Guest Post: THE UNRESOLVED DEBATE OVER THE GOP’S TWO STRATEGIC CHOICES

By Jonathon Moseley

Much of what is happening in the Delaware Republican Party is driven by two sharply-conflicting strategies for how to win elections. In a Democrat-dominated State with 297,112 registered Democrats (47.4%), 180,542 registered Republicans (28.8%) and 148,695 registered “Other” (23.7%), how can a Republican win?

STRATEGY # 1 (the Echo Strategy): For a Republican to win (other than in a GOP dominated R.D. or if no serious Democrat is running) the Republican nominee must be similar to a Democrat. If the voters like Democrats, then the Republican must also be just like a Democrat.

STRATEGY #2 (the Difference Strategy): To attract Democrats and Independents, a Republican must offer something different – a choice. Voters who want what Democrats are offering will simply vote for the Democrat. They can vote for the real thing, not an imitation of a Democrat.

Reagan won two landslides running on a strategy of “Bold colors, no pale pastels” following the theme “A Choice Not an Echo.”

Strategy #2 accepts that a Republican can only win if some Democrats are disaffected and vulnerable to persuasion. So if Delaware’s 297,112 Democrats (47.4%) are happy with their nominee, ain’t nuttin gonna get a Republican elected. That’s life.

But “a choice not an echo” offers a ghost of chance. Ronald Reagan proved that a clear contrast can peel away enough Democrats to win.

The Echo Strategy (#1) is simplistic. Someone who goes to all the trouble to register Democrat will probably vote for their own party. Democrats need a compelling reason to cross over and vote against their own party.

The Echo Strategy never considers WHY a Democrat might vote for a Republican. It just assumes that Democrats will inexplicably vote for a copycat.

Suppose everyone loves Taco Bell. So you open a copy-cat. Why should anyone buy your tacos when they can continue eating at Taco Bell? Worse, you might not really understand what people actually like about Taco Bell. Attempts at imitation may fail if you don’t truly understand people’s motivations.

However, no strategy will work until the DEGOP resolves this dispute over strategy. The founder of our party, Abraham Lincoln said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Squabbling drives away independents and Democrat cross-over voters.

WHY are so many Delawareans registering as Democrats? Suppose you open a Taco Bell copy-cat. But when people walk in, they find the cook screaming at the manager and vice versa, and counter staff squabbling. People will go to Taco Bell, absent the screaming. Delicious tacos won’t cure that.

Activists are trying to weaken the other faction’s argument with pot shots about side shows. This nasty proxy war of personal attacks does not help anyone and only poisons the well. That won’t resolve the debate.

The stakes are high. What Republicans are really fighting about is the future, using examples from the past to try to win cheap points – instead of debating the actual substance of the strategic choice. And just like a warm Summer ocean drives a hurricane, the unsettled debate drives all sorts of accusations, recriminations, and smears.

Strategy #2 emphasizes drawing contrasts and pointing out differences between the Republican and Democrat nominees. Proponents of Strategy #1 are upset when a Republican points out the differences between candidates.

The goal of Strategy #1 is to elect any Republican no matter what they stand for. It doesn’t matter what they do in office. Just being elected is enough. Proponents of Strategy #2 want to elect candidates to office for a reason – to accomplish specific goals. There is no point electing a candidate if they won’t actually vote and act differently in office than a Democrat.

Strategy # 1 seeks being popular rather than right. Strategy # 2 assumes it is more important to be right than to be popular. Winning is losing if your candidate won’t do in office what needs to be done.

Proponents of Strategy #1 respond that a Republican who votes right most of the time is better than electing a Democrat. Proponents of Strategy #2 would agree with that – except they have been burned too many times. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The Big Tenters spin a good story… but they have burned up their trust by breaking their word too often. It might have been a fine argument once upon a time but now it is tattered and worn out. It hurts when people just don’t trust you anymore.

