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Grassroots Network of the Republican Party of Virginia

Ideology, Party Discipline and Campaign Organization

Ideology, Party Discipline and Campaign Organization

This is a long post. It took several hours to write. I hope you find it worth spending 5 minutes to read.


Anyone who scans these forums, even briefly, recognizes Virginia Republicans are engaged in an often painful examination of where we are, how we got here and, most importantly, how do we move forward. Most of the discussions have been useful but there still seems to be something missing. A great deal of discussion has focused on identifying a single cause (and corresponding silver bullet solution) for our declining fortunes in Virginia, particularly in NOVA. Attempts have been made to pin the blame on RINOs, ideologues, party elites, herd mentality by grassroots and sheer incompetence on the part of RPVA. I believe that none of the above are fully responsible for our current situation and all of the above share at least a portion of the blame. We can separate these issues into their component parts, it makes for easier examination; but must conduct a full 360 degree assessment of past mistake (and successes). Only then will we be able to craft a comprehensive plan to change direction.

Ideology -- This is unquestionably the most hot button issue in these forums. Most commentators advocate either compromising core believes to gain votes from moderates or taking an unyielding position in order to avoid losing conservatives. I think we need to reexamine these issue and recognize they can be broken into sub-issues that allow us opportunities to focus on areas where moderate voters may agree with us, seek compromise on non-core sub-issues and even do a little horse trading on some of them.

NOVA moderates who want a variety of government services, particularly enhanced transportation systems, do not necessarily want to pay $1.50 in taxes for $0.75 in services. Many of them also work for small nimble beltway bandits and instinctively understand that a smaller government focused on achieving excellence in providing critical services is more desirable than a large over bloated bureaucracy that tries to do everything. A strident anti government message that dismisses the need for services they value drives these voters toward the Democrats. A message that government cannot only live within its means but deliver a better quality of service in the process will bring them back.

Many voters in NOVA, and increasingly the rest of the state, are more libertarian than liberal or conservative. The want government to stay away from their finances, their gun cabinet and most particularly their family. This means they tend to shut out pro-life messages they perceive as purely anti-abortion intrusions into their personal decisions. But they are also often open to parental rights message that government officials in schools, social services agencies and the courts should not be allowed to insert themselves between parents and their daughters. This issue are was actually something of a success story for Virginia Republicans during the 80s and 90s when many pro-life candidates for State House and Senate races gained support from nominally pro-choice areas by using these sub-issues effectively. These moderate voters also tend to see gay rights issues, including gay marriage, as one of government intrusion into personal decisions. But many of them would be open to a trade-off whereby government recognizes their right to live and marry as they please but school systems are prohibited from advocating lifestyles of any type and government respects parental rights to determine values in their family.

My basic point regarding ideology is that it is more complex than left, right, center / black, white grey / surrender, stand-your-ground, compromise etc. We will never gain votes from hard core liberal ideologues and attempting to run to the left of Democrats is both demeaning and ineffective. But I believe there are actually far fewer of these voters than election returns indicate. Republicans can win NOVA with a basically conservative message if we focus on delivering the message correctly. We need to listen to all voters, determine what is most important to them, identify areas of agreement as well as disagreement, deliver compelling messages focused on areas of agreement, look for areas where we can horse trade without compromising truly core principals, respectfully but clearly articulate the areas where we cannot compromise and offer voters every possible opportunity to support us without compromising their principals.

Party Discipline(Leaders) We name streets in Virginia after the type of party discipline and unity demonstrated by many of our leaders: “One Way” and “Dead End”. This has been a growing cancer since 1978 when grassroots conservatives not only held their noses to vote for a Senator not of their choosing; but, actively made phone calls, walked precincts and worked polls in one of the most impressive volunteer efforts the state had ever seen and delivered a narrow victory. That Senator returned the favor with lackluster support for RPVA fundraising efforts, tepid endorsements of most conservative candidates, refusal to endorse others even after they had won the nomination, outright opposition to the Republican candidate for Senate in 1994 and a decision to retire when it became clear that he was the only nominal Republican who could hold the seat against the very real possibility of Democrats gaining 60 votes in the Senate. Today he is acknowledged as one of our most honored party leaders.

