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May 6th, 2009

NCNA “Listening Tour” Has a Rough Start

ncnaOf the several groups attempting to “re-brand” the Republican Party, the most celebrated is the National Council for a New America which unveiled its mission last weekend in Virginia. Made up mostly of potential 2012 GOP Presidential candidates, the NCNA has mixed results at best.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush stated the GOP must drop the nostalgia for the Reagan era and move forward, Mitt Romney threw a jab at Sarah Palin (Palin joined the group yesterday), and the message about the message was contradictory.

The first shortcoming was expected. The media, both right and left, have a hard time getting past the 2012 election. Contributors to the group include the aforementioned Bush and Romney, Governors Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal with a big hand from GOP House whip Eric Cantor from Virginia. The ranks are sure to swell over the coming weeks and months, but the media will never view this as anything other than a grab for TV time for presidential hopefuls.

Another mistake from our perspective is the name of the group. “New America” suggests there is something wrong with the old one. Understandably, the mission is to look forward and America did vote for “change,” But if Republican successes are a thing of the past isn’t that also true of Republican mistakes? When Jeb Bush suggested that the era of Ronald Reagan needed to be left behind us, it seems interesting on two levels. First, it implies there is nothing to learn from a movement that inspired ‘Reagan Democrats’ and second, that Republicans do not have to leave the two Bush eras behind us. As a side note here, we want to remind that G.W. Bush was 100% pro-life yet that fact contributed little to his poor favorable rating.

There is also a problem with a ‘listening tour’ when the regulars of the GOP are looking for leadership. Is it that obvious that Republican leaders were not listening before? And the Governors, especially Bush, had incredible records of success in their home states.

At the exact same time the ‘listening tour’ was occurring, the New York Times published an interview with Barack Obama where our “change” President openly discusses downsizing Wall Street’s involvement in free market capitalism while building “a new foundation for our economy” based on government services. One of those government services is nationalized health care. Rather than having an ‘informational tour’ to combat Obama’s health care plan, Republicans are once again trying to find a message.

For decades, a week hasn’t gone by without some liberal outlet screaming for socialized medicine. Where has the conservative rebuttal been? The aggravating fact in messaging through the last few election cycles is that liberals can identify all the problems in society and be vague on the solution. The opposite is true for conservatives. The Left offers bigger government and every American knows what that looks like, good and bad. However, there is no American alive that can tell you exactly what smaller government looks like. On a smaller scale, state governments have pared back here and there, but the overall size of government intrusion into everyday America is so large that citizens cannot comprehend life without it.

The speakers believe that the GOP must learn from Obama’s example at the same time forgetting the Republican past. Which is it? If we leave Reagan behind, do we also leave all the Republicans that served in Congress in the 80s that still hold their seat? How far back do we go? Do we leave the Founding Fathers behind? Meanwhile, Obama opines affectionately for the glory days of FDR and is promoting each and every plank of the Democrat platform. GOP leadership has recently been guilty of expanding government, but just at a slower pace than the Democrats would. That doesn’t look good on a bumper sticker. That is recognized and regrettable. Is the “New America” a movement to return to conservative roots, diametrically opposed to each and every plank in the Obama/Pelosi agenda?

The Republican leaders of the NCNA insist that the first step is to listen to the people. We believe that is correct. What got the Republican Party into consecutive election trouncings is that party leaders were not listening to their base or the electorate at large. Rather, the GOP majority became the “do not offend’ party. Those that refused to read the platforms that are hammered out every two years by the GOP faithful could be the very same that watched as tea parties erupted without their blessing.

Listening is important, but the voices have been loud and clear for a long time. It would seem that the “listening tour” is late to the game. The first question we would ask is, “What tenet in the GOP platform would they get rid of?” We guess they couldn’t find one although some are more important than others. Well, then, problem solved. The conservative base is begging for GOP leadership to stop talking about re-branding, re-tooling, or polling to see what people think. They want someone to lead. They need someone to make the moral argument for the things they already know and believe.

But the mission is also concerned with the “how.” Again, very simple. The Democrats started moving on gay marriage when support was in single digits. Now isn’t that a lesson Republicans can learn from the liberal left? If the NCNA is listening, we want leadership. Loud and consistent leadership and Republicans shouldn’t have to ask.

Written by Chuck Laudner

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The Iowa Republican

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