Strategy # 2 means giving voters a reason to vote for Republicans. A candidate must explain to the voters why Republican policies are better. Proponents are looking for a leader not a follower.

Strategy #2 assumes that minds can be changed. Strategy # 1 assumes that no one ever changes their mind. Proponents are offended by the attempt. Since voters never change their minds, candidates have to compromise their principles to fit the voters’ unchanging and unchangeable views.

Strategy # 1 emphasizes the candidate and therefore downplays the importance of running an effective campaign. Proponents do not study election techniques as thoroughly. Strategy #1 proponents cannot imagine how a contrast candidate can win. Strategy #2 assumes that a good candidate persuades and wins over voters. Therefore, running an effective campaign is very important. They believe in Strategy #2 because they know how to run and win effective campaigns, having diligently studied campaign techniques in depth.

These two dramatically different perspectives seem impossible to reconcile. But these ideas need to be discussed meaningfully. Trading smears and personal attacks will never forge consensus. An infinite number of ad hominem personal attacks will not win this debate. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still,” my Swedish Grandfather taught me. The pot shots must stop. Mature, open-minded discussion on substance is required.

23 thoughts on “Guest Post: THE UNRESOLVED DEBATE OVER THE GOP’S TWO STRATEGIC CHOICES”

  1. I’m not going to spend too much time debating this, but I suggest that reducing it down to two choices is a simplistic and erroneous way to approach it. If one takes the trouble to dissect the GOP candidates rhetoric and constrast that with their actions you might discover some insights. Also, many GOP candidates are angry. They campaign angry, they seek angry supporters, they attack and criticize in an angry fashion. In short, even though there may be a reason to be angry, they come across as hot heads and let’s face it, we like to be angry but we really want someone who thinks clearly in office and hot heads don’t think clearly. Finally, there seems to be a pattern of hypocrisy in GOP candidates; ranting against government while holding two government jobs; public demonstrations of their faith and questionable behavior in private; espousing freedom but attempting to impose their views on the rest of society. Things like that.

    Despite what you are thinking, I am not writing this to criticize. Rather, I am just explaining what I think people see (or perceive). Ok, maybe it’s just me who sees this (or perceives it), but don’t I count? GOP candidates seem to always be negative (can’t, won’t, no). “Limited government” instead of “the right government for the job at hand.” Your messaging is negative and your meme is doom and gloom. The world isn’t coming to an end but you guys messaging says essentially that – or at least that’s how I perceive it and I bet I’m not the only one.

    I’m not really interested in debating it. I’m just giving you my perception (which you may or may not consider a benefit). The GOP appears to be the party of angry old men, who are desperately holding on to yesterday afraid that the world has passed them by. That may not be reality but it is my perception.

  2. I’m not going to spend too much time debating this, but I suggest that reducing it down to two choices is a simplistic and erroneous way to approach it.

    That’s because you’re a liberal Socialist-Democrat. Conservatives know that presenting a clear choice is a winning strategy.

    GOP candidates seem to always be negative (can’t, won’t, no). “Limited government” instead of “the right government for the job at hand.”

    Have you listened to Our Little Red Star? Everything he says is negative. That’s because he can’t run on his record, and he has no plan to fix the economy. What else can he do but attack the GOP?

    As to Delaware, strategy #2 requires that the voting population possesses at least a modicum of common sense and at least a rudimentary knowledge of the Constitution and the function of our government prescribed therein. Ah, there’s the rub- they don’t call it SOSNCC for nothing. Up there, they keep making the same mistakes, and expect a different result. You can’t reason with morons.

  3. “That’s because you’re a liberal Socialist-Democrat. Conservatives know that presenting a clear choice is a winning strategy.”

    Ok.

  4. Have you listened to Our Little Red Star? Everything he says is negative.

    Yeah… and the political calculus and trajectories seem to indicate that he is destined to lose unless there is a false flag to rally around or a major move is made before the elections. And that’s not going to happen if he can’t get along with the intelligence community or they begin splitting up. FBI vs. CIA… fight! We’d all be better off for it at a local level.

