The 2016 Election was both the beginning and the end for the Republican Party. Donald Trump’s shocking success was our wake-up call. Unfortunately, many Republicans would rather press snooze than wake-up and face reality.
Let’s get one thing straight: Republican ideology is not the problem… our messaging is. The Grand Old Party has sounded like a broken record for years. As a party, we’ve stubbornly clung to our worn-out talking points while ignoring the ever-changing society around us. We have become so stuck in our ways, that we no longer know how to articulate or advocate our ideology any other way.
Over the years, the average American voter eventually lost so much faith in our over-used rhetoric (that reminded them of nothing but broken promises), that they were willing to listen to someone, anyone really, who had something new to say. Burned by Washington far too many times already, they certainly didn’t want to listen to another cookie-cutter politician making grand promises on the campaign trail before breaking them in office.
And then cue Donald J. Trump. Instead of simply copying and pasting the usual, worn-out Republican talking points, Trump wrote his own. He may not have been eloquent in his delivery (ever), but he at least delivered a new message to the American people; the rest is history.
So now what? In the wake of 2016, do Republicans revert to their old model? Or do we forge ahead in order to grow and strengthen our party? If the answer isn’t obvious, delete your account.
On the campaign trail, Republicans compete against each other to be the most Pro-Life, Pro-God, and Pro-Gun candidate. We overuse the phrases “common-sense, small government,” “protect individual liberty,” “promote free-market capitalism”, “cut red tape,” “create jobs,” “support small businesses,” and “preserve the Constitution” until we are blue in the face. But does the average voter even relate to, or care about, what we are talking about anymore?
The Power of Words
Contrary to what the SJWs would tell you as they hide out in their safe spaces, words themselves are utterly meaningless. They contain no power whatsoever. Call me insensitive, but our society’s sudden obsession with promoting trigger warnings is ruining our country. (I have a lot to say on this topic, so it will have to wait until a later post…)
In short: Words only have power if we choose to give them power. We give meaning to the words we speak. We also give meaning to the words we hear. The meaning of any given word or phrase is never absolute. Not everyone gives the same meaning to the same words we do. The way we interpret the words we hear depends on a variety of factors: where we grew up, how we were raised, our personal experiences, and the experiences of our family and friends.
So in politics, it is important to never assume that others share our same perspective. When we rely on over-simplified and watered-down catch phrases, our message can be (and has been) lost in translation.
So in order to grow and strengthen the party, Republicans must reflect on how our talking points and campaign priorities are perceived by non-Republicans. What we think we say is not always what they hear.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
When Republicans say….
“We are Pro-Life”
What you mean: “Republicans believe in the sanctity of life. So killing an unborn child in utero is morally wrong. We believe that all life is precious.”
What others hear: “Republicans are ‘pro-life’, but some lives are more important than others. We care about the lives of the unborn. We care about unborn children conceived in wealth and privilege. We care about unborn children conceived in poverty and hardship. We care about you until you are born of course, then we no longer care about you because we don’t like to talk about urban welfare and poverty. It’s just not our cup of tea… sorry kiddos. But don’t worry… once you grow up and begin living off our hard-earned taxpayer dollars, we’ll be pointing at you as we complain about the welfare state. Instead, we talk about how…”
“Our pro-business policies will create jobs.”
What we mean: “By promoting our free-market values, rolling back regulatory red tape, and cutting taxes, Republicans can create an environment that will spur economic prosperity and job creation, benefiting everybody.”
What others hear: “Republicans care about businesses and business owners. They want to help these businesses succeed by making sure the government can’t tell them what to do or take away their hard-earned money. And if businesses make more money, they get bigger and will need more employees. This will create jobs…. added bonus! And if you are currently unemployed, uninsured, or homeless… stand-by, because businesses are making money so they can create jobs! In the meantime, do your best not to starve or get sick because we don’t want to expand the welfare state because we won’t pay for it since we would rather cut taxes for businesses. Jobs are being created, so please don’t resort to a life of crime in order to survive, because our jails are overcrowded with non-violent pot-heads and street violence is bad PR for our beloved NRA. Stand-by for jobs!”
“We are pro-gun.”
What we mean: “Republicans support the Second Amendment and our citizens’ rights to bear arms. Guns do not cause violence, people do. And criminals do not follow the law anyway. Passing gun laws would not prevent criminals from committing violent crimes and using guns, but it would stop law-abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves, and others, against violent criminals.”