He has set the example for others to follow. In 1993 when the RPVA funded a three part bumper sticker for the statewide ticked reading “Allen/Ferris/Gilmore” in red, white and blue, Republican party officials in some areas handed out smaller white stickers reading “Beyer” that could be put over the center portion. I remember arriving at a parking lot in Centerville for a percent canvassing effort and being so disgusted by their open opposition to one of our candidates that I got in my car and drove home. In 2001, many of these same so called party leaders openly supported Mark Warner against Mark Early, helping to give Warner a relatively narrow victory in a campaign where he outspent Early 2 to 1, as well as giving the Democrats the opening wedge they have used so effectively in the past 10 years. We have had State Senators give radio interviews in which they proudly stated they were “Republican In Name Only”. More recently we have seen the State Chairman of RPVA encourage, or at least not stop, robo-calls aimed at our candidate for governor. Meanwhile, from last June to April 4th, members of the SCC were spending more time, money and political capital removing the chairman than supporting Republican candidates.

Our party leaders have evolved from emulating Benedict Arnold to impersonating the Three Stooges. This cannot be allowed to continue. Virginia Republicans enjoyed a steady growth in volunteers, fundraising and grassroots activism from the mid 70s through the late 90s. Since then we have had a slow steady erosion of all three. Prince William County, the second largest in the state, had less than 200 people attend the 2009 county convention. There are no leaders without followers and very few people will follow a leader who is disloyal or incompetent.

We ask a great deal of our grassroots supporters, including voting and working for candidates they may have opposed during the nomination process. We should demand no less of our leaders. Candidates for statewide office should be required to commit to raising $500,000 for the RPVA and $500,000 each for other statewide candidates if they are elected. They should commit to raising lower amounts for Congressional, State legislative local candidates and local party organizations. Similar targets should be established for candidates for other offices. All elected Republican office holders should commit to endorsing the Party’s candidates within 3 days of the convention or primary. Failure to meet fundraising or endorsement commitments should result in a proportional loss of support from the party for the individual’s reelection.

I am about the furthest one can get from a doctrinaire ideologue, often agree with moderates on policy issues and have voted for several moderates in primary elections; but few things make my blood boil more than elected party leaders deliberately undermining the campaigns of Republican nominees or withholding support for party fundraising. If they cannot or will not support the Party, they should not accept its nomination.

Party Discipline(Followers) Grassroots activists can, should, MUST make their voices heard. They must also recognize they are not the only constituency in the political environment. Donors, who may or may not overlap with activists, have a right to be heard as well. But voters trump all else. Party rules facilitate the ability of small groups of activists to dominate sparsely attended county or state conventions, nominate marginal candidates, pass dogmatic resolutions and issue “interesting” public statements in the Party’s name. It may feel good for a day or even a week but elected officials are in office for 2, 4 or 6 years and nominating a fringe candidate or handing the opposition a resolution/statement that can be used as a club against us is just plain stupid. The sting of the voters’ rejection at the polling place will remain long after the triumph of the resolution in the high school auditorium has faded from memory.

Grassroots activists in Virginia are some of the most sophisticated in the nation, particularly in NOVA. Most of them have been active at some level for decades. Many of them work or have worked for elected officials or government agencies. More than a few of them have held elected office. They read newspapers and public policy journals, watch television talk shows, listen to talk radio and educate themselves about both issues and public opinion. They know very well how most of their neighbors will react to certain candidates, resolutions or statements. Many of them simply don’t care. Too many of our grassroots are more interested in maintaining a dogmatic ideological purity than in advancing a public policy agenda.

Equally important, elected officials cannot, should not, and in most cases will not allow themselves to be dominated by groups that represent a small fraction of 1 percent of voters. The same rules that allow activists to dominate conventions also allow incumbents to bypass them and seek reelection through primaries.

Grassroots activists in Virginia have more ability to determine the Party’s nominees and policy platform than in almost any other state. To my knowledge, only Utah comes as close to empowering the grassroots as Virginia. But with power comes responsibility. The continual efforts to reshape the party as the private play toy of small groups of activists has decimated party organizations in NOVA, driven away many potential voters, donors and volunteers, and culminated in a state leadership fight that may yet cost us the governor’s race.

If these small groups of activists cannot or will not control their desire to “make a statement” regardless of the cost to the party’s ability to win elections and shape public policy, than the SCC should dilute their power by adopting party rules that broaden the nominating base and limit the role of conventions. At the very least, if a convention is called for the purpose of nominating a candidate to local office and does not receive applications for certification as a delegate from at least 5 percent of the Republican vote in the last election, the convention should be cancelled and a primary held in its place.

