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This was forwarded to me by a Texas county chairman. I am the former chairman of Lubbock County’s GOP and still actively involved in party leadership. I now own and host a top rated political talk show called Pratt on Texas (www.prattontexas.com). Call on me if you need help. My answers are below.
1) So long as it's in the opposition, where should the Republican Party focus its energy?
The GOP needs to work on defining what “conservative” means by looking through state platforms and making sure its public positions keep true to those which are adopted by the Party members.
2) What is the most worrisome part of Barack Obama's presidency?
That such large increases in government, dependency, spending, overall size, will be almost impossible to roll back. Also, Obama’s internationalist-leftist foreign policy stands to invite all bad actors to begin taking aggressive steps to destabilize our interests around the world.
3) There's been a lot of debate about the role that talk radio and cable news hosts should play on the right. Particularly controversial are Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Mark Levin. What do you think about these folks? Do they help the right or hurt it (or is it more complicated than that?) How should Republicans interact with them?
Levin, Limbaugh and Hannity are genuine and fine leaders of conservatism in their own ways. O’Reilly and Beck are not genuine, both have moved their positions to attempt to be popular over the years. Interestingly as well, both O’Reilly and Beck are clearly lacking a depth of understanding of conservative political philosophy. Hannity rarely shows depth on his radio show but seems to have it. The GOP should deal with them just as any candidate or party does with an old fashioned editorial board – attempt to persuade when possible, to win over when needed, and recognize that at times the Party will be at odds with them.
4) One particularly fraught controversy pertains to race in America -- with the first black president in the White House, some conservatives have been criticized as racists for opposing him, and some on the right have accused the Obama Administration or its allies of racism or anti-white sentiments (for example, Sonja Sottomayor's "wise Latina" comment drew fire, as did the Skip Gates incident). As the right thinks about political strategy and policy, how should it approach matters of race?
The GOP should start an almost radically loud drum beat demanding we have a color blind society as Dr. King recommended. We should stop all measurements of race and actively fight the race-pimps who live off of division. An aggressive stance against institutionalized ethnic favoritism should be part of that move.
5) Is there anything you observe locally, or that Republicans in your area of the country care about, that doesn't get sufficient attention in the national media conversation? If so tell me a bit about the issue, and the approach you think the right ought to take.
“Leave us alone” is the constant drum beat about Washington, the state legislature, city council and county government. Those who always “want something” from government are a small but vocal minority on everything from traffic laws to soccer fields and free healthcare to food stamps. Yet, they are always treated as an important majority politically. Most citizens respond well to government remaining “in the background” keeping the streets paved and water running. They want to be left alone in all other areas.
6) Traditionally the Republican Party has been a coalition of religious conservatives, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives. Is that alliance viable going forward? If so, what must be done to hold it together? If not, what alliance should the GOP try to build?
Yes but there needs to be a pulling together of those interests. For example, Libertarians are big on Liberty and Property but want to ignore Life part of the great three. Some religious conservatives are big on Life but ignore how it is intertwined with Property and Liberty. We need a movement built around the big three: Life, Liberty and the use of Property for one’s own ends. It is almost the same as teaching about the Christian Trinity except that there is much less argument as to the hierarchy of the three .
7) Is there anything I didn't ask about that you'd like the media or the country as a whole to know?
In Texas, outside of the autonomous county party organizations where work is actually done (elections run, candidates recruited, etc.) the other levels of the Party (state and national) are essentially unimportant and usually a pain the ass and not liked. The Party, as it is organized, works this way to the detriment of its real workers: State and National chairmen and board members get all the glory and do none of the work. Local people put in hundreds of hours of work, get no glory, and are looked upon as unimportant (until they need something) by state and national party folk. In Texas, county parties have all the statutory power and raise their own money – they get nothing from the state and RNC except those bodies coming in and raiding the donor pool with fundraising letters which outright lie to party members (saying they are the Local Lubbock Fundraising Drive for example when all funds go elsewhere). This type of thing drives those who do the work, and local party members crazy.
A re-ordering of how the Party is structured is sorely needed. New technology makes the centralized boards unnecessary. For example, big issues before the state party or even the RNC could be decided by Internet polling of elected county chairman or the like – that is the type of governance which was not possible even 20 years ago but is very possible now. I can vote in some national corporate shareholder elections online, we can surely run the party this way and we’d get a much more true picture of what the base thinks. And it would make it far more difficult for powerful Washington interests to sway things “their” way.
No editing here, just off the cuff.