What Does the Right Do Now?
Election Night 2012 feels like a replay of 2008 in that after President Obama’s victory the Right does a replay of the same gnashing of teeth it did then.
Erick Erickson, now that the campaign is over, goes into Wednesday Morning Quarterback mode by returning to his hate-Mitt vibe writing that “he ran a crappy campaign.” In the same vein is this complaint I soon saw on Twitter after President Obama was declared the winner: “Mitt Romney was shoved down our throats by the Establishment.”
Uh, no. He won through a series of primaries against (theoretically) high-caliber opponents: a former Speaker of the House; a former number three GOP Senate leader; a governor of the top Red state; a charismatic former businessman. Out of that competition–a concept endearing to the Right–Romney ended up the winner. There was no fraud, and no one forced anyone to vote for Romney. He simply won.
For the record, none of the candidates in the GOP primary wowed me, not even Romney, and I didn’t endorse any.
As to Romney’s general campaign, he was never a superb campaigner, but he improved from the primaries. What I always found odd was with all his life’s successes and inspiring stories, Romney couldn’t (or wouldn’t) sell himself. But after the first debate, he showed voters–and probably himself–that he really could lead the country. From then on, he was more confident, and you could envision him as President. Over time, Romney got better to the point where I agree with Timothy Stanley that “it’s difficult to image an alternative candidate who could have done better.” Honestly ask yourself if Cain, Santorum, or Perry (who was hobbled with a bad back) could’ve done better? Equally as well, but no better.
Another bit of Wednesday Morning QB-ing I saw came from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List who accused the Romney campaign of not energizing social conservatives.
Uh, despite the Obama campaign’s “War on Women” obsession, abortion wasn’t a pressing issue to voters. The economy was. And did anyone concerned about protecting the unborn not know the stark differences between Romney and Obama? Do pro-life groups like SBA List bare any responsibility?
Enough of critics who seem like they could wait to pounce after Romney’s loss. We must do like President Obama says and go forward.
To succeed in the future, it’s not simply about glomming onto the latest fad. It’s not about tech, or mobile, or social media, and it’s not about Big Data, although all are important. It’s about changing the campaign mindset toward constant innovation, relentless experimentation, and persistent measurement. Remember in the 1990’s when Newt Gingrich yapped about management gurus like Edward Deming? He was on to something.
The Right touts the power of the private sector as a source for improvement. It’s time to look deeply at what they’re doing to connect and satisfy customers. Any conservative strategist (or wannabe strategist) better be reading Mashable and Techmeme daily and think deeply about the capabilities of digital communications. Then take those ideas and approaches and apply them to campaigns–both for political races and for issues advocacy.
I advise you to get a copy of Sasha Issenberg’s The Victory Lab, where you’ll learn how the Left has been willing to take risks and experiment for years. The culmination being President Obama’s ground game. Steal their ideas and more importantly build upon them. Think big and leap frog over them, because we know the Left isn’t standing still.
Specifically to conservative groups here’s some additional advice:
- Hire consultants who want to transform current campaign approaches. Don’t accept tried-and-true. Or better yet, bring them in-house and let them play to their heart’s content.
- Create an environment where talented people want to join you in taking big risks and be willing to pay them.
- Scour America for savant tech-heads willing to work for the cause. Visit MIT, Stanford, and other top schools. Go to tech conferences and read tech weblogs to find top-notch talent.
- Quit expecting great content to be delivered for free from supporters. Pay people to write, tweet, make videos, make infographics, develop apps, etc. With the millions spent by super PACs we know the money is out there.
- Be willing to give credit to other groups. Don’t let your egos stop you from cooperating. We’re all on the same team.
- Share ideas that work.
- Find ways to amplify what allied groups are doing.
To media critics, attacking and shaming media outlets that perpetuate bias and make voters less intelligent (like BuzzFeed) is important work. However, be smart about it. In the hands of a virtuoso Team Breitbart’s “Vetting the President” campaign may have been effective. Unfortunately, few of us have that intrinsic ability that Andrew Breitbart had to play the media like puppets. The end result was that the “Vetting” campaign’s message was muddled. It was perceived to be (old) attacks on President Obama when they were intended to target his sympathetic media allies. Their bias will only be more blatant, and the battlespace must be prepared now for future political fights.
My suggestions don’t even get into adapting conservative ideas to a changing electorate in a way that tangible to people’s lives. That will be a deep discussion about what conservatives want to conserve and adapting First Principles to modern life.
Also, notice I’m not getting into the “Establishment vs. Grassroots” debate. It’s pointless because 1) both sides morph fast enough to become meaningless; 2) neither side has a monopoly on good ideas or arrogance. It’s best for all to do less shouting and a lot more listening.
Life is a constant struggle to make the world better. Like last night, there are losses. But I’m not going anywhere. One of my favorite quotes is from T.S. Elliot: “There is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause.” Our work is perpetual; the challenges never vanish.
I will continue defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I have no choice; it’s who I am. I know many of you are the same.
Today, take a break, dust yourself off, reflect on how you can improve. Tomorrow, we will re-start the fight. We hold on.