This weekend the leading lights of the right will gather in DC for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual right-wing hootenanny sponsored by the American Conservative Union. I would love love love to be there, but as much as I enjoyed the National Review's Conservative Summit last month, I can't make it to DC for this one.
There are two big facts about the 2008 election.Emphasis mine. Newt seems unable to escape the Great Conservative Fallacy of 2006, which holds that, somehow, Americans voted for Democrats because the Republicans weren't conservative enough. But then again, having invested all that energy in 'revitalizing' conservatism, Newt's probably not going to up and admit that the GOP should move to the center. So: be more conservative, get rejected again, purify yourself even more, etc. etc. This could be a most entertaining vicious circle.
FACT #1: Running as a bland, business-as-usual Republican will be a dead loser. In 2006, the American people repudiated the GOP, because the idea of Republicans' trying to manage the liberal welfare state they inherited from the Democrats was a dead loser. I am not sure many Republican consultants have come to understand this. Certainly the elite news media want Republicans to run as non-ideological "centrists" who will then have no persuasive appeal to the vast majority of Americans that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 and '84 and the Contract with America House Republicans in 1994.
FACT #2: Focusing on an anti-Hillary campaign will also be a dead loser. The Clintons are the most determined and intense politicians of our lifetime. I just read Ambassador Bill Middendorf's A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater's campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement (read my review here), and he reminded me of the ferocity of the 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign. It reminded me of the Clinton campaign style.
If a campaign is going to degenerate into a mud slinging contest, the Clintons will always win because they are vastly more ready to jump into the pit. The recent attacks over David Geffen and Barack Obama are just a sample of how quickly and fiercely the Clintons will attack if the campaign is simply about who can "out negative" whom.
THE KEY to victory in 2008 is for conservatives to communicate three big messages:Again, emphasis mine. So, the lesson of six years of disastrous conservative government is that... liberals have failed? You have to admire his chutzpah.
- America is faced with historic challenges that require historic responses. That is a much different style and approach than we get out of traditional politicians and their traditional consultants.
- If we do the right things and implement the right changes, we can build a better, safer, freer and more prosperous America. We should have the nerve to go into every neighborhood and every community and explain why our better future will work. The liberal welfare state has failed, and its bureaucracies cannot be defended if we focus on the human costs of their failures. It is our challenge to focus on the big choices, the big truths and the big contrasts, not on the petty politics of personal viciousness that characterize so much of the current system.
- This choice between a failed liberal, welfare-state future and an exciting, successful, conservative, opportunity- society future requires transformation at all levels of American elected office (511,000+ elected officials) and not merely the oval office [this refers to Newt's new 527, American Solutions for Winning the Future, about which more later- ed.].
These are the themes and the call to action I will outline Saturday at CPAC. I hope to see you there.