The most important speeches you didn’t hear at CPAC are the ones Democrats wanted you to miss.
In an attempt to distance themselves from George W. Bush, many conservatives have disavowed every idea he brought to the table, but this was only to the Democrats’ advantage. Compassionate conservatism was abandoned, but party leaders would be wise to reclaim this mantra. Conservative economic principles are the only ones that create wealth for the masses, but in 2008 and 2012 Republicans failed to sell that message to the rest of America. Speaking at CPAC, former Alabama 7th district representative, Artur Davis, put it simply, “For voters who look at the world the way we do, we made an impeccable argument.” For the rest of America we had no challenge to the Democrats’ cradle to grave nanny state solution.
Without clinging heavily to our compassionate roots in the last election, Republicans did not communicate that conservatism improves the quality of life for the poor, and in the end, the lying Left was able to paint Governor Romney as an evil capitalist walking on the backs of poor and middle class Americans. Senator Marco Rubio explained it well,
“All they hear is that one side is fighting for the people who have made it and the other side is fighting for those who are struggling.”
Once that message sank in, there was no hope of winning. It was not that conservative leaders failed to energize the base; it was that they spent so much time selling flavors of conservatism to conservatives that they forgot to sell the big picture to the rest of America.
At CPAC this past weekend, I was elated to hear several conservative leaders attempting to do just that. Many young minority Republicans stepped forward to offer the best advice thus far on spreading conservative values. It is no mystery why Democrats see them as a major threat. These leaders believe in America and they espouse conservative values. While Senator Rand Paul kept the CPAC crowd on their feet “standing with Rand”, Davis, Rubio and others spoke about motivating all of America.
Rep. Artur Davis said of most American families, “They just needed to hear from our politicians that our values will work for their lives and their circumstances.” Whether you have disagreed with him in the past, Davis makes a good point. Conservatives failed to communicate a message of hope though they represented the only true hope on the ballot.
In his speech to CPAC attendees, Governor Bobby Jindal pointed to what is becoming the Achilles heel of the Republican Party,
“Look at the debates that have dominated Washington in the last few weeks: the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, Biden’s gun control task force and the sequester. These are government sideshows in Washington that we have allowed to take center stage. Today’s conservatism is in love with government book keeping…it is a rigged game.” He went on to point out how congressional Republicans are becoming ensnared: “We seem to think, if we could just put together a spreadsheet then all will be well.”
It is important that conservatives quickly start to realize that our goal is not to find the perfect candidate to unite the base. Our true goal should be finding the candidate that can argue the virtues of conservatism in the life of the average American citizen. Unfortunately, those citizens are increasingly from urban low-income, single parent homes and they are increasingly operating outside the sphere of religious influence. Conservatives must communicate our values to an electorate that has been primed for big government interventionism. This is not a lost cause, but we must find ways to communicate conservative ideas.
Most importantly, appealing to this demographic does not mean abandoning our principles. We have a major opportunity to offer hope to those whom progressivism has failed. It means showing that with conservative principles a single mother will have more opportunities for herself and her children. It means showing school choice will have a dramatic effect on the prospects her child faces upon leaving secondary school. We have good ideas. We need good advertising.
With the 2014 and 2016 elections just around the corner, we must paint a picture of hope for all Americans if conservatism is to win the future. Very much like Reagan’s hopeful 1984 declaration that it was “morning in America,” Governor Jindal ended by saying it is our job to, “boldly paint the picture of how incredibly bright America’s future can be.” This is the message we need to sell to the American people.