Campaign Organization – Close examination of statewide campaigns since 2001 indicate Republicans could have and should have survived ideological splits, disloyal leaders and runaway activists while continuing to win a string of state wide victories. All of these factors hurt but none were fatal, individually or collectively. No, we defeated ourselves with some of the worst campaigns in history. Larry Sabato has made a fairly good living chronicling some of these errors. They could serve as textbook examples of how not to run for statewide office.

Mark Early seemed to believe that he would win ROVA as a conservative and NOVA as a native son so he could get by with less than impressive fundraising and wait until after Labor Day to get serious about campaigning. By the time this campaign got started, Mark Warner had already raised twice as much money, albeit mostly from himself, recruited and trained the most extensive field staff the state had seen upto then, and developed a comprehensive list of over 3 million voters complete with contact information and policy preferences. Nevertheless, Warner only won by about 4 percent. If we had actually fought this fight instead of assuming we had it won, Mark would only be remembered as the “other” Warner.

Jerry Kilgore had one of the best and most comprehensive transportation funding proposals ever put forward by a Virginia candidate. You could find it about 6 levels down on his website and there was a passing reference to it in one of his brochures. When I asked his NOVA field rep when or if they would hand out copies of the transportation plan at slug lots, she asked “what is a slug lot?” She had however already lined up her next job as a field rep for Jim Nussle’s campaign for governor of Iowa. He also lost. Meanwhile, the Kilgore campaign poured limited resources into an easily dismissed commercial about the death penalty. The same field rep told me this was because over 80 percent of voters in Va. supported the death penalty. It’s called preaching to the choir. In Virginia the ACLU supports the death penalty. No one ever believed a Virginia governor would try to repeal it, Kaine promised to apply it, end of debate.

George Allen truly was coasting to reelection. So his campaign decided to conduct a series of grueling bus trips around the state in August where he would get little sleep, be constantly moving, give the same basic speech till saying anything different to spice it up seemed attractive and just to make it interesting, the staff would feed him some of the jokes they told about the “monitors” the Democrats were sending to his events. Instead of responding to the inevitable gaffe with a quick apology and the sacrifice of the staffer who provided the wrong name, the campaign decided to conduct a case study in how to make a bad situation worse.

By 2008, the damage had been done. Nothing Gilmore, or anyone else, could have done would have changed the outcome. He and his campaign went through the motions and made fewer mistakes than his predecessors but it was obvious their hearts weren’t in it.

Two common threads run through all these races. Excessive reliance on paid staff who were unfamiliar with the state and an attempt to apply a cookie cutter campaign plan that had worked previously in some other place and time. Mark Early more or less tried to repeat Gilmore’s successful gubernatorial race based on following a popular incumbent and running against a weak self funding opponent with next to no base outside NOVA. That plan worked well in 97 against Don Beyer. It failed miserably in 2001 against Mark Warner. Kilgore tried to repeat George Allen’s successful race using the death penalty instead of parole reform and substituting Tim Kaine for Mary Sue Terry. Again, worked well in 93 and failed in 2005. Allen was trying to recreate his own successful statewide wins with the help of the campaign manager who had defeated Tom Daschle in South Dakota. There is no question; Tom Thune beat Daschle with a combination of an early campaign start, grueling bus tours across South Dakota, hard attacks and shoot from the hip tactics. All of which were particularly ill suited to an incumbent sitting on a double digit lead against an opponent with almost no name recognition.

The instructor at the College Republican Field-rep School I attended in 1977 told us there are no cookie cutter campaigns. Each race is a unique event in time, location and personalities. Every campaign must be approached as if it were the first ever to be conducted. The planning must be meticulous and based on a comprehensive analysis of the state or district which must be conducted anew for each and every race. The manager must learn and know every item of quantitative or qualitative information available regarding the district and the field staff must become as familiar with their assigned areas as they are with their home towns. This is the bare minimum required to even have a chance of winning. That instructor was Karl Rove. His weekend seminar still stands as the best I’ve ever attended.

We need to insist our candidates apply these lessons in Virginia. No funding without a detailed campaign plan. Staff must commit to learning their assigned regions quickly and demonstrate they have done so early in the campaign. Most importantly, each candidate must clearly articulate who will vote for them and why with minimal dependence on voting against the opponent or force of habit.

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Brian W. Schoeneman said:
Peter, this is by far the best post I have ever seen on these boards. You are absolutely right, especially regarding ideology in NoVA and your campaign analysis is spot on.

Absolutely right? Really?

