The battle for relevancy is about ideas

Since election day, I have seen much talk about money, turnout, committee activity, the media, and party leaders. Yet I have seen almost no talk about ideas and arguments. (No, not issues and campaigns; ideas and arguments.)

This state is dominated by an intellectual and cultural elite that thinks all Republicans get their information from television demagogues and mean-spirited people on the radio. They are not listening to us. We have to challenge their assumptions and get their respect if we are to break out of the role we have played. We have to make and win arguments about what kind of state we want to live in and how to address our challenges. We need people to say things like, “I’ve never really voted Republican, but they do have some sensible ideas on pension reform.”

We need a state-wide effort to generate ideas about governing and how to make difficult choices ahead. We then should train people to make those arguments and then challenge Democrats to debates about them. Real debates – online and offline. Not the silly side-by-side press conferences on television. Something more like a debate in front of a town hall that lasts for 2 hours with no 30- or 60-second answers. Or an online moderated debate that lasts for months, like you see on the Economist’s debate sites.

I am not limiting this work to candidates. It can be Republican leaders and thinkers making arguments. In fact, we need more Republicans who are not running for something speaking eloquently in the public square.

Some of this will be about research and thinking, some of this will be about capturing the imagination of the public. All of it will be about changing the image of Republicans from yelling and attacking to thinking and convincing. I have some ideas about how we could do this, but I just wanted to put this much out there first.

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