A Teachable Moment for the GOP

Uber-consultant Mike Murphy believes that the way forward for the Republican Party is to ditch conservatism, particularly its social variety; stop doing campaigns the way they were done 25 years ago; and push back against the Jim DeMints of the world, who recruit “unelectable” candidates.

This is a teachable moment for the GOP, and I’m glad Murphy is publicly making this argument, given that it is a good encapsulation of the message he’s been advancing for a quarter century or so. It provides an opportunity for Republicans to decide who really represents the anachronism in the room and to engage in some creative destruction likely necessary to adapt to the future.

And for this case, Murphy is an ideal spokesman. He is a millionaire thanks in large part to the ad sale commissions from countless campaigns. He represents a way of campaigning based on massive air wars, top down direction driven by ad men consultants, the time when you dominated the three television channels and controlled the narrative from on high … all methods which have proven particularly irrelevant to electoral results in the internet era. You can practically taste the longing of John Weaver for all the ads he could’ve done for a Huntsman general – let a million desert motocross heli shots bloom.  

What’s really out of date here – conservative ideas and ground-up grassroots activism, or the rich guy paired with genius consultant, advertising carpet-bomb, write off the electorate as idiots approach? I am increasingly of the view that these two approaches cannot both survive as a house divided – pick one, and send it out hunting with Dick Cheney

As for Murphy’s social issues argument: as I’ve pointed out before, Mitt Romney won white voters under 30, even winning white women under 30. The youth voter barrier to the Republican Party is really the same barrier as it is for all age demographics: an ethnic barrier which concedes black, Hispanic, and Asian voters to Democrats. If abortion and gay marriage really are the decisive issues preventing Republicans from winning those voters, why aren’t they rated higher in the polling data among those voters? Is Murphy basing his argument on data, or on the same cultural biases he’s been peddling for a decade or more? And if it’s the latter, what approach is more adaptable to the future: DeMint and his unelectable social conservative recruits like Marco Rubio, or Murphy and his social liberal recruits, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Though of course, I’d have to concede Schwarzenegger understands outreach to Hispanics.

This essay was adapted from The Transom, a daily email newsletter for political and media insiders, collecting news, notes, and thoughts from around the web.

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  1. Guruforhire

    Fiscal conservativism loses because nobody wants to give up their slice of the pie, there always bloat with other people’s pie.  You will never be able to cut the things that really consume our budget because its the life preserver thrown at uncertain or desperate people.

    Remember a healthy amount of the tea party was a protest against medicare cuts.  Such is the face of fiscal conservativism.

  2. ConservativeWanderer

    Yeah, let’s run a fiscal conservative who rarely if ever speaks about social issues, who was maybe even pro-choice in a past election.

    In other words, let’s run… Mitt Romney!

    Worked well, didn’t it. I’m sure looking forward to President Romney’s inauguration in January.

    /sarc off

    We ran a low-social-con campaign just a few months ago, and it failed. That right there busts the myth Murphy is peddling.

  3. FeliciaB

    Speaking of Marco Rubio, when you look at the numbers, he did remarkably well considering he was being sucker-punched by that lout Krist (http://www.thepoliticalguide.com/Profiles/Senate/Florida/Marco_Rubio/ElectionResults/).  You’ll notice that since 2004, the conservative candidates with Spanish last names took the prize in Florida.  It wasn’t the white guy with leftish leanings. 

  4. Vance Richards

    “Though of course, I’d have to concede Schwarzenegger understands outreach to Hispanics.”

    That’s terrible! I wish I had said it.

  5. FeliciaB
    Vance Richards:”Though of course, I’d have to concede Schwarzenegger understands outreach to Hispanics.”

    That’s terrible! I wish I had said it. · in 0 minutes

    Yeah, as long as you’re a movie star with a super-human personna.  But once he got into office, he couldn’t get a single thing done on the fiscally conservative side.  Total loser.  Thanks for that, Murphy.

  6. FeliciaB
    ConservativeWanderer:  We ran a low-social-con campaign just a few months ago, and it failed. That right there busts the myth Murphy is peddling. · 3 minutes ago

    I think the point Murphy is trying to make is not necessarily to hush up on the social arguments but to change the Republican position on social arguments so that we look like Democrats.  Then the only thing separating Democrats from Republicans is… uhm… fiscal… conservatism?

  7. MBF

    I know they are planning to have Murphy on the podcast soon.

    How about Domenech on at the same time?

