By Clay Olsen | April 15th, 2013
After the 2012 election, there has been, and continues to be, much talk about the state of the Republican Party. Countless ideas are being thrown around about how the party can make a good rebound. Some of these ideas suggest Republicans should continue to move toward the center to get the coveted prize of the “undecided” vote. Others propose that a party revival is needed in which Republicans return to Conservative principles and make their stand there. One thing is agreed upon by all Republican strategists: we cannot afford to strike out next time we are at bat.
Perhaps it is appropriate to look back on past elections in order to gauge what works and what does not. Election 2012 is a good place to start. The results of this election should have been something Democrats feared. An economy going nowhere, huge debt and deficits, and the recent foreign policy foul up in Benghazi are some tough facts to run on. However, the GOP could not deliver. We saw a lower than expected Republican turnout at the voting booth.
Now let’s look at the 2010 Congressional elections. Similar situation: out of control spending, Democrats calling for higher taxes, and the controversial Affordable Care Act (sometimes referred to as Obamacare). We saw huge support for Republican candidates resulting in many seats going in the party’s favor.
So we have two very similar circumstances with two very different results. What was the difference between the 2010 and 2012 election? Conservatism. Although establishment Republicans want to downplay the Tea Party movement, it was this movement that brought the GOP majority in the House. Marches on D.C. before the election fired up the Republican party and showed how popular fiscal Conservatism really is to its constituents. The Tea Party was built on the principles of lower taxes, lower government spending, and the repeal of Obamacare. And that was popular! So why do establishment Republicans run from it?!
The GOP had two years to retain the Conservative excitement. Instead of going with an exciting candidate, the party decided to go with (once again) a moderate. Now I am not saying there was a clear Conservative candidate that was a guarantee win, but we tried out a moderate Republican in the 2008 election and we lost. Romney was supposed to collect the “undecided” vote. That is what elections today seem to be all about: the all-important “undecided” vote. The undecided vote means nothing if you cannot get your own party involved and out to vote on election day.
We are told that political strategy leads politicians to capture the fence-line voters by moderating their stances. In other words, pandering. We are told that we need to soften our principles and move toward the middle. And that is what we have done the past two presidential elections. We put up two weak Republicans to represent us and they expect to retain the same enthusiasm from the conservative Republicans that they got in the 2010 election? If the candidate that is supposed to be representing your principles and ideas goes out and sucks up to “Independents” in order to get votes, does that make you want to get involved in the guy’s campaign?
Pandering shows weakness. Nobody will willingly get behind someone who is not going to protect their principles. There was no pandering in 2010. There was only the unwavering stance on the principle of limited government. So what is to be done about the undecided voter. Do we all get down off our platform to convince them that we are not fanatical? I would suggest that the correct answer is to educate the undecided. Educate every voter. Make sure that every voter, no matter what party they are affiliated with, understands what we stand for. We cannot leave it up to the cable television networks that create a straw man of the Republican party.