"Ideology -- This is unquestionably the most hot button issue in these forums. Most commentators advocate either compromising core believes to gain votes from moderates or taking an unyielding position in order to avoid losing conservatives. I think we need to reexamine these issue and recognize they can be broken into sub-issues that allow us opportunities to focus on areas where moderate voters may agree with us, seek compromise on non-core sub-issues and even do a little horse trading on some of them."

For all I know it could be "absolutey right" since I have no idea what it means. Meaning no disrespect, it sounds like garblefarb to me.

Maybe one of you can identify a "sub-issue" that "allow us opportunities to focus on areas where moderate voters may agree with us" and a "compromise on non-core sub-issues" and how you would do "a little horse trading on some of them" with voters?
If I am not mistaken you posted on another thread that you couldn't care less about the Social Issue, and, suggested that we turn away from them, and, focus on the bigger issues. Now you are suggesting that we look to promote messages of better sex ed, reducing the divorce rate, personal responsibility in marriage and the like, as hot button issues. What you seem to be missing is the fact that our entire Educational system has been taken over by the Liberals. The children are being taught in school that the Liberal agenda is ducky. It used to be in the Colleges and Universities with the likes of Ward Churchill and Bill Ayres. It is now down to grade school with books that include how great Obama is (even before the election), the Prince and the Prince, and, I believe sex ed has all but disappeared. What would be wrong with going after the Teachers Union who seems to be the ones pushing the agenda, along with the Union loving Obama Administration? I think you miss the boat in favor of a few votes.

Brian W. Schoeneman said:
George, what it means is that there needs to be some kind of compromise or consensus between the two sides of the party that are vocal right now - the moderates and the conservatives. Both sides are right in some ways, and both sides are wrong in some ways. Personally I've tried to steer a middle of the road path between the two - in some ways I'm very conservative and in others I'm very moderate.

The voters in Virginia tend to be the same way, and it shows when you see how often Virginia voters split their ballots.

Sub-core issues include things like transportation funding, workforce development, government reform, crime, economic development, higher education, and the like - issues where there isn't a default partisan split and where moderates and conservatives can agree. These aren't the push button issues like gay marriage, abortion or taxes, but they are areas that can be addressed on a statewide level and where moderates and conservatives can find common ground.

And on the big push button issues, there is common ground available too. Instead of focusing on outlawing abortion, conservatives and moderates should be able to come together to champion better sex ed, better access to contraception, and more church and community involvement to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Instead of focusing on strengthening the family by more attention on gay marriage, conservatives and moderates should be able to come together to promote more personal responsibility in marriage and to work to reduce the divorce rate.

There are plenty of ways where both sides can work together towards common goals that all agree are necessary. The end result is what most people are interested in, and there's no reason why we have to spend all of our time bickering on the means.
I also ask- How would you promote your ideas, with more government programs?

Brian W. Schoeneman said:
George, what it means is that there needs to be some kind of compromise or consensus between the two sides of the party that are vocal right now - the moderates and the conservatives. Both sides are right in some ways, and both sides are wrong in some ways. Personally I've tried to steer a middle of the road path between the two - in some ways I'm very conservative and in others I'm very moderate.

The voters in Virginia tend to be the same way, and it shows when you see how often Virginia voters split their ballots.

Sub-core issues include things like transportation funding, workforce development, government reform, crime, economic development, higher education, and the like - issues where there isn't a default partisan split and where moderates and conservatives can agree. These aren't the push button issues like gay marriage, abortion or taxes, but they are areas that can be addressed on a statewide level and where moderates and conservatives can find common ground.

And on the big push button issues, there is common ground available too. Instead of focusing on outlawing abortion, conservatives and moderates should be able to come together to champion better sex ed, better access to contraception, and more church and community involvement to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Instead of focusing on strengthening the family by more attention on gay marriage, conservatives and moderates should be able to come together to promote more personal responsibility in marriage and to work to reduce the divorce rate.

There are plenty of ways where both sides can work together towards common goals that all agree are necessary. The end result is what most people are interested in, and there's no reason why we have to spend all of our time bickering on the means.
I still have nor seen a response to George Daily's comment asking "what horse trading are you willing to do"?

Both the National and Virginia Republican Party platforms are pro-life without doubt. I believe that the Virginia platform is for traditional marriage, didn't the VA voters vote against gay marriage? If the platforms are so useless, especially with respect to the entire Social issue principles, why were they adopted? I vote Republican because of the positions stated, the majority of them. If some believe that some areas should be ignored, campaigned against, deleted, or horse traded away, then I will have a hard time voting Republican for those that are not held accountable to the platform. It is that simple. I would be then voting for 2/3rds (66%) of what I believe in. I hold dear all 3 legs of the Reagan stool.
Sandy --

First, Reagan set clear priorities (opposing the Soviet Union followed a distant second by cutting taxes) and was more than willing to horse trade lower priority issues to gain support for those two goals.

