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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—January 8, 2017

Sunday, January 08, 2017


I have mentioned from time to time on my website that I am not a member of any political party. Over the years – for personal, practical, and professional reasons – I have registered as an independent, non-partisan, or declined-to-state, depending on the options offered in the six states in which I have been registered to vote. With that independent streak in mind, let me offer some non-partisan advice to people who may find themselves in the party out of power: “It’s not the end of the world!”. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Ebb and Flow” -- In 2008, when Barack Obama won the White House and Democrats held control of the House and Senate, there was the usual pundit question: “Is this the death of the Republican Party?” But the GOP took control of the House in 2010, and the Senate in 2014, and the “end” never came. After years of Democratic control, Ronald Reagan won the White House in a 1980 landslide, swept control of the Senate for the GOP, and - with conservative Democrats and Republicans - held a “philosophical majority” in the House. Just know that the pendulum swings both ways.

“From the Ground Up” – One of the most critical lessons I teach my students is that “Political movements are built from the ground up, not from the top down.” Swings in the national influence of both parties have often been launched years earlier with wins at city council, county commission, and state legislature levels. For example, President Obama never would have been the first African-America president had others from his demographic base not first won a significant number of seats in city halls, state houses, and then in the halls of Congress.

“Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” – With the two above premises in mind, some of my advice to people in the party out of power is this; Put your name on the ballot! Talk is cheap. You can find people complaining in bar rooms, at the workplace water cooler, and now on social media when their side loses an election. If you don’t like the political tide, then put your name on a ballot and run for office. Whining accomplishes nothing; but action can!

“Door-to-Door” – Two of the most politically savvy women I have ever known – one a progressive liberal, and the other an evangelical conservative – always impressed me with their political passion because they embraced door-to-door campaigning. They knew from the outset that they would face some hostility and rejection, but they believed in their causes so they went door-knocking anyway, handing out political leaflets and information because they were committed to their beliefs. As we’ve seen many times in elections, the “ground game” is critical to winning. Get out there and walk precincts for your side – even in the face of opposition.

“Become Media Savvy” – Build media relationships. Don’t view the media as the hostile enemy or as unapproachable. Reach out, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Here’s a case in point. In 2010, I was assigned to live coverage of the State of the City Address by then Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor David Cicilline (a Democrat now in Congress). After the speech, a man came up to me, handed me a press release and asked, “Would you be interested in the opposing point of view?” He was Dave Talan, Chairman of the Providence Republican Party. About ten minutes later, he was ‘live’ on our station, expressing his party’s views. It was the first of many interviews I had with him over a six-year span.

“Embrace Rejection” – I was doing my frequent “man-on-the-street” interviews the other day; and after a woman turned down my offer to share her opinion, she said, “You must face a lot of rejection!” My response was, “Yes, it’s kind of like dating in igh school; you ask often, but get lots of ‘no thanks'!” It’s a standard line I use, and it always gets a laugh. I’ve seen good retail politicians respond to rejection by politely saying, “Well you may disagree with some of my positions, but I’d be honored to have your vote on election day.” It can be persuasive.

“Talk to People; Listen to People” – If you take my challenge above and decide to run for office, here is one of my most crucial pieces of advice: “Shut up and listen!” Don’t give endless speeches, but instead seek the opinions of your constituents and solicit their advice. In many ways, the 2016 campaign was a rejection of politics as usual and a thumbs-down to the status quo. Republicans embraced a rebel Donald Trump over the establishment’s Jeb Bush; many Democrats rejected the establishment’s Hillary Clinton in favor of rebel Bernie Sanders. The lesson – listen to the public’s moods and concerns.

“Paradigms Change; Parties Change” – In 1960, Democrat John Kennedy won on promises of cutting taxes, smaller government, and having a stronger national defense. In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan won by promising tax cuts, smaller government, and having a stronger national defense. Now how can two parties have two similar results, in two different elections? Well, times change, parties evolve, and public moods shift. As I said above, listen to people and be tuned in to what the public wants and needs.

“Be the Loyal Opposition” – As mentioned, politics is a business of ebb and flow. One decade your party is in; and another you’re on the outs. The minority party always claims it has little clout, but it does. Practice being the “loyal opposition” by actively advocating for alternative programs, budgets, policies, and candidates. You have to create a well-publicized agenda that says, “Look, here’s another way!” People - like choices and priorities - change. For example, student loan programs were immensely popular when first offered years ago, but now - with exploding student debt - people are rethinking the whole policy. Why do you think “free tuition” pledges – whether plausible or not – caught such popular fire this election year?

What are your alternative ideas? Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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