Right to the Point12/4/08

Rebuilding the Republican Party

Dec. 4, 2008

By Mike Benevento

Last month’s election proved beyond doubt that the Republican Party needs to return to basics. Republicans need to cultivate grassroots organizations and unapologetically advance conservative economic, military and social principles. A conservative agenda favors limited government, reduced taxes, less spending, a strong military, protecting life and strict adherence to the Constitution.

During the Civil War, Adm. David Farragut’s determination won a great naval victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay. Undeterred by obstacles — in this case, mines (called torpedoes back then) — Farragut exclaimed, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Republicans need to capture Farragut’s can-do spirit and re-embrace conservatism. Do not chase polls or worry about what the media or the Democrats might say. Just vigorously pursue and defend a conservative agenda. Undeterred by obstacles, Republicans should fight for conservative ideas and let the chips fall where they may.

We need to do what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich advises: “Republicans need to worry less about what’s good for the party and more about what’s good for the country.”

The goal should be good governing, which starts with servant leadership. That means looking out for the American people. It also means concentrating on doing what is right, not just doing what may be easy or politically expedient. Let the other party do that.

If the Republican Party needs examples of servant leadership, it need not look any further than in Vermont. Lt Gov. Brian Dubie and Gov. Jim Douglas keep winning elections because they put Vermont before partisan politics. Because of their focus on doing what is right, people know the pair has integrity and genuinely cares for all Vermonters.

Looking back, political advisor Dick Morris notes that Barack Obama’s victory really started with the organization of MoveOn.org back in the days of the Clinton White House. Since then, left-wing groups have amassed millions of e-names, gathered hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions, and mobilized and expanded their base. In order to compete, conservatives must build the kind of organizations and Internet base that liberals have done during the past 15 years.

Morris writes that conservatives must organize their own grassroots movements to boost voter registration, turnout and enthusiasm. Online networking and building of cyber-roots organizations is the only way to compete today. The right needs to develop conservative organizations to rival groups like MoveOn.org. Newsmax.com and GOPtrust.com are good starting places.

In 1994, during the height of the Clinton presidency, the Republican Party announced its agenda in its Contract with America. As part of the Contract, Republicans pledged to debate and vote on 10 bills during the first 100 days of office.

Americans responded very favorably to the Contract. Led by Gingrich, Republicans won control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in 40 years.

Today, Republicans need another contract — updated to deal with current issues. A 2010 Contract with America should start with restoring the faltering economy.

The Republican Party needs to once again become a party of fiscal conservatives, fighting to reduce non-essential spending and decreasing the size (and thus the cost) of government.

Reducing individual taxes will stimulate the economy by increasing consumer savings and consumption. Further, reducing the tax burden on businesses will help create more jobs and bring about sustained economic growth.

Just as important as the economy is national security. The party needs to continue focusing on defending America and our allies and promoting democracy abroad. That means relentlessly fighting terrorism. It also means protecting our nation’s borders and being tough on illegal immigration. Finally, it means winning the drug war, which will go a long way in reducing domestic crime.

Republicans should push to reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy sources. A multifaceted approach will benefit our economy while reducing our presence in the Middle East. Promoting energy efficiency and conservation as well as an increased reliance on renewable and nuclear energies will also help reduce global warming.

The party needs to continue fighting to protect the sanctity of life. Finally, Republicans need to defend the Constitution by resisting any activist judges Obama may nominate.

Republicans must go full speed ahead with conservative ideas, practice servant leadership, build a grassroots base and develop another Contract with America. This will provide a better value for America than what the Democrats offer.

Political consultant Greg Mueller notes, “It is very unpopular to be a Republican right now, but it is very popular to be a conservative. The conservative brand is the most popular brand in the country.”

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.