Republican Renaissance: Analysis of Defeat, Plan for the Future
In the wake of the losses suffered in the 2012 general election, Republicans are reassessing every facet of the party’s position in American politics. Here in Los Angeles, the local party saw its share of voter registration fall sharply between February 2011 and the most recent October 22nd statistical report from the Secretary of State.
Los Angeles County Voter Registration Statistics, 1999-2012, S0urce: CA Secretary of State
The drop of 1.65% was the largest year-over-year decline for the available data going back to 1999. Here’s a graph of the above data, which gives us a visual picture of trends in LA County voter registration over the last 13 years (click on the chart to see a larger image):
In addition to the consistently falling Republican share (green) the other significant features in this data is the steady rise in Decline to State/No Party Preference (blue) registrations as well as the sharp drop in the percentage of Unregistered voters (yellow). While the percentage of voters who are registering is very high, new voters are accruing to DTS/NPP and not to the major political parties. Democrats have also seen a modest decline in their share of registrants since 1999. This bar chart compares 1999 to the current tallies:
It’s worth noting that other minor political parties have also seen gains in the same period. What conclusions can we draw from this data?
It would seem that there is a clear trend among new voters to either select Decline to State/No Party Preference or a minor party. The major parties have not benefitted from the intense voter registration pushes in the last decade. In particular, the Republican Party has not been selected by new voters. These numbers are a clear notice to the leadership of the Republican Party in Los Angeles that new voters do not consider it to be relevant to their lives and concerns.
Does this mean that there is a problem with the fundamental principles of the Republican Party? I do not believe that is the case. The party’s foundational principles of limited government, free markets, personal liberty, Constitutional rule of law and sound fiscal and monetary policy are the solid basis for a free, prosperous and happy nation.
The purpose of a political party is to offer the people a vehicle through which their interests are served in government. The Republican Party must ask itself: What are the interests of the people it would like to represent in government? The time has come for a frank reassessment of that basic question. Clearly, our current answers are falling far short of the mark.
Too often I hear fellow Republicans blaming the people by essentially saying that they are too stupid to understand our message, or claiming that the non-producers have become a majority and they are voting to rob from the producers. This sort of talk is alienating, self-destructive and misdirects blame away from where it belongs: the Republican Party, its leadership and its activists. In order to solve a problem, an organization must first acknowledge responsibility for its situation, then delineate the issues at hand and then formulate a plan of action.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
In my opinion we are failing as a party to serve the interests of the people in the following ways:
- We Republicans have failed to make our principles relevant to the lives of the electorate. We do not offer a clear, distinct vision of good government that addresses the real concerns of voters. We are long on philosophy, but short on the application of that philosophy to the problem of good government.
- We are not in touch with and sufficiently aware of the real world concerns and issues facing the people, and so we are unable to formulate a program and a message which speaks to them in a living way. To be relevant politically, we must be intimate with the hearts and minds of the people.
- Absent a program of clear, vibrant and accessible messaging, we have allowed the opposition to brand us as the party of old, rich, white people.
- Republicans have had no strategic answer to the successful Democratic strategy of racial, ethnic, class and gender polarization. Rather, we have allowed ourselves to be trapped into playing the polarization game by centering our politics around “us vs. them” social groupings.
- We have recently tended to focus on negative messaging. In the recent election, our rhetoric often warned that terrible things will happen if the other guys are elected, rather than presenting a vision of all the good things that will happen if Republicans are elected.
- We have a tended in recent years to rely upon social/moral conservatism as a leading edge of our image and messaging. We have been suckered into the Democrat game of competing to use the power of government to legislate morality. The traditional (and I believe correct) Republican view is that the power of the state exists to preserve the rights of all citizens and is not to be used to impose religious or moral belief systems. We need to stand on that core principle and use it against the Democrats.
- Our leadership has tended to concede our core principles so that we are more often than not a “lite” version of the big government, market regulating, anti-liberty, anti-rule of law, Keynesian fiscal spending and money printing debt monster that is the Democratic Party.
