Grassroots for an Open Republican Party

Revitalizing the Minnesota GOP from the Bottom Up
March 29, 2009, 3:21 pm
Filed under: MN GOP

“Grassroots for an Open Minnesota GOP” is about as grassroots as it gets – two people. Neither of us holds a party office; both of us are card-carrying, caucus-going Republicans and active in party politics to one degree or another. Neither of us has immediate plans to run for any party office. Each of is smart enough to never say “never.”

This site is not built in support of any candidate for party office nor to dissuade support from any candidate. But it does have a definite point of view, and as they say in the entertainment business, “resemblance to any campaigns for state GOP party offices, living or deceased, is purely coincidental.”

So why create the site?

Craig Westover Senate District 57

Craig Westover Senate District 57

We are not unique in believing the Republican Party needs revitalizing. And on the surface this site parrots some of the standard Republican mantra about “returning to Republican principles” and “reaffirming” conservative values as keys to rebuilding the party. Here’s the difference: We really believe it.

“Returning to Republican principles” means holding fast to those principles even when it hurts. It means turning to those principles everyday to guide every action taken as a member or officer of the Republican Party. It means incorporating those principles into how we organize the Minnesota GOP, manage the Minnesota GOP and communicate the message of the Minnesota GOP. It means we turn to those principles to guide our candidate selection process, to provide the code by which we conduct elections, and to hold Republican officeholders accountable to the people who endorse them.

No candidate for party office thus far seems willing to take that stand. No candidate has put forth a plan that goes beyond bullet points to explain how he or she will move from rather vague statements of principle to governing the Minnesota Republican Party. Talk is cheap. Walking the talk carries a much higher price.

Marianne Stebbins

Marianne Stebbins Senate District 33

On this website we take a good hard look at our party. We observe that the Minnesota GOP is a command and control structure, which attempts to build unity by excluding competing ideas. We see protecting a shallow unity from the challenge of competing ideas as a self-defeating strategy. We propose, in detail, a two-pronged plan to rejuvenate and rebuild the Minnesota GOP.

First, structurally and operationally focus the party on delegating to BPOUs responsibility for managing their own affairs and enabling BPOUs to secure the resources to do so. That includes selecting their own candidates, manging their local campaigns and rasing funds without having to compete with the state party’s efforts. A plan for building up the BPOUs is found here.

Second, clarify, broaden and diversify the Minnesota Republican Message. That doesn’t mean “RINOizing” the Republican Party. To the contrary, it means emphasizing and living by the traditional Republican principles of the primacy of individual sovereignty, the sanctity of private property and preservation of the rule of law. Rebuilding the Republican Party requires welcoming to the party all people who share, value and are willing to work for those principles – even if they might choose to use their liberty differently than others of us might choose. Plan details are found here.

We propose moving away from the notion of a “platform conservative” to the idea of “principled conservatism”; we propose superseding the excessively long and complex state party platform with a set of seven principles that define what Republicans believe, portend how we will govern and guide how we structure and operate the Minnesota GOP. The set of seven principles is found here. A party platform discussion is found here.

One final note: In grassroots tradition, our proposal is meant to be discussed, not rubber-stamped. Some of it is controversial; if it weren’t controversial and didn’t challenge the way we think about a party whose electoral power teeters on irrelevance, it wouldn’t have much use, would it? Putting it together, bouncing ideas off people in various forums, two things became clear: the ever-growing number of conservative groups is ample evidence there is a growling hunger for a principled political party growling out there in the grassroots and the Republican Party is not feeding that hunger.

And so, it is in the spirit of building a Republican Party that doesn’t just win elections, but one that earns the respect of friends and foes alike as a party of integrity, a party of principle, that we offer this declaration supporting “principled conservatism.”

If you agree with the spirit of this discussion, join us on FACEBOOK and participate in the discussions.

[Read “Who will Minnesota Republicans choose to lead their divided party?” by Blois Olson at]



Marianne Stebbins, Senate District 33
Craig Westover, Senate District 57


36 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Now this is what I call PC ! I want to hear more.

Comment by Dorothy

Let us remember that the overriding purpose of the Party is to elect Republicans. If we believe that principaled conservatism will elect more Republicans, then we should work to that end and work to convince others that our party is best for the State and Nation.

Comment by Dick Lacher

“Let us remember that the overriding purpose of the Party is to elect Republicans” Let me add REPUBLICANS THAT ADHEAR TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORN. Should the RNC be spending resources on Spector, Collins, & Snowe? I will not be giving one penny or minute of my time as long as a portion is given to RINO’S like these three.

Comment by Steve Jelinek

Amen, Steve!

Comment by Brian Sanburn

I have come to the conclusion that it makes no difference whether the candiate is republican or democrat; they all are for bigger government.

Comment by DICK MUSSER


I wholeheartedly agree with the 7 principles outlined in this website.

The only way for this to happen is for folks to convince other Republicans, one at a time, the value of true liberty and how it can be very attainable under the Republican Party.

I think the major problem is that a great many people are not part of the GOP for the most impt issue-Freedom. They are in it for secondary issues and do not put up fuss when liberty is chipped away at little by little.