  8. ConservativeWanderer
    FeliciaB

    ConservativeWanderer:  We ran a low-social-con campaign just a few months ago, and it failed. That right there busts the myth Murphy is peddling. · 3 minutes ago

    I think the point Murphy is trying to make is not necessarily to hush up on the social arguments but to change the Republican position on social arguments so that we look like Democrats.  Then the only thing separating Democrats from Republicans is… uhm… fiscal… conservatism? · 5 minutes ago

    Either way, it didn’t work last time… Mitt is arguably a moderate on social issues, given his statements about being pro-choice earlier in his career.

  9. BrentB67
    FeliciaB

    ConservativeWanderer:  We ran a low-social-con campaign just a few months ago, and it failed. That right there busts the myth Murphy is peddling. · 3 minutes ago

    I think the point Murphy is trying to make is not necessarily to hush up on the social arguments but to change the Republican position on social arguments so that we look like Democrats.  Then the only thing separating Democrats from Republicans is… uhm… fiscal… conservatism? · 5 minutes ago

    Republicans abandoned fiscal conservatism a couple of decades ago.

  10. skoook

    “  He represents a way of campaigning based on massive air wars, top down direction driven by ad men consultants, the time when you dominated the three television channels and controlled the narrative from on high… all methods which have proven particularly irrelevant to electoral results in the internet era.”

    As old adman ,you’re spot on. He thinks a datamine is a mailing list.

    We’re crazy to listen to this guy.

  11. Duane Oyen

    I’m half there.  Murphy is an ad buy guy, and that doesn’t do it any more the way it used to.  But Erick Erickson is equally off base.

    Priebus, contra Erickson, was not the problem- Ponnuru was closest to getting this right.

    And God spare us Mike Huckabee.

  12. Vance Richards

    Voters have never really been given a choice between big government or small government. Usually we are asked to vote for either the candidate who wants a huge unsustainable government or the Democrat. GOP may have problems. Being too conservative isn’t one of them.

  13. Paul L.

    In all the analysis of the election various Republicans have blamed:

    * Pro-lifers

    * Opponents of amnesty for illegal immigrants

    * Supporters of traditional marriage

    * Religious believers

    * Whites

    * People who want to keep taxes low

    In other words, people like me. (They have also blamed “old” people, even though the “graying of America” phenomenon means there will be a lot more of those in the future.)

    I don’t know what these analysts think that are accomplishing with all this, but they have me considering leaving the party (and politics in general).

    Once I’m out of the way, Mr. Murphy and the rest of the GOP will have a clear path to attracting all those young, gay, secular Latinos who pay no taxes.

  14. Schrodinger

    You can’t teach an old GOP new tricks.

  15. Mollie Hemingway
    Mark Belling Fan: I know they are planning to have Murphy on the podcast soon.

    How about Domenech on at the same time? · 18 minutes ago

    Fight! Fight! Fight!

    I’m getting ahead of myself.

    It would be fun to have Ponnuru vs. Domenech vs. Murphy. All on there at the same time mixing it up.

  16. KC Mulville

    Let me also add the obvious …

    I suspect that many of those who are now calling for Republicans to jettison conservatives, especially social conservatives, aren’t doing it because the election woke them up to some new reality.

    They were itching to do it all along. They hope that the presidential loss just gives them cover.

    Three years from now, I just hope that we all remember how eager these consultants were to abandon social conservatives. When they take conservatives for granted then, and bluster on about etch-a-sketching, maybe the base won’t show up.

    Or … just maybe … that’s what happened this year.

  17. BrentB67
    ConservativeWanderer

    Layla

    Amen. I’m a conservative but not a Republican, though I almost always vote for the GOP candidate. Sometimes it’s really tough to hold my nose and pull that lever, but I do it because the alternative is twice as bad.

    Ann Coulter nearly won me for the GOP with Mugged, but the aftermath of this election cycle really has me wondering whether there is any place for conservatives in the GOP. · 1 minute ago

    The next four years will determine whether I continue to support the GOP or not. If they stand firm on their principles, I will. If they continually cave to the Democrats, they’ve lost me. I’ll give to specific candidates but not a single penny to the party itself. · 33 minutes ago

    CW – what prinicples have the republicans been standing on? What are their principle?. If anyone can articulate and explain them it is you.

    I have read their platform and know the congressional voting record and never the two shall meet.

  18. BrentB67

    Electability (see also Electable): A person running for office that stands for absolutely nothing, takes no specific positions, and offers no new ideas. Is inherently linked to consultants and focus groups. Reactionary, seeking only to do the least harm and offend the fewest people.

  19. Jim  Ixtian
    BrentB67: Electability (see also Electable): A person running for office that stands for absolutely nothing, takes no specific positions, and offers no new ideas. Is inherently linked to consultants and focus groups. Reactionary, seeking only to do the least harm and offend the fewest people. · 0 minutes ago

    Ouch. You’re on a roll today with acerbic comments like these. Bravo!