Perception is a major issue for conservatives these days. According to a poll taken on election night 2012, nearly half of respondents believed Republicans care about the wealthy and big business. In that same poll, only 26% felt the GOP cared about hardworking taxpayers, and a horrifyingly low 3% of respondents said the party cares for the poor.
The results of this poll show how an image of conservative politicians has been crafted – they don’t relate to the average person, have no compassionate for the less fortunate and are generally unlikable.
That is a serious problem.
The one (and only) area where conservatives should be more like the left is in the way they brand and market themselves.
Democrats have mastered the art of presenting their awful ideas and divisive rhetoric in the shiny gift wrap of political double-speak and phony bleeding-heart compassion. Simply put, they are public relations wizards.
Case in point: President Obama. He is accused of constantly campaigning, but is that necessarily a bad thing if you’re on his side?
He makes speeches around the country to garner support for various causes, has a campaign email list that still remains very active months after his re-election, and has a Twitter following of over 35 million people. He follows the winning strategy of touting his (supposed) successes and ignoring his (many) failures, and continues to press on with his message despite not being up for re-election in the future.
Obama and the Democrats are in constant communication with their base, and always trying to spread awareness for the causes they believe in. Why should a President stop campaigning because he can no longer run for office? The party message doesn’t change just because the election is over, and as the leader of his party, Obama and his team are doing a damn good job of controlling the message voters receive.
Yesterday, Amy touched on the importance of messaging and communicating conservative ideals in coming elections, and she was spot on. Unfortunately, the failure of those on the right to accurately convey their message has allowed the term “conservative” to become hijacked by Democrats and erroneously associated with things like racism, sexism, and a lack of compassion for anyone who isn’t rich.
How does the left perpetuate this, you ask? It’s actually quite simple.
- Step 1 – Whenever disagreement arises, accuse the other side of being some sort of hateful:
You want immigration reform because of the economic concerns surrounding illegal immigration? – You’re a racist.
You support ID requirements for voting? – You’re a racist.
You think abortion after 20 weeks should be restricted as long as the fetus poses no danger to the mother? – You hate women.
You want welfare programs to be reformed? – You’re a racist, and you probably also hate women, children, and poor people in general.
And my personal favorite:
You disagree with the President on anything? – Yup. He’s half black. So you’re obviously a racist.
In 2010, Senator Mitch McConnell was quoted in an interview as saying that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”.
From this point forward, the assumption was that the only reason Republicans wanted to oppose Obama was due to racism. In fact, Senator Harry Reid recently said that he hopes the opposition “is based on substance and not the fact that he’s African-American.”
In the 1990‘s, Newt Gingrich and President Clinton had an incredibly volatile relationship. Was it motivated by racism? No, it was political differences (and huge egos, but I digress).
Barack Obama is a Democrat. Republicans in Congress are…Republicans. By definition the two parties disagree on many issues, and yet somehow the first inclination of the Democrats was to blame these disagreements on racism.
But how can so many people follow this thought process without so much as questioning the lack of logic behind it?
This brings us to:
- Step 2 – Paint yourself as the caring alternative to those meanies, because why would anyone want to vote for a candidate who associates him or herself with a seemingly cold and uncaring conservative movement?
Take voting ID requirements, for example. A 2012 poll by the Washington Post found that almost 75% of Americans believed that photo ID should be required when voting. Ask yourself: When was the last time 75% of Americans agreed on something?
And yet, cries of voter suppression are constantly heard from the left, as they claim that the economically disadvantaged cannot obtain required identification and are being systematically disenfranchised by those awful, racist conservatives.
Similarly, Democrats have tried to label anyone who is supports any type of abortion restriction as an anti-woman extremist, in spite of the fact that 80% of Americans do not support abortions past the second trimester. This fact was downplayed during the coverage of Wendy Davis’ filibuster against the Texas abortion bill, as Democrats pretended that the issue at hand was to harshly restrict all abortions, and not only those after 20 weeks.
Sadly, this kind of inflammatory rhetoric against their opponents is what has made Democrats successful these last five years.
Conservatives need to get better at fighting back, not with a hateful message, but with a coherent, thoughtful, and compassionate one that will attract voters back to the constitutional principles that are at the core of what conservatism truly means. To reiterate a point Amy made yesterday:
There is no need to discard conservatism. There is, however, a necessary awareness required to know that the audience has changed.