Two Roads Republicans Should Travel By: A Rebuild The Party Meet-Up In Houston, Texas

Two roads lead to rebuilding the Republican brand and neither road can do it alone. One road starts with the Republican National Committee and Chairman Steele’s leadership on things such as funding truly conservative candidates, withholding support from less principled leaders (hello Arlen Specter), being a more public face, changing the primary schedule so liberal states aren’t choosing the GOP’s presidential candidates, and crafting a cohesive message which Republicans can unite around. The other road starts in the hinterlands.

The hinterlands was where I spent most of last evening. Harris county is the third largest county in the United States according to someone there. It’s big. Texas is big. And, it’s Republican. It is Red, but not Red enough for my tastes. With the jobless and overtaxed hordes moving from places like California and Michigan, I fear the state will morph purple and then Blue and Texas will no longer be the freedom-loving, low-tax, high-innovation state.

To keep Texas Texas, the grass-roots effort needs to be strong. The people I met last night were motivated and intense. They will form a core on which to build. There are other groups around Houston, too, and knowing what all the parts and pieces are up to would help to reduce duplication of efforts.

There was a prevailing notion that the Republican party had betrayed them. In fact, those who had achieved local electoral success, often did so running against the Republican party. To the extent that local politicians could, they excluded the Republican party’s interference. However, the local politicians are nervous. They saw Obama’s grassroots efforts and how organized they were nationally and many politicians are turning back to the party for help. Local politicians need the cover, communication, and just the ability to get more soldiers out in the field. It’s tough for one guy, alone, to do that.

The group also agreed that every election must be contested. I would say this is important, if for no other reason than ideological. Conservative ideas need to get out there and push back against the accepted conventional liberal wisdom.

Another thing. Note to Senators, Congresspeople and the former President: Amnesty was universally reviled. I cannot find words strong enough to convey the contempt these people had for the weak showing by our leaders on this issue. With Phoenix being the #2 city IN THE WORLD for kidnappings thanks to Mexican drug cartels, I don’t think the attitude about illegal immigration is going to much change.

Finally, the grassroots needs a unifying theme and leaders to rally around. Michael Steele has given people hope and a reason to turn toward the official voice again, but people are wary. These RightRoots wanted to create an effort outside the official channels to create accountability within the official channels. I actually think this is very important. Barack Obama was helped to power by a free-wheeling grass-roots group who he could distance himself from because they were unofficial. Rather than be fearful of renegade locals, the Republican hierarchy should welcome independent efforts.

The Right Roots need funding. People need to be able to do the organizational work full-time. This issue is even more pressing considering that the Stimulus bill will send billions of taxpayer dollars to organizations like ACORN which will fund and support Democrat candidates. This kind of obscene tax money usage should terrify Republicans and it does. Along with the noises that the fairness doctrine will be imposed, in some form, on internet interaction, the mainstream media’s bias, and even software companies run by liberals disallowing conservative content, conservative activists feel like they’re fighting a tsunami of power.

Money is power. And right now, Democrats have all sorts of money. Worse, with their redistribution schemes, they’ll be taking taxpayer dollars and shoring up key Democrat constituencies. Of course, if they succeed in driving the economy into the dumper, they might not have money for long.

Republican success cannot come on the back of Democrat failure. Republicans need a clear message. They need a nice marketing strategy. They need a pithy, quotable, memorable phrases to capture the Republican stance on everything from Afghanistan to Iraq to health care to taxation to environmentalism to every topic important to Americans.

The substance is there: low taxes, freedom, individual rights (but it can’t be portrayed as “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” on participant wisely noted), low taxes, family. How those messages are portrayed and who shares the message makes a difference.

Kathleen McKinley, aka Right Wing Sparkle, attended, too. She and I drove together.

Finally, I want to end this with hope. An emerging conservative voice in Houston is being led by the Ragin’ Elephants. Chelsea Winfree wrote:

First: We need to get together, not just as people in one group, but as groups with other groups and states with other states to rebuild this party. FHCRP and Rebuild are working with Raging Elephants to find ways to capture the attention of more people locally and get that sense of unity. Here at Raging Elephants, we are already connected to many people across the country, and plan on starting Raging Elephants chapters across the nation!

Second: Teach each other about technology and resources. Attend Facebook and Twitter classes, to better understand how to connect and communicate with other republicans. Also: if you already know how to use Facebook and Twitter, start your own class!

Third: The Republican message has to be POSITIVE, we can’t continue to beat down the Democrats. We have to show why WE are a good party, and why WE are worth your vote and dedication!

We also discussed the need to outreach to both politicians and students. Politicians don’t even want to associate with the republican party! So we have to bring them back, give them a reason to be proud. As for students, we have to find out what THEY are concerned about and appeal to them. We need them! They are highly motivated and could help this party grow even faster.

The Ragin’ Elephants are a group of black conservatives. This last year has been hard on conservative blacks. These ladies and gentlemen, though, said they were ready to “come out”. It is time.

Conservative principles speak to all people. Maybe now that the hurdle of blacks in power has been jumped by Barack Obama, those who hold conservative ideals in the black and other minority communities will feel free to find the party that speaks to their belief system. That party is the Republican Party.

They may be long divergent roads, but both the hyper-local grass-roots and national official organization roads together will lead to success in the next election cycles. It’s going to take the efforts of many people. It’s going to take being more technologically savvy. It’s going to take speed. 2010 will be here in a blink. There is much work to be done.

Cross-posted at Talk about it at Twitter.

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