John Ensign said a lot yesterday in a very small number of words:
The Senate Republicans' top fundraiser Thursday said he is telling colleagues this is a bad year for members of his party to be up for election.
"I'm telling them if you have an 'R' in front of your name, you better run scared," said Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). [...]
Mr. Ensign dismissed reports that contributions to the Republicans by disgruntled small donors are down this year. He maintained the party's contributor base is intact. The Republican Party long has boasted that it is the party of small donors while the Democratic Party has had to rely far more on wealthy contributors to finance election campaigns.
He said the Republican Party never suffered a loss in small donors, only a shrinkage in the net amount of money raised - a decline that he said was not the result of small donors being disgusted with excessive Republican spending in Congress but of the party having been mailing "bad" lists that had driven up fundraising costs. That problem has been eliminated, he said.
Well I for one am resting a lot easier now.
Ensign's strange remarks (quoted in the Washington Times above) speak volumes about what's wrong with the right. Ironically, it is not that we are behind technologically but rather that we've become obsessed with it.
That may seem a little off-kilter so let me explain.
In the world of conservative non-profits and Republican campaigns the wrong type of thinking has caught hold, a type of thought that says with enough voter demographic databases and precisely targeted email lists, we can do anything. This school of thought has a close relative which argues that if we just build blogs, create videos, and sync our Twitter and Facebook accounts enough, we'll win the public back to our side.
Unfortunately, politics doesn't work that way. Keeping up with the technological Joneses is actually the bare minimum of what the right should be doing. It takes little strategic vision to insist upon high-technology web sites, well-produced video, or precise mailing lists. All of these things are good things. What we desperately need more of is a return to the public square on the part of the right.
Instead of continually trying to refine Reagan-era political strategy, we ought instead to be creating post-Reagan conservatism, one that rejects the small-bore politics of photo-ops, earmarks (pro and con), and cowering before the press in favor of a 21st century conservatism that realizes politics is done less in the halls of Congress and more in the television and computer screens of the home. A conservatism that isn't silent on technology, the environment, and the global economy.
And how about a conservatism that actually tries to explain itself in language that makes sense to the average person?
That last point is especially critical. Most people don't really care at all about policy. Nor should they. What they do want is to hear today's issues addressed in a reasonable manner by someone who loves the country and its people. With that in place, victory follows. Even with a "bad" mailing list.
Matthew Sheffield is the creator of NewsBusters and executive producer of the fake news show "NewsBusted."