Pragmatic conservatism must prevail, but we must face reality FIRST
I am not a party insider, hold no position on the RPV State Central Committee, nor my local unit, and I am no longer in elected office (having had to resign for work reasons).
But unlike a large number of unit chairs and activists, I have actually won local elected office four times in Blue-leaning Leesburg (population about 52,000), and have knocked thousands of doors for Republican candidates outside of town in Loudoun and Fairfax counties since moving Leesburg in 2002. (Currently living in the Hampton Roads region for work, but still vote and pay property taxes in Leesburg).
Hence, I think I have a good idea what makes voters in Northern Virginia tick and have written about this extensively in this blog.
So, here are eight ideas to grow the GOP and ensure we do not become a minority party and our state becomes a New York or New Jersey style “Blue state” with high taxes, heavy regulation and social engineering programs;
First, we must recognize that Virginia has changed. It is no longer a “Southern state,” but a cosmopolitan state that is leaning Blue in statewide and presidential races. This is due to the growth in Loudoun and Prince William counties, and other outer suburbs, fueled by the influx of Northeasterners coming here for jobs and lower taxes, but not leaving behind their Democratic Party/liberal preferences. It also is due to the growing non-white population Latinos, Indians and Muslims, who think Republicans don’t want them here due to the rhetoric of our candidates and activists, and deliberately skewed by the liberal media. Sorry, but all the “extreme vetting” and immigration reforms are not going to keep people out of the country.
Second, we have to recognize that Northern Virginia is where the votes are, along with Hampton Roads and the Richmond area – not in the rural conservative areas of the Commonwealth
To win statewide, and even to win back some delegate seats lost in 2017, Republican candidates must change the conversation in campaigns away from the issues Democrats love to define us by – i.e. anti immigrant, anti woman – but to bread and butter issues that matter to ALL voters – specifically, traffic congestion (transportation), schools, including higher education, and jobs. This does not mean we forego a conservative social agenda, but give them a REASON to vote for OUR candidates, as I wrote last month.
For example, Republicans can capitalize on the Terry McAuliffe/VDOT scam to charge $30 plus tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway, which mostly disadvantages Fairfax County residents – and voters.
Third, Trump is Trump and we cannot “change him” and until he goes, we are sunk. The problem with this attitude is that none of us can change Trump – with his tweets and attacks on media celebs, and even GOP members of Congress. But his agenda is what we SHOULD embrace. Boosting military spending and investing in infrastructure HELPS VIRGINIA, whose economy and prosperity is heavily dependent on defense dollars! I believe “Trumpism” will help the GOP expand our base, not shrink it– assuming he and Congress can deliver.
Fourth, we must let go of the idea that government is BAD. In a state where 178,000 residents work for the federal government, and is No. 1 in defense spending ($59 billion in 2011, 13 percent of state GDP), how can Republicans NOT support SOME level of government? What we should want is LIMITED and EFFICIENT government, not cutting programs for the sake ideology. Perhaps every spending proposal in Richmond should be coupled with cuts in areas that are not working.
Fifth, we must take advantage of non campaign times of the year to “educate” these new voters. With elections every year in Virginia, this is hard to do, but in the early part of 2018, I would suggest RPV convene focus groups with voters who do not vote GOP and find out why and what WOULD make them vote by showing them a series of issues and topics and see how this resonates. With that information in hand, next invite select voters (non activists) from the various population groups and precincts we need to target to private town halls where they can meet with GOP office holders and help them draft an agenda for action in Richmond and the local level.
Sixth, engage “adults” to handle outreach, not kids out of college with no life experience. A number of party faithful, like myself, are mystified how RPV and various campaigns will hire inexperienced young people instead of financing “adult” campaign activists with networks and recognition in their own communities. It would behoove the party to hire someone, for example, in the growing (and conservative) West African community to engage that community which in turn could be great ambassadors to Virginia’s African American community. I could see hiring new college grads to handle Millennial outreach.
Seventh, we need to stop blaming the media, illegals and felons for our losses, as well as thinking that some strident ideological conservative as our candidate is always going to win. As Mick Staton noted in his column Ed Gillespie got more votes than any other GOP candidate in history and 97% of the GOP vote Ken Cucinnelli got in 2013. The media, academia, and Hollywood are not on our side, but growing our base among new immigrant populations will help yield ambassadors to sell our case. Republicans have to not just win elections, but hearts and minds during non election times. The media, academia and Hollywood have indoctrinated our youth, but what do we have to counter it besides the churches and Fox News?
Eighth, there needs to be more connection between the elected Republicans and party activists so suspicion doesn’t breed disunity. Politicians are accused of living in a bubble – listening to bureaucrats, lobbyists, donors and non GOP constituents, but activists also live in a bubble, too. They think every GOP candidate has to be like Ronald Reagan, without recognizing Reagan raised taxes and expanded government, too. I find so many GOP activists in this state eager to “primary” someone they just elected thinking they were “tricked.” This is now happening to Rep. Scott Taylor, who represents Tidewater. He only upended Randy Forbes in the primary last year. My feeling is activists should be engaged to join boards and commissions on local and state government and learn what it is like to make a decision, but elected GOP members must attend party meetings and not just show up to get the nomination at election time. Communication is key.
We may not like it when our electeds vote a certain way, but the Democrats are worst and we only have to look North to see the wreck they have made of states like New York, New Jersey and Maryland. It is my hope these ideas may gain some traction so Virginia’s GOP does not go the way of all-too-many state parties in Blue states.