Friday, April 01, 2005

Creating a Moderate Republican "Pyramid"

Former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley has a great op-ed in Thursday's New York Times about the differences in how the Dems and the GOP get their message out. He notes that the conservative Republicans back in the 70s and 80s created a "pyramid", with funding sources at the base, then think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, strategists like Ralph Reed occupy the next level. A partisan media, ala columnists like George Will or news outlets like Fox News are at the nex level and finally the President. The system is stable and the Presidential candidate doesn't have to worry about pushing and agenda, since it is already created by the levels below him or her.

Bradley goes on to suggest that the Dems have it all backwards: with the Presidential candidate having to put forward and agenda and hope for some kind of funding. Bradley believes this is based on the "charismatic leader" model ala JFK: find a leader that will rally the nation.

History can tell you which one worked.

I think a lot what Bradley is saying could be translated to the world of moderate Republicans. In essence, what Bradley is talking about culture. There is a conservative culture where ideas get born and tested, and where candidates get groomed for office. Conservative Republicans have think tanks at their disposal as well as magazines like The Weekly Standard. If you look at Moderates, we are lacking. There are no moderate or centrist think tanks churning out mainstream conservative ideas. There are no moderate versions of Ralph Reed who can get the message out there, be it new ideas or castigating bad policy. There are no moderate magazines out there putting forth moderate ideas like a balanced budget. Like out Democratic brethren, we pin our hopes on a candidate and ask them to be the bearer of all things moderate when there is nothing to back them up with.

If Moderate Republicanism is to make a comeback, then it might need to adopt this model. Times have changed and we need to change along with them. If moderates truly believe in issues like a balanced budget, or entitlement reform, or a clean environment, then we need to develop institutions that will carry that agenda to the people. Otherwise, we end up being framed by the far right as RINOs.

It's something to think about.


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