A Message to Republicans

On the similarities between Canada’s Conservative party and the GOP, I have previously argued that the latter must not repeat the mistakes of the former if it wishes to succeed in November 2016. As I explained, the Conservatives lost the recent Canadian election at least in part because they failed to stick by their central principles, attempting to cater to the voting bloc of the opposition parties by soft-pedaling or even abandoning basic policy decisions or by camouflaging their fundamental ethos so as not, they calculated, to alienate the electorate. The result was predictably twofold: in manifesting as Liberal lite the party made no inroads among a skeptical population and simultaneously lost many of its long-standing supporters, in total dropping 67 of its previous 166 seats.

When a party begins to shed its own constituents by aping the agenda of its competitors or by failing to reframe its image, it has effectively sealed its fate. Greg Richards points out in a cogent article for American Thinker that “The ascendancy of liberalism in America is the cause of the silence of Republicans in Congress since they won the House in 2010. One would think that a solid majority in the electoral body closest to the people would provide a platform for advancing the Republican case. But no.” The Republican establishment is “unwilling to challenge the liberal world view, [which] controls the debate in the public space… Republicans have had neither the skill nor the intestinal fortitude -- the courage -- to operate outside the culturally dominant liberal paradigm.”

This species of timorous shuffling in party values may partially explain how supposedly intelligent people can turn their country over to a goofy adolescent like Justin Trudeau. The utterly vacuous Trudeau is Canada’s version of the ludicrous Sir Andrew Aguecheek, that “dear manikin” whose proper place is in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and not in the prime minister’s residence. For their part, Americans have twice surrendered their country to a poorly educated Leftist, congenital prevaricator, and unqualified hologram of a personality with no demonstrable track record to speak of and a cadre of dubious associates who work against the interests of the nation. Moving Kylo Ren into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is no less devastating than installing Andrew Aguecheek at 24 Sussex Drive. Obviously, such popular drifts into electoral insanity are not easily countered, but it seems to me that the only antidote with a chance of working is adherence to principle, pride in genuine achievement, clear messaging and a strong front of party unity.

A congressman like Joe Wilson, of “You lie” fame, or Tom Cotton, the only Republican senator who opposed the recent, Iran-friendly Corker Bill, represent a vanishingly small corps of stalwart political figures whose stance should be emulated by party campaigners. They will eventually be vindicated. The lesson is not that hard to process. Speak truth, stand by conviction, and be fearless. Professional politicians, swaying to the fickle winds of electoral calculations, would be astonished to find that such principles can be winning propositions.

The fact remains: if a political organization begins to function as an enabler for the other side, practicing a sort of tactical pentimento in order to hide or modify its fundamental tenets and defining assumptions, it succeeds merely in channeling the doctrines of its political opponents. Its defeat is assured. An astute political party will stand by its basic axioms and confidently, even flamboyantly, assert them in the public domain. It must absolutely avoid laboring to become something it is not.

There are, of course, other desiderata as well that need to be taken into consideration. Republicans must spell out past accomplishments and present policies concretely and persuasively. They must hold the chattering classes in evident disdain and call the mainstream media’s bluff instead of catering to its elitist prescriptions, as Donald Trump and to some extent Ted Cruz have done. They must find a way of refreshing their public image, in part by adhering to covenant rather than opportunism, in part by acting like an order of Templars rather than a casino of gamblers.

As for the culture war in which we have been embroiled since the Sixties, there is no doubt that it has been won by the Left, and as Andrew Breitbart said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” But with fortitude, will, and integrity, one need not go with the flow. One can, as Breitbart wished and strove to do, eventually “change the narrative.” Currents can begin to meander away from a charted course. Historical verdicts can in the course of time be reversed. And intelligence can sometime (however seldom) prevail against years of Leftist indoctrination and accusations of racism and bigotry. But the Republicans have far too long continued to row, row, row their boat gently down the cultural stream when they should be bucking the current and fighting their way back to the source.

Poor optics, bad messaging, playing by the opposition’s rules, and lamely surrendering to the culture rather than striving with Breitbartian resolve to “change the narrative” all contributed to Canada’s Conservative Party’s shellacking in 2015. The GOP will likely follow suit in 2016 unless they get their act together, put an end to in-house sniping, crank up the old mojo, and figure out how to behave like true-red Republicans.