    Anyway… kind of makes one wonder about Goldman Sachs generally placing their bets on Romney way back in the primaries. Random note, the problem with all the insider trading that goes on between the banking cartel and the federal government even if someone has access to quantum computing is that people get greedy and then there’s less profit in it. Notice how these ruling classes seem to want all knowledge about you (The better to place their “too big to fail” bets on you while profiting from your “created in the image of the Creator” capacity for creativity.) and yet usually reveal almost nothing about themselves, their central networks and hierarchies. So your life will have to be made more transparent in order to keep you safe… and yet how transparent is their government? Apparently your life is to be made transparent on the scanner at the airport and so on… yet information about contracts for the scanners and exactly who let the underwear bomber on the plane after local people and his own father tried to stop it?

    The government: Top secret!

    Your life: Transparent.

    RussianTV: After 9/11 NSA had secret deal with White House

  5. … but I suggest that reducing it down to two choices is a simplistic and erroneous way to approach it.

    It’s not their fault. They’re players in a two party system.

    It may look like I’m talking about something different than you were but it’s generally the same thing, really.

  6. It does seem like Russian reporters are better than “here’s some candy” American journalists, in many respects.

    Just saying.

  7. Dave I would agree with you to the extent that I am understanding in the following way: Anything can be done badly. Anything can be screwed up.

    So let’s say that a Republican candidate and the various team and activists who surround and support him decide that they want to run a “contrast campaign” along the lines of Strategy #2 as I label it above.

    Can they screw it up? Sure. You bet. If they knock on doors and yell at voters on their doorstep, they will probably fail.

    What Dave is touching on flows in my mind from a fundamental question:

    WHY are you running for office?

    WHY are you involved in politics?

    Some people are angry and want to vent.

    Some people want to change things.

    Some people just want to pad their own career or resume.

    Etc.

    So your starting motivation is going to seep out and show throughout everything you are dong. If a candidate is running because they are at war with the world and angry, that is going to permeate everything they do.

  8. Similarly, if someone is running for office because they think they are superior, that is also going to seep through and permeate everything they do. Even if they are trying very hard to control their message, what is in their heart is going to come out. A person who acts too important to meet with voters, to listen to everyone, who thinks they are too important to talk to people, etc., is going to be OBVIOUS about it no matter how tightly they try to control their message.

    Contrast that with “B-1 Bomber” Bob Dornan who was BELOVED because he would stay behind after giving a speech and talk to *EVERYONE* who wanted to stay and talk with him. At 2:30 AM after his 9:00 PM speech you could find Bob Dornan entertaining crowds in a circle around him in the hallway (the ballroom long ago locked, cleaned, and emptied bare) with AMAZING stories of a generation of political history. Bob Dornan cared about each and every person who wanted to talk wtih him — and they KNEW it from his behavior.

  9. Jon, you’re not right, but you’re not entirely wrong either. Obviously being a mere “echo” of democrats isn’t enough; but, offer two hard a position on the right, and you’re not going to attract the independents and democrats you need either. The goal should be to run as a center/right candidate, and to have your D opponent run as far to the left as possible.

    Reagan won because, nationally, this country is a center right country. With 3 minor changes to history, we would have elected all Republican presidents since 1968. Reagan’s victory in 1980 really isn’t all that remarkable given that this is a center-right country.

    However, Delaware is not. One might argue that Delaware is a center-left state, certainly it is more liberal than the country as a whole. There are, though, vast differences in the counties and even within the counties, just as there are differences between states nationally. I don’t think anyone should try and claim that the Lewes area is as conservative as western Sussex, or that the City of Dover is more conservative than rural Kent County. Overall, I think Delaware is more of a center-center state. If there was a bell curve, the high point would be over the middle of the spectrum; whereas with respect to the country as a whole, the high point would be slightly to the right of center.

