I now believe we’ve become a center left nation- the rise of Bernie Sanders and Trump make that clear. The cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s has reached its peak. Whether or not we turn back and allow the pendulum to swing in the other direction is a topic for another day, but suffice it to say this is where the country is now, and there’s no denying it.
The question conservatives must answer is how do we win the presidency under these conditions?
I think the only way we can win in the future, at least until the culture changes, is by taking these five steps, which are all interrelated, and none of which we’ve done arguably since Reagan was the GOP nominee:
1) Nominating a charismatic candidate who is liked by many people, including people who don’t agree with him on core issues, but like him so much they’d vote for him anyway.
I believe Rubio could’ve been such a candidate if he was the GOP nominee, and this is coming from a guy who criticized him as harshly as anyone for the way he ran his campaign during the primaries.
It’s unfortunate but largely true that our presidential elections have become little more than personality contests. For as long as that’s true, we need a candidate with charisma, charm, and of course good looks wouldn’t hurt. We need such a candidate to compensate for the demographic disadvantages the GOP now has, and for the tendency of the American people ever since the election of Bill Clinton to vote for a president who favors bigger, not limited gov’t.
2) Outreach to minorities.
We need to start spending time, starting immediately after the 2016 election, building relationships with groups, organizations, and communities all over the country, particularly with minorities. This has to be done with the help of fresh faces- young, enthusiastic conservatives who are open-minded and aren’t afraid to engage with people who don’t think like them. We need more young minorities in the conservative movement, and it’s time we start recruiting them, so they can do this outreach.
It takes time for bonds to be created, particularly with groups of people who are suspicious of our motives and don’t trust us to begin with. We have four years to create those bonds, but if we do, they’ll pay off big time in 2020.
Whoever the GOP nominee is in 2020, they need to lay the foundation for their run at least a year in advance. Senator Cruz tried to do this, but it turned out he laid a very narrow foundation that was built on sand instead of solid rock. He targeted white evangelicals, but he didn’t realize they were just as fed up with the status quo as everyone else and were looking for an outsider, and Trump fit that description better than Cruz for them.
The GOP must have a strong outreach program towards minorities, period. Turning out the base in a general election simply isn’t enough because the base is now a minority of the country, and shrinking. We must expand the base, and we can only do that with the help of community leaders and others who can be effective mediators between conservatives and minorities who’ve grown up in very different worlds.
Mitt Romney didn’t even bother to try and win any minority votes in 2012, and it cost him big time. Trump didn’t learn that lesson, and so he hasn’t bothered to reach out to minorities at all. Even worse, he’s almost going out of his way to offend them in one way or another. He’s either arrogant or stupid enough to think he can win with disaffected whites alone. But there just aren’t enough white people in the country for that to be possible.
3) Spread the message of conservatism through the use of stories instead of abstract principles.
Instead of talking about the Constitution, limited gov’t, and generally speaking in abstract terms about things the average American doesn’t understand or care about, we need to start presenting our ideas in ways that they can relate to. This doesn’t mean we water down our message or give up on our principles. It also doesn’t mean we should talk like a 4th grader like Trump does.
But what we’ve been doing for decades, ever since Reagan, hasn’t been working.
I propose that we have conservative leaders take a tour of the country and visit areas that have never collectively voted Republican. Our leaders would be armed with the facts about the areas they visit and would explain to the residents there why their Democrat leaders have failed them, and why our policies will improve their lives. Furthermore, those same leaders should hold press conferences in areas and at institutions (successful charter schools is one example that comes to mind) that have succeeded because of conservative policies.
The bottom line is that we need to tell stories, and do so in an entertaining, relatable, and authentic way.
The average American doesn’t really care about ideology. Even the average Republican doesn’t, something Trump’s nomination made abundantly clear.
Most simply wanna know how you’re gonna make their lives and the lives of their family members better, and how you’re gonna keep the nation safe and prosperous.
The average voter tends to be interested in two main things:
a)That you care about them and their hopes and fears, and b) That you’re competent enough to enact the policies you claim will help them.
You prove you care by reaching out to people who have never voted Republican before, by answering all of their questions, and by going into hostile environments and treating everyone there with respect and kindness. You have to win over their hearts before you can win over their minds, which you may never have to do if you convince them you’re on their side.
You prove you’re competent by connecting your policy proposals to examples of success in the real world where those policies have been effectively applies. As the nominee of the GOP, you also must create a believable narrative of your own life that shows how those policies helped you, and how you used them to help others during your time in public office.
4) Bypass traditional media.
Notice I didn’t say completely avoid traditional media. But any GOP nominee must know they aren’t gonna be treated with kid gloves the way Trump was in the primaries, and the way Hillary is even now. The future leaders of the conservative movement must be happy warriors who are media savvy and know exactly what their message is.
Reagan was abhorred by the media of his day, even among the elites on the right, like George Will. But he didn’t care, because he knew the issues inside and out, having thought about them for decades, both as governor of California, and as a private citizen with his own radio show and going around the country giving lectures and hosting a tv show for General Electric.
If our nominee knows the issues and has the ability to articulate them, he or she has nothing to fear about traditional media. That being said, its days of influencing the masses are numbered. Social media and independent platforms are the future of media, and it’s time conservative politicians understood this.
