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2016: It’s About the Name on the Front of the Jersey, Not the Name on the Back

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Now that the 2014 election is out of the way, it’s time for the main event we’ve all been waiting for–the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

So often we hear status quo politicians sanctimoniously tell us “this is the most important election of my lifetime.” And it is, for the maintaining of their particular status quo gravy train. However, sadly for the rest of us who do most of the living, dying, and paying in this country not so much.

But this time it counts.

We are no longer debating shades of public policy, but considering public policy that could radically determine the shape of things to come. From a liberty perspective, ours is a culture in the midst of an existential crisis. Our very way of life is at stake in this next election. Because I live in the first in the nation caucus state of Iowa and that gives me intimate access to the process, I’m already getting plenty of questions about who to support in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

However, instead of giving you a name I want to give you a template.

The names change, and infallible people disappoint you, but if you establish a template first that helps remove the divisive emotion surrounding names and lets the cream rise to the top. I want us to nominate our best candidate worthy of championing American Exceptionalism on a national stage in 2016, regardless of what name they were given at birth. That means it’s up to conservatives to establish a culture of meritocracy in this primary, so that the best man can eventually win.

I think the best idea for a template I’ve heard came from a friend of mine who works with conservative candidates and causes around the country. He compares finding the right Republican candidate to winning the ultimate prize on Wheel of Fortune.

If you get to the final round of Wheel of Fortune with a chance to solve the grand prize puzzle, certain letters are bestowed upon you as givens. These are automatics that are just assumed. Like every Republican claiming he’s a conservative, whether or not he actually is (and our Liberty Scorecard says otherwise).

But the way to win the big prize on Wheel of Fortune is to put forth the right extras. Beyond the letters (i.e. talking points) they give you that everyone can spout, it’s what you do on your own from there that determines if you’re a champion.

As conservatives, let’s just grant up front all these guys are going to tell us they’re pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-limited government, pro-family, and in favor of a sane pro-America foreign policy. They’re all going to try and sound like constitutionalists leaving an 18th century meeting at Independence Hall. Therefore, it’s up to us to make them come up with the extras that prove who really is a worthy champion.

I suggest the following four extras:

Who does the best job of energizing our base. Despite what Karl Rove is telling you, all elections are turn out your base elections. Obama lost independents in almost every battleground state in 2012, but was still re-elected because he did a better job of turning out his base. Now Republicans can’t win with just their base, but they can’t win without it, either. If the nominee doesn’t energize our base he spends the whole general election on defense, trying to triangulate between conservatives and the Democrats. That formula is a loser every time it’s tried. A GOP nominee with an energized base is then freed up to effectively articulate to the rest of the country without conservatives (rightfully) fearing they’re being abandoned.

• An ability and willingness to evangelize conservative principles. Allowing the Left to dominate academia and pop culture unchallenged is having generational consequences. We need someone who is able to use the national platform of a campaign to change hearts and minds, not play reactionary footsy with the public opinion polls. Who is the man capable of standing tall before America’s political Mars Hill for such a time as this?

• A winsome, quick-witted communicator. The great evangelist D.L. Moody once said “when you’re winsome you win some.” Since the dawn of the modern television era in politics with the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate, a case could be made every presidential election has been won by the person who was most likable on television with one possible exception–Nixon-McGovern in 1972. Let’s stop wringing our hands over this and just acknowledge human nature for what it is. People give you more time to sell them, and give you more grace after you do, if they like you. Furthermore, the way we communicate in this day and age is different. If you can’t capture people’s imagination in 140 characters or less on Twitter you’ve already lost the argument, regardless of whether or not your arguments are right. This is particularly important when you’re battling someone who represents an emotion-based view on the other side. It’s much simpler to emote in short bursts than reason. If the person in question isn’t quick on their feet they won’t win. Remember, when Moses complained to God that he wasn’t a good speaker, God didn’t tell him to go and stutter Pharaoh to death. Instead He sent along his brother Aaron, because he was the superior communicator.

A doable, understandable plan to uproot the damage the Left has already done. Whenever elections are about issues the Republicans win, and whenever they’re about personalities the Democrats win. Democrats will want to replay the paradigm of 2008 with race and Obama replaced by gender and Hillary. The only way to overcome that environment is to create a counter one, and you do that with an issue-based campaign that rallies people. The next GOP nominee needs a plan that takes the country in the opposite direction of where we’re currently headed, but doesn’t out-kick his coverage thus inviting demagoguery. That plan needs to be simple for the public to understand, and a plan that people can actually see being achievable so they can hold you accountable to it. This plan wouldn’t necessarily be a touchdown but a first down. Touchdowns are tough when you’re as backed up as we are now, so you start by focus on getting first downs to build momentum and start reversing the field position.

Now that the template is established, it’s up to the candidates to determine for us who is the best man for the job. But I’ll give you a hint.

Here’s who it’s not: Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Paul Ryan.



 

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