Second, the goal of political activity and the purpose of political parties is to advance a public policy agenda, not just "make a statement". A platform that is never transformed into public policy through elected officials is a meaningless document. which means we either win elections or we are wasting our time.

To win elections, we need to gain the support of a majority of voters. If that means we play offense on the 2/3rds of our platform that resonates with voters and defense with the other 1/3, so be it.

Third, defense does not mean surrender. I have seen very socially conservative candidates open their presentation to moderate voters by stating:

"You and I may not agree on the question of abortion. I am pro-life and will vote that way in Richmond. Many of you are pro-choice and will never vote for me on that issue alone; but for those of you willing to look at the broader issue, let me tell you about my position on parental rights. You may believe a woman has a right to choose abortion but don't parents have a right to advise thier daughter regarding that decision......."

No, they didn't win over the majority of those moderate voters, but they not uncommonly picked up 20 to 25 percent, which could be the margin of victory in a tight race. How would you approach these voters?

As to horse trading; I gave an example in my origninal post. So do you care so much about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes that you would demand a NOVA candidate who supports parental rights in the school systems also publiclly oppose civil unions and thereby lose to a liberal Democrat who will support gay marriage AND mandatory diversity education? What does that gain you? A defeat at the polls follwed by further defeats in Richmond. You say you will not support a candidate who only promises to deliver 2/3rds of your agenda. But the alternative is often allowing the Democrats to elect public officials who deliver 0 percent of your agenda and 100 percent of what you oppose.
For Sandy and George and the rest of us too.

This is really simple. Compromise is something that happens when conservatives give up more ground on the issues that are most important. While I understand the need to win elections, I am not willing to compromise my beliefs to do it. I know that is difficult for moderates to understand that. We have done nothing but compromise for 50 years. Gay marriage shouldn't even be an issue. It is an abhorent disgrace. It is unfortunate that we "compromised" on sodomy laws to get here in the first place. It is unfortunate that we allowed the civil rights movement to move so far past rights that are actual civilized.

Brian Wrote,

Sub-core issues include things like transportation funding, workforce development, government reform, crime, economic development, higher education, and the like - issues where there isn't a default partisan split and where moderates and conservatives can agree. These aren't the push button issues like gay marriage, abortion or taxes, but they are areas that can be addressed on a statewide level and where moderates and conservatives can find common ground.

I'm sorry Brian but the only thing there I agree with you on is Government Reform. I don't want the federal government spending more money on transportation, workforce development, crime, economic development or "THE LIKE". I want them to leave what is necessary for government to the states and stay the hell out of the rest of it. You aren't a moderate just socialist light apparently. I take that back. You just havent' thought it through. The way to get the moderates on board is to agree that we disagree on certain things and for that reason we should take those things out of the hands of the federal government. If we are going to argue about things it should be done at the state level and on things like education at an even more local level. At least then we could save the babies in the states with half a brain.

THAT MY FRIEND IS THE BEST POST YOU'VE SEEN ON HERE. ;)
This discussion on ideology brings to mind a stat that I once heard and believed to be true; about one-third of voters are conservative, one-third liberal and one-third moderate. Thus, elections boil down to how many moderates the conservatives and liberals can attract. Actually, I believe "moderate" is a misnomer and these voters should be identified as "swing voters". Moderation isn't an ideology. Unfortunately, I believe today that there is no "conservative" party. Conservativism died in 1991 when George H. W. Bush broke his "read my lips" promise. There is the hard-core collectivist national suicide party - Democrats and the "OMG we gotta figger out how to get elected" party - Republicans.

In any event, Democrats and Republicans have the same problem as both need either to convert or attract swing voters. However, the Republican's problems are compounded by their lack of a consistent, coherent ideology and by the fact that "compromise" always works to the advantage of Democats.

For example, consider the issue of fiscal responsibility. If the Republican position is support for a balanced budget and the Democrat position favors massive deficit spending, the compromise is smaller deficits and that is a defeat for the Republicans. Apply the same to abortion. If the Republican position is pro-life and the Democrat position is abortion on demand, the compromise is a little more abortion and a little less life and thus, must be a defeat for the Republican position.

Someone please show me an issue or a sub-issue if you like, since Reagan, where compromise resulted in a public policy victory for Republicans.

