Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Let's get the hard-to-believe part right out in the open: I'm a far-left academic who votes Green whenever possible, and today, what I want more than anything is for the Republican party to become more powerful and win lots of elections.

I'm a recent transplant to Oregon from Texas. That's my birthplace, and for almost a decade I lived in Nacogdoches, one of the more rural and conservative backwaters of the state. I was and am a Southern Baptist. What might make matters more clear is that my doctorate is in argumentation, and I've competed in and coached competitive debate for almost thirty years. I love a good argument. That helped during the east Texas years, because a liberal in Texas who can't take disagreement is a liberal with no friends.

Enough about me. What the Republican Party needs to do is re-purpose a Justin Timberlake lyric and bring smart back. Over the years, I have known conservative thinkers who could leave me speechless with the incisiveness of their insights and the overwhelming power of their reasoning. The problem is, for an entire generation they've been increasingly drowned out by Republican leadership who think the method for retaining power is fueling enmity and hatred. When you have to tell your followers not just "don't agree with my opponents," but "don't listen to my opponents at all," and worst of all, "don't trust my opponents, because they're out to harm you," then those brilliant conservative thinkers get pushed to the back of the pack.

There are reasoned, smart, streamlined, moderate arguments for privatization, for fiscal discipline, for welcoming faith into public spaces, for a host of other conservative projects. They can stand on their own merits. They don't have to languish behind verbal salvos aimed at a mythical liberal fifth column that's trying to destroy America. That's as silly as believing in monsters under the bed. Children who finally turn loose of those monsters learn to separate fantasy from reality in order to get a good night's sleep, and adults who are ready to turn loose of a faceless mob of liberals can turn the corner on separating fantasy from reality in order to turn in a good day's work solving problems.

I've strayed from my original challenge, so let me bring it back to center: please win in 2016. Please build a juggernaut of a campaign machine. Make it powerful, compelling, and most of allsustainable. Step one: admit that what you're doing right now is not sustainable, and it's turning the founding fathers' grand experiment in democracy into the world's most powerful dysfunctional family. We are, right now, resting inside a fracture in your narrative: you exerted all the purifying force you could on your candidates, and you didn't win. This is the perfect moment to forge a consensus behind a different approach, to call to those genius conservatives who've been wandering the back roads of the country, wondering when they'll have a place in the conversation again.

We're not your enemies; we're your siblings and your spouses. You need us as a corrective and a counterbalance, and we need you for the exact same reason. But we need you to do a good job of it. If you do, your reward will be power, and the satisfaction of seeing the nation prosper. You have a finite window of opportunity to repent, as the good Southern Baptist in me sees it, and leave behind the 2012 election's very bad strategy. You have the best chance I can foresee to topple talk show radio hosts, to discredit the angry wing of your party still trying to claw its way back into the driver's seat from the 1996 "revolution," and to become a trustworthy party of sober-minded adults. I have no control over any of the forces that might move you to do so; all I can do is point out the obvious. What you did this time did not work, and it's less likely to work in 2016. Resolve to do differently, and let's have a serious wrestling match of reasoning next time. If you accept that invite, it won't matter who wins or loses, because the entire nation will hit a jackpot that would put the Powerball to shame.

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