Published January 13, 2015
By Heyward Smith and Monty WarnerDirectors, Everglades Legal Foundation
As we enter a period where Democrats have the opportunity --- based on sheer numbers and generally bizarre instincts -- to wreak havoc on small business and put their boots on the necks of Republicans for the next 20 years, it is time for pro-growth, free market-minded entrepreneurs to get past their electoral shellshock of 2006 and 2008 and begin to step financially back into the political circle with vigor and a longer view. Many GOP donors, dispirited if not disgusted with Republican political failures and general strategic incompetence, have as a natural extension of this closed their wallets to conservative causes. Others have been cowered into not giving or are hedging their bets by giving to Democrats in the hopes that they will be the food that is eaten last.
Though counterintuitive on its face, this is in fact the time when conservative donors should be giving more than they ever have. GOP politicians have clearly been a profound disappointment and some of the causes which said funders have supported have demonstrated themselves to be far less than effective -- producing pointless studies, pamphlets and other missives no one reads or cares about, particularly with significant Democratic majorities in the Congress and a Democrat in the White House. All this points to the need for a complete re-wiring of Republican/Libertarian thinking to combat this steady decline, starting with funding networks where financial support is actively provided to new and forward-thinking ideas and groups and funding for dated causes who simply claim "We're right on the issues" is cut off by virtue of the obvious fact that they can't get anything worthwhile done.
When Democrats see a problem, they get money together and then figure out how to put the pieces in place to leverage said funding. While out of power, they built an entire shadow infrastructure utilizing the Internet for fundraising, issue advocacy and media that was largely responsible for Obama's rise. Republicans, on the other hand, have meetings, complain and somehow hope that doing the same things over and over will yield different results. Donors who do soldier on giving money to the GOP waste resources on a relic-driven party which has no clue where it is going, what it should look like and, frankly, why it currently exists. This perpetuates donor disappointment and further depresses the instinct to financially engage, which leads to further electoral and cultural losses. All the while, the Party and conservative causes are marginalized by the power of the establishment that has been built on the Left, which is predicated on using various forms of media to ridicule and diminish conservative/Libertarian thought.
There has been considerable debate over whether the GOP should move past the Reagan-era and adopt new ideas. While practical to look at successful policies, putting forth a strategy based on someone elected 30 years ago whom most people under the age of 40 do not remember seems like another doomed idea. It will become painfully obvious to even the dumbest Republicans that the answer to every electoral debacle isn't to "put the Reagan coalition back together." The instinct by GOP "strategists" to provide this answer as a political remedy is a clear and simple extension of not knowing what to do or how to do it (or being too lazy to figure it out). It is a general cluelessness as to how to use Facebook, Twitter, organize online, and develop new messaging, a farm team and a coolness factor that people can embrace, trust, and have an intellectual and emotional confidence in.
What Republican donors should think about, if they want to see better results and returns on their investment, is simply look at what hasn't worked and stop giving to it. They should look at a political campaign and see if the person running said campaign has ever won a campaign. If he/she hasn't, they should not give to it. Conversely, the instinct of donors to disengage in totality out of disappointment or fear of upsetting someone is at the same time shortsighted and foolish. Things can in fact get worse politically. Businesses can be put asunder. Political vendettas can and likely will be carried out.
Republicans have had a financial advantage over Democrats for many years but have not spent their money wisely or in forward-thinking places -- and so here we are with hyper-minorities and dated knuckleheads whose job is to keep their job running the show. In light of this, the very last thing GOP donors should do in such a climate is sit on the sidelines, rather, they need to start thinking about where they can best focus their giving and be aggressive about it with an eye toward a future consistent with how it is, not how it was. The Left has changed the political game in the 21st Century. It's time to challenge ourselves to think anew for the future and stop waxing nostalgic for a bygone era.
Heyward Smith and Monty Warner are Directors of the Everglades Legal Foundation