Early in my courtship of my wife, wherein I chased her and chased her until she caught me, I would often find one of my (at the time) six future brothers-in-law, Mick, working on a car out in his garage. He coined his garage “The Bigger Hammer Repair Shop.” Curiosity besting my better judgment, one day I leaned down and under the car inquired, “Where did you come up with the name?” Sliding on his creeper out from under his auto, he took a sidelong glance at my clean hands and shrugged, “There’s nothing you can’t fix with a bigger hammer.” He slipped back under his car.
Over the past three election cycles, I have come to believe Mick is the Republican Party’s master strategist. For despite all evidence – things like, you know, losing elections – the GOP thinks there is no political problem that cannot be solved with a bigger hammer.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected election as president in 2016, the GOP has acquired a very bad habit. It is a vice that is proving far more difficult to correct than one would have thought, since pain is a powerful teacher of even the most recalcitrant students.
The vice is the belief that the principles and policies of Republicans, especially its populist wing, are self-evident and will carry a candidate to victory despite their opponent’s overwhelming superiority in money, campaign organization, and media coverage. This vice can be succinctly summed up as “The Bigger Hammer Campaign Strategy.”
Akin to the “Duffer Golf” strategy country club Republicans used to attain similar success during their forty years wandering in the political desert during the 20th Century, “The Bigger Hammer Campaign Strategy” is premised upon the feeling that if a policy makes obvious sense to the GOP, it will be obvious and make sense to everyone else unless, of course, they are an idiot and/or un-American. Ergo, “The Bigger Hammer Campaign Strategy” requires expounding – over and over and over – the same arguments and slogans and – voila! – money and campaign organization and voters will flock to the candidate and ensure victory.
Granted, occasionally the Democrats will make mistakes, and the GOP share of the vote will climb a bit, as it did in 2022. But this is not the result of the electorate’s independents or “gettable” Democrats listening to Republican arguments. Indeed, as the “inflation” election evinced, in many ways the GOP was a passive passenger just along for the ride on a wave that barely resulted in a Republican majority in one chamber of Congress.
It is a curious vice to have acquired for a party that prides itself on policies grounded in reality. “If you bitch about it, they will come,” may make the GOP grassroots feel good; but, like any drug, the high is fleeting and self-destructive.
The requisite corrective is obvious. The GOP must stop screeching to the choir, whining about everything except what concerns a majority of voters. True, the Left whine – a lot. But it is part of their multi-tasking effort to “fundamentally transform” (i.e., “destroy”) America by convincing the citizenry our nation’s foundational, self-evident truths are not obvious, but antiquated and/or racist.
For the GOP, then, it is not only a matter of merely defending Americans’ principles or GOP policies as self-evident. “Because!” has proven an insufficient slogan for building a winning coalition. No, the GOP must explain and persuade voters why America’s self-evident principles are not only self-evident but of continuing benefit for this generation of Americans. That this has recently proven a tall task for the party of Lincoln and Reagan only serves to reveal how deeply this recent vice has debilitated the present GOP.
Nonetheless, where there is life there is hope. Taking the first step of recognizing the vice will lead to the fearless introspection necessary for recovery. The sooner GOP candidates start explaining to America their principles and positions, the sooner the voters will see the GOP trusts their intelligence and judgment. Consequently, this will facilitate the electorate again considering the GOP’s principles, policies, and candidates. On the heels of this will come opportunity to acquire the requisite tools for waging real, winning campaigns.
Or the GOP can grab a bigger hammer and “hit the at damn thing harder” – the “that” thing being rock bottom.
You know, when my brother-in-law Mick named his garage “The Bigger Hammer Repair Shop,” he did it as a joke, though he did have a bigger hammer on hand. But, with the Democrats being the party of Wall Street, woke billionaires, Big Tech, other multinational corporations, and the Legacy Media, the GOP’s toolkit doesn’t have a bigger hammer to wield.
But it does have the right principles and policies that will benefit Americans. Might want to take a dose of humility; practice the gentle art of persuasion; and, trusting their wisdom, let the voters know it.
A Human Events contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Radio Show," among sundry media appearances.