While I am very concerned with most secondary issues that draw Conservatives together, I know that without Freedom and without Liberty, we will have none of the others.

There may be bright spot through this term of Obama, more Conservatives will realize what Freedoms we are giving up in the name of “Change” and they will be motivated to re-direct the Republican Party more towards Liberty.

Comment by Beth

“While I am very concerned with most secondary issues that draw Conservatives together, I know that without Freedom and without Liberty, we will have none of the others.”

Beth —

What a simple elegant way to say it. You are so right. Thank you.

Comment by Craig Westover

We need to go even deeper than you have described, although the implementation of your ideas are vital to the survival of our Party.
The MN Republican Party has become subservient to the National Party. The National Party is controlled by an elite group of deep pocketed bankers, businessmen and NGO’s. The constitutional control by the people has been almost completely overwhelmed by tactics of this elite group.
We Must: Return to the Rule of Law given to us by the U.S. Constitution. I have been trying for several years to get a resolution passed in our conventions for every Republican candidate, representative and employee of our Party to sign a pledge to follow the U.S. Constitution. Please join me at the upcoming State Central Committee Convention to pass this resolution. No one who calls themselves a Republican should object to this resolution. I do understand the implications of the resolution. Please join me::

Comment by Jim Rugg

For years, a Republican member of Congress has introduced a bill that would REQUIRE every act of Congress to begin with a citation of that section of the Constitution granting Congress authority to enact the legislation. Apparently, there has been some objection to this from our representatives, and from some of our population who continue to tolerate this being repeatedly voted down*. My suggestion would be to find that legislation and have the SCC resolution support it.

* We shouldn’t be surprised. Numerous surveys have been taken “on the street,” asking people if they thought certain “proposed laws” should be enacted, or not. The Bill of Rights isn’t very popular, and apparently little known.**

** Of course, Penn and Teller have quite a comedy routine based on the ease of getting signatures to ban the dangerous chemical “dihydrogen monoxide” (H2O).

Comment by J. Ewing


I’d like to work with you on your resolution. Can you send me an email with a copy of your proposal. Thanks.

Comment by Craig Westover

You have definately peaked my interest. I have been yelling at the state party and the congressional district to help the BPOUs for years now. I have recently become the Chair of our BPOU and I have to tell you participation is awful. Please keep me in the loop.

Comment by Jennifer Havlick

Please get Jim Rugg’s proposed resolution up and vetted on this site so that we can have our act together and pass it at State Central.

I completely dig your approach to reforming the party. And I have a challenge for you .

We are the party of superior ideas. But ideas do not win majorities. We need to get real about winning elections and regaining the majority. The only way to do that is to couple our idealism with real grassroots work.

Let’s set some goals and then see what we accomplish togther.

Wright County is ready to do more than our fair share to get us all on the right track.

Comment by Drew Emmer

Craig & Marianne,

Great job on the site. Love the concept. We do need a place for folks to go and learn how to advance the construct you are proposing. This is it! This should be part of BPOU leadership training.



Comment by Terry McCall

Good stuff! Would love to see the candidates for state chair comment on the content here. Hope you can find a way to get them to do it. I can tell you that Minneapolis, and the lion’s share of CD5 is on board and will do what we can as well.

Comment by Dave Wahlstedt

Dave and others —

Grassroots activism is a two-way street. Everyone interested in supporting the stuff here should contact their candidate, or all the candidates for chair, and ask them for their opinions. Not only is that more effective, but it demonstrates how committed we all really are.

Thanks for the support.

Comment by Craig Westover

Sorry. Though I count myself as conservative as the next, I’m also practical enough to recognize that the day has long since past when someone can stand up and say, “I stand four square for the principle of ___” and get elected.

Republicans believe that their ideas are SOOOO right (and by and large they are) that people will fall all over themselves to vote for Republicans. Tarnish on the brand aside, it just isn’t realistic. You can’t even use the words “conservative” or “principle” any more, because they don’t mean anything to real people with real problems.

Here is the basic liberal message: “We care about you. Whatever your problem is, elect me and I will get the government to solve it for you.” Compare that with the conservative message: “We want to stop the government from helping you, restore your freedom and let you solve your own problems.” Now which do you think people find more attractive? (I know, “beguiling” is the better word, but most folks don’t see it that way.)

One of our GOP Senators said it best, I think, “People won’t even listen to you until they believe you care. After that, they don’t especially care what the policy is, so long as they believe you, and in you.” That’s what we’re up against. We don’t have to convince people we are right on the issues. We can’t, until we convince them at a far more basic level that we take our positions based on what’s best for them. And to quote that great philosopher Flip Wilson, “A lie is as good as the truth, if you can get somebody to believe it.” The GOP advantage is that we don’t have to lie. We do have to speak, and it matters what we say.

Comment by J. Ewing

And I can’t buy the “I am voting against my principles to save my principles” argument. That’s the justification of Republicans who voted for the bailout. You may not get elected by standing on principle, but there’s no point in electing you if yu are not going to govern on principle.

