The “Consultant Class” is a major part of why Republican national candidates have been coming up short.
For a number of years there has been a serious amount of criticism of the election consultants used by Republican Party candidates, particularly those used in the Presidential Elections. Karl Rove has been a chief recipient of much of this criticism because he has turned his back on, and openly denigrated the conservative Tea Party Movement. The majority of this “consultant class,” if that is a suitable name, has consistently taken one particular approach to electoral politics; one which has been mentioned numerous times by Rush Limbaugh in his daily radio programs (not to mention others). The approach is essentially this:
The Democrats and Republicans each own about 40% of the voting population. The election is decided by the remaining 20% of “moderates” or “independents”. The consultants claim that they, and only they, know how to get the vote of these moderates or independents.
One major contention that the consultants have consistently made is that Republicans should avoid anything that might alienate “independent” voters. This means that Republican candidates should never attack Democrats, should never campaign in a tough manner, and above all, they should never move to a Conservative position. Ronald Reagan’s success as a Conservative is ignored.
The assumption is that “independent” voters are somewhere in between Republican and Democrats; sort of a mushy middle, which can swing either way depending on who the candidates are, how they campaign, and so on. They are, at least to the consultant class, highly skittish, and will turn against a John McCain or Mitt Romney Republican in a flash if they show the slightest amount of spine or tell the truth about, for example, Barack Obama. The possibility that there are independent Conservatives voters is denied, as is the expectation of gaining votes by moving right instead of being a candidate of no real position. The belief appears to be that to win you must attract voters who seemingly have no opinions, and don’t want leadership or decisiveness.
Pat Caddell, a Democrat pollster, who has come out as a major critic of Republican electoral strategy over the last few years fired a tremendous series of broadsides at the “consultant class” during his appearance at CPAC last week. Caddell, who was part of Jimmy Carter’s success in 1976, directed much of his fire at the “consultant, lobbyist and establishment complex,” the activities of which he likened to racketeering. He suggested that people who want to know the truth of what is happening should “follow the money;” a common directive in political analysis. In the consultant’s world they get paid tremendous sums whether their candidate wins or loses. As a result they have a major reason to hang on to business and eliminate any potential competition. One has to wonder how much this influenced Rove’s recent disparagement of the Tea Party.
The difficulty is that in most businesses people buy what works. Hence, the Yugo automobile didn’t stand a chance against the competition. But the Republican consultants are expecting Honda loyalty for Yugo performance. Their response is to disparage the Honda (Tea Party 2010) performance as a fake.
Caddell also directed attention to a fact that has been seriously overlooked, or ignored; the 2010 victory was spearheaded by grass roots activism that ran against Republican establishment political interests. Caddell has obviously noted that Tea Party activists provide a potential grass roots army to rival that which the Democrats can muster, but the Republican Party has done little or nothing to make use of this resource. Likewise, Republican “new guard” members such as Col. Allen West were hung out to dry in 2012. West might have been the best person for Speaker of the House, seniority be damned and leadership be put to use.
The fact is, Caddell is correct in his assessment of the situation. Republicans who campaign from a Conservative position are generally more successful than those who don’t. A highlight of this is the recent election of Ted Cruz, who defeated the heavily favored Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for the United States Senate. Dewhurst is career politician as much as one can be in Texas, which has a part time legislature. Cruz was an outsider who spoke of conservative principles and won over the voters. Now, Cruz has been making headlines as a Conservative firebrand who will take on all comers, and who will generally embarrass them with his rapier intelligence. His recent spat with sixth grade level California Democrat Diane Feinstein has elevated his popularity and made him a hero well beyond the borders of Texas. And the contention he threw at Feinstein; that there is no logical reason why the government should be able to dissect and dismember any liberty is absolutely correct.
Caddell became even more scathing when he asserted that future success of the Republican Party depends on their becoming an “anti-establishment, anti-Washington” Party. He stated further that the establishment had taken the 2010 victories and thrown them away. You look at the reaction of John McCain and Lindsey Graham to the Rand Paul filibuster and you see the picture. Graham and McCain are also part of the Washington Establishment. They would rather see their Party reduced to nothing than see it successful by changing course and moving against government size and power. The reaction to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio’s moves in this direction shows where the sun is shining. McCain and his colleagues should “walk toward the light” and let the new guard take over.
But why, you might ask, should we follow the advice of a Democrat pollster? Here’s the answer. As Caddell puts it, he doesn’t work for the party and has no financial interest in the situation. More importantly, he identifies himself a patriot who loves his country more than the Democrat Party. This is something that most politicians have forgotten how to do.
Equally important, Caddell does not like Barack Obama. His comments seem to indicate that he believes Republican campaign incompetence is responsible for Obama’s election. In several radio interviews since 2008 Caddell comes across as an old style patriotic Democrat who believes in this country and in its founding principles. He puts that ahead of party affiliation. He may also have significant differences with the overall direction that the Democrat Party is going in. He has not stated this flat out, but one can, perhaps, read it between the lines. And when you consider that people such as McCain and Rove may care more about their personal position than about their country that is an important distinction.
What is more to the point, and particularly significant here, is the simple fact that what the Republican Party has been doing of late is not working well. George W. Bush (not a true Conservative by any stretch of the imagination) eked out two narrow victories, one of which was a defeat in the popular vote that hung by a thread in the Electoral College. Since then the party has floundered, except for the 2010, Tea Party led, House victory. And what distinguishes House districts is that they are small enough that a strong, highly motivated grass roots organization can win them without consultants getting in the way.
When what you are doing isn’t working it is time to try something different. Pat Caddell is offering the Republican Party something seriously different; playing to the strengths that are available for it to work with. Do the consultants want to win; does the RNC want to win, or do they just want to hang on to their power, whatever the cost to the nation? The answer is obvious. It’s past time to decide; it is time to act.