With the 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial Election in the books, three things become apparent. First, the citizenry's aversion to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is alive and well. Second, when Conservatives run inferior campaigns or get duped into the Progressive trap of debating "social issues," it doesn't matter how rooted the message is in common sense and fact, Progressives and Liberals will always be able to manipulate enough voters to squeak out election victories. And third, Conservatives need to understand that a split from the Republican Party will doom them to second or even third party status for generations.
To say that the voters of Virginia now have a governor with a shady political background would be an understatement. Even before Governor-Elect McAuliffe served as Democrat National Committee Chairman, his actions as a major rainmaker for then candidate and President Clinton, found him with his hands dirty from a number of questionable dealings. From his early entanglements with questionable financial behavior at Federal City National Bank and American Pioneer Savings Bank, to the full blown scandals involving Global Crossing and Green Tech Automotive, wherever McAuliffe existed, fiscal ethics were assaulted. Today, after his election as governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, this questionable fiscal management now becomes a problem for each and every citizen of the Commonwealth.
Regardless of the slick, Madison Avenue manipulation of the voters by the McAuliffe Campaign, the elections was always Republican challenger Ken Cuccinelli's to lose.
First, polls indicated, from almost start to finish, that Obamacare was a winning anchor issue for Mr. Cuccinelli. Virginians consistently and without variance, opposed the government's encroachment into the private-sector, free-market health insurance industry. I say health insurance, because Obamacare has nothing – nothing – to do with healthcare; in fact, it is anathema to good health. It was this issue that should have been Mr. Cuccinelli's almost singular focus throughout the campaign. Every event, news conference or handout piece should have started and ended with Obamacare, relating each and every other issue in the campaign back to this grotesque expansion of federal power over our individual lives.
Mr. Cuccinelli's team should have taken a page from the Clinton playbook and used Obamacare as a "read my lips" moment. They should have made McAullife own Obamacare. And the timing couldn't have been better, what with the glaring media spotlight shinning on the Obama deception that was "If you like your health insurance plan you can keep it."
The fact that Mr. Cuccinelli waited until the end to affect a "full-court press" on this issue only serves to validate the notion that establishment Republican campaign "consultants" – at both the national and state levels – are part of the reason Republicans continue to lose elections.
Second, and this relates back to the issue of consultants, Conservatives always lose when they are hoodwinked into debating social issues. Campaigns may be won by charging up the base and energizing the grassroots, but elections are won in the undecided and no- and low-information demographic. The undecided and no- and low-information demographic is incredibly uncomfortable with social conservatism and when those issues become a spotlighted and integral part of a campaign this valuable faction – the "must travel avenue to election victory" – bristles. Progressives, admittedly masters at messaging over all other political factions, seize on this and demagogue, smear; exaggerate positions, statements and records in an effort to paint their opponents as "extreme." They almost always succeed.
Failing to transverse the trap of the social issues dooms more Conservatives to election losses than anything else. On the issues of fiscal responsibility, taxes, a more limited government and reforms of major entitlements, the voters always identify with Conservative common sense. But insert the social issues and not only are Progressives granted the opportunity to propagandize, Conservative come out as hypocritical for their advancement of government as the solution to societal problems; hypocritical for their support of an expansion of government to mandate what should be issues left to States and communities.
I have had many a back-and-forth with social conservatives and I always stand by the notion that governmental solutions to societal problems only last as long as "your guy" keeps winning elections. But, when you do the hard work – hard work – of changing hearts and minds on the community level, suddenly there is no need for a government solution and societal ills are no longer subject to the whims of opportunistic politicians and activist judges.
And lastly, Conservatives and TEA Party Republicans must stop advocating for a third party or a split from the GOP. The numbers cannot be denied. If true Conservatives and Libertarians would follow the winning formula of expanding their ideology within the Republican Party, a formula followed by Progressives to co-opt the Democrat Party, they would serve their causes in dramatically better fashion. Case in point: Mr. McAuliffe captured 47.71 percent of the vote, while Mr. Cuccinelli and Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis captured 51.78 percent of the vote. A four percentage point swing in an executive election is a gulf worth respecting.
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A majority split from the Republican Party would put both the establishment Republican Party and the new political faction in a minority status for decades, giving Progressives and Liberal Democrats precious time to complete the fundamental transformation of the United States. It is a dangerous suggestion and, quite honestly, Conservatives do not coalesce on the issues well enough (read: they don't possess the pack mentality of the Left) to focus on core concepts needed to win elections.
Two perfect examples come to mind.
An organized gathering that was supposed to be about protesting the "closing" of the open-air war memorials on the National Mall found many participants showing up to advance their own causes. The media picked up on this instantly and the depiction was one of disorganization. Coupled with some cherry-picked sound bites, the gathering was dismissed by the mainstream media as a gathering of "extremists." And the undecided and no- and low-information demographic watches and consumes the mainstream media.
Another example is the TEA Party itself.
First, let me state that I can identify with the principles of the TEA Party. Limited government, fair taxation, entitlement reform, free-market solutions and a strong national defense are all very good things. But the original focus – the original points that motivated Conservatives to get off their couches, turn off their televisions, and take to the streets – was taxes and massive government spending. It was a movement born of the bedrock of Americana with no "leaders." It was, in effect, a modern day, intellectual version of how patriots rallied to the cause circa 1775. Yet, it only took a few months before some started calling themselves "leaders" of this TEA Party or that one, stating platforms, making promises and demanding capitulations from the elected and the aspiring; taxes and spending becoming just become one of many issues; issues that, troublingly, started to include the trap issues of social conservatism.
Taxes and spending were – and still are – winning issues that Conservatives have on their side. But a lack of laser-like focus "sprinkles the issues around the infield," diluting the message and offering opportunities to the political opportunists of the Progressive Movement.
The Virginia gubernatorial election should go down in history as a lesson to those who want to bring real regenerative change to American politics, from the national level to the State level; county level to local. But the self-anointed leaders of the various grassroots Conservative movements must learn the first two lessons of politics, lessons that, to date, seem to escape them:
▪ Campaigns may be won by charging up the base and energizing the grassroots, but elections are won in the undecided and no- and low-information demographic.
▪ The debate of social issues as election issues is a trap Progressives set for Conservatives, and a trap Conservatives fall for every single time.
Until these lessons are learned – and until Conservatives accept the fact that you must learn from your opponent's playbook – the fundamental transformation of the United States of America will continue.
Copyright©2014 Frank Salvato