Jason Atkinson: Advice for the GOP — Don’t be about perfection, be about service

My party, the Republican Party, is stunned and wandering in the desert right now. Many just don’t understand how polls could have been wrong and how primary victories were turned into general election losses. Now that the dust has settled, most Republicans I hear from are blaming it on America’s slide toward socialism.

Let’s slow down here. We can agree America is changing, but we should look at us first. Our primaries are about who can out-conservative the other, then who can swing to the middle for the general election. It’s as if we’re telling voters we don’t even believe ourselves.

Many, many Republicans I know feel the party has left them. They believe the party is out of step, focused on fear and being the party of “no.” Whether other Republicans believe that or not isn’t the issue. Americans believe it, and they’re not voting Republican.

AtkinsonJasonNewHeadshotParties and federal government aside, people today are just trying to hold it all together. We’ve all got bills, health care issues, aging parents and kids with cavities. Research shows that most Americans are center right, believe in limited government and personal responsibility, and don’t think government is a good steward of tax money, but they are choosing to be unaffiliated, independent voters.

It appears to many that Republicans have forgotten that politics is about serving people. Who cares if we’re ideologically perfect to each other but not elected to office?

If my party is going to win in the future, it must do 10 things immediately: 

1. Have candidates stop running against the very institution they are trying to get elected to. Public service is honorable. The job is service, not being right all the time. Value statesmanship; our country needs it right now.

2. Stop complaining about the media and turn it off. We Americans consume the news we most agree with, but for some reason we can’t see the difference between entertainment and journalism. There is liberal media, and there is conservative media, and in my opinion neither is doing a good job of improving our country. Remember that say-anything-to-get-ratings media personalities have no idea about putting themselves out there in a campaign, working for what is best for people on unexciting issues, or try to stop a single mom who’s working two jobs from falling through the cracks. Is government always the answer? No, but service to people always is. Sometimes it takes a public official to get the private sector involved.

3. The sound pounding of Mitt Romney should finally wake us up to the fact we are wrong on Latino policy. Before anyone hyperventilates on illegal immigration and lights up the talk-radio call line, remember this: Latinos are the fastest growing population in America; they are a big part of modern culture; and though they were disillusioned by Barack Obama, they were scared to death of the idea of Romney. If Republicans want to get elected in the future, we must allow Latinos to chase the American dream too.

4. We need to stop scaring women. Being pro-life needs to include helping the homeless, getting our hands around mental health and what to do with the baby-boomer bubble. A lot of Republicans — in fact, most of my friends — are pro-choice. I respect them, and they me. And forget politics for a second: We don’t want any woman to have to make that decision.

5. Start talking and voting as if Republicans want to drink clean water too. We should champion environmental solutions and this beautiful state. I know there are a lot of Republicans who agree with me, from timber managers to pheasant hunters, but our party and politicians do not vote that way — and we certainly are afraid to lead on the issue.

6. Be for education at all cost. A big chunk of freedom is getting the best education, which creates the opportunity we Republicans say we are for.

7. Return to fighting for the little guy and stop being the say-what-it-takes-to-get-the-money-just-like-last-time party. If we need to do that to get elected, then we don’t deserve election. Friends, we’ve had the same team, the same gatekeepers and the same tactics for too long. They don’t win. We have to divorce big donors who demand ideological perfection in exchange for contributions. If we are going to stand for the little guy, then stand on conviction and say no to bullies who say otherwise, no matter how much money they have.

8. Stop running outside candidates with big bucks and zero government experience. Republicans have all but lost their bench. Fine public servants who don’t look the part, kiss the right ring or have personal wealth are left to waste. I’ve got two words for Republicans: Warren Harding.

9. Stop tearing each other apart. Really wonderful public servants or potential candidates are not afraid of standing for election, but they are nervous about getting clobbered by fellow Republicans. Ask the spouse of anyone elected and he or she will tell you that the toughest attacks come from within. Good government is respectful. Public service is honorable.

10. Have a little faith in America and her people. Representative government still works, even though it was designed to be difficult.


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