Where you do have a great point is conservatives tend to extol the virtue of liberty and don’t focus enough on the benefits of liberty. It’s what Dr. Lawrence McQuillan refers to in his paper “The Sizzle of Economic Freedom.” We have to do a better job selling the benefits; but that is not the same as pandering to constituencies, which is what the DFL does. Developing the sizzle message is a function of the state party.

In a shameless plug — Dr. McQuillan will be speaking at a Minnesota Free Market Institute lunch next Tuesday. RSPV to the Minnesota Free Market Institute (, preferably by this Friday (tomorrow).

Comment by Craig Westover

I may have miscommunicated. It is not acceptable for our elected officials to vote against principle, ever. But the practical question is which principle, when there is a conflict between two or more? If you accept as a principle that the government should protect the people and the country from the “enemy” of economic collapse, because that is bad for the people and bad for the country, you vote for the bailout. If you accept as the more important principle that the government has no business interfering in the free market, and furthermore that government is highly ineffective in doing so, and lastly that the government at minimum should not be spending money it does not have to do so, then you vote against the bailout. You can argue for and support either principle, on principle. That is where a more specific policy, or platform plank, or just general common sense comes in.

Glad to hear your plugs are shameless. 🙂

Comment by J. Ewing

If your principles conflict, check your premise. A principle is external and objective. Values are internal and subjective. Principles operate whether we are aware of them or not. We invoke values. Your argument makes everything subjective. Principles are irrelevant because they can be followed or not, depending on the situation, without consequence? That position defies logic. But it is pragmatic — we don’t need to follow principle when it hurts. That is sure to be a popular position, but I don’t think I’d raise my kids that way.

Comment by Craig Westover

I’m still not understanding your distinction. It seems to me we should value those things that our principles guide us to. Also, that our decisions have to reflect both, despite the fact that real legislation often presents us with a tradeoff. Embryonic Stem Cell Research, for example, suggests that we can trade one “potential life” to save a life already in progress. If your principle says we protect life, which do you protect? One can make a value judgement, or conduct a rational debate and come down on one side or the other (banning it, IMHO), but how can a simple principle– one of seven, say– guide you to the right decision by itself? I think the GOP needs more “guidance” than just 7, or 5 or 10 or 14 “basic principles.” I think we need to have full-blown solutions ready when the legislative or Congressional session begins, preferably having pre-sold those to the public. If we wait to formulate policy until after the liberal ball is rolling, we’re at a serious disadvantage.

Comment by J. Ewing

It seems to me we should value those things that our principles guide us to. Also, that our decisions have to reflect both, despite the fact that real legislation often presents us with a tradeoff.

No, one doesn’t always value things that result from following principle. I hold the principle of individual sovereignty, that individuals are responsible for their own lives. Some individuals choose to use that freedom to do things I do not value — the worship differently than I do, they want to educate their children differently than I do, the read different books, support different political candidates, abuse drugs and alcohol, read the Daily KOS and watch American Idol. I do not value any of these things, yet they are the inevitable consequences of the principle of individual sovereignty.

My political trade-off here, in the sense you are using it, would be to trade-off the idea of individual sovereignty (the principle) to use government to impose my educational or religious views on others (my values). That is not a trade-off, that is a “sacrifice,” compromising a higher principle for something less.

At some point, we will have the discussion on the life issues, but those are the hardest and most difficult to resolve becasue they are, clearly the most important. But before having that discussion, it’s necessary to clarify the difference between principles and values and understand which is the province of government and which belongs to individuals. We need to come to grips with the difference between protecting values and imposing values. It may not be as simple as 1-7 principles, but remember, the good Lord was able to define rules to live by for all mankind at all times in just 10 principles and a little over 300 words. The GOP shouldn’t need 176 planks and 5,100 words to define the relations between government and its citizens.

Comment by Craig Westover

Just to add that we have to be the party of solutions. We simply muddy the water when we say these are “conservative solutions” or that they are “based on conservative principles.” Solutions are solutions, and people can recognize them as such. That’s why Newt Gingrich was and continues to be so successful, because he demands as public policy those solutions (his new web site and foundation is “American Solutions”) that at least 70% of Americans already agree are the best. With 70% of the vote, you could win elections. Campaigning on “conservative principles” is going to get you nowhere.

Comment by J. Ewing

This I agree with — we have to be a party of solutions. And we have solutions and not just for traditional Republican constituencies. School choice would be a major benefit for urban communities of color, but when the going got tough a couple years ago, Republicans folded on the issue and compromised it away for the imposition of Q-Comp. Social security reform is another example, but when the going gets tough, we quit on it and support the ever popular Medicare Part D. To repeat, we have to be the party of solutions, but they have to be solutions that we believe in, because they conform to our principles, and not solutions that we support becasue they are popular. If we constantly compromise to the left, the only result is we keep moving to the left. Doe it really matter then who is in power?

Comment by Craig Westover

I think we have a fundamental difference in viewpoint, here. Republicans did not “fold” on education reform or Social Security reform. They had the right idea but got beat like a cheap