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KIBBE: Not a one-night stand
Why we can’t embrace politics as usual
Question of the Day
Do you ever feel like political parties are just trying to use you? That they just want your vote?
You know what I’m talking about. They know how to push all the right buttons. They will send you letters in the mail and text messages to your smartphone just to let you know they are thinking of you. Of course, Republicans love the grand gesture, and nothing says “Impressed yet?” like a thousand-point saturation television ad buy that runs from coast to coast. The GOP is old school that way.
You might give them the cold shoulder, but that gets you only the full-court press.
When all the calls have been made and all the mailboxes stuffed, and you are screening your phone like you’re dodging an ex, then they tell you they want to go all the way. You can’t believe your ears when they whisper sweet nothings about a spicy flat tax or some sizzling entitlement reform.
But hang on a second — you know better. Momma didn’t raise no fool. You can almost hear her telling you not to fall for it. Republicans want only one thing, one time, for one evening, on the first Tuesday in November. The last thing they want is a long-term relationship. All those letters, all those calls, all those big promises? Sooner or later, you ignore Momma’s better judgment. You cast aside those inhibitions, and you do it.
And it never works out.
I’m not judging here. I’ve done it too. I vote. I write the check. I’ve even walked precincts door-to-door for someone else’s preferred candidate running on someone else’s bad ideas. But I always wake up ashamed, feeling used. Used again. Because it never works out. They never call the next day. They don’t write, they don’t text, and they never, ever serve up that diamond ring of a flat tax, entitlement reform or full repeal of Obamacare.
That’s the problem with the Republican establishment. It’s always a one-night stand that leaves you feeling dirty and used, like a freedom-loving floozy bedded by politics as usual.
I’m not advising you to spin political desperation into a survival relationship. Emotional starvation might take you to the local Organizing for Action office, and that’s a terrible rebound. I’m just illustrating the difference between principle and politics.
Months of political white noise about bridging the technology gap and political outreach won’t win at the polls when your base wants to actually shrink government and encourage entrepreneurship. Big rethinks couched in buzzwords are usually one-dimensional — focused on PR rehab rather than serious reflection and a retooling of fundamentals.
But that’s the advice that keeps the consultant complex in business. You know the guys I’m talking about. Theirs is an outmoded, self-serving band of individuals and organizations at the root of our electoral problems. At best, they are fighting yesterday’s political battles — trying to one-up Windows when they should be imaging the iPhone. At worst, they are simply more interested in lining their pockets than winning elections.
We’ve established that billion-dollar ad buys are better suited to annoying voters than assembling them. We can learn from the left’s effective use of mass personalization from the top down, and apply their technological and grass-roots savvy to a world that is becoming more decentralized, more democratized, more free to choose. You can’t buy Big Data in a box and turn out voters if nobody trusts you.
We can improve our tactics, but we also must reinvent our strategy.
My proposition is for a long-term relationship with the American voter — one founded on a fidelity to certain values and an unwavering commitment to each other. Why? Because one-night stands don’t last by definition, and we can’t defend our individual liberties with a single vote.
Politicians respond to voter demand. Consumer demand changes the behavior of government bureaucrats, Republican precinct captains, school boards and Fortune 500 CEOs. So, yes, fidelity to principle is crucial when you head to the voting booth. But the days and months that follow Election Day matter the most, because success at the ballot box never translates to good public policy without the consistent demand of a constituency for economic freedom.
One-night stands may lead to electoral success, but left to their own devices, politicians will cheat on you once they get to Washington. Too many temptations, too many offers they can’t turn down.
It’s time to change the victory scenario. This can be accomplished only through reclamation of public trust — and that means making a lifelong commitment. Fact is, most Americans want to be treated fairly — not deprived by crony corporatism, regressive tax schemes and insolvent entitlement programs absent the ability to defend themselves with attorneys, accountants and lobbyists.
Let’s let them know we’re in it for the long haul.
Matt Kibbe is president and CEO of Freedomworks.
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