The election has come and gone, and we’ve all seen the reports of the Republican Party’s untimely demise. Some say Republicans were too conservative, that we’ve become a regional party and that we’re clinging to an old playbook. As a Republican, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth, and we are alive and kicking.
That doesn’t mean the Republican Party isn’t in need of new ideas, new messengers and a new focus in order to move forward as a party. Losing elections brings change, and change is coming to the Republican Party. What really cost Republicans at the ballot box during the past two election cycles was forgetting a lesson many of us learned from our parents - say what you mean and mean what you say.
As a small business owner, I know first-hand the power of this principle. You can’t say you offer superior customer service when complaints are piling up against you at the better business bureau. You can’t say you offer the best value in town when your products are defective. It’s not good enough to talk the talk; you’ve got to walk the walk.
This is why the Republican Party finds itself in the minority in Washington and in many of the 3,141 counties in America. Our elected officials, candidates and party leaders dutifully repeated the principles of our party, but once in office, too many abandoned those principles. Whether it was abandoning our commitment to fiscal responsibility, turning a blind eye to serious character flaws in some of our candidates, or providing a handout to big business at the expense of the American taxpayers, we seemed to lose the courage of our convictions. As President Reagan’s speechwriter Peggy Noonan has been quoted, “part of courage is simple consistency.”
The Future of the GOP
Reports of GOP death exaggerated
What's next for the GOP?
Our principles are sound, but we need to refresh the Republican Party brand if we are to earn the trust of the American public to govern once again, and that is why I am a candidate for Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
There are several steps that we must take to renew, reform and restore the greatness of the Republican Party.
Renew our commitment to our Party’s timeless principles…by reconfirming our commitment to be the party of smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, strong national security, respect for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, the importance of family and the exceptionalism of America.
We must reform our tactics…by utilizing the social networking and information technology that Americans use in every aspect of their lives.
We must restore our grassroots network…by regaining footholds in regions where we have lost ground, such as the Northeast and Midwest.
For the Republican Party to succeed we can’t rely on a targeted or regional approach - we need a nationwide approach. That’s why, as the next chairman of the RNC, I will implement Project 3141 - a campaign to establish our brand in every one of the 3141 counties in our 50 states. In my experience as a state chairman, you cannot have successful state parties without successful county and local parties. As chairman, we will focus our efforts to grow state parties by helping them be competitive in each of their counties. We will have a goal to field candidates in each of the 435 congressional districts, ensuring that every voter in America will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for at least one Republican in 2010. This goal will also help in our efforts to regain footholds in New England and the Rust Belt, while reaching out to non-traditional Republicans in the Deep South and Sun Belt.
I am a strong believer in the spirit of collaboration. There are a number of well-qualified individuals seeking the RNC chairmanship, and if I am elected I would be certain to include these leaders in our effort to help grow and strengthen the Republican Party. But in order for the Republican Party to move forward, the next generation of leaders cannot be tied to Washington and the culture of the entrenched inside the Beltway campaign consultants. We need to look more to our farm team of elected officials and party leaders throughout the country.
While I share with many Republicans the disappointment of another election defeat, I have great optimism for the future. Great political movements begin in times of great adversity, and I believe the Republican Party will experience an era of rebirth if we stay true to our principles and offer a positive vision for the future of our country. I believe we will find new ways of applying our time-tested principles to current-day challenges and opportunities. I believe we will become again the party that inspires Americans from all walks of life to do great things. I believe that’s our calling and our destiny.
Katon Dawson is chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.