In the days since winning the election, Barack Obama has established www.change.gov, the first-ever Web site dedicated to providing information regarding the transition between one presidential administration and another (actually, Bush had a rudimentary version in 2000 — Jeff). This effort is only the latest step to use technology to inform, involve and motivate his supporters, and is reminiscent of several ways Obama revolutionized the ground game in presidential politics.
Last night, for example, I was looking at a friend’s iPhone and, fooling around with the various applications available for instantaneous and free download, I stumbled across an application entitled “Obama ’08,” which allows the iPhone owner to organize telephone contacts used to spread the word about Obama’s campaign. Similarly, Obama supporters who preferred to use a laptop or desktop PC could download software which literally turned their home computer and home telephone into a campaign phone bank. For liberals interested in advancing Obama’s socialist policies, gone were the days of driving to the local campaign headquarters, parking their hippie butts into a folding chair, and working the phones for six hours or more.
Barack Obama, like him or not, completely transformed the traditional approaches taken by presidential campaigns in rallying and mobilizing the vote. For the sake of comparison, I received a robo-call at my house from Rudy Giuliani on Election Day, urging me to get out and vote — nice, but the call came at 7:50 p.m., ten minutes before polls were to close in Pennsylvania.
It dawned on me a few minutes ago that Barack Obama is like Clubber Lang, the mysterious new fighter on the scene with an inexplicable stranglehold on the media, while the Republican Party is more like Rocky Balboa — morally and substantively superior but much slower, much more encumbered by tradition, and equally upset and motivated after the new heavyweight caused, in an embarrassingly easy victory, the demise of the stodgy old man at the heart of the party’s corner.
Four years from now, the GOP will once again have to go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama. The defending champ will be ready, but unless things change between now and then, the GOP will not.
We need Apollo Creed.
At the beginning of the third installment of the Rocky franchise, Rocky Balboa was fat and happy, having successfully defended his heavyweight belt against a bunch of nobodies. He took for granted the hard work and sacrifice, the blood, bruises and sweat he originally put forth to get the belt in the first place, and was surprised by upstart Lang, who effortlessly got the better of the slower, more traditional, more distracted veteran in their first match. For the re-match, Balboa needed help, and he got that help from a longtime rival, Apollo Creed.
The days of chasing Mickey’s chickens to gain speed were over. Creed–The Master of Disaster! The King of Sting! The Dancing Destroyer! The Count of Monte Fisto!–taught a reluctant Rocky the merits of balance and footwork and did so the old-fashioned way, through hard work, sacrifice, and the need to step outside the comfort zone.
It wasn’t easy. Rocky couldn’t move like Creed, he couldn’t dance his way around the ring. In the past, he had relied solely on his power, his stubbornness and his high threshold for pain, but in order to have even a remote chance of beating Clubber Lang in the rematch, he needed more. Creed spent hours working Rocky over in the gym, jumping rope and hopping around in various ways. They ran on the beach, with Creed easily out-sprinting Balboa at first. Finally, after the musical training montage was almost over, Rocky beat Creed in the slow-motion footrace and the two shared a Barney Frank-type moment in the frothy surf.
If Barack Obama was able to be so efficient this time around, if he was able to mobilize the youth vote in such an unprecedented fashion, if he was able to foster turnout so effectively, what can we expect out of him in four years? As the incumbent, as the one wearing the heavyweight belt, he’ll likely be better. His ground game will likely improve. And, unless the good guys can do the same, they won’t stand a chance.
We need Apollo Creed.
We need to get younger. We need to get sleeker. We need to get faster, smoother, more efficient. We need to get quicker, smarter, more punishing, and less apt to retreat into our corner.
We need to stick to conservative principles, package those principles and sell them to the American public. It starts with the tenets of fiscal conservatism, stressing the end of big government, of higher taxes, of growth-stifling regulation. Create jobs by fostering economic growth, protect wealth by reducing taxes. Let America know that government has no business in the auto business, in our hospitals, in our homes. Talk to your kids, to your neighbors, to your co-workers, to people you meet in the supermarket. Challenge them to footraces, if necessary.
Regardless, the Ward Cleaver perception of conservatism must be replaced by concrete, practically-applicable examples of situations and institutions where conservative principles work. States and municipalities must lead the way, the private sector must do their job as well. The new media must do the job that the old media will not, and consistently report on the successes of conservatism alongside the failures of the Obama administration.
Republican Party leadership in Washington, D.C. must be gutted as well. Over the past two dozen years, we’ve seen that conservative republicans win elections, while moderate republicans do not. The tenure of the big government, spend-happy wing of the GOP must end. Young, forceful, vibrant leaders in the conservative movement must be supported and given exposure. Jindal. Palin. Ryan. Cantor. Sanford. DeMint. Huckabee. Romney. Bachman. Pence. When the dust settles in the weeks and months following Tuesday’s election, we’re going to see signs of one of two things from our party — either we’ll see the down-in-the-mouth, lazy fighter who refuses to adhere to the basic principles of hard work and sacrifice, or a lean, mean, fighting machine ready to take down the reigning champion in 2012. If it’s the former, we’re doomed; if it’s the latter, we’ll surely win.
So, who is our Apollo Creed? Certainly, the people behind Ron Paul’s unlikely success know a thing or two about getting the word out. Certainly, the tech-savvy crowd do not all vote democrat. Let’s take a free-market approach to redefining the Republican Party in the conservative mold. Let’s reward those with new, viable ideas about public relations and voter outreach with positions in the party. Let’s put out an all-points-bulletin for young people who know the merits of conservatism as well as they know how to articulate them across various channels to a wide-ranging group of people. Let’s foster grassroots programs and organizations in our higher education institutions, and reward them with support from party leaders.
News of the death of conservatism has indeed been widely misreported. The beating we took on Tuesday will serve to make us–and America as a whole–stronger if and when we choose to learn from it, if and when we choose to once again recommit ourselves to doing the right thing and taking the right approach not because it is easy but because it is hard.
A leaner, meaner, more efficient Republican Party, strengthened by a core rooted in conservative values, will not lose in four years. Rocky Balboa did it. He surprised everyone with how much sleeker he was, with how much more efficient he was, with how much faster he was, with his mastery of the ring. Apollo Creed got him there with a simple, principled approach to training — hard work, balance, core strength, footwork, blood, sweat and tears.
When the final bell had rung on the rematch, it was Clubber Lang who lay in a heap, beaten, broken, bloodied, and still surprised by the quickness and effectiveness of the older, wiser Balboa. The people were stunned. The commentators were stunned. When it was all over, Rocky reclaimed the belt he had lost due to apathy, and was a better fighter for it.
And, not to mention, do you remember what he did next?
He knocked out a Russian.