    So, if you want to run statewide and win as a Republican, you have to know where your opponent is, and where the votes are. The democrats in this state, drunk with power, are trending ever more to the left. Gay marriage, singlepayer healthcare, green energy — these are all causes near and dear to the left, but not necessarily the middle. As the democratic party drifts left, the republican party needs to hold its ground on the center-right, but not so far to the right as might work in western Sussex or rural Kent. Dave Lawson is a great guy, but let’s face it, he’d never win in Newark against Dave Sokola or in northern NCC against Harris McDowell. The key statewide is to find the conservative message that appeals to those in the middle.

    Reagan understood this perfectly well. He ran on the economy and fiscal issues, and defense. Yet he also had positions that some on this blog would consider heretical, but no doubt appealed to the middle, such as immigration reform that didn’t involve trying the impossible task of deporting every single illegal alien that’s here.

    As long as a majority of this party insists on hard right positions, with no room for compromise on any issues, it is doomed to fail statewide in this state. As William F. Buckley once said, you don’t nominate the most conservative candidate, you nominate the most conservative candidate who can win.

  10. Jon Moseley, as usual, is seeing things only thru his ideologically tinted glasses.

    If one make the point that National campaigns should be waged along the lines of what Moseley is proposing, then that would be a worthwhile discussion.

    But no, Moseley wants to apply a One size fits all model to Delaware and it just won’t happen.

    If in Delaware all one needed to do was proclaim that that he/she was the most conservative person in the race then all of this would be over.

    I am one person who pays attention to ideology. However, most voters do not.

    For the average Delaware voter ideology means less compared to, the candidate who coached my son in Little League or, who taught my daughter singing and theater skills as a volunteer.

    I have known by first name every State Representative and State Senator that has represented me. They know me as well. I am not unique. Delawareans expect that kind of a personal touch.

    The Moseley post is just a further demonstration that he knows next to nothing about Delaware. Nor will Moseley shut up and listen long enough to learn about Delaware. Instead, he proceeds to lecture everyone that he has the answers and then trots the same bloviating points he has been posting for the last few years.

    Last but not least, Jon your closing about name calling is hilarious and emblematic of your hypocrisy. I will buy your argument when you end your incessant insults, name calling, and personal attacks.

  11. Tennesee Walker writes: “If in Delaware all one needed to do was proclaim that that he/she was the most conservative person in the race then all of this would be over.”

    This is an argument reductio ad absurdum — distorting the argument one is opposing and reducing it down to an absurd extreme.

    By no means do I argue nor has anyone else that simply claiming to be the most conservtive candidate is the secret to success.

    HOW do you win a contrast campaign (Strategy #2)?

    Well, first you have to stop squabbling and accept the concept of running a contrast campaign. You will never succeed at running a contrast campaign while everyone is still throwing plates of spaghetti at each other in a food fight.

    However, the fertile valley that lays on the other side of the mountain ridge is filled with many dozens of ELECTION TECHNIQUES one can and should learn. If you reach the point where you are actually willing to TRY to run a contrast campaign, YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW.

    No one can learn what they adamantly do not WANT to learn.

    So HOW does a contrast candidate peel away Democrats the way Ronald Reagan did?

    By simply being the most conservative candidate (indiscriminately expressed)? NO !

    Now to some extent I don’t want to telegraph to the entire world, including our enemies, what our strategies and tactics might be.

    But first of all you have to identify (1) IF a significant portion of Democrat voters are dissatisfied with their own party. If they are all very happy with the Democrat party, you have 0 chance of winning no matter what strategy or tactics you follow.

    (2) WHY are they disaffected? IDENTIFY THE REASONS. Don’t guess. Don’t speculate. Don’t “project” your feelings on to others. PINPOINT what exactly is the cause of a significant swath of Democrat voters to be unhappy with the Democrat party.

    Then you zero in on those reasons.

