It Is Not Too Early for Conservatives...

The Republican Party lost the 2012 election while conservatives watched from the sidelines. Republican moderates losing elections has become an all-too-common occurrence even though conservatives are the base of the Republican Party. It is not too early for the conservatives to start work to take back the party and the country. The Republican establishment elite does not learn from its mistakes, and conservatives can no longer wait for Republicans to wake up. The formation of the TEA Party movement should have been that wakeup call, but the establishment elite chose to ignore it. Unless conservatives reassert a leadership role in the GOP, the Republican Party will begin to wither and die as conservatives and TEA Party members abandon this anachronism of a Party.

Where is it written that only moderates can win national elections, while Democrats are free to embrace their leftist fringe candidates? The parade of moderates: George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and now Mitt Romney have required conservatives to hold their noses as they voted for the GOP selection. Democrats meanwhile ran the most openly left-wing campaign in American history and thereby mobilized their base for victory. The TEA Party movement sprang up in reaction to the Obama "fundamental transformation" into a free spending quasi-socialist economy, but the Republican establishment elite has kept them at arms length. The lack of enthusiasm by the base for the moderate candidate, Romney, resulted in his receiving some 3 million Republican votes less than McCain did four years ago. The GOP needs a new playbook emphasizing political purity and conservative values, and embracing partisan disagreement on fundamental issues. The GOP must reject wishy-washy moderates and put forth candidates that represent a significant difference in viewpoint from the liberals that created the problems that we face today.

American voters want to elect someone to lead this country to a better future, conservatives know this, but Republicans seem reluctant to articulate that image, identify goals, or publish concrete plans to achieve that vision of the future. Romney did well when he highlighted Obama's terrible first-term record, but failed miserably to offer serious and meaningful alternatives how he would do things differently and what he would accomplish as a replacement. The Republican Party platform is cobbled together prior to the Republican convention, but is then ignored until the next election. Obama meanwhile ran a content-free campaign and was rightly criticized for his missing second-term agenda. Unfortunately Romney too was long on rhetoric and short on detailed plans for his own first term. The opportunity was fumbled to make this an issue-based election as solutions to the most critical problems (the elephants in the room: size and role of government, budget deficits, national debt, unsustainable entitlements, tax reform, and comprehensive immigration reform) were never offered. Paul Ryan was an inspired choice as vice president, but this advantage was squandered when the Ryan budget plans were downplayed. Republicans chose to harp on Obama's failed first term and neglected to offer detailed alternatives that would address the underlying problems. Conservatives must demand the party platform be used as the starting point for content-based issue discussions, highlighting difference between the Parties and reasons to select one candidate over the other.

When will the Republican Party wake up to the fact that the Mainstream Media (MSM) is an unstated opponent in the electoral race and develop marketing plans to overcome their unearned power. The MSM no longer acts as an objective observer on the election scene, but instead has morphed into corrupt partisans who ruthlessly censor the truth about Democrats and help to demonize Republican opponents. Just as Republicans seek to downsize the size of government by cutting funding to "starve the government beast," Republicans should likewise downsize the power of the MSM by cutting access to information to "starve the media beast." Conservatives must develop marketing strategies that speak directly to the mainstream American public, unfiltered by the MSM and without political spin applied. Republicans must embrace this strategy by openly rewarding objective media sources and bypassing partisan sources, replacing with the alternative media as the preferred channels for press releases, interviews, position papers, and feedback on future plans.

There is no excuse for allowing Democrats to set the political agenda, since both parties are equal participants in any election. MSM dual standards have evolved on political discourse with Democrats covered up and Republican nitpicked and microscopically examined on background investigations, media access rules, issue due diligence investigations, fact checking, debate ground-rules, and coverage objectivity. Democrat campaign strategy was to avoid their first-term record, and instead manufactured "gaffes" and "discord" as distractions, distortions, and hyperbole. The conservative approach must be to treat the MSM as Democrat coconspirators and refuse media questions until due diligence is completed on existing outstanding issues. The best approach Republicans can take is to have media issue fact sheets always available to change topics when the MSM is fixated on "distractions of the day," thus ensuring that all issues are surfaced and relevant facts are available for discussion.

It is not too early for conservatives to start working to take back the party and the country. Conservatism has been the base value in the Republican Party. Over the last eighty years our Constitution and culture have been incrementally eroded and the damage done will require generations to repair. This election result must serve as the moment when the conservative "frog realizes that he was being boiled" and finally jump out of the pan. It is time to stand up and say "enough is enough" and "I will not take this anymore!" The first step is to admit there is a problem and begin to define what the vision for the future should look like, which can then be expanded into a conservative party platform and plan. Reaching out and inviting TEA Party active participation will be critical for success. Next conservatives must rise up and assert leadership in the Republican Party at all levels. Next conservative leaders must be identified (Ryan, Rubio, Jindal, or whoever) and assisted to visibly evangelize the rejuvenated Republican Party principles and platform. At the same time the Republican Party build on success at the local and state levels to build grassroots support for conservative candidates at all levels and a pipeline of future experienced leaders. Conservatives must snap out of their funk and get started on this four-year quest to retake the Party and the county, because if they don't the Republican Party may become another political footnote in history.

David Coughlin is a political pundit, editor of the policy action planning web site "Return to Common Sense," and an active member of the White Plains Tea Party. He retired from IBM after a short career in the U.S. Army. He currently resides with his wife of 40 years in Hawthorne, NY. He was educated at West Point (Bachelor of Science, 1971) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Masters, Administrative Science, 1976).

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