This is far from over.
For once my constant state of overwork was useful, in that my analysis of last week’s election defeat of Amendment 66 now appears after the euphoria has worn off.
Now for the bad news. It’s a bad idea for us to assume that progressive reversals in elections are the same as Conservative conversions among voters. The defeat of a ballot initiative and the recall election wins that preceded are not bellwethers for Conservatives’ inside track to the state house and Senate chamber—especially if those very important elections are a full year from now.
I’m not badmouthing Coloradans’ wins in the recalls and against 66 despite extreme fundraising deficits and reprehensible scare tactics. When I worked the District 11 recall campaign in September, I about hit the roof for “my first win”; you would have thought I was headed to Denver instead of Bernie Herpin. Nor do I deny the importance of political “momentum”.
I understand the importance of a winning narrative. Still, nothing is settled, and liberal provocateurs aren’t planning to roll over. We have a whole year of political news cycles during which to either build our lead, such as it is, or squander it. The only certain thing is that whoever learns the best lessons fastest will be the ones smiling on the night of November 4, 2014. Until then, Colorado is only going to heat up even more in state and national politics: we live in a coveted swing state whose diversity, economic potential, beautiful landscapes, and historical center-right stance all make it a priority target for Progressive Agenda, Inc.
If liberal elites keep feeding the slots with their fortunes, eventually they will roll onto a big win. We need look no further than another swing state, Virginia. State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s well-run campaign fell to Clinton-era lackey Terry McAuliffe, 48-45. Even the cratering of the Democrat brand by Obamacare gaffes didn’t close the gaps created by out-of-state interests pouring their fortunes into the otherwise frivolous McAuliffe’s negative campaign as well as that of Libertarian Robert Sarvis. Yeah, that just happened: a false-flag operation, paid for by a California-based Obamaphile, siphoned off votes from a better-qualified candidate.
We already knew liberal elites throw money around the nation like an all-wheel-drive system for difficult elections. We knew they spare no expense to buy out low-information voters instead of actually helping people with that money. But Conservatives, along with Libertarians, must now truly take stock of the lengths to which this small group of radicals will go. With a whole year and a blank check for more than just money, Gov. Hickenlooper, Sen. Udall, and company could erase any disadvantage that may exist.
So what’s a Conservative to do with this year?
1. Rebuild the Tent. Benjamin Franklin’s remarks on hanging are as true as ever. We must put aside petty divisions between generations and patronage systems: if we don’t, then “Conservative”, “Republican”, “Establishment”, “Tea Party”, “Libertarian”, and all the rest will simply mean “Election-Loser”. We must explain our ideas in terms that resonate with other readings of the situation. Coalition starts with civility and empathy. One’s prized agenda on the back burner is still preferable to watching a hyper-liberal supermajority steamroll our freedoms into oblivion. Mind, civility does not a lack of critical thinking on platform details; our fundamentals compel us discuss policy at length. This way, we’ll no longer force candidates into corners that become unrecoverable when taken out of context during the general election.
2. Stay On Message & Pay Attention. It isn’t hard; there are only 5 steps: Value-Issue-Platform-Candidate-Repeat. Forget positive vs. negative, or targeting certain demographics because the other side is doing it, or pondering whether certain messages are assets or liabilities. Leadership is service, and public service is the only good motivation for political leadership. So start there, with how you care for your constituents. Campaigning then becomes as simple as listening to people’s and framing our position in compassion for them. Compassion framing precludes smears of character or “ideology”. It builds effective frequency across issues and demographics. Begin and end our message rooted in universally desirable values: it isn’t about us vs. the other guy, it’s about us and the electorate. After all, who’s gonna vote? Treat them with respect and listen authentically. (That means having capabilities in place to remain in touch and improve our efforts.)
3. Bring The Kindness Of “Ground Game” To All Americans. Liberal politics (in)famously take to agitprop sloganeering like a pig in slop. Find enough bodies to hammer home the teleology door-to-door, and explanations will write themselves when those mean old right-wingers ask for them. However, the charge of the undergraduate brigade is really only an advantage compared to no voter contact at all: who wants to be preached at by some kid who doesn’t know their own student loan payoff? By contrast, Conservative thinking is more deliberate. It lends itself to essays. To conversations. To stories that are compelling no matter how we tell them. With enough people and events, we can listen to and talk with every voter for as long as it takes. We must give our time, then, and we must learn the full theory of Conservative compassion, in order for our message to reach everyone—even those predisposed against it. Especially them.
We should be excited. This time is critical. You see, we Conservatives also have a teleology. It simply states: We are only human, and that’s the fun of it all. We don’t blindly follow oligarchs, technocrats, or ideologues. Instead, we know that when we each truly embrace personal liberty, our imperfections average each other out and we uplift each other by turning to the work of our hearts. From our callings, our families, and our faith spring the uniquely American physical and spiritual wealth creation that has led the international community in generations past. And future.