What Michael Steele should do
By Bruce Walker
The Republican Party is not dead. Victories in Georgia and Louisiana after the November election showed that Republicans could win elections. State legislative races in the November general election were decidedly mixed for Democrats: Republicans lost seats in some states, gained seats in some states, and held their own in most states. Rasmussen now has the generic congressional ballot a very tight 42% Democrat to 38% Republican - - that would mean substantial Republican gains in the House of Representatives if an election were held today.
Moreover, Republicans have some rising stars. Sarah Palin, of course, but also Bobby Jindal, Eric Cantor, and half a dozen lesser know figures. The defeat of McCain and the departure of the Bush Dynasty mean that a new generation of Republican leaders will emerge. These new leaders will be younger, prettier, smarter about media, and much more diverse in race, color, and gender. Michael Steele and Sarah Palin (as well as Jindal and Cantor) are perfect representations of the more appealing face of the GOP.
But tactical victories and cosmetic changes are not enough to make the Republican Party the majority party again. Most Americans are conservative. Many Americans, only a few election cycles ago, were Republicans. These Americans must be persuaded that the Republican Party stands for something, rather than just against Democrats and Leftism. Michael Steele should take the lead and initiate clear, bold actions which separate Republicans from the other party. Here are my suggestions:
First, Michael Steele and the RNC should adopt a zero tolerance policy on corruption. The recent scandals of Blagojevich, Daschle, Richardson et al. make this especially appealing for Republicans now. If someone like Ted Stevens surfaces in the Republican caucus, Republicans themselves should move to censure or even to expel him. Steele should move beyond that: He should propose that each Republican member of Congress and governor sign a document which goes beyond what is required by law regarding ethics disclosures and compliance. He should ask that documents like tax returns, health records, military records and so forth that Democrats kept secret be made public. Then Steele should challenge Democrats to copy his higher ethics requirements. Every time there is a scandal, Steele should note the difference in the ethical standards of the two political parties.
Republicans used to stand for clean government. The 1994 landslide was largely a repudiation of Rostenkowski and other crooks that controlled the Democrat Party. Republicans need to move decisively to make the ethical line between the two political parties bright and salient.
Second, Michael Steel and the RNS should begin to run issue ads right now (not during the election cycle.) The budget for this may be small, but the symbolic effect would be profound (if the ads were tough and direct.) What sort of ads? How about this "Global warming is a fraud that will cost Americans trillions of dollars, if politicians keep pretending that it's true" or "There is plenty of oil, gas, and coal to power America: as soon as we let private enterprise start producing it, the hemorrhaging of dollars overseas will start to stop" or "Having Washington spend is a trillion dollars for ‘recovery' is a certain invitation to fraud and corruption."
Michael Steele needs to be aggressive in articulating these policy differences with the Democrat Party and the establishment Left. This will offend some people, but it will inspire tens of millions of conservative Americans to contribute, volunteer, campaign, and vote. Recall when Sarah Palin lifted the Republican ticket ahead of Obama? That was because conservatives were motivated and energetic again. The Reagan Revolution can be revived only when conservatives feel a call to battle, the smell of a fight, the spirit of resistance.
Third and finally, Michael Steele and the RNC should transform the face of the Republican Party. Obama's electoral victory was partially because he was a black candidate; Palin's rise was partially because she was a woman. Whether it is fair or not, constituencies that the Republican Party needs will be attracted by having candidates who are not white men in their sixties like the last six Republican nominees.
Michael Steele ran well in Maryland because he was black; that is not a knock on him, but a simple political reality. Sarah Palin would win some working moms who otherwise would support a Democrat or stay at home. Jewish voters would be more likely to vote for Eric Cantor than other Republicans. Bobby Jindal, who is in the politically correct lexicon a "person of color," would gain a modest but meaningful bump in support from a wide range of immigrant and ethnic groups. If Michael Steele could find and recruit a number of articulate, attractive, and conservative Hispanic candidates for congressional and state races in 2010, he will help revive the Republican Party and the conservative movement for many years.
Picking candidates who belong to one ethnic group or another has been a part of Politics 101 in New York (and other places) for generations. It is, in fact, a variation of representative democracy. That does not mean compromising any principles at all (Michael Steele, himself, is a perfect example of that.) Many of the most inherently conservative communities are ethnic groups traditionally hostile to Republicans (most Hispanics and blacks, for example, are very socially conservative.)
Republicans need to learn from two bad election cycles. Conservatism is very much alive and well in American society. Its death has been proclaimed by Leftist pundits every decade since the New Deal. Yet, in many respects, conservative combativeness and cogency has never been stronger. What our nation lacks is a gutsy, honest, diverse party to carry conservative values into electoral victories and policy changes.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, and his recently published book, The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.