March 12th, 2009

Looking for a Leader? I found one in Paul McKinley

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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mckinley3There has been plenty of discussion lately about who our leaders are in the Republican Party. Nationally, the media and the liberal Democrats say that Rush Limbaugh is our leader. The Chairman of the RNC, Michael Steele says no, he’s our leader.

I think they are all wrong. Both Steele and Limbaugh have important roles to play, but I believe our party is at its best when our leaders are “in the arena”, meaning that I prefer our elected officials to be the leaders of the party and our movement as they are the people who have a direct say in the course of our country or state.

Teddy Roosevelt is responsible for the term, “the man in the arena.” It is from a speech he gave in Paris in 1910.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I think Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech is the best definition of leadership that there is.

The other night at the Iowa Christian Alliance Spring Kick-off, Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley gave a speech. In my article about the event, I made a comment that McKinley’s speech was one of the bright spots of the evening. For me, it was the first time I started to look at him as one of the leaders of our Party here in Iowa.

Now, I have always been a fan of McKinley and thought that he was the best person to lead Republicans in the State Senate. But just because you’re colleagues elect you to lead the Republican caucus in a legislative chamber doesn’t mean you are automatically a leader. There is always a moment when you see a leader emerge. The other night, I thought senator McKinley emerged as a leader.

McKinley’s speech at the ICA event focused on the critical time in which we live, how we ended up in this mess, and what we need to do to get ourselves out of it.

McKinley began by saying, “We are at a pivotal point in our history and some might suggest we are seeing a re-write of the very social contract that citizens have with their government. On one hand, we have forces that believe the solution to all of our problems lies in a more powerful and more central government playing a larger role in all of our lives. They want to re-make the economy and re-make the culture and ask government to manage both.”

If there was a theme at the ICA event, it was that our personal liberties and freedoms are under attack. Both McKinley and the featured speaker, former Congressman Bob McEwen, did a good job advancing that theme.

McKinley noted that a basic level of common-sense principles has been missing on both the individual and governmental levels. If you want to be fiscally responsible, then you can’t spend more than you make. If you believe in personal responsibility, then you must acknowledge that your actions have consequences. If you believe in self-reliance, then you must be willing to take care of yourself and your family.

McKinley then transitioned to talk about a number of issues, but kept the same theme.

“Instead of focusing on academic achievement, we’ve focused on social engineering through passage of the bullying bill. We’ve given raises to teachers based on their union membership rather than their ability to positively affect student achievement….

We’ve put millions into drug prevention to see legislators TODAY push for the legalization of marijuana….

We have legislators and activists judges who want to redefine marriage. Just today, Democrat Sen. Matt McCoy said in a radio interview, ‘I think it’s a good bill (referring to SF353) and it’s something that shouldn’t be controversial. We should just be thinking about how this is all going to work once Iowa becomes a Mecca for gay marriage.’ Sometimes I walk into the capitol and wonder whether I am in San Francisco or if I am in Des Moines, Iowa.”

McKinley ended his speech saying, “Iowa has its share of problems and questions, but I believe Iowa is better positioned than any other state to rebound from this malaise. Iowans are smart, hard-working, decent, caring and creative. If we as conservatives unite around a common purpose, we can ensure that our best days are ahead of us and finally turn this country and state around.”

Sometimes legislative leaders get bogged down in the details of certain pieces of legislation and forget they have responsibly to cast a vision for the party. Too many times I’ve seen people in McKinley’s position get up on stage and tell us what the issue of the day is. McKinley rightfully used the opportunity to tell everyone what we are up against, but also provided those in attendance a vision of what the Senate would be like if Republican’s were in the majority.

This is how you win elections that will one day lead to a Republican majority. After hearing Senator McKinley speak the other night, I was excited about our future. When looking for the leaders of our party, I think it’s safe to say that Senator Paul McKinley is one of them.

About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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