I put out #6 this morning, and I suppose it would be correct to say that I've been a little underwhelmed with the response to the series thus far. Perhaps it is all a little too wonky and philosophical....but at the end of the day, what I'm trying to do here is come up with a set of beliefs that can be translated into teaching and talking points....something that Republican party operatives around the country can latch onto and drive home in every speaking engagement. Are the ten I've put forward sacrosanct? Heavens no. I'm trying to get a conversation started. But the CONCEPT is important.
The Republican Party is in the middle of a healthy process--we've had our butts beaten in two straight elections (06 and 08) and we questioning the direction the party should take. Much of the debate these days centers around the role and influence of social conservatives in the party. Many believe the party needs to stay true to its base and find attractive candidates--this is the recipe for success. Others say it isn't the messengers, its the message--that the Republican Party has simply become too conservative and it is out of touch from a growing number of centrist voters.
You know what? Both sides are right. And in the end, moving the party back into a position in which it can govern is going to take a strategy that builds a coalition in which social conservatives, social moderates, fiscal conservatives and fiscal moderates ALL feel they have a place and a voice.
What I'm trying to do in my Ten Principles is provide such a bridging strategy. Barack Obama is one of the most popular politicians of all time, yet he won the presidency with a 53-47% margin. The point is, we don't have to convert liberals to become the majority party again. We simply need to influence enough moderates to swing things our way. And the way to do that is to be (slightly) more moderate and to appear (slightly) more moderate.
What does this mean? It means being a pro-life party that is big enough to recognize that a growing portion of the American public (perhaps a majority) does not feel that abortion is ALWAYS wrong. It means being a pro-family party that concentrates more on the JOB of the family (raising good kids) than on the MAKEUP of the family (nuclear, gay, single Mom, etc). It means being in favor of traditional marriage without being in favor of discriminating against basic rights for gay people. Like it or not, the Republican Party is increasingly coming to be seen as the party of INTOLERANCE. I assert that we can be successful in being more tolerant--we do not have to EMBRACE ideas, policies and practices with which we disagree, but we should concentrate on being less disagreeable.
Some will say that all I'm doing is repackaging the hooey of the anti-social conservative crowd. I disagree. I think the social conservatives provide the party with its polar influences on social issues, and we should respect that. What I am advocating is a far less hostile approach to dissent.
Some of you are perhaps sitting there reading this saying, "What the hell? Isn't this the guy who went at Arlen Specter for being just this kind of Republican?" Well, the answer is no, because Specter was not this kind of Republican. There is a name for Republicans who break with their party on MOST IF NOT ALL major issues, and that name is "Democrat". What I'm suggesting is that the Party can and will grow if it is seen as more tolerant to the those naturally attracted to its fiscal conservatism (when we actually practice it), but for whom single-issue social issues provide a deal breaker. Again, we don't have to embrace their view, we simply have to respect it and give it voice.
Remember---we don't have to win 100% of the vote; only a fraction over 50 will do. This battle is going to be won on the margins, and we have to have a strategy to attack the margins.