One can reach many more people via social media than by going on Meet the Press because of the ability of social media platforms to spread content faster and more effectively than cable news.
One doesn’t have to imagine how this could be done because we already have a model for it, and his name is Austin Petersen. Those of you who’ve read my writings on this site already know I did everything in my power to try to help him win the Libertarian Party nomination. Looking back on it, it’s pretty clear he never really had a chance because it turns out libertarians have their own establishment, and from the start they were dead set on nominating Gary Johnson. This was unfortunate, especially since Petersen exposed Johnson as a terrible debater who didn’t even seem to know the issues that are important to so many of us.
Despite his inevitable defeat, I believe Petersen ran a brilliant campaign. He had no big donors that I’m aware of, and yet ran a tight budget, and I believe he didn’t even run up any debt. Yet he was able to win a large following both of young libertarians and millennial conservatives such as myself who became politically homeless the second Ted Cruz dropped out of the GOP primary race.
How did he do it? By bypassing traditional media and taking his case directly to the people. He went on facebook and did livestreaming videos almost every day, where he talked about the most important and controversial issues. In fact he still does them, which you can watch here. Even crazier, he actually gave his honest opinion on them, unfiltered. Several times he even admitted he would probably lose votes for what he was about to say, but he said it anyway.
I’m not the only one who noticed. One of his area’s local papers wrote about his campaign and described it much the same way I have here. Other libertarian writers also made the case for why he’s the future of the Libertarian Party.
Imagine if the future nominee of the GOP had such an approach to politics. It would be incredibly refreshing, and I believe it would also be a winning strategy.
Trumpsters claim their guy has this approach, but in reality he has the opposite approach. Have you ever seen him do a town hall where he answered voters’ questions, one that wasn’t put on by CNN or another cable channel? I haven’t. In fact I’ve never seen him directly interact with voters anywhere. That’s one reason he does those big rallies, cause he doesn’t have to be held accountable by voters at all, he speaks at them, not with them. Trump says what people wanna hear, but often it’s not what he really believes, that’s why he’s walked back so many of his statements.
Austin Petersen said exactly what he believed and was unapologetic for it. Furthermore, he reached out to individual voters and worked tirelessly to win their votes. I know this because after I wrote about him for this site, I sent him a few messages on twitter and he actually responded to them and answered the questions I had for him. He never once talked down to me and treated me with respect, despite the fact that I’m a nobody, politically speaking. What if the nominee of a major party treated all voters with such respect? Something to think about.
5) Engage the culture.
This one is crucial. Conservatives mocked Obama endlessly for going on hip hop talk radio shows and late night shows, but he won two elections, so what he did worked. He knew he had to reach the average voter on their level because the average American doesn’t care about politics and isn’t even paying attention for the most part. While I do believe there should be some lower limit underneath which a presidential candidate shouldn’t lower himself, conservatives only hurt themselves when they avoid shows that are watched by many millennials.
This is a point Steven Crowder has made repeatedly. He even called out Senator Cruz for not coming back on his program, and not going on similar podcasts, despite the fact that millions of people listen to them on a regular basis, and it’s a much younger audience than you’ll attract on cable news.
Andrew Breitbart famously said politics is downstream from culture, and he was right. But conservatives have typically been afraid to engage the culture because they aren’t familiar with it and therefore come off as awkward and pandering when they try. That’s why we need a candidate who’s younger and has grown up in modern culture. Again, I must admit to my great frustration that Marco Rubio could’ve been that candidate.
He listens to rap, follows the NFL closely, and isn’t afraid to talk about those things with TMZ. He talked about issues that my generation could relate to, such as struggling with his student loan debt, trying to balance his job with his duties raising his kids, and growing up without much money and having to work his way up the income ladder.
But he let his ambition get in his own way, and he became far too cautious in his campaign. We’ve all seen the now infamous clip of him being prosecuted by the high school bully and current eunoch to Trump known as Chris Christie, but that pretty much represented his entire campaign. He had so much potential but simply refused to open up and let his real self come out.
Senator Cruz had this same problem, which I’ve written about before. It was mind-boggling to me that he waited until literally the last day of his campaign to tell us how he really felt about Trump. In the future, conservative leaders will need to be much more honest and open from day one of their campaigns because people are craving authenticity. Trump won in large part for that reason. He was authentically inauthentic. He was an honest liar.
What if we had a GOP nominee who was actually both a good person AND straightforward about their past experiences, their weaknesses, and their positions on the issues? That’s the kind of candidate I’m looking for in 2020.
It’s time conservatives rethink their approach to politics. We need better organizing and outreach on the grassroots level, and better engagement with our local communities. But none of that will matter if we don’t have a candidate at the top who represents the conservative movement and who is a man of the people. Someone who is comfortable in his or her own skin, and who isn’t afraid to meet people on their level.
We don’t need another Reagan, we just need another intelligent, articulate, and qualified candidate who is real, and isn’t afraid to show it. I believe both Cruz and Rubio could be such candidates if they learned from their mistakes in this election cycle and made the necessary changes to their approach to politics. My hope and prayer is that we’ll reward whichever candidate makes such changes with their party’s nomination in 2020.