So, I see that you tinkering with your campaign after getting reports that you aren’t raising so much money as your GOP rivals. When I heard about this, I had hoped you were going to announce that you would return to your so-called maverick status in 2000. Alas, what I learned was that you were employing some of the same fundraising ideas that the President has used in the past.
Listen, John, (can I call you John?) your campaign isn’t doing so well. Lot’s of people thought you would be the nominee next year. As the saying goes, Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. You had been denied the nomination seven years ago, so it would make sense that it should be your turn to shine.
But things aren’t going according to plan, are they? I mean Mitt Romney is raising more money than you and Rudy Giuliani is the front-runner in spite of his socially liberal views. So, now you are basically hitting the reset button at least financially.
But John, the problem isn’t that you aren’t raising enough money. The problem is your message or lack thereof.
You kind of became the darling of a lot of independents in 2000. You talked a lot about what you wanted the Republican party to be about, what you wanted America to be about. I think there were a lot of people who wanted to hear this message and they did what they could to help you. Your condemnation of the Religious Right was a breath of fresh air. Then came South Carolina and the Bush campaign spreading vicious rumors and your campaign was over. I can only say this from afar, but I think you were hurt by that. Like a kid who touches a hot stove, you have recoiled back and become cautious. You have made winning important and will do what it takes to get there.
When you started making nice with President Bush in 2004, I kind of understood that. You are a Republican through and through and you wanted to be the loyal solider. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t think that everyone who has dealt with the President is evil. It also made sense to patch things up with the President. A protracted fight with the President would not help you in the long run, so it’s best to be cordial.
That said, I think you went a bit too far. You have started to court the Religious Right, the same people you said were corrupting the party. I’m not mad that you spoke at Liberty University last year- the speech was not a capitulation to the far right and was quite good. And you got a better response than what you got at the New School a few days later.
But I don’t understand you trying to talk to people like James Dobson. I don’t taking positions that would appease the far right. These moves tend to alienate you from independents- the people who made your campaign in 2000.
The other fact is that most social conservatives don’t trust you. No matter what you have done to kiss and make nice, they are still mad for what you said about the far right in 2000. As “holy” as some of the people think they are, practicing forgiveness is not something they are well known for.
I also don’t understand your trying to become the successor to the Bush legacy. The past six years has given us wasteful spending, and intractable war and an inept response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Frankly, what you are doing is getting independents upset at you and not convincing the far right- not a winning combination.
Senator, the GOP and American conservatism is in crisis. In some way it is a problem of being successful: we helped end the Cold War, and brought down tax rates from ridiculous levels to something more sane. However, some of this can be blamed on the acquiescence of the GOP to the Religious Right and the Bush Administration’s incompetent governing. I don’t need to recap all that has gone wrong, but I think the GOP is need of a change and you should be focusing on this.
I also think the Republican Party needs to start being a more diverse party than it has been. Under Karl Rove, the party has basically gone after the far right using such issues as gay marriage as wedge issue. But you can only reach so many social conservatives and this strategy only leads to narrow victories, not the landslides that candidates like Ronald Reagan once received.
I would also add that this campaign of going after gays and lesbians is going to destroy the GOP. There are a lot of gays and lesbians that would vote Republican, if the party were more accepting of gays. I would add that the anti-immigration tone of some in the GOP is also a bad move. It's one thing to have differences concerning our national immigration policy, but too many in the GOP have crossed the line into bigotry.
I think you tend to believe in a small government, but also one that is effective- something similar to your hero, Teddy Roosevelt. The fact is that most Americans believe in small government, but they also want a government that works. In short, Americans want governments that are "small and smart" instead of "big and dumb," which is what we have witnessed during the last six years of George Bush.
This means that you need to start being more vocal on fiscal responsibility. We Republicans always want to keep taxes low and favor tax cuts. But the problem with the present GOP fiscal policy is that we seem to want tax cuts all the time. However, we don't want to create tax cuts at the expense of a balanced budget and not during what many consider wartime. In the past you were against the first round of tax cuts in 2001, but you have since changed your position to ameliorate the base.
The thing is, I don't believe that is a good plan. If we truly are in war, then it seems foolish to keep pushing for tax cuts. We need those resources to go to our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think if you went back to your budget hawk ways, you would excite those who are appalled at the growth of government during the past eight years.
I could go on. The point is, what is considered the base in the GOP is not where the people are at and you know this. The GOP needs to expand its base and it's membership. That's what Ronald Reagan was all about. He was interested in growing the party.
The GOP that Reagan encountered was one that was in need of reform. The problem today, is that the GOP needs to be reformed again. The current version of the party is horribly out of date and will not be viable.
I know that you were hurt badly in 2000 and you've learned to be careful. And maybe you can't be the person you were seven years ago. I can understand learning from your mistakes. But trying to be the sucessor to the President's legacy is not an answer. I think you need to find a way to separate yourself from the President and be your own man. You don't have to declare war on the Religious Right, but you don't have to try to get them to like you either. Trust me, they never will.
Senator, we need you to stop pleasing the powers that be and try to lead the party in a different direction. Bush-style Republicanism has been discredited. We need someone who is a visionary and I know that is what you are deepdown.
It's not too late. You can still turn things around. But you need to be willing to be a bit more risky.
Thanks for listening. Take care.
Rev. Dennis Sanders