On the similarities between Canada’s Conservative party and the GOP, I have previously argued that the latter must not repeat the mistakes of the former if it wishes to succeed in November 2016. As I explained, the Conservatives lost the recent Canadian election at least in part because they failed to stick by their central principles, attempting to cater to the voting bloc of the opposition parties by soft-pedaling or even abandoning basic policy decisions or by camouflaging their fundamental ethos so as not, they calculated, to alienate the electorate. The result was predictably twofold: in manifesting as Liberal lite the party made no inroads among a skeptical population and simultaneously lost many of its long-standing supporters, in total dropping 67 of its previous 166 seats.

When a party begins to shed its own constituents by aping the agenda of its competitors or by failing to reframe its image, it has effectively sealed its fate. Greg Richards points out in a cogent article for American Thinker that “The ascendancy of liberalism in America is the cause of the silence of Republicans in Congress since they won the House in 2010. One would think that a solid majority in the electoral body closest to the people would provide a platform for advancing the Republican case. But no.” The Republican establishment is “unwilling to challenge the liberal world view, [which] controls the debate in the public space… Republicans have had neither the skill nor the intestinal fortitude -- the courage -- to operate outside the culturally dominant liberal paradigm.”

This species of timorous shuffling in party values may partially explain how supposedly intelligent people can turn their country over to a goofy adolescent like Justin Trudeau. The utterly vacuous Trudeau is Canada’s version of the ludicrous Sir Andrew Aguecheek, that “dear manikin” whose proper place is in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and not in the prime minister’s residence. For their part, Americans have twice surrendered their country to a poorly educated Leftist, congenital prevaricator, and unqualified hologram of a personality with no demonstrable track record to speak of and a cadre of dubious associates who work against the interests of the nation. Moving Kylo Ren into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is no less devastating than installing Andrew Aguecheek at 24 Sussex Drive. Obviously, such popular drifts into electoral insanity are not easily countered, but it seems to me that the only antidote with a chance of working is adherence to principle, pride in genuine achievement, clear messaging and a strong front of party unity.

A congressman like Joe Wilson, of “You lie” fame, or Tom Cotton, the only Republican senator who opposed the recent, Iran-friendly Corker Bill, represent a vanishingly small corps of stalwart political figures whose stance should be emulated by party campaigners. They will eventually be vindicated. The lesson is not that hard to process. Speak truth, stand by conviction, and be fearless. Professional politicians, swaying to the fickle winds of electoral calculations, would be astonished to find that such principles can be winning propositions.

The fact remains: if a political organization begins to function as an enabler for the other side, practicing a sort of tactical pentimento in order to hide or modify its fundamental tenets and defining assumptions, it succeeds merely in channeling the doctrines of its political opponents. Its defeat is assured. An astute political party will stand by its basic axioms and confidently, even flamboyantly, assert them in the public domain. It must absolutely avoid laboring to become something it is not.

There are, of course, other desiderata as well that need to be taken into consideration. Republicans must spell out past accomplishments and present policies concretely and persuasively. They must hold the chattering classes in evident disdain and call the mainstream media’s bluff instead of catering to its elitist prescriptions, as Donald Trump and to some extent Ted Cruz have done. They must find a way of refreshing their public image, in part by adhering to covenant rather than opportunism, in part by acting like an order of Templars rather than a casino of gamblers.

As for the culture war in which we have been embroiled since the Sixties, there is no doubt that it has been won by the Left, and as Andrew Breitbart said, “Politics is downstream from culture.” But with fortitude, will, and integrity, one need not go with the flow. One can, as Breitbart wished and strove to do, eventually “change the narrative.” Currents can begin to meander away from a charted course. Historical verdicts can in the course of time be reversed. And intelligence can sometime (however seldom) prevail against years of Leftist indoctrination and accusations of racism and bigotry. But the Republicans have far too long continued to row, row, row their boat gently down the cultural stream when they should be bucking the current and fighting their way back to the source.

Poor optics, bad messaging, playing by the opposition’s rules, and lamely surrendering to the culture rather than striving with Breitbartian resolve to “change the narrative” all contributed to Canada’s Conservative Party’s shellacking in 2015. The GOP will likely follow suit in 2016 unless they get their act together, put an end to in-house sniping, crank up the old mojo, and figure out how to behave like true-red Republicans.