- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014


The Republican Party, conservatives and even moderates were all atwitter in 2012 after Barack Obama learned he wouldn’t have to fill out a change-of-address form:

“Do we need to buy a new tent? Do we need to make room for new ideas and new energy?”

“Do we need to rebrand the Grand Old Party?”

“Do we need to change our message or our messengers?”

The honest answer, of course, is all of the above.

The millennial generation was weaned on new shiny things, and with the exception of, perhaps, the Muppets, their parents and grandparents delivered.

When millennials see the latest new shiny thing, as in Barack Obama 2008, they grab it.

Some conservatives appear to be grasping that reality.

Do veteran candidates like Carol Schwartz get it?

Mrs. Schwartz was a dedicated Republican who embraced and pacified Log Cabin Republicans and the gay community long before it became de rigueur on the political and judicial landscapes. As a former school board member, she sought education reform before D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee pushed the envelope.

Now that she’s running for D.C. mayor (again), I’m not certain which Carol is on the campaign trail — a new Carol who formerly branded herself a Republican or a new Carol who merely changed her party affiliation to independent.

Voters deserve to know.

At a Thursday morning breakfast sponsored by the National Business League of Greater Washington, Mrs. Schwartz was questioned about education.

“I’m working on a position paper,” she said. “I want to be the real education mayor.”

And get this: She also said that “in every way shape and form, I will be the education mayor.”

Well, that was much appreciated, some of the breakfast attendees told me afterward, but they also said that if Mrs. Schwartz truly wants to be the “real education mayor,” then she needs to step out of her comfort zone and offer something new and different.

For example, an estimated 1,000 new residents have been moving into the city each month for several years now. Whereas newcomers were “dinks” (double income, no kids) when Mrs. Schwartz lost the lone Republican seat on the D.C. Council in 2008, those newcomers today now have little ones to consider.

The dinks not only have babies, but their little ones are in public schools because of universal pre-k programs. Baby sitter costs are no longer a factor.

These families will not stay, though, if grade schools and middle schools do not improve.

History proves that, as their children enter third grade, parents start peering into what’s characterized as neighborhood schools, and when they don’t like what they see, they look elsewhere.

That is how Mrs. Schwartz’s chief Democratic rival, D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser, won the April primary. Voters considered Mayor Vincent C. Gray neither new nor shiny.

That is how her chief independent opponent, Council member David Catania, is positioning himself — a shiny, new first-time mayoral candidate.

Both are rebranding, and Mrs. Schwartz should do the same.

Conservatives and Republicans learned the hard way in two presidential election cycles.

Mr. Obama promised “Yes, we can,” and they did. In 2012, his new shiny thing was to wag his finger at conservatives and Republicans.

Now look.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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