Friday, December 6, 2013

A Little Perspective: Future Management

A brief apology beforehand for the delay in this part. Writing the first two parts, about which far less is commonly discussed, proved far easier than culling this section down. I didn't want this to come across tedious ("Too late!" Say noted blog devotees Statler and Waldorf), which slowed the process for me. Then real life got in the way of writing for a couple days as well. 

Opportunities are only as valuable as what one does with them. In the first two posts of this trio I laid out the historical and present-day case for transformational change in politics and why this moment is ripe for another. Whether or not you agreed with my argument, what's undoubtedly most important for the Republican Party is determining the path forward to a new majority. Volumes have been written about this very topic since the 2012 election, and I'm hardly going to pretend that there's anything unique about the key areas I'll touch on. But there are a few truths I see as vital for creating long term conservative success.

Obama and his OFA campaign arm have fundamentally changed the way future campaigns must operate and assess their own effectiveness. In 2008 and '12, Obama's campaign brought overwhelming manpower to bear against the GOP and paired it with volumes of market research on undecided voters that allowed them to tailor and alter their message from 1 door to the next. Republicans were slaughtered on the data and infrastructure fronts both elections, and this trend cannot continue into the future if we expect to stem the tide of liberalism.

Fortunately, the work on rectifying these twin problems has already begun. Slowly but surely, the RNC and state parties are building the permanent, 50 state staff needed to counterbalance OFA's constant campaign presence. 21st century outreach simply can't be something done from Labor Day to Election Day in years divisible by 4: fortunately any lingering mentality along those lines is being replaced by modern reality.

Data operations are also becoming more streamlined. The days of various campaigns operating as islands in a sea of voter contacts and micro targeting are a thing of the past. The creation of a single data vault accessible for all campaigns at any level promises to greatly improve outreach efficiency, and it encourages campaigns to expand and innovate their data mining. In data work and other tech fields, one can already see a willingness to experiment with new ideas and techniques holds hope for the future.

When the 2016 primaries roll around in a couple years, the Republican primaries promise to be the most wide open nomination battle the GOP has had in the modern, primary-driven era of nominating. A main force driving this is the deep, young bench of accomplished Republicans the party could choose from (a far cry from a Democratic bench that would look historically anemic if Hillary somehow chose not to run). While it's impossible at this stage to know what that primary race will look like or even who all will run, the crop of viable governors within the GOP right now is as strong as any in our history.

While the Senate and House also boast a number of great leaders for the party, the skills and temperament required to be an effective chief executive are not the same as those required to be an effective member of the legislature. It's why I am always inclined toward the idea of an accomplished, conservative governor over the accomplished, conservative Congressman: governors have shown to ability to run an executive branch and enact conservative governing agendas.

Excluding lame duck Gov. McDonnell in Virginia, there are 29 Republican governors in office right now. Of these, there are at least 10 I see as having the potential to be formidable candidates in the primaries (and a number of others who lack only the broad fundraising base & name ID needed to wage an effective national campaign). Again, none of this is meant as criticism of the names mentioned as prospective candidates from the Senate or House. But I don't just want to win in 2016, I want to win and then enact a conservative agenda through a Congress that will likely remain fiercely divided in (at least) the Senate. The governors who will run know how to complete the second half of that because they've done it at the state level. That's the kind of nominee able to capitalize on the opportunity of the moment.

Aiding the arguments of a number of governors should they run in 2016 is that the state level is where conservative approaches to present day problems are providing a blueprint for policies that can come to be the 21st Century addendum to the conservative platform. While American education continues to unacceptably languish behind numerous nations in global rankings, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and other Republican governors have pursued approaches like school choice, expanded charter school networks and more to both bring competition to their states and help students and parents escape those districts that simply haven't gotten the job done for the children. While states like California collapse under the weight of bloated pensions and benefits for state employees, leaders like Scott Walker have taken on the challenge of collective bargaining reform and are helping relieve the burdens that had been placed on the people to prop up unsustainable systems. As a bloating national debt has seen America's credit rating decline, Republicans like John Kasich, Rick Perry, Butch Otter and more have brought their state's fiscal houses into line and seen improved credit ratings and outlooks as a reward.

These present day examples of conservative leadership improving states are a ready-made addition to our party's national message. Far too often, education is ceded to the left as a political issue. Conservative answers to these challenges that are provably working in states can change the debate and put liberals on defense on the issue. The other issues mentioned are reinforcing items that go to the core of conservative philosophy: reducing the burdens places upon Americans by the state. But like with any other issue in politics, successful implementation undercuts the criticism and fear mongering from the left. These were just 3 examples, but Republican success stories at the state level are the real world evidence for the national message on the issue.

There's always room for improvement in politics. Even for a party in power, the next campaign presents fresh issues and challenges. But these are magnified when a party is not in power, which is why so much has been written the last 12 months with titles like 'How to Fix the GOP'. What's written here are merely a few steps I feel will help make the path clearer for a return to power and for a robust, solutions oriented conservative agenda that can once again redefine American politics. Whatever the solution we settle on is though, let us make sure that we appreciate what challenges and opportunities stand before us and that our answer must be clearly thought out. At every step of the journey, just remember to keep all of it in perspective.

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