Monday, May 14, 2007

Debase the Base

David Frum has an interesting column today that begins with this compelling anecdote:

Walking on a beach shortly after leaving the White House, former Bush aide Karen Hughes looked up and spotted a little plane towing an advertising banner. The banner said, approximately: “Jill, please come back. I am nothing without you. Jack.” She thought: “Wrong message. It’s too much about you, not enough about her.”

A shrewd observation, and one that sums up pretty much everything that is going wrong with the 2008 Republican presidential candidates. Republicans are talking about what excites them. But what about the rest of the country?

Frum proceeds to show how this advice might be utilized by the current major Republican candidates.

Over the last decade, pundits have repeatedly declared how important it is that political candidates "excite the base." Such myopia can, at best, only succeed in garnering a larger slice of an ever-diminishing pie. What is actually needed -- even during the primary season -- is a candidate who can broaden the base. This can be done by effectively communicating core political principles in a way that has a wider appeal.

The myopic -- mostly political consultants and those who have spent too much time drinking their kool-aid -- will inevitably reply that the candidate must "excite the base" in order to win the primary or to excite enthusiasm for raising money and contributing time. What they fail to comprehend is that a candidate of sound principles who excites a broad audience will excite those who are prone to agree with him, as well.

If I were a political consultant -- and I am not: I am much too principled for that -- I would tell my candidate to forget the base. Put out a message built on conservative principles designed to excite the interest of the broader public. If the candidate does that successfully, the so-called base will get on board.


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