The Republican National Convention is the ideal time to take the temperature of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. It’s the one time every four years when thousands of party and conservative leaders come together to formally nominate our candidates for president and vice president, adopt a party platform and gather at dozens of events and convention activities to hear about the state of affairs of our country and the vision for tomorrow.
I have been at every convention since 1976 and, except for perhaps 1980, have never witnessed and been a part of such a collective sense of urgency about a needed, drastic change of direction for our country. While the emotions, issues and displeasures with the occupant of the White House are eerily similar, the forces behind this conservative uprising are interestingly different 32 years later.
In 1980, conservatives had won the battle for the soul of the GOP, and the Reagan-Bush ticket joined forces with a revitalized Republican Party to celebrate an impressive win in November. Today, the rules of engagement look decidedly different, but our goals and aspirations are the same as they were back then.
It’s more complicated now, as most everything in life is. No one had heard of “new media,” the Tea Party, super PACs or the dozens of conservative organizations that have come into being since 1980. These participants in the process, with decidedly independent streaks, together with a revitalized Republican National Committee and the Romney-Ryan campaign, have become a part of an allied-forces effort. It complicates things. Legal coordination of resources, compatibility of messaging and determination of priorities are all so much more challenging in the hectic, topsy-turvy world of presidential campaigns. Politics is cyclical, and as in 1980, we are at a time of choosing.
As chairman of the American Conservative Union, I am proud to report that a number of our board members and staff joined me for the platform committee proceedings in Tampa last week and am pleased to confirm that it’s one of the best platforms our party has ever drafted — in both substance and style. Clearly, this election cycle will be about bold — not pastel — colors. With the expected contrast with the Democratic National Convention platform, we expect voters to witness two radically different views of our country’s values and its envisioned path. Now it’s up to us to convince the majority of Americans that their values and ours are the same, for indeed, there is little doubt about that.
Perhaps it’s taken the most liberal presidency in our nation’s history to serve as the glue keeping conservatives together as a functional, successful, allied-forces unit. It’s fortunate that Mitt Romney is at the helm. He not only understands complicated organizations, he has the leadership skills and singularity of purpose to see to it that all of it works. His campaign is disciplined and understands these circumstances.
As we know so well, “D-Day” is Nov. 6. That is when it all must come together. This convention needs to set the tone, confirm our purpose and bind us together for the next 70 days in order to achieve victory. Witnessing in Tampa already the prelude to this convention, I am confident that we will emerge stronger, ready and poised to take back the America our Founding Fathers created from those who seek to change the very core of who we are.
Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union and a former two-time chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.