If ever there were a time for a Conservative Republican leader to step forward, it’s either now or coming soon.
There are plenty of candidates for the title of Republican leader/spokesman, and some of them have conservative leanings, but few of them espouse the principles of Conservatism every time they speak in public. I’m not suggesting that someone should come forward with a list of Conservative precepts, announcing “This is what makes a Conservative. These principles define what Republicans should believe. If you don’t agree, get out of the party.”
I do suggest that the candidate for President who comes forward with an honest assessment of the mistakes of the Obama and offers a point-by-point alternative has an excellent chance of becoming the so far missing-in-action leader of Conservatism and while at it, the leader of the Republican Party. In fact, the Obama need not even be mentioned unless necessary to show the contrast between conservative American democracy and Obamic statism. The person who follows this strategy will quickly become the media’s go-to person for answers about the Republican approach to issues of the day.
He or she needs to start with public appearances speaking on various issues of the day–health care, tax rates, government ownership of formerly private businesses, energy policy including cap-and-tax, our relationship with Israel, illegal immigration, self-government in Honduras, the waste of duplicating Guantanamo Prison in Illinois, trying terrorists as criminals in New York, broken campaign promises, foreign policy–with each appearance covering only one or a select few of the issues. The emphasis should not be on ideology, but on the practical solution of the problems combined when appropriate with why the Obama is wrong in his approach. As these appearances continue over time, the issues will become a factor in our favor.
The person who does this first automatically becomes the leader, because nobody else has put it all together. Those left behind will be required to say “Me, too” and to articulate it better if they hope to compete. That’s all good, too. I have my own ideas about who could best take the lead (and there is one person out there who has started this process without announcing it, but IMHO it’s not the best person to do it), but there are only three absolute requirements for this strategy to work for anybody.
First, the person has to be a true Conservative. He/she has to understand and believe in conservative principles as the basis for all policy decisions. That doesn’t mean that he may never have compromised in the past to avoid the worst or to get 80% of the good; such compromises are inevitable for anybody who has been in office for any significant period of time. It doesn’t even mean he always must have been a lifetime Conservative. It does mean he must be able to articulate why those compromises were made, and what his preferences would have been given different circumstances. It does mean that he must currently and believably support conservative principles.
Second, he/she must be able to speak articulately, compellingly, and convincingly about his solutions to every issue of importance today, and (when necessary) how his core principles support those solutions. It does us no good whatsoever if the message is garbled or ignored because the delivery is too distracting or too weak to be accepted.
Third, he/she must be a credible candidate. He must have a combination of experience, knowledge and demonstrated competence that the people will trust to say what he means and mean and do what he says. Name recognition would also help him get press coverage that wouldn’t be available to a relative unknown. No matter how good the picture may look or the words may sound, a novice will not be credible or accepted by the American public. It’s true that the Obama got away with good looks and media-praised speeches alone, but the electorate will not fall for that (or likely even have that) in a Republican candidate.
I added the disclaimer about timing above because it may be wise to delay this campaign until after the health-care debate plays itself out. That debate continues to hurt the Obama, and that’s not a bad thing to let have the spotlight.
UPDATE: After the fact, how did I do? Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are our two candidates. Working backwards, they are both completely credible as candidates, and very credible as conservatives--Romney has been addressing his perceived weakness among conservatives every week. His choice of Ryan as running mate is just the latest example. (You can look back to the September Republican debate, the first one in which Governor Rick Perry appeared, to see the beginning of the separation of the credible from the non-credible candidates. Had we been honest with ourselves, we could have known then that Romney would be the nominee, with only Rick Santorum as a possible challenger.)
Both Romney and Ryan are articulate, convincing, and compelling. Each of them shores up the weaknesses of the other, where they exist. I have heard more than one normal person and a few talking heads say "We finally have a ticket where both men can get our message across." Can you imagine what the campaign would be like today if we'd picked Haley Barbour to oppose the Obama? Not to pick on Haley, but he was the choice of some just because of his unquestioned conservatism.
There is no question that Ryan is a true conservative, both mentally and emotionally. Romney's primary difficulty all along has been the feeling among many conservatives that he isn't really "one of us." He is gradually overcoming that problem by doing things like picking Ryan as VP and standing up forcefully to the Obama's attacks. I hope he continues to withstand the temptation to release his older tax returns. I may be wrong, but IMHO Romney has conducted his campaign with masterful timing. He didn't come out with guns blazing from the beginning; rather, he has gradually stepped up his own forcefulness and he is now setting the pace instead of responding to the Obama. The President's campaign is now responding to him.
I don't believe that anybody took my advice about "speaking on various issues of the day" during the primaries, although it might just have gone unreported. Romney has been doing so lately, and he has definitely been hitting the Obama with his errors and mistakes and offering workable alternatives.
Romney achieved the best balance of all my criteria, and he was (or will be) nominated. Now to find out if he can overcome the bias of the so-called "respected" unbiased media and defeat the Obama.