The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reclaiming the High Ground: The Primary Problem

I've been involved in elections since I was 14 years old, and on a grassroots level, there's not much I haven't done. I spent much of my time running state legislative campaigns all over the country. Unlike most campaign guys, I had the luxury, sometimes, of choosing and even recruiting my own candidates. I rarely worked for incumbents. Instead I focused my attention on taking out so-called "moderate" GOP legislators in the primaries, and, if successful, worked my candidates through the general election.

I know what you're thinking: Why waste your time on taking out Republicans when there are so many evil Democrats out there? The answer is a bit complex.

First, if you, dear reader, are not a Conservative (or perhaps an especially perceptive Liberal) this will all make little sense. Politics is the most human of arts. It is about manipulating masses of individuals to perform a brief, yet intimate, action on your behalf. It is a numbers game, and it is one that everyone, no matter what their level of experience, believes they understand intimately. What these people don't realize is that politics is generally counterintuitive. This is because most people, consciously or unconsciously, believe that people are good.

Thinking Conservatives understand this isn't true. Otherwise, how do you explain the Federal Income Tax System or the DMV? Unfortunately, few Conservatives are willing to take the mental leaps necessary to extrapolate human action to elections. They don't acknowledge that, at their base, people are utilitarian. They only perform actions that they perceive to be in their best interest. The key is finding what that interest is -- and I have found that, more often than not, there are plenty of conservative principles that appeal to most people's interests. The problem is getting that message to the voter.

In elections, politics is often easy because you are playing to the lowest common denominator. You just need 50% + 1 to win (generally). You know that the overwhelming majority of people are locked into a preference -- be it R or D. The biggest determinate of which lever people pull is . . . what lever their parents pulled. That's right. Most votes in any given election were sewn up 30+ years ago. A candidate will win or lose at the margins. The key, then, is working those margins and getting your people (those whose parents voted for your party, if you will) to get their asses off the couch and go to the polls.

This, as any good political hack will tell you, takes time, money, and/or talent. That is, effort, cash, and/or volunteers. Beyond that, well, I'll keep some secrets. . .

The second thing most Conservatives don't understand -- one they need to come to grips with -- is that their enemy isn't Democrats. Oh, sure, Democrats are evil and generally stupid, but, hey, they're Democrats. Why on earth would I wander into a district where a majority of people's parents voted Democrat and run a GOP candidate when I can go over to the next district where there is a sitting "Republican" who votes 80% of the time with the Democrat, and knock the bastard off with a good Republican? I know the latter district will elect a Republican, so why not a good one?

If you're Conservative, your enemy is "moderate" Republicans. They're sitting in your seats and they are selling you out DAILY by siding with the Dems on nearly everything you hate: taxes, regulations, social engineering, etc.

"But, Centinel," the apologists say, "those seats are occupied with the best Republican we could find in the primary. Better to have someone in office who votes with us 20% of the time than never." There are a million reasons why this is crap, but the most important is what I like to call "The self-fulfilling prophecy of Liberal Republicans." I was working some state races in a mountain state about a decade ago, and got a lot of feedback from supporters across my districts where liberal Republicans were running against Conservatives. The main argument I was hearing from the Libs was that a Conservative couldn't win the district because the people would support the Conservative during the general election. And you know what? They were right! Whenever a Liberal Republican won a primary, s/he would win the general election, but Conservative primary victors seemed to be losing general elections. You know why? Simple, it was because, if a Conservative won, all of the Liberals would stay home -- or vote for the Dem. I'm not talking about casual "independent" voters -- I'm talking about campaign volunteers for the losing Libs. And they weren't shy about talking about it. The Conservative primary winners, on the other hand, were scared to be divisive, so they tended to tone down their rhetoric as soon as the primary was over, and generally got more milquetoast as time when on, denying the voters an opportunity to hear true conservative ideas.

What did Conservative voters do in the general election? What the idiots always do -- support whoever has an "R" beside their name because "s/he's better than the Dem." With Conservative support, these "moderates" would cruise to victory. Thus, begins the myth that you have to nominate Liberal Republicans to win in certain districts.

The idea that Conservatives can't be competitive is nothing more than a lie. Ronald Reagan beat Carter and Mondale in districts all across the country by proudly standing tall and running as a Conservative. Hell, Jesse Helms did it for decades in North Carolina, and I've seen state legislative candidates win competitive districts by talking about Conservative issues that resonate with voters. If a "moderate" Republican is sitting in a seat, it is not because he was the best the district could do, it's because for some reason -- be it lack of a candidate, poor timing, bad strategy -- the Conservatives failed to successfully engage their enemy at the primary level.

Why are so-called "Moderates" the enemy? I'll be happy to address that. Later.
Centinel 7:51 AM #


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