As a [now formerly] lifelong Republican, a [Goldwater] Conservative, and a former GOP activist, operative and professional campaign manager, now ardently supporting Sen. Barack Obama, I feel that I have the proper perspective from which to advise this audience on how to "sell" Obama to your Republican friends, relatives, and business associates.
There is a large reservoir of discontent among Republicans who are dissatisfied with John McCain as the GOP nominee. As the recent 25% votes against him in the now uncontested primaries indicate, this dissention is far deeper and more persistent than it will be among Clinton Democrats, when the dust settles in August. These votes, and those of other Republicans now disenchanted are ripe for the picking this fall - IF you know how to make the case to these people.
Below the fold I'll try to give several viable talking points which should hold you in good stead with most any Republican you come across, talking politics with between now and the election...
In general, Republican voters dont have the same priorities as Democrats. The reasons YOU support Sen. Obama are most likely NOT the factors on which your Republican associates will make their voting decisions. Dont assume that your 'hot button' issues are necessarily even important to them, nor belittle the priorities they bring to the voting booth.
First, to most Republicans, the cornerstone Democratic issues of "Health Care", "Education", and "Jobs" just dont even register in the top five issues on which they will base their vote. Arguing that Obama will best handle such subjects wont win their vote even if they believe you that he is best on these issues. Moreover, Republicans will generally have less confidence in the government to deliver health care, and more confidence in private schools to deliver education than you will. Dont argue these issues, arguments just harden attitudes; save your breath - just dont go there. You want their actual VOTE, not their nodding agreement on some arcane philosophical issue.
Second, resist the urge to "Bush Bash". While many (even Most) Republicans are no longer enamored with the President, that doesnt mean they are sympathetic with everyone wanting to dump on him, either. They may feel President Bush to have been well intentioned, though blundering; they may have felt events got out of his control, they may even blame the Democratic Congress for his apparent failings. Again, DONT GO THERE. Its not a fight worth having. You dont win VOTES by fighting with people, you win by leading them to the better alternative - from their vantage point, not yours. George W. Bush is not on this ballot, and neither is his Vice President running to succeed him. That "Bush Third Term" drivel just wont cut it in winning Republican votes. Fortunately, with Obama as our candidate, we can make a better, more substantive case than that.
Third, the only really serious, pervasively damaging charge the GOP will make against Obama is the tried-and-true tactic of painting him as a traditional "tax-and-spend-liberal-democrat, squishy-on-national-defense", in the mold of John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, etc. To most Republicans, that's the killer - if they believe it. All other charges and acusations, no matter how scurrilous, are secondary and incidental to that one. If they buy the 'tax-and-spend-liberal' label, they'll believe all the muddier garbage gossip; if they reject that charge as bogus, they'll most likely reject any other labels that may be pinned on him as 'not credible' either. EVEN IF you, in your heart-of-hearts believe we need more taxes and spending, and you pray to your humanistic wiccan goddess every night (j/k) that Obama will bring these things, for the sake of the Polar Bears, keep those wishes to yourself!!! To obtain an Obama VOTE, you are appealing to your Republican friend's existing sensibilities, rather than trying to change them.
You may not agree with the following policy conclusions which led me to cross over for the first time in my life, and vote for Sen. Obama in Virginia's open primary, but THEY DID. And these same issues will resonate with other Republicans in voting booths across the country this fall...
1. TAXES. As a member of the Illinois State Senate, Sen. Obama was cosponsor of a bill which ultimately passed, creating the largest tax cut in state history. Since the start of his presidential campaign, he has consistently favored a broad-based middle class tax cut. By contrast, Sen. McCain "voted against tax cuts before he voted for them", and has no real credibility on this issue among conservatives. McCain was very critical of the Bush tax cuts, which most Republicans believe gave us years of prosperity - until very recently. Obama can thus be taken more seriously than McCain as a President who will cut taxes, rather than raise them.
2. SPENDING. Most Republicans' biggest gripe with their own party - by far - is its failure to control the bureaucracy and reign in runaway federal spending and deficits. It is useful to mention that while the last five (5) Republican Presidents promised fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, all of them grew discretionary civilian spending by tremendous amounts, and ran up ever larger deficits. Meanwhile, only Pres. Bill Clinton balanced the federal budget, and produced four years of surpluses, with the same forecast long into the indefinite future. A big problem with the federal budget is that almost nobody knows where all the money is going; its easy to add earmarks and pork barrel spending and special interest giveaways when the people back home cant tell the difference. Sen. Barack Obama's major legislative accomplishment in the Senate, the The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 has been to bring transparency to federal spending. Send your Republican friends to http://www.federalspending.gov which his legislation created, a veritable "Google of the Federal Budget", where anyone can research every dollar to see where their tax money is actually going. The whole Federal Rathole is now online, for the first time ever, inviting scrutiny from whoever has the patience to slog through it all. You dont have to be a CPA to realize that this does more in the long run to control wasteful federal spending than all the speeches Bush, Bush, Reagan, Ford, and Nixon ever gave on the subject, put together.