We have this "Tea Party" thing going on. Somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million people demonstrated on April 15th. Shouldn't Republicans own this movement? Why don't they? Why do the organizers insist that the movement be non-partisan? Could it be that Republicans compromised with Democrats, gave them a pass on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, spent money like Democrats and lost the only real advantage they possessed, their moral authority as the fiscally responsible party? Could the Republican Party get as many people out to rally on their behalf on a Wednesday?

There are three levels of politics, Federal, State and Local. Tip O'Neil said and it became conventional wisdom, thant "all politics is local." I don't think that's anywhere close to being true today. Today all politics is Federal. And at all three levels, Democrats have the advantage because at all three levels they have a consistent, coherent message that supports their candidates up the ladder from County Supervisor to Governor and to Congress or the Senate. The message is that Government is and Answer. The Republican message, as far as I can tell is, "We're not as bad as those other guys."

A recent poll showed that 89% of Democrats thought Obama was doing a great job. I suspect the remaining Democrats thought he wasn't destroying the country fast enough. But, the interesting thing about the poll was that 29% - NEARLY ONE-THIRD - of Republicans also thought Obama was doing a great job! Apparantly, very few voters in this country have heard about much less read and understood the contract between the citizens and the government; the Constitution of the United States of America.

But, getting back to the topic...

Let's take something fairly simple and that I know virtually nothing about, like transportation funding. Maybe I can learn something. What are the Republican and Democrate positions, the sub-issues and the compromises and horse trading that can gain Republican voters?
If you agree that these things are best kept on the state level than lets make that the focus of our argument to the moderates. If you are for gay marriage than you should agree you have more of a chance of getting it at your state level. Vermont just passed gay marriage and that doesn't have to bother me because I no longer live there. Even on abortion it can be handled better at the state level. If one state wants to ban it that should be their prerogative. I believe that if we push the idea that getting the federal government involved on either side is not good we could even get some liberal thinkers to go along. It's interesting that during the Bush years Vermont was talking about cessesion and now with Obama you've got Texas talking about it. I think this is evidence of peoples belief in States Rights.

Education- Wouldn't the education system reflect the ideals of the people better if it was handled exclusively at the lowest level. Wouldn't costs be better controlled if national unions were forced out?

Higher Education- Wouldn't people have more control over their own spending if the Federal Government didn't think it was their right to take YOUR money and give it to a teen in another state for his/her college education. I'm personally for zero govt funding of higher ed as the reality is that it only leads to escalating college tuition but at least if it is limited to the state level we can all control it better.

Transportation - First you need to seperate transportation and energy. I believe that where there is business there is traffic. The more business the more traffic. Traffice therefore is the result of increased commerce and that commerce should be more than capable of paying for that traffic. Money cannot and should not be taken from areas with no traffic to pay for areas with lots of traffic. The transportation funding should correspond with the amount of commerce in an area. Transportation funding should not seek to eliminate the peoples ability to transport themselves in the way they see fit. At the federal level there need only be money for the maintaining the national transportation systems of air travel, major highways, and railways. These should be paid for as much as possible by taking money from those segments of the economy and not asking other segments to pay for them.

Energy - I believe we do need a national energy policy. That should be that nationally we will do nothing to inhibit the states from using their resources to gain energy for their people or for sale. We should NOT be looking for ways to encourage new forms of energy because if they are truly worthwhile they will come about on their own. All we need to do is stop discouraging development.

If we are for smaller government, and we supposedly are, we should make that the focal point of every message. Even when the federal government comes up with an idea that we like (defense of marriage act) we need to wonder if it would be better off left to the states. Does it actually lead to more or less federal government.

At the state party level this message would resonate (in every state). You are the people and we want to give you more control over your own destiny by limiting the power of Washington to it's original intent. We would be the uniting party by emphasizing the message that debate is good and federal involvement only limits the debate to partisans.
"The transportation funding is a whole other can of worms. Democratic position is basically all transportation funding needs to be split between highways and public transit. They want fees and taxes to go up. They also like increasing the gas tax not only to raise revenue, but to force drivers off the roads. Republicans tend to look for less drastic alternatives, such as opening up offshore drilling and using all the money from the royalties for transportation funding. Some Republicans favor toll roads, where those that use them pay for them, rather than taxing everyone. Personally, I prefer none of that. Then there's also a debate over who should get the bulk of the money. NoVA wants it, because our traffic problems are bad. RoVA also wants it, because they feel they get short shrift. There is no reason why Democrats and Republicans can't work together to find a way to fund transportation that doesn't result in a greater burden on the taxpayer and provides a fair allocation to the areas in the state that need it most."

