Rebuilding the GOP – part 2a – Discerning candidates

To discern a candidate is different than to pick a candidate. You have to go beyond the known qualities of a candidate and vet the soul of that candidate. It’s not easy, but I think the effort will serve the party well.

Candidates need to be vetted based on the chosen mission/vision statement.

Republicans had success with the “Contract with America” which morphed into two words: family values. The problem was holding onto those gains as politician after politician failed to meet the new standards. Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, credited with the success of the original campaign, couldn’t keep their pants zipped. Recently we’ve had Republicans like Mark Foley do damage when their antics are disclosed.

Yes, Democrats do it, too. But they’ve successfully won the mantle of “free love” all these years, so it doesn’t stick.

I liked the family values years. The vision seemed to resonate with voters, but Republicans did little to clean house and demand compliance by their own candidates. Voters don’t reward candidates or parties where the walk and the talk are not matched.

Family values: If 1) the vision is restored, or 2) Republicans can’t shake this label, then Republicans must vet every candidate that comes forward using the strictest definition. If a state rep tosses her husband to shack up with her campaign manager, she needs to be tossed no matter how well she chants the rest of the party line. If a local mayor rises to power with the party’s blessing is later found to have recruited his second wife while married to his first, he should lose the party’s support even though he’s a willing puppet.

This same “clean house” philosophy needs to be established with every component that comes forth in the mission/vision statement.

(To be honest – I think it’s going to be hard to shake the Republican “family values” history, so the party might as well embrace the banner and sweep up as necessary.)

A candidate needs several different qualities to survive. They need to have excellent skills in communication that go beyond spouting the rhetoric. They need to be able to think on their feet. They need to have skin so thick every arrow bounces, but at the same time be sensitive enough to detect subtle shifts in the wind. They need to have money or be able to raise enormous amounts of it without being trapped into making promises. Finally, the walk has to match the talk.

The party can work to provide support, especially in raising money. The party also needs to be responsive when two good candidates show interest in the same seat.

I can’t even count the number of times the party has let two or three good candidates beat each other bloody in the primaries in Waukesha County. Good party leadership has a responsibility to nurture good candidates and make certain they have a place to go. Two good candidates need to talk it over with leadership and see if there are other options. Usually, there are. Leadership needs to immaculately vet candidates and then support one all the way through.

This is more than I bargained for when I started. In summary:

-Republicans need to vet candidates based on the mission/vision statement.
-Republicans must always walk their talk. We’ve built a reputation on high ideals that won’t easily be abandoned. If we can’t hold to the ideals we’ve defined, then change those ideals.
-Republicans need to clear the way when two candidates compete and stop the primary process of ruination for one of those candidates. Manage the situation better at the local levels.


  1. I’m assuming then that you refused to vote for John McCain because of these family values principles, correct?

  2. No, Nick. I voted for John McCain. But I think a lot of voters didn’t because of exactly that reason.

    I liked the family value years. The family value mantra seemed to work. Republicans are having a hard time shaking the mantra. Therefore, if Republicans are going to make progress in the voting booth, they have to vet candidates carefully keeping family values in mind.

    I know you might not understand the nuance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a family values Republican.

  3. I’m for traditional family and moral values and believe a lot of our current problems are caused by the lack of the same. But a lot of people on the other side have drastically different views of these values and that includes redefinition and destruction of them. The “values” aren’t taken for their true worth but are instead attached to people and parties who have said the words but performed different actions. Also some just don’t like the words and some don’t like who said them. I think it’s better to drop the phrase and just address each issue, as it come up, openly and honestly. Conservatives should present good ideas and arguments and shouldn’t label themselves. Nobody’s perfect but the One.