Wednesday morning Congressman Tom Cole, the Chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, issued a recommendation to his colleagues:
I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election.I really don't mean to be flip - seriously, I don't - but I thought that's what campaigns are supposed to do anyway. In fact, I'm pretty sure the Republican Party was quite good at raising money, energizing a base, and turning out voters until recently.
I don't hide the fact that I'm a Democrat. I'm not going to rule out the notion that Americans, even deep in the most red districts of red states, associate the Republican party with current economic conditions or the state of affairs in Iraq and perhaps want to give "the other folks" a chance to change things. But to be candid, I somehow doubt a district that President Bush won in 2004 by, say, 50 or 60 points has suddenly experienced an ideological conversion.
Republicans aren't energizing and drawing out their base because they're not having a true conversation with them. They still think it's a lecture. They still think talking points come from one source and trickle down. Hey - don't take my word for it, take theirs - such as GOP wunderkind David All:
"We've always been a party of staying on message," All said. "It's the Rush Limbaugh model. What Tony Snow says in the White House filters down to talk radio, which makes its way to the blogs."But the problem is when your message doesn't resonate, and it clearly didn't in those three districts, there aren't any alternative voices within your party apparatus to embrace. And if the guy at the top decides to change his tune, it's like turning a very small rudder on a very large aircraft carrier - it takes a long time for the U.S.S. Republican to turn.
What was once a gigantic flaw of the Democratic Party is now, ironically, a huge asset - nobody, and I mean NOBODY, speaks for all Democrats. Not Howard Dean, not Nancy Pelosi, not Hillary Clinton, not even Barack Obama. Democrats speak for themselves. It's one of the reasons they've had so much trouble voting in unanimity on so many things. It's the reason we've had a difficult nomination fight for so long.
Democrats speak for themselves and with each other on blogs, in caucus meetings, and on places like YouTube. The Democratic campaigns facilitated some of it, but nearly all of it is from self-starters. Democrats have embraced social media tools and now use them as an equalizer for the $10,000 a plate RNC fundraisers and talk radio. And because they like the idea that nobody speaks for them, they're able to do this sort of thing quickly and easily. So you see young "superdelegates" (egad, the very concept of a "superdelegate" makes me itch) do stuff like this:
So when Congressman Cole says what he said, he's really saying "do what the Democrats have done." He's really calling for a monumental shift in how the Republicans campaign and communicate. He's asking his colleagues to surrender control of the message to its base. And his colleagues are understandably nervous about that. Of course, the longer they resist Congressman Cole's call to action, the longer they'll be in the minority.