Say them kind. Say them courageously.
2. Get serious on principles. We don’t agree with something? We boycott. Do it peacefully, young Jedi, but understand that when you buy something contrary to your beliefs, you are helping build that Death Star. Why build the weapon you are fighting? And call Congress! Write Congress! Campaign. Vote. These actions are imperative!
3. Know that our prospects are amazing. Let’s consider the parallel between 1976 and 1980. 1976: Carter is elected. Democrats had Congress. Republicans were expected to be the minority for a long time. Why? Vietnam. Bad Economy. Watergate. Compare to 2008. Obama steps in. Democrats have Congress. Why? Iraq. Bad Economy. The demonization of a good man named Bush. The similarity is striking. 1980 could be 2012, if we dig in and work.
4. Read the writing on the wall: people aren’t liberal, they’re angry. Despite them not voting for Darth Vader (sorry McCain and moderates, but you killed us this time!), they did vote conservative. The country is not so liberal as people would like. McCain ran a horrible campaign. 48% of people still voted for him! Barack Obama ran on tax cuts. The polls said people believed he would give tax cuts (McCain failed, FAILED to explain Barack’s real plan). Second, in the most liberal state, CA, gay marriage was struck down. Amazing.
5. Know that we have a media Reagan didn’t have in 1980. Stop making fun of it. The liberals know their networks are biased. They don’t shy away from it when we tell them. We sit around with them and say “I love John Stewart too, but Limbaugh, no he’s crazy.” They laugh and say, “I know, right?” Why do we have to rationalize why we like Rush Limbaugh, Ingraham, or Glenn Beck? In turn, let’s avoid being disrespectful. Rants are good sometimes but are not good all the time.
6. Don’t be lazy. Educate. Educate. Educate. Explain to people. Don’t get in their faces. Be rational. Be kind. But be firm. No waifs, people. Now is not the time.
7. When a pundit insinuates you are alone, tell them conservatism works, moderates and liberals fail. Show them the Reagan landslides in 1980 and ’84. Gingrich goes conservative 1992: we win. W. Bush was popular as a conservative, not when he decided to spend like crazy. Talk about the failed moderate principles of Dole, George H. Bush, Gerald Ford, and 2006.
8. Clean House. This is the hardest part, but it’s got to be done. We need new leaders to come up in the ranks, and fast. Dean knew this; it’s why the Democrats have Obama. Ineffective Republicans? Write them. Tell them to become effective. If they don’t become effective, tell them to step down. If they won’t step down and are still ineffective, run against them! Congress is not solely for dinner parties and high life. There are bells and whistles and perks, but above all, Congress is for service.
9. Finally, Don’t go rogue. No new parties. No third parties. It is true that if we young conservatives ask our Yoda, President Reagan, whether the Republican party is our Father, he will turn to us and say “Your Father he is.” Though shocked, we must not try and kill the Republican Party. Rather, we must go to this looming figure and say “there is good in you, I feel it,” and “We have come to save you.” In the end, we must hope that the Republican Party will join us, and throw that old crotchety Emperor into a furnace. Then we the young conservatives can carry on the Republic. It is going to be hard. It is going to hurt. But if we buckle down, we can do it. The old Death Star was blown up in 2004. The Empire has struck back in 2008. Right now we’re watching the new Death Star being constructed. This is the time. If we do it right, we’ll make gains in 2010. Then, in 2012, we’ll win big time. And that, young Jedi, will mark the return, of the conservatives.