Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Republican Party: Where We're At

Sometimes it takes a failure of massive proportions to force renewed vigor and imagination. This is the state we are in right now nationally.

Mineral County Republicans can pat themselves on the back. Charles Minimah, Beth Walker, Dan Greear, Mike Teets, Gary Howell, John McCain, and others carried the county soundly while Republicans kept many of the county offices. Bob Schadler and Jay Courrier ran unopposed. Republicans in this region remained vigorous and confident. They marched in parades, maintained blogs that kept people talking, organized fundraisers and events for local and statewide candidates, and made phone calls. They also never forgot that, as Doug McKinney has put it, we are Republicans for a reason.

If it was just about hard working people, Republicans would have won in a landslide. Look at Doug and Sue McKinney putting about half a million miles on their car going from town to town. Look at Gary Howell who fought every single day against overwhelming odds and came within a hair of upsetting a candidate beloved by the special interests. His friends and neighbors supported him overwhelmingly and he even almost won heavily Democratic Tucker County. Look at our statewide candidates who were everywhere pounding the pavement. Hopefully our campaigns at the very least kept the conversation going about corruption and cronyism. Look at Christy Barnett, a one woman campaign machine trying to rally the Potomac Highlands. This is not failure; it's a foundation. But we must build upon it.

Here are some suggestions.

We must stop clinging to the shadow of Ronald Reagan. He was one of our greatest Americans, but many new voters have no memory of him except in history books. Reagan's revolution has lessons that will always be relevant, but they need updating. By clinging too much to Reagan and not moving decisively towards a future blueprint, we risk looking like the stodgy old FDR Democrats of our parents' and grandparents' generation. Time for us to find the next great thing. Luckily we have a pitbull in waiting.

Start emphasizing science, technology, and research. The Republican Party may have fewer friends in the research fields, but it has many in engineering. We must emphasize that American technology constantly needs investment. Blue collar jobs will continue to grow less prevalent while science, technology, and small business entrepreneurship will keep growing. Leading the world was a constant goal in the twentieth century. Why not recapture that spirit for the twenty-first century?

On the state level, we have a dedicated state party chair who volunteers countless hours to be wherever he is needed to promote the cause. We had outstanding candidates with the vision and spirit to lead West Virginia forward. The problem was that our state party does not have the resources to function as it should. Dan Greear, Mike Teets, Gary Howell, and others ran very tight races despite being outspent sometimes 5 to 1. Additional organizational and financial support could have put these people over the top to help bring about a better West Virginia. The state party needs more resources and more support if we are to ever make this state great again.

In 1888 Democrats had dominated West Virginia for sixteen years, but the elections kept getting closer. By 1896, a strong Republican organization with a real vision captured the state and did not let it go for decades. Remember that example.

Over the next two years we need to emphasize our vision, rally behind our successful candidates, and build an organization with the resources to help our candidates get over the top. We should be very proud of the personal efforts of our candidates and volunteers. They are something to build upon for the next go round.

Nationally we have faced challenges on this scale before. In 1976 and 1992 we bounced back aggressively. We found bold leaders, updated our message, and changed America for the better. We cannot continue to cling to the shadow of Reagan, but we must adapt his ideas to create a blueprint for the future. It is not a question of if we do it. We must.

And we will.

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