What others hear: “Republicans say that gun laws will not keep our streets any safer. In fact, if you take away our guns, you will take away our ability to protect you in the streets. Not that we plan to though! All that gun violence in the inner cities really sucks… you ought to do something about that because we certainly aren’t. We are far too busy cleaning our assault rifles and stockpiling ammunition just in case some thugs decide to venture outside the projects. We want to talk about OUR guns, not the ones threatening your communities. Once those businesses finish creating those jobs, you should consider moving. But in the meantime, do try to stay safe. We’ll pray for you.”
“We will defend and uphold the Constitution.”
What we mean: “Power, when concentrated, is dangerous. Throughout civilization, people with too much power have eradicated freedom, limited prosperity, waged devastating wars, and people died. The Constitution outlines a form of government that protects us from powerful leaders who would take away our freedom by distributing power to many separate governmental entities. If one entity threatens freedom, the other entities can use their own power to stop them and protect us. We cannot ignore the Constitution and separation of powers, even for a good cause, because one day someone could use that power for a bad cause, and we cannot risk that.”
What others hear: “Republicans care more about a 226-year old piece of paper, written by dead old men in white wigs, who have no idea what the world is like today. Republicans hate change.”
…So are you catching my drift?
Burn the Talking Points…
Republicans have become so obsessed with our talking points we often lose sight of the greater picture. We champion our own causes, expecting everyone else to care about the same things we do, while rarely making any real effort to care about anything else. Even though Republican principles and solutions can be applied to an unlimited number of issues, we have placed severe limits on their application. In the process, we have limited our own potential to create real and effective solutions for a wide array of issues, conceding these issues to the Democrats in the process. This is a mistake I cannot accept. It’s time we venture out into uncharted territory, folks. Maybe when we advocate pro-life policies, we should do more than oppose abortion. There is more than one way to defend life, after all! We can keep the focus on our opposition efforts all we want, but why not champion some policies too? Everyone already knows what we’re against, so now it’s time to ask ourselves: “What are we for?”
Why aren’t we promoting adoption reform, to make adoption a more accessible option for individuals or couples looking to open their hearts and expand their families? What about expecting mothers, who would otherwise consider/choose abortion? Republicans HATE red tape and the adoption industry has a ton of it for us to cut! Why aren’t we concerned about children stuck in the foster care system? Don’t we care about their lives too? And if we are pro-life, shouldn’t we care about rehabilitating non-violent criminals back into society, their homes, and the work force? Is it not pro-life to support criminal justice reform? What about the addiction recovery reform? And mental health reform? Or welfare reform? Healthcare reform? Immigration reform? The list goes on…
Republicans are for jobs. While our party should continue emphasizing the importance of job creation, we often craft this message for business owners, big or small. But what about the Americans who can’t afford to start their own business? The ones who are drowning in student loan debt and struggling to pay their bills while living paycheck to paycheck? What about those who are truly living off of government assistance, just to make ends meet? Can we stop villainizing them, please and thank you? We can still appeal to these individuals with our tax reform policies that appeal to individuals and families, not just businesses (hats off to Ed Gillespie for doing exactly that). And we can still talk about job creation, without sounding like we are prioritizing businesses over individuals. Republicans claim to believe in a bottom-up approach to government, but all too often our policies and our messaging suggest otherwise. Let’s change that!
As for our guns, we can support the Second Amendment without ignoring the concerns of the gun control advocates. Gun violence in urban cities is a real problem, and it’s okay for Republicans to at least acknowledge it as such. And Republicans have no problem advocating for voter ID bills and the use of E-Verify. We have no problem implementing policies to verify whether or not someone has the legal right to vote or work, but for some reason the right to bear arms is off-limits. Some Republicans take this hypocrisy even further by supporting legislation to regulate which bathroom someone uses. And then we wonder why non-Republicans think we are hypocrites? Well I hate to break it to you, but we are.
And lastly, we support the Constitution, but we often forget why. When we declare ourselves Constitutionalists, we spend more time talking about a piece of paper. We focus on defending the Constitution itself, rather than focusing on what the Constitution defends: “We the People”. If we did, perhaps more non-Republicans would be willing to listen.
What Republicans say matters. But what others hear matters more. Once we begin to understand this, maybe, just maybe, others will be ready to listen.