    It is a much more well-thought-out process, surgery with a scalpel, not a shot gun approach.

  12. BTW, I can imagine some responding “That isn’t new.”

    Who said it had to be new? New has nothing to do with it.

    The issue is those who do not believe that a successful contrast campaign can be implemented are naturally going to be against doing so, because it doesn’t look like it will work in their view. Of course. If you can’t see how a strategy is going to work, you aren’t going to be for it.

    So better, deeper, and more compete understanding of how elections works might (I say yes) lead to the conclusion: “Hey, that could work….!”

    WARNING: There is a huge problem with human beings. Most of what we need to learn is not new. Most of what we need to learn all during our lives is the same things we have already learned before, but now at a deeper, wider, more intricate level.

    It’s like having a class in school “mathematics” year after year. But each at each higher grade level you study “mathematics” in greater depth than the year before.

    So it is rarely about learning something truly new. Life as a human being is usually about peeling back one more layer of the onion and learning the same things to a greater extent than before.

  13. Tennessee Walker writes: “I will buy your argument when you end your incessant insults, name calling, and personal attacks.”

    TW, I have never started. Not once.

    I challenge you to find a single example of any insults, name calling or personal attacks by me.

    The problem is that bullies ar outraged when their bullying behavior is challenged.

    Bullies are angry when someone stands up to them.

    So the complaint of people against me shining the light of sunshine into their dark crevasess is to scream:

    Mom! Greggy Hit BAAACK!!!!
    I’m supposed to be allowed to hit people without them hitting BAAACK !!!!

  14. Tennessee Walker also writes:

    For the average Delaware voter ideology means less compared to, the candidate who coached my son in Little League or, who taught my daughter singing and theater skills as a volunteer.

    First, of course it is better for a candidate to personally know the voters. Without a doubt a candidate should personally know as many voters as possible.

    TW offers this insight as if that means I don’t know Delaware.

    in ANY State or ANY district anywhere in the country, to be personally known to as many voters as possible is a powerful asset.

    However, Delaware has 626,349 registered voters.

    TW: Here is your homework assignment:

    Find a candidate for statewide office as a Republican who is personal friends with 51% of 626,349 registered voters or 319,438 people registered to vote.

    Note: Some of his or her friends might not be registered to vote.

    So find a Republican candidate who is PERSONAL FRIENDS with 319,438 registered voters or 51% of the total.

    Now, I am sure TW can find dozens and dozens of these candidates who are personal friends with at least 51% of all the registered voters in Delaware, or more than 319,438 people.

    Second, TW you are not the average voter. You — unlike most — are highly motivated to get to know politicians and candidates.

    Third, the analysis is superficial and repeats the same error of the “Echo Strategy” (#1)

    TW is repeating the mistake of assuming that EVERYONE IS THE SAME.

    But everyone is most definitely NOT the same.

    A winning coalition is made up of many different kinds of voters who have many different motivations.

    The statement: “For the average Delaware voter ideology means less compared to,…”

    is most decidedly FALSE, in that voters are not all the same.

    There are very clearly voters who will vote against a friend based on ideology.

    My own mother and grandmother (her mother) were friends with Olympia Dukakis, mother of Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

    Despite the personal friendship with the Dukakis family, they not only voted for George Bush but campaigned aggressively for George Bush.

  15. Really? writes in #9:

    “Obviously being a mere “echo” of democrats isn’t enough; but, offer two hard a position on the right, and you’re not going to attract the independents and democrats you need either.”

    That is incorrect. Again, the error in your analysis is ASSUMING that all independents and democrats are identicial.

    The truth is that there are registered Democrats in Delaware right now who are more conservative than most NCC Republicans. Because GOP candidates give those very conservative Democrats no reason to vote for the Republican, they will stay — reluctantly — with their own Democrat party.

    The goal should be to run as a center/right candidate, and to have your D opponent run as far to the left as possible.

