Our conservative values are universal human values. The left has gone completely crazy, but our party failed in state elections over the past decade. Where is the disconnect?
While there were some exogenous conditions, much of what happened was due to the party’s center of gravity getting stuck 30 years back. Like Sears, our party stopped paying attention and became irrelevant to non-base voters’ lives, who are critical to winning statewide elections.
Using first principles to diagnose the problem, we sell what voters do not wish to purchase; or they feel that they will lose something if they vote for us; or the other set of products is more attractive. Which makes me very concerned about 2021 races.
The 2013 and 2017 losses were not “blips”; they reflect our party’s systemic problems. It was not bad luck or too little money or not enough volunteers. Our candidates were selling “typewriters”; they were weaker on every count. Our unsophisticated arguments antagonized and turned off 20- to 40-year-old moderates and others. We gave no reason to contestable, non-base voters to support us such as blacks, Hispanics, single females, moderate voters, immigrants.
Our values and ideas “sit on a shelf” where they are disconnected from non-base voters’ lives. We are rightly proud of them, but we do not act on them to convince and to bring their benefits to the people. On top of that, there is a usual Left’s advantage, providing giveaways that are more attractive “now” even if they result in economic disasters long-term.
Our party makes it more difficult for non-base moderates to join us; we are more like an “acquired taste.” Limited mostly to the base, we have been stagnant, drifting, and giving up ground.
Every election cycle, our candidates start from scratch to invent their messaging. It is as if we never heard about the concept of franchising; establishing a powerful and simple brand once, stand on this foundation, and then clone it and compete for money and attention. Instead, we waste time building the foundation every time and have to raise all that money. In the meantime, the opposition caricatures us.
For the Radical Left the biggest challenge is not Republicans, but keeping moderate voters in their corner. Their collectivist ideology is dark and evil; they have to cover it up with “electoral sausage” and deceitful attacks on Republicans. These voters are up for grabs and should be an easy win for our party, but we do not make an effort to welcome them. Again, by not paying attention to these voters, we failed to learn how to communicate effectively with them.
Over the past 30 years, nearly everything became more sophisticated except for our party’s messaging that is outdated and disconnected from real life; we lack winning “living” ideas, strategy, and thoughtful actions to attract non-base voters.
We antagonize non-base voters; for example, abortion views are roughly split 25-50-25—that 50 want to have abortion availability in some cases. Instead of tolerating that middle view like we tolerate many other sins, we treat it as a purity test. Statewide campaigns are not the right venues to litigate abortion.
Our opponent is not the Democratic Party; it is the Radical Left that has a long-range plan to convert Virginia from the “citizen” society into a “government” society. We fail to engage effectively against their weak points when they throw the full weight of the Alinsky book at us. They are vulnerable to Radical Left attacks with predictable “torpedoes” against them and sink their candidacies. We continue to live in the past, more gentle times.
We lack strategic thinking; way back when we were in power, we did not use these opportunities to conduct a comprehensive rollback of “government society” impositions. Over the past 30 years, our party gave up on many aspects of our lives as they became a domain of the left. Education is completely theirs; in all other aspects of government, collectivist ideology dominates. Our party chose to be inert instead of fighting for alternatives.
Will Northam’s overreach with guns and other issues and his response to the pandemic in 2020 turn enough moderates against him? It does not seem that way. He energized Republicans, but our party needs non-base moderates to win. We need to reinforce our “balance and freedom” package to these voters. Our party needs to make several step changes to welcome these voters starting with branding and messaging that explains why we are their long-term best choice.
Matt Chwalowski is a Virginia Tech and Catholic University graduate, decades-long international business consultant, and a Republican activist who resides in Loudoun County. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.