- We Republicans make our presence felt only around election time. We need to be campaigning for our principles through real world initiatives and legislation and community engagement on an ongoing basis.
- Our thinking is “trapped inside the box” and we are caught in an echo chamber of entrenched views and limited possibilities.
I’ll revisit this list later in this post and posit some possible actionable strategies that address each of these points.
TRAPPED IN A BOX
The existing political paradigm is not working for us. It is an artificial box and we are at least partially complicit in its construction and maintenance. It’s boundaries are composed of an entrenched, accepted description of “Left” and “Right” political views as well as top and bottom panels comprised of socioeconomic political alignments and “forward-backward” concepts of progress.
To the extent that we are comfortable inside this Establishment box, we shouldn’t be. It is clearly not working to our advantage. We need to begin the process of thinking outside established boundaries and then we need to willfully remake the box to our advantage and place our adversaries inside.
In the course of any human endeavor, there is a point at which the established paradigm becomes destabilized and a new reality emerges. This is a natural process, but human intelligence and effort can expedite, mold and develop a paradigm shift. It happens in military and sporting engagements, commercial competition, intellectual theory and in political systems. We should seek to shift and disrupt the existing political paradigm and destabilize existing political alignments and then reforge a new paradigm that favors our goals.
The time is ripe. Millions of people are dissatisfied and the Democrats now have in their hands the very rope with which they can hang themselves. The disaster they are bound to create in the next 2-4 years (and in fact have already created) is a tremendous opportunity for Republicans. But we must first be in a mental position to see the opportunity as it presents itself and be ready with the organization and strategy to seize upon it and execute a winning plan. If we remain trapped in the box, we don’t stand a chance.
Sun Tzu said: “Know the enemy and know yourself…When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”
TURNING THE CORNER
“Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle …. They conquer by strategy.”
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”Sun Tzu, The Art of War
If the Republican Party of Los Angeles County were a corporation that had fallen this deeply into a non-competitive market position, the Executive Board would be replaced and there would be a thorough re-assessment of the product line and the marketing strategy. A “turnaround team” would be brought in to think “outside the box” and reinvent the company from the ground up. The new team would consolidate and refresh valuable legacy assets, assess the company’s market position, and strategize to stabilize, relaunch and then expand market share.
In spite of having a superior core product, we have been strategically outmaneuvered by our competition.
In order to begin to rectify this situation, we need to start by asking some basic questions?
–What do we want? (What is lacking?)
–What do we need? (What is required?)
–What are our goals? (What is desired?)
–How do we get what we want, satisfy our needs and attain our goals?
We lack the power to implement our vision of good government. We need position in government to accomplish that. And in my view, our goal is limited, Constitutional government.
How do we get what we want?
We must become highly organized, develop a thorough plan and then execute it. When each OPE cycle is completed, we would assess the results and then feed our evaluation back into the next cycle. This must become the functional template for the new RPLAC Central Committee. If we apply these principles to a strategic vision we can arrest the decay and turn the corner very rapidly.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”–famous sales aphorism
But if it’s broke–fix it! And it is quite evidently broken and desperately in need of repair. We can’t sugar coat that fact or pretend that things aren’t really that bad. The survival of the Republican Party–locally, statewide and nationally–is at stake.
We must start by being pragmatic. What will be EFFECTIVE for the Republican Party going forward? It’s not enough to be morally and philosophically correct. We must strategize and take concerted action that yields results.
I propose the following practical solutions and strategies to the issues and problems raised above.
1) STRATEGIC VISION
The new Central Committee and its Executive Board needs to rapidly adopt a Strategic Vision which informs and guides all of its work. That should be drafted and ratified by the Central Committee at the first or second meeting of Q1 2013.
Possible elements of the Strategic Vision include:
- Develop messaging which effectively reaches the people with our core principles
- Develop policies, legislation and initiatives that apply our principles to the real problems of the County and the State
- Create new Republicans from the rising tide of “No Party Preference” voters
- Develop effective means of communicating and interacting with the people and the party base
- Offer an image to the public and the media that signifies renewal and relevance
- Develop and disseminate an effective critical view of the Democratic Party as having failed the interests of the people
- Position RPLAC as the voice of the people against a failed, corrupt Establishment behemoth.
