Today's headline is a paraphraise of "Brush up your Shakespeare," a line from the 1948 Broadway musical "Kiss Me, Kate" written by Cole Porter. I first heard that line from an oddball roommate in college at Michigan State some 30 years ago. He was a nice guy, but just somewhat different. And he obviously was into 1940s musicals.
Indulge me as I digress a bit further. I had heard of Cole Porter over the years, but didn't know anythng about him. My first exposure to him was through a Simply Red cover version of the romantic ballad "Every Time We Say Goodbye." Written and recorded in 1944, the song appeared on Simply Red's 1987 album "Men and Women." It's a nice composition, and the video I've linked to ties it into the poignancy and emotion of the latter days of World War II.
But back to micro-messaging...
In the days and weeks after the disheartening and unpleasant results of Nov. 6 came in, I perused and pondered many viewpoints about what the Republicans did wrong, what they ought to do, and how changing demographics and technology affect political messaging.
One thing's for sure: As many others have pointed out, it is preposterous that the mainstream press feigns concern about the Republican Party and its dire need to be "inclusive" (i.e., compromise its positions on abortion and opposing destructive immigration policies).
Liberals want to give helpful advice to conservatives? Really? And we're actually going to take them seriously? Ludicrous. It bears repeating that if the Republicans signed on to a big amnesty bill that opens the floodgates to future non-assimilating Democrat voters, and dispensed with their pro-life stance on abortion, it would not attract many liberals to the GOP.
The number of liberals voting Republican would be minuscule, and would be severely outnumbered by throngs of disaffected, disgruntled conservatives who would abandon the GOP and either vote Libertarian or not vote at all.
The GOP must remember that conservative principles helped the Tea Party rise to national prominence and helped the Republicans to take back the House in the 2010 election. Conservatism is a bulwark against an unstoppable explosion of the welfare state and Eureopean-style socialism. Don't think Barack Obama wouldn't try to make the United States like France if he could.
So how to fight the misguided, destructive statism? Well, first of all, abandon notions of national marketing campaigns and bumper stickers that apply coast-to-coast. "It's the economy, stupid" worked in the pre-Internet days; it won't work now.
And consult with Republican wordsmiths and spinmeisters outside of the Beltway. The insular Beltway culture spells doom for the GOP and our nation.
I am quite sure that Republicans at the grass-roots level would tell the Paul Ryans and John Boehners of the world that they come across as accountants or economics professors. The party must stop focusing on arcane and esoteric things like the deficit, debt ceiling, China's currency manipulations and trade policy.
Instead, the party must enlist the help of real world Americans — some volunteers, some paid professionals — in neighborhoods, churches and local chambers of commerce, to A) Listen carefully and with empathy to complaints and concerns of their coworkers and neighbors; and B) spread the word about helpful Republican policies that are not being allowed to flourish. Things like school choice; the Keystone pipeline and the relief at the gas pump it would provide; private sector competition in health care; a simplification of the tax code; unwavering support for the right to keep and bear arms; and ensuring our military personnel and veterans get high quality health care and anything else they need as recompense for their service, sacrifice and suffering on behalf of our nation.
These are the things that resonate at the local level. Not quantitative easing, continuing resolutions, debt ceilings and threats of insolvency. Speak in human, local and personal terms. And just as in public affairs or marketing one can use many platforms — social media, video, regular websites and traditional media such as TV and radio — the GOP must use various messengers: Conservative blacks and hispanics, young people, pro athletes, musicians and actors, and of course some entrepreneurs and corporate CEOs. Just don't always default to the gray-haired, 65-year-old country club Republican who looks like he's straight out of "Father Knows Best." It DOES NOT WORK and WILL NOT WORK in 2013.
I hate to use warfare and the arms race as an analogy, but I believe it is apt: Many of the Karl Rove types who exist inside the Beltway (either physically or in mindset) are behaving like the Cold War is still on, and the big issues are how many intercontinental ballistic missiles we have and how many boots are on the ground in Europe to protect the West from the East.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union has been gone for two decades, and the threat of decentralized, shadowy terrorist groups that blend into the civilian population and legitimate business enterprises represents the real danger. They cannot obliterate us like the old Soviet Union could have (had it been willing to accept a devastating retaliation). But they can strike with deadly precision and terrible consequences (e.g., 9/11 and Heaven forbid, with a suitcase nuke in a large city).
Fighting against them with counterterrorism and counterinsurgency is a localized, piecemeal process. Yes, there can be an overall strategy linking components together, but it must allow for tailoring actions and responses to specific circumstances.
Localizing, customizing, personalizing and being relevant. Republicans must seize the moment and reshape their message and tactics, before it's too late. The GOP needs to change. Radically and rapidly. The future of our civilization literally depends on it.