- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told reporters and editors at The Washington Times in an interview June 6 that Democrats have created “very impressive” organizations; it will take “years” for conservatives to establish rival grass-roots institutions. He is right in calling attention to current deficiencies in the conservative movement and encouraging long-term planning.

The Texas Republican relayed a disturbing yet powerful message. While he led his party, he states, Democrats were determined to disrupt the Republican leadership. They succeeded in portraying the Republican Party as fostering a “culture of corruption.” Mr. DeLay was indicted in Texas on various charges that he violated campaign finance laws. He resigned his seat in 2006 and currently awaits trial. Mr. DeLay lamented that his successor, Rep. John Boehner, did not have sufficient time to prepare for the 2006 elections when Republicans lost majorities in the House and Senate.

Contrary to the suggestion of many Republican critics, Mr. DeLay insists the party does not need rebranding. This would mean “admitting you don’t know who you are.” Instead, Republicans “know who they are.” Nor is the conservative movement dead: In his view, the movement is “fractured,” “demoralized” and “leaderless.” Also, conservatives, are not good at “long-term thinking.” They currently have “no strategy, no tactics, no vision.” He declares that they are not effective at taking “action” nor at working together. Too many conservatives prefer “doing their own thing” rather than coordinating their efforts.

Mr. DeLay wants conservatives to unite in order to build institutions that produce long-term changes. They must respond to the new circumstances created by the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 which regulates the financing of political campaigns. Conservatives must imitate the “impressive rebuilding of the movement on the left” by the Clintonistas; they founded an array of independent political action groups which were instrumental to Democratic success in 2006. He urges conservatives to follow the Democratic lead and to update their recruitment of candidates, funding strategies, media outreach and advocacy.

Mr. DeLay has a six-year plan to help conservatives. He emphasizes the importance of building an “action” tank rather than a “think” tank. He champions grass-roots action and advocacy. Mr. DeLay also provides advice to the current congressional leaders: “Republicans should have an alternative for everything Democrats bring to the floor.” This too will ensure cohesive and disciplined action.

In the interview, Mr. DeLay provided sober and sensible counsel for conservative long-term planing. However, he offered little insight or comfort for the short-term. Perhaps, he wondered, Republicans have not yet hit “bottom” and will need to do so before they heed his advice. Yet, as a devoted conservative who is calling for greater unity and harmony, it is also incumbent upon Mr. DeLay to help the party devise strategies for the next five months. Otherwise, he too can be accused of abnegating his share of responsibility for the current state of affairs.

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