After the Conservative Political Action Conference, we are faced with another round of “What’s wrong with the GOP?”
Well, after such a defeat in November, it is easy to take things out of perspective. However, it appears to be a crying wolf situation that occurs whenever the furthest of either party feels as though they haven’t been heard or adequately represented.
CPAC is not the GOP, but rather a meeting of different conservative groups gathering to compare notes and organize their efforts for the next round, with the most vocal being the squeaky wheel that gains all of the attention.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the Republican platform. This is clearly evidenced by their poll that continually selects one of the Pauls as their favorite presidential candidate — definitely not a Republican choice.
All of the hoopla surrounding the GOP’s downfall is much ado about nothing. Republicans hold a majority in the House, and they have 30 of 50 governors, and according to the Nov. 26, 2012, Gallop Poll, there was only a 2 percent difference between the parties. Republicans were at 29 percent to the Democrats 31 percent, with independents representing the largest group at 37 percent.
So in reality, the GOP isn’t doing that badly and certainly the Republicans are within a winnable margin. The key is in securing the independent voters, who have been the greatest variable in recent political history.
Going further right or left will not secure those votes. The challenge is that few people have the time or resources to investigate issues fully, thus they rely upon their political party to inform them of the pros and cons of potential candidates and legislation via the party platform.
But an independent does not trust the prism from which those analyses are derived, thus they must decide based upon often limited and frequently tainted information by a variety of news and editorial sources, plus direct impressions.
The news is always reported through the filter of the reporter’s experience and beliefs, even when attempting to be neutral. Internet editorials and blogs are direct interpretations of the writer’s opinions and are nearly always written to generate a reactive response and often designed merely as realistic entertainment.
Thus, independents frequently rely upon direct impression as a key factor in determining their position on key issues and candidates but rarely spend enough time to generate a strong and viable opinion. These impressions are largely swayed by perception, and perception is achieved by the image created.
Millions of dollars are spent on creating and delivering specific images. Obama and Reagan were experts on image creation. Reagan once said, “I don’t know how anybody can serve in public office without being an actor.” Obama knew to hire Hollywood set designers and directors for exactly the same reason.
We expect our leaders to be rock stars. Competence is assumed, although not necessarily accurate.
The Republicans have an image of being the party of the rich. The Democrats have an image of representing minorities and the poor. Yet how accurate are these impressions? Since it is the Republicans that are in question, I will focus my response on the GOP and in doing so, contrast the Democrats.
Why are Republicans associated with money and business? The GOP has long believed in the rags-to-riches history of this country and that the same principles apply to the individual. The ideals outlined in the Constitution provide a framework for success and is unique to the United States in that anyone, although not necessarily everyone, can start with nothing and become incredibly successful. This environment has made America the leader in innovation and opportunity in the world.
Since much of the American dream is based upon economic success, the Republicans fiercely guard the systems that allow for such success. This success manifests itself in the young man who grew up in the ghetto and opens a family restaurant, the kid who tinkers around in his garage to create a new means of global communication, the stay-at-home mom who discovers a market for her baked cookies, the entrepreneur who starts a small business that grows into an international conglomerate.
This is truly the land of opportunity, and the Republicans will block anything that may impede that entrepreneurial drive, particularly those that inhibit growth, such as taxes and limiting legislation.
However, success usually means that you earn a certain amount of money and hire others in your business. The perspective of those working for someone else is that they are richer than you, even though the small-business owner will often make less than their employees.
That protection of business is fundamental to the securing of the American dream for all of those that follow. While there are an equal number of rich Democrats in Congress, the Democrats are supported by the unions, whose membership is made up primarily of hourly employees, framed as “the poor,” even when some bill out at $50-plus per hour with benefits. This perception issue is very strong and is often exploited by the Democrats along economic, racial and gender lines.
The best way to counter this image is by communicating the information accurately and with hands-on community involvement in challenging and under-represented neighborhoods. This connection must be established at the entry levels of politics so that it will build credibility as the candidate rises.
Republicans are the party of the innovative, the daring, the worker aspiring to greatness, the rags-to-riches journey. The land of opportunity must be protected for future generations. Republicans believe in the individual’s worth to this great nation; the ability of the dreams of their youth coming true; the diversity of ideas and ethnicity and the limitless potential that created a country like none other; the belief that future generations should have it better than their predecessors; and the belief that despite past challenges and current conditions, you can succeed.
To critics who claim that Republicans are out of touch with minorities and women, I offer the following:
Regarding blacks: Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Martin Luther King was a Republican and his immediate family remains Republican. In the 26 major civil rights votes after 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in more than 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in more than 96 percent of the votes. Republicans have historically been the party of civil rights.
Regarding Hispanics: The recent focus on illegal immigration is a natural consequence of the economy. When things are bad and jobs become scarce, in seeking solutions, people begin to question where money is being spent and who is getting it, and in the job market, who is employed. It becomes an emotional issue and like most things that do, it gets out of hand.
Republicans understand those who want to come to this country to seek the American dream, but there is a process in place and it should not give those here illegally an edge over those that paid the price and went through the process to become citizens.
Having said that, it is totally impractical to expect that millions of people will be deported. Something needs to be done because we no longer need immigrants as we did during our founding to populate this country and increase production. The solution must be a practical one.
George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaign refrain was, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande, and a hungry mother is going to feed her child.” Republicans have a strong connection to the Hispanic community’s family and religious values.
Once a policy is in place and enforced, it will integrate a large number of Hispanics who already work and contribute in many ways to their various communities.
Women and minorities and their role in the White House: By 2004, President Bush had appointed a more diverse set of top advisers than any president in American history at 50 percent. Bush had more African-Americans and Hispanics among his closest advisers than did Democratic challenger John Kerry, who won a majority of the black and Hispanic votes.
Gov. Susana Martinez, of New Mexico, is the first female Hispanic governor in the United States, and a Republican!
Compare that to the new boys club Cabinet in Obama’s current administration, all white with the exception of one legislative guy, and no women. Yet he is considered to the champion of women and minority causes (I suppose if you are willing to stay in your place).
Gays and marriage: The official GOP stance should be that marriage is a legally recognized religious ceremony and civil union is a secular legal designation. Republicans have no issue with civil unions, but altering a religious rite for political purposes has always been against the Republican platform. We strongly respect the freedom of individual differences and the state’s right to determine what is in their best interest. Politics and religion are not a good mix.
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is working to rebrand the GOP “Grand Old Party” to the “Growth and Opportunity Party.”
That’s all well and good, but it is simply semantics unless it is accompanied by action. The action, however, is not to change the party, but to establish a stronger line of communication so that the emergent electorate is fully aware of the long tradition of minority support and that the Republicans walk their talk when it comes to providing opportunity for wealth and not the redistribution of wealth earned by others.
Jacqueline Cartier is president and CEO of Winning Images, a consulting and public relations firm. This op-ed originally appeared in the Vail Daily newspaper.