Well, it’s been a little more than a week since the historic butt-kicking of the GOP at all levels. While I’m profoundly disappointed at the performance of my Party on election day 2008, I’m more angry at the level of non-performance of the Party over the last 8 years.
After the 2000 election, the Republicans and Bush had a wonderful opportunity to make “Compassionate Conservatism” the majority governing paradigm for the next 20 years or so. Simply put, compassionate conservatism is a political philosophy that stresses using traditionally conservative techniques and concepts in order to improve the general welfare of society. Unfortunately, after 9/11, both Bush and the Party focused almost exclusively on the War on Terror and lost the opportunity to extend the Party’s reach and inclusiveness across other facets of society — health care, domestic poverty, education and the economy.
While preventing another a major attack on American soil is an accomplishment Bush and the Party deserve credit for, the mismanagement of the War in Iraq was another dent to conservatives’ compassionate rationale for liberating a brutally oppressed Iraqi people.
So at the present moment, the GOP sits at a point in history where we’re soul searching. There are the usual voices clamoring that we just need “more conservatism” spoken more loudly and packaged in a cool hip Obama-like media/tech-savvy way. These are the same people in large part responsible for the Party losing its soul after the Contract with America revolution, ushered in by Newt Gingrich and innovative Governors like Tommy Thompson, John Engler, Christine Todd Whitman and George Allen.
In my opinion, the “old traditional (dare I say vanilla) conservatives” have no clue what they’re talking about. Specifically, but not exclusively, I’m talking about “rising star conservative” political leaders like Mike Pence (IN) and Eric Cantor (VA) who I saw on a recent episode of Fox News talking about the future of the Party. I walked away from watching their post-election conversation completely uninspired and downright peeved that they’re emblematic of Party leadership who don’t “get it.”
In the end, the pathway back to respectability for Republicans is not slick web 2.0 campaigns and repackaging of the same “old conservatism”. In my opinion it is “Compassionate Conservatism” — appealing to both the right brain (creative and emotional) and the left brain of the electorate. Conservatism has to unequivocally and unambiguously stand for the improvement of the general welfare of society for all people. In doing so, I believe the leaders able to best articulate this message and execute it as Governors, Mayors, community organizers (yes, community organizers) will be the type of people who will draw diverse people by race, gender, socio-economic class, geography, religion, et al back to the Party.