    No. Running as a center candidate is running as an echo of the Democrat. Ronald Reagan won on a strategy of “a choice not an echo.”

    You make another major mistake in politics: You don’t get to decide what your opponent is going to do.

    Reagan’s victory in 1980 really isn’t all that remarkable given that this is a center-right country.

    So you completely missed the entire experience in our national history when Ronald Reagan peeled away huge numbers of Democrats? The phenomenon was so dramatic that for years, and many elections after 1980, this group was called “REAGAN DEMOCRATS” — as in how are the Reagan Democrats going to vote in this next election?

    And Reagan peeled away those Reagan Democrats with his strategy of “BOLD COLORS – NO PALE PASTELS” and “a choice not an echo.”

    Delaware is not. One might argue that Delaware is a center-left state, certainly it is more liberal than the country as a whole. … The democrats in this state, drunk with power, are trending ever more to the left.

    EXACTLY! Do you not understand what you just said???????

    As the Democrat party moves further to the Left, it leaves Democrat voters behind, orphaned, more and more dissatisfied and disaffected.

    IT is BECAUSE the Democrat party keeps moving left that there are huge numbers of Democrat voters who are vulnerable to being picked off by the DEGOP.

    But NOT if you offer the exact same thing the Democrats are offering.

    R

    eagan understood this perfectly well. He ran on the economy and fiscal issues, and defense. Yet he also had positions that some on this blog would consider heretical, but no doubt appealed to the middle, such as immigration reform that didn’t involve trying the impossible task of deporting every single illegal alien that’s here.

    No, sir. Reagan NEVER campaigned on those issues.

    Reagan faced a Democrat majority in Congress and constant sabotage by George Bush and the Bushies inside the Reagan Administration.

    When Reagan gave in to the moderate compromisers in the party he went AGAINST the issues and positions he had campaigned on and won landslides on.

  16. We will find out soon enough what model works better here.

    Kevin Wade has signed the Norquist pledge, promised to be a critical vote to repeal Obama Care and and has a solid oil and gas production plan. He has run a a bold colors conservative

    Tom Kovach has not signed the Norquist pledge, states without equivocation that some enhancements to revenue are needed, and wants to fix Obama Care rather than repeal it. He has run as more of a Castle Republican.

    Let’s see who does better with the voters.

  17. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Moseley could just debate himself. Please no one comment further.

  18. One point slipped in above deserves emphasis: You cannot control what your opponent does or says. This is a crippling fantasy of GOP campaign consultants. Many campaigns and politicl projects are destroyed because campaign consultants hallucinate the ability to influence what the Democrat is going to do or say. Hogwash.

    So if you try to portray yourself as a centrist, that will never stop the Democrat from trying to and succeeding at convincing voters that you are an extremist, a dangerous whacko.

    You don’t control your political opponent’s campaign. Deal with it. It is a recurring fantasy that appeals to the arrogance and pride of scheme campaign consultants.

  19. The Moseley post is just a further demonstration that he knows next to nothing about Delaware. Nor will Moseley shut up and listen long enough to learn about Delaware. Instead, he proceeds to lecture everyone that he has the answers and then trots the same bloviating points he has been posting for the last few years.

    Well, he knows enough to know that NCC is SOS. Do you?

  20. Those who love to divert attention with complaints like “Delaware is different” and “You don’t know Delaware,” do they have answers to offer?

    If the DEGOP is losing voters by the boatload, and losing elections, could it be that maybe it isn’t such a good idea to be so intimately grounded in Delaware?

    If you are in a hole, stop digging. If what you are doing is not working, should you keep doing it?

    Could it be that perhaps a winning campaign should become familiar with how things are done ELSEWHERE and bring in fresh blood and fresh ideas?

  21. For the average Delaware voter ideology means less compared to, the candidate who coached my son in Little League or, who taught my daughter singing and theater skills as a volunteer.…Tenn

    I assume you’re joking, right?

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