- Make our presence felt in the public life of the County at meetings, events, discussions, hearings, street fairs, schools and everywhere citizens gather
- Release statements and press releases on the issues of the day regularly and hold press conferences with an official spokesperson
2) STRATEGIC PLAN
By the end of Q1 2013 the new RPLAC Central Committee should ratify and adopt a Strategic Plan. This would provide a blueprint for organization and action throughout the term in office. Assembly District Committees and all other Committees of RPLAC would take responsibility for executing the plan and would act in concert with the goals of the plan.
Some possible elements of the Strategic Plan include:
- ORGANIZATIONALLY FUNCTIONAL. All organs of RPLAC to be fully operational and functional, including Executive Board, Executive Committee, District Committees and working Committees
- APPOINTMENT OF AN OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON. This officer would hold regular press conferences to release resolutions and statements from RPLAC concerning the issues of the day.
- TOWN HALL MEETINGS. Each AD committee would be responsible for inviting the community to public meetings. The first round of meetings would be “Speak Outs” which would serve as an opportunity for us to learn about the mind of the public. Later meetings could include discussions on particular topics and guest speakers. Precinct walking, voter registration and building our contact list would be other functions of AD Town Hall Meetings.
- LOCAL BALLOT INITIATIVES. We can write and sponsor County initiatives. Ballot initiatives are a good strategy for generating public interest and contact, developing a list, and promoting a political viewpoint. EXAMPLE: A proposition to prohibit the assessment of parking meter fines after 6 PM and on Sundays in a commercial zone. The city is taxing local businesses by shifting the burden of providing parking from the city to businesses through excessive enforcement, damaging commerce by the same and hurting working people by taxing and fining them for parking during peak after work shopping hours.
- DRAFT LEGISLATION. We should actively draft legislation and resolutions and have them submited to City Council, the CA State Legislature and Congress by fellow Republicans legislators.
- SOCIAL MEDIA. Develop and implement a state of the art, stylish social media platform and strategy.
- VIRAL VIDEO. Record and edit informative, interesting and fun web videos that educate while entertaining on a regular basis.
- MICRO FUNDRAISING. While big money donors are always great, we also need to cultivate a mass base of ongoing small denomination donations. 5000 Republicans donating $5.00 every month is $25,000.
- STUDY “THE ART OF WAR”. Each District Committee should be responsible for studying Sun Tzu’s masterwork on tactics and strategy which is taught at every military academy and business school.
- CANDIDATE DEVELOPMENT. Regular programming to develop and cultivate candidates for office.
There’s much more that could be added with regards to strategic vision and planning, but I think the above contains some key elements of a forward looking, revitalized Republican Party in Los Angeles County. I believe that rather than forecasting the demise of the party, if we can reorient our vision and break out of the proverbial box, we can instead look forward to winning over the DTS/NPP block, siphoning off voters from the minor parties and eventually see mass defection from the Democratic Party.
I think we would do well to elect someone like our current RPLAC Assistant Treasurer, Arturo Alas, as Chair of RPLAC or else as official Spokesperson. He is a young, energetic, well spoken, bilingual Hispanic man with a likable personality and an entrepreneurial background. I think he would present a positive, exciting image of the party to the people and the media.
I have been told by many that I should run for one of the Executive Board offices. If you like what I have written here and think that it is on point, please let me know. If I get enough encouragement I might like to run for Secretary of RPLAC. You can leave a comment here or email me at StevenVincentLA@me.com.
ABOUT STEVEN VINCENT
Steven is a member elect of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County Central Committee in Assembly District 46. He is well known as a yoga teacher in the San Fernando Valley. He is a self-employed Technical Market Analyst with his own thriving web site, BullBear Trading (www.TheBullBear.com). Soon he will be launching a new business, Zergonomics, which will be producing and distributing the world’s first integrated zero gravity computer workstation.