3. BIG GOVERNMENT. In his North Carolina victory speech, among other things, Sen. Obama uttered the words "We dont need Big Government". Whether you agree with that or not, remind your Republican friends that Pres. Bill Clinton's National Performance Review reduced the federal civilian workforce by 250,000 positions (ones they will consider, rightly or wrongly, to be useless tax-sucking bureaucrats). This makes the last Democratic administration the only presidency since Eisenhower's to leave office with a smaller federal workforce that he started with - again, Bush, Bush, Reagan, Ford, and Nixon notwithstanding. But, the real stones Obama brings to the table on this issue are his formative years on the south side of Chicago, doing meaningful community social work through voluntary, faith-based, non-governmental community organizations, rather than government bureaucracies. Yes, We CAN - rehabilitate the homeless, educate the illiterate, provide day care for single moms, dry out alcoholics, and clean junkies off the dope without buidling perpetual bureaucracies - Obama himself has proven that, through social entrepreneurship. By contrast, John McCain has never drawn a day's pay that didnt come from the public trough, courtesy of your tax dollars (getting fabulously rich by marrying an heiress or taking money under the table from special interests he did favors for doesnt count as 'earning money in the productive sector').
4. PERSONAL LIBERTY. Barry Goldwater must be rolling over in his grave over what debasements of the U.S. Constitution the Bush Administration has gotten itself into, and which the man who took his seat in the U.S. Senate, John McCain now ardently defends. Warrantless domestic wiretapping, warrantless searches and seizures, arresting U.S. citizens without probable cause, holding them without trial, etc., etc....No REAL conservative believes these things are legitimate perrogatives of the federal government. There are innumerable horror stories you can research and recount of how the GOP has sat idly by while our cherished Constitutional protections have been ignored, abrogated, and turned into a joke. The last thing real conservatives want is the Orwellian Police State we're presently heading for. Grassroots Republicans dont necessarily trust the feds any more than you do. Thats a case you can make - and make stick - with them.
5. NATIONAL SECURITY. To the rejoinder, "yes, but its worked, we havent been attacked since 9/11", you must add: "BUT, we havent foreclosed the threat by taking out al Queada, either". The National Security argument is like the Tax-and-Spend one, it doesnt matter where you stand on "bombing al Queada back to the stone age" - the fact remains that your Republican friends will vote for the candidate they perceive to be most in tune with that idea, period. McCain vocally disagrees with the successful CIA program to take out al Queada leadership when located in northwest Pakistan, without alerting the local tribal authorities and Pakistani Intelligence, who have always warned off our targets in the past. Sen. Obama, by contrast, opposes giving al Queada sanctuary in Pakistan, and ardently supports this initiative. When McCain attacked Obama as niave for "wanting to bomb an ally", the very next day the CIA took out the #3 leader in al Queada with just such a raid, with a missile fired from a Predator drone. Coddling Pakistan's corrupt dictator for these eight years hasnt made us safer, and John McCain's simplistic continuation of this weak policy is just being Soft on Terrorism, no way around it. Also, its worth noting that whatever other implications it may have for John McCain's Character, Psyche, or Mental Makeup, having a plane shot out from under you and spending six years behind bars does not automatically qualify anyone as a "national security expert"; that notion is just ludicrous on the face of it.
6. OPPORTUNITY. While John McCain's four-star Admiral father ensured him a prized appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, his performance - 894th out of 899 cadets in his class - does not attest to diligent effort, whereas Barack Obama (from a broken home, on food stamps) won competitive academic scholarships to Harvard, which he proved himself worthy of by graduating Magna Cum Laude ("With Highest Honors"). Its been a long time since any politicians of either party could talk convincingly about "The American Dream", but Barack Obama can, because he lived it. Without handouts, family patronage, or inheritence, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps from the Chicago ghetto through his own hard work, enterprise, and initiative to become President of the Harvard Law Review, one of the most prestigious scholarly legal journals in the country. Which President is more likely to make a difference in the lives of people, and motivate them with initiative to best achieve their individual God-given potential?
Those are the issues that real, hard-core Republicans think about when they vote for a president. Talk TO them - not past them with vague, touchy-feely bleeding heart nonsense they wont understand or agree with - and you might very likely ring up another VOTE for Barack Obama this fall. Getting your friends VOTE is all that matters, not winning their hearts to any grander philosophical cause; that just wont happen, so forget it. Make common cause between your GOP acquaintences and Sen. Obama, even if its on points you, yourself, disagree with. THAT'S HOW YOU WILL WIN THIS ELECTION FOR OBAMA.
Once you wash that "tax-and-spend liberal, squishy-on-national-security" label away, none of the other, lesser acusations the Karl Roves and Rush Limbaughs of this world can make against Obama will stick, either. All other things thus being equal, the younger, more intelligent, more dynamic, less "Washington Establishment", less 'tainted-by-special-interest-money' candidate should prevail. Even among Republicans...