If you assume, as I do, that the purpose of the political process is to persuade people to entrust you with power, the solution to the losses Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger faced in November is simple. It is also hard work. And it is the solution the governor seems to be avoiding.
If I have any complaint with many of my California Republican colleagues, it would be that they think they can outsmart, outwit or outmaneuver the Democrats. They believe that if they can find just the right issue, or just the right tactic, they can slick their way into a majority in the legislature. They are wrong.
The press, the governor, the pollsters, and many others are right when they say that a majority of Californians do not agree with the Republican agenda of smaller government, less taxes, more freedom, stronger families, and stronger communities. The liberals in this state start with that advantage in any election. Today, more people agree with them than agree with most of the Republican officeholders in this state.
However, it is a big mistake to then capitulate to that fact. The great thing about good ideas is that, while people may be misled for a while, they are not misled forever. They will follow those with good ideas when they are persuaded that those ideas are good for them personally and for society in general.
Polls represent facts. We may not like the facts, but they are important for assessing a successful political strategy. If the sole purpose of politics is to obtain power, then polls will drive policy. But, as Gray Davis discovered, people are fickle. If they think all a politician wants is power, they will deprive him of that power as quickly as they entrusted him or her with it.
That is why it is important to develop a cohesive political philosophy. There really are only two cohesive political philosophies available to anyone running for office. One is the collectivist theory (upon which socialism, fascism, and communism is based) and the other is the individualist theory (of freedom, free enterprise, and representative republics like ours). Each has a set of principles that cannot be violated, and there is no middle ground between the two. There is no “moderate” socialism, and no “moderate” freedom. A ruler either embraces one or the other as his or her guiding philosophy.
Then that ruler seeks to set about to convince people that his or her guiding philosophy is what is best for each citizen and for society in general.
I happen to believe that the individualist philosophy and the principles that surround it are what are best for society, and for every person in society. I also believe that I have to spend whatever time it takes persuading a majority of the people in this state that my philosophy, and the principles that implement it, are the right ones for them. I will obtain power when I have convinced enough people to agree with me. I can’t trick them into believing me, I can’t market them into believing me; I can only convince them. And that takes work.
I won’t win by hiring a collectivist from the other side, and trying to use that individual to implement my agenda freedom and free enterprise. I will only win by talking to enough people, in groups, or one on one, to change enough minds, to get a majority.
Ronald Reagan got it. He had enough faith in his ideas that he did not take his special election loss of 1973 as a signal to capitulate to the Democrats, or to get one of their operatives as his chief aide. He just got to work changing minds. He saw with a remarkable clarity the job that he had to accomplish. And he changed the world.
This piece originally appeared at CaliforniaRepublic.org.
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