It's Long Past Time for the Republican Party to Take a Few Pages From the Democrat Playbook

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Legendary Chinese general and credited author of “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu observed:


If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Nearly 2,500 years later, Sun Tzu’s words remain true — including in politics.

On a similar note, Rush Limbaugh often said he knew more about liberals than they knew about themselves. As was mostly the case throughout his storied career as “America’s anchorman,” Rush was right — as was Sun Tzu. In 2023, it’s long past time for the Republican Party to heed the words of both.

The question is, assuming the Democrat Party is the “enemy” of the Republican Party, which Sun Tzu observation best applies to today’s GOP? In my considered opinion, the Republicans fall between Sun’s second and third truism.

Other than Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Donald Trump in 2016 striking most of the right chords — capturing lighting in a bottle, if you will — in other elections, including congressional elections in which the GOP won the majority in one chamber of Congress or both, the party’s results through the years have been mixed.

The 2022 midterms, expected by many to produce a great red wave instead produced a not-so-great red trickle. Two years into the disastrous Biden presidency, that shouldn’t have happened. Rather than analyzing why it didn’t — much less the 2020 presidential election results — I’ll say this: Republicans would be wise to look to the future, with the wisdom of Rush Limbaugh and Sun Tzu as a guide.


Spoiler: I’m not going to get into the Trump vs. DeSantis thing. What I am going to do is lay out a few thoughts, as suggested by my headline.

Consultative Selling and Messaging

As part of my career in the financial services business, I taught consultive selling training classes to new financial advisors. Without getting into the weeds, I learned — then taught — two key elements about the subject. First, people buy people. Hence whether selling investment services, houses, or widgets, we must first sell ourselves. That applies to politics, as well as everyday life.

Second, according to a Harvard study, nearly 95 percent of buying decisions are made subconsciously — and often driven by emotions rather than facts. The Democrat Party has known — and put into practice — this concept for six decades. Democrat voters are more likely to vote based on their emotions than knowledge of the facts. Is it true? It must be. If not, rational intelligent people wouldn’t vote Democrat — at least not to the degree they now do.

So it seems to me that the Republican Party — armed with facts — would be better served by also considering the emotional aspects of conservatism (of which there are many), and repackaging messaging accordingly. While Republicans can (and should) take it to the Democrats strong at every opportunity, they should also do a better job at appealing to the emotions of voters — which just might generate results.


Persistence and Perseverance 

Democrats are not dissimilar to spoiled children: the more they get, the more they want.

Give a five-year-old a cookie and he wants two. Give him two pieces of candy and he wants four. In both cases, Democrats and spoiled children are never satisfied — they always want more. But unlike most children, the Democrat Party is capable of patience, as in eating an elephant (pun intended) one bite at a time.

Several years before Barack Obama rolled out Obamacare, he privately admitted (Youtube videos exist) that his ultimate goal was a government-run healthcare system, but told like-minded Democrats that the country wasn’t ready for it yet. We’ve seen similar approaches to abortion, same-sex marriage, the rewriting of history, gun-control attempts, and (illegal) immigration.

Simply, as Obama observed, the Democrat Party long ago realized that sometimes, by eating one bite at a time, they get more of what they want, rather than by trying to devour the elephant in one sitting. Is there a lesson for the GOP, here? I believe there is.

As I write, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy just failed on the 12th (and now 13th) vote to gain the requisite 218 votes to secure the gavel, as a relative handful of “hardliners” continued to refuse to budge. Rather than debate the merits of McCarthy, I’ll say this:


If push comes to shove and a sufficient number of McCarthy supporters strike a compromise deal with the Democrats, which finally looks less likely, where would that leave McCarthy’s detractors — and House Republicans as a whole? Particularly given the slim margin they hold over the Democrats? We’ve seen it happen in the past with bill after bill, recently including Biden’s disastrous $1.7 trillion omnibus.

Again, the “all or nothing,” “my way, or the highway” approach, whether successful in the end or not, is going to leave the Republicans more fractured than before the midterm elections occurred — which wouldn’t portend well; not only for House Republicans but also for the 2024 general election.

Election Day vs. Election Season

Finally — and I’ll be brief — while we continue to wail against expanded mail-in voting and lax early-voting laws, the fact remains, for the foreseeable future: In order to win elections, the Republicans must play the Democrats’ game and learn to beat them at it. If we want to change things, the answer is simple: gain and keep the majority in both chambers of Congress and win back the White House.

While simple, I’m not suggesting the above will be easy. The House Republican Caucus — including Kevin McCarthy, should he finally win the gavel — must not go the way of previous Republican Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, both of whom had a tendency to fold up to the Democrats like cheap suits. Say what you will about McCarthy, but if he hasn’t learned a thing or two over the last four days, that’s going to be a problem. I believe he has, and I believe he will stick to the compromises he’s made.


All of this is my opinion, of course. I could be wrong. I could also be right.


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