Brian,

I get the idea that you, Peter and seemingly a large number of plugged in Republicans believe that compromise and triangulation is the way to win elections.

What I don't get is how this strategy drives voters to the polls in support of Republican candidates.

Take the transportation issue that you describe above. What is the compromise, the horse trade or whatever, on this issue that drive voters to the polls in support of Republicans?
Brian W. Schoeneman said:
George, the standard political philosophy about voters and ideology is that 40% of the population will tend to vote Democrat, 40% will vote Republican, and 20% will vote either way depending on the issue. The 20% in the middle are who you target, because they are the ones who are actually movable. You can't win an election just targeting your base.

Moderate isn't a position, that's true. What it tends to be is the catchall phrase for people who are not 100% on either the right or the left, but have differing positions. I call myself a moderate because I don't feel like being accused of not being a pure conservative when I don't zealously advocate social issues or when I don't denounce unions as communists.

I don't believe that Republican problems are the result of a lack of a consistent, coherent ideology. Our problems are based on three things - first, we need to be recruiting better candidates. Second, we need to demonstrate that our ideas aren't outmoded. Third, we need to be less rigid and willing to allow a variety of points of view from the center and right.

Smaller deficits aren't a defeat for Republicans. Our system of government favors incrementalism. It took Republicans four years to get the budget balanced in the 1990s. And that was at a time where we weren't facing an economic crisis or multiple wars overseas. Reducing the deficit was a victory, because it wasn't plausible to simply balance it outright. You get where you want to go by constantly moving forward - moving forward is the key thing. It may take a while to get there, but you get there eventually. Today, most people want instant gratification, and that's not always possible or prudent.

I know a lot of people who are pro-choice, but I have never once heard a rational pro-choice advocate say they want more abortions. That's why I think the focus of the argument is on the wrong thing. Making abortion illegal isn't going to stop it. When abortion was illegal, it was still around. Where pro-life and pro-choice advocates can agree is that we need to be reducing the number of abortions to the lowest level possible. I think that level can be zero - and that's the end goal. To end abortion. But I know we aren't going to get there by passing a law. It is going to require both sides working together to address the ultimate problem - unwanted pregnancies. Without those, you'd have no abortion. Why not focus on that, which brings both sides together, than trying to enact divisive policies that don't actually solve the problem?

Every major piece of legislation that Republicans have enacted have required some kind of compromise. Its the nature of our legislative system. Most of that compromise isn't policy related, it's your typical log-rolling. You vote for mine and I'll vote for yours. As Peter said, there's no reason why we can't compromise on how we do things, since to some, that's more important than the end result, as I noted with abortion.

The organizers insist that the movement be non-partisan because the issue is non-partisan. You can be a Democrat and still not like it when your taxes are too high or your government is wasting money bailing out banks.

You are giving Democrats far more credit than they deserve on having a consistent, coherent message. They don't. Yes, many of them tend to believe that government can solve all problems, but in terms of ideology and policy, they're as all over the boards as we are. From the blue dogs to the progressives, they've got the same differences in ideological cant as we do. The only difference is they had George Bush as the big, bad boogeyman to run against, and they had stronger candidates than we did at all levels. That's changing. And I would argue that it's the Democrats who have been running on the "we're not as bad as those other guys," not Republicans. The Democrats went from the party that couldn't win anything in 2004 to running everything in 2009. Did they do it by revamping their ideology? No. They just attacked us.

The transportation funding is a whole other can of worms. Democratic position is basically all transportation funding needs to be split between highways and public transit. They want fees and taxes to go up. They also like increasing the gas tax not only to raise revenue, but to force drivers off the roads. Republicans tend to look for less drastic alternatives, such as opening up offshore drilling and using all the money from the royalties for transportation funding. Some Republicans favor toll roads, where those that use them pay for them, rather than taxing everyone. Personally, I prefer none of that. Then there's also a debate over who should get the bulk of the money. NoVA wants it, because our traffic problems are bad. RoVA also wants it, because they feel they get short shrift. There is no reason why Democrats and Republicans can't work together to find a way to fund transportation that doesn't result in a greater burden on the taxpayer and provides a fair allocation to the areas in the state that need it most.

Brian,

If you want a balanced budget and I want $700b in deficit spending, you think you win if the deficit is only $350b?

Ronald Reagan appointed Bill Bennett to dismantle the Education Department. Today the Education Department threatens to take over the nations education system. Yes, incrementalism is favored and Democrats/Liberals/ benefit from it. There has been no incremental reversal of the growth of government only an incremental increase in government. You take comfort from a belief and consider it victory if Republicans will simply slow the growth of government, I don't. You give Democrats much too little credit.

I think Brian, that you, Peter and the Republican Party seek to manipulate a political system that is corrupted beyond redemption. I become more and more convinced that there is no home for classic liberalism in American politics.
I understand from the conversation that the problem with true conservatives actually state their beliefs whereas Republicans and Democrats simply try to work towards an end game, decieving the voters to get there. Instead of stating that I believe that Abortion is Murder, I should just say "well wouldn't we be better off with fewer abortions" in the hopes that I could end abortions without the other side having to agree with me. I would rather look someone in the eye and say "you just murdered an innocent child. How do you think I should feel about that?".

Instead of discussing whether it is a good idea for the Government to fund higher education I would rather say " where exactly is the governments right to take money that doesn't belong to them to pay for someone else's education. Whether it is a good idea to do so or not. The constitution protects peoples property and every dime that the government spends is someones current or future property. Unfortunately right now it is more of the latter. They should be diligent to ONLY spend our money on Contitutionally necessary services and it should be law that the government can NEVER borrow.

George Bush thought that the Government should help senior citizens get prescription drugs. IT WASN"T THEIR MONEY TO SPEND. If I want to help my parents, or if my state wants to help its citizens then fine but it is none of the Federal Governments business.

I'm not a libertarian because I believe in a strong national defense and I believe that an interactive foreign policy is necessary for that. I also believe in governments right to legislate but I believe it should be done at the level closest to the people possible. I believe in the ideals of our founders but even more in the pricipals sef forth by our creator. I know I'm a crazy, outside the mainstream conservative militia member terrorist. I'm also one of them Bible thumping Baptists. I won't attend a church that compromises the word of God and I try not to compromise my own beliefs to gain favor. Thus I have few friends and am no fun when I'm at my liberal in-laws.
Don't worry Brian. I'm not for driving around with pics of dead fetuses or blowing up abortion clinics. I'm just saying that I'm not going to agree that some abortion is ok or lie about my intentions to get closer to my final goal. We've been doing that for quite sometime and if I'm not mistaken we are moving closer and closer to socialism. Simply the fact that being against abortion has become the "radical" view should tell you that being politically correct is getting us nowhere fast.

You seem to think that political correctness is the way to go. We've been going down the politically correct route since I was in high school. Do you think the party, or the country, is going in the right direction. I have discussed abortion with people who have had them. I am usually able to win the argument without ever agreeing that in some cases abortion is OK. No I'll never change a hard core left winger, but for an average person I can reason them to an understanding that they are killing or have killed a living human being. I do so with forgiveness in my heart for it is not my place to judge them.

We've been politically correct on homosexuality. Where is that getting us? Equal rights for Trans gender freaks. I'm sorry if a guy elects to cut his privates off and take female hormones he is sick. I don't want him working for me, in my restaurant or near my children and I certainly don't want him teaching in a school. Yet in our politically correct world the transexual is normal and I'm an extremist. HOW DID WE GET HERE???

We're being politically correct on the environment and where is that getting us. It's stifling our economy, destroying our civil liberties and being used to suck our country into the vortex of carbon taxes. Yet we conservatives are the "extremists" for not buying into the scam.

You seem very active in politics Brian. I am just an average American. I work a full time job days and deliver pizza's on nights and weekends. I'm raising two little girls and have a wonderful wife. I do what I have to to make a good life for my family. Even in these difficult times I can make a good life for my kids. I want my grandchildren to have the same opportunity. My country is being turned into a morally depraved land, my government is gathering power, and it will all fall within 20 years if we don't get away from borrowing to support social programs we shouldn't have anyway. I believe in Federalism, that unborn have the right to life, and that we should allow immigration legally only to infuse us with new blood hungry for the freedoms we take for granted. I am an imperfect person and have not always lived up to my own moral convictions. Still I try every day to get closer to the man I am supposed to be and I know what those convictions are. They do not and cannot change to suit an agenda. If I find that I have been wrong than I will admit it and follow a new path.

I've always loved politics but have been too busy with life to get involved. Well "Average Americans" like me are getting involved now. Who knows? Maybe down the road I'll actually attend a party function. I love to speak. Heck you won't be able to shut me up. I can't even stop typing (lol).

Do you understand my position now?

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