John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Meeting with the GOP’s Future

Posted on June 10, 2008

       I met with a group of young Republicans last night in a local watering hole (Bullfeathers).  They had invited me to talk to them about the future of the Republican party and how we can get our mojo back (my term, not theirs). 


            These were kids just out of college, and they were a diverse lot.  One girl was from Ecuador, a couple were of Indian descent,  a few were African-American, and the rest were from various parts of the US.  Not your typical Republican gathering.


            It was a smart group of kids with good questions and an intense interest in politics.  I joked with them at the beginning that the Republicans quite clearly had a lock on the youth vote.  Obama has been having a hard time attracting young voters (just like Boston is not much of a college town).


            For what it is worth, here are the things that I said the GOP needs to do to get back to its winning ways.


1)    Hopeful, not spiteful:  Republicans do better when they offer a positive vision of the future, not a dour vision.  Let the Democrats say we are all doomed.

2)    Reform, not reaction:  We need to reform the government, not become a bunch of reactionaries.  By reforming the government we can create a better future.  We will lose if we try to go back to the past.

3)    Bottom-up, not top-down:  Our leaders need to spend more time listening to our constituents and less time telling them what to do.  Listen to them about problems of immigration, health care, regulation, etc.  After we have spent time listening, then we can go about and solve those problems.

4)    Message before money:  Before we can ask for money, we need to develop a message that resonates with voters.  All too often, Republican political leaders ask first for the money, and spend no time developing messages that work.

5)    New ideas needed:  Our party needs smart policy ideas and it needs them quickly.  We need ideas beyond cutting taxes and opposing universal health care.  We need to think creatively about education, home ownership, immigration, crime, wellness.  

6)  Not just the Daddy Party:  We are often described as the daddy part who takes care of defense, while the Democrats are the mommy party, who takes care of everything else.  We have to appeal to the whole family, and that means taking on issues that Democrats have traditionally trounced us on.

7)     Leave the preaching to the preachers:  Politicians make lousy preachers.  Republicans need to offer policies that focus on the government, not focus on the private lives of the American people.  Thinks Barry Goldwater.

8)    Respect people, disrespect ineffective government bureaucracy.  We need to have a greater respect for the great diversity of this country.  We shouldn’t be a party that attacks people.  We should be a party that attacks inefficient government and unaccountable bureaucrats.

9)    Simplify, not narrowcast:  We need to develop a message that unifies our party.  That means simplifying our message, not narrowcasting to different constituencies.  We need a philosophy that works for everybody.  We shouldn’t pander, because eventually, that catches up with you.


There were other things we talked about, but these were the highlights.  The GOP is in a funk and needs some new thinking.  These kids had some good ideas and represent a bright future for the party.


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