"We've been in a lot worse shape than this...When I first started working in politics during the Watergate era only 16% of Americans identified themselves as Republicans." That is a quote from an article from The Wall Street Journal, written by Steve Moore. The speaker? Haley Barbour.
Barbour, Governor of Mississippi, is a master in political turnaround. He was Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1993 after President George H.W. Bush was soundly beaten at the polls by Bill Clinton. Clinton, the last Democrat president, beat Bush worse than Obama beat McCain, by the way. Bush only received 38% of that vote. McCain received 47% to Obama's 53%.
Barbour has been a successful governor, a role model on how to build a state back from natural disaster. Too bad the New Orleans powerful have not used his expertise on what does and doesn't work to rebuild. "..in Mississippi the reconstruction and relief efforts were a case study in government professionalism and, as he puts it, "harnessing the power of the private sector in a time of crisis." "I am a small government, rational regulation, low tax, free market capitalist."
After admitting the party's failures - "Corruption, out-of-control spending, enormous increase of the national debt under a supposedly conservative administration, no vetoes of spending bills that Ronald Reagan would have hit with a hatchet"- "his view is that Republicans need to elect a lot more moderates from the Northeast to regain operating majorities."
I hear the thuds now of those proclaiming to be so pure in the Republican party - those who proudly boast of being conservative before Republican, hitting the floor in full out faints.
Those who adhere to a strongly conservative bent in politics are not the entire party. They are not, any more than moderates or liberal Republicans are the majority of the party. I have listened to several speakers recently, ranging from those on the national stage and on the state level, who have hammered home one point - a political party does not grow without opening up and including all who wish to join. A shrinking party does not win elections. And the goal in politics is to win elections. Blunt but true. If your party doesn't control the agenda, your agenda is not pursued. It's not rocket science.
"There's a temptation after a loss like this, he continues, "to purify our party by running off the people that aren't with us 100% of the time, or the people who aren't social conservatives, or the people who aren't' this or the people who aren't that." "This is a time for the party to be figuring out how to multiply. Politics is about addition and multiplication, not division and subtraction."
"He fumes that efforts to evict moderate Republicans in primaries is counterproductive."
Working with the other side of the aisle is not selling out. Listening to all sides of an argument is not selling out. The counsel of many is better than the counsel of a few. The Republican party has to attract more young voters and learn to raise money to compete with the other party. Small donors are the backbone of a party.
"The best people to do that , he insists, are the governors." "Republican solutions are gong to flow from the states, not from Washington," Most party activists are now coming around to that thought. Party activists are connecting on the Internet, as well as going back to stronger support of local politics. And, state politics are important, too. Governors control appointments,redistricting plans, the whole party agenda on a larger scale.
While listening to my own Republican women's group speaker today, a State Rep and a conservative Republican, I was struck that he gets it. He said we must strive to accept all who wish to join our cause - to be joyful about fellow members whether we agree with each issue or not. It brought to mind the 6 million evangelicals who stayed home instead of voting this past election. Why didn't they support the Republican candidate? The Republican party is the conservative party. John McCain is a conservative. He is socially conservative and fiscally conservative. Instead, he was punished for trying to get major legislation through while working with the other party. By not agreeing with McCain on these issues, while big issues, they decided to allow the Democrats to be successful. There is no way the Democrat party is conservative, so they cut off their noses to spite their faces. Very childish behavior and certainly not productive. The most strident of each party must be nurtured to be more open minded; that disagreements are productive.
The Republican party has a growing minority population that must be encouraged. For the first time, two black candidates are running for party chair. Both are good men with solid experience. I am supporting Michael Steele. The chair of the Texas Republican party is running as co-chair with Ken Blackwell. I don't begrudge her that choice. We are still in the same party and have the same basic goals.
The Hispanic population is the fastest growing. They share socially conservative views with Republicans. We cannot allow them to be wooed by Democrats.
History has been re-written and taught through two generations now that the Republican party offers nothing for blacks. That is just so ridiculous, it is sad. The very president the incoming president refers to was a Republican, credited with ending slavery in our country. It is time to tell our nation's story as it happened. It is time to take politics out of the classroom.
There is much work to be done. Everyone is welcome and all are encouraged to work for the shaping of the issues of the day.
Open minds, listening ears, joyful spirits are powerful tools.
The President-elect will host a dinner for John McCain the night before the inauguration. It is billed as a "Bipartisan Dinner" and Colin Powell and Joe Biden will also be honored at their own such dinners.
No, I do not trust the incoming president and his administration. The history is there for me to read. However, we must wish him success in leading our country. We all have a stake in his success.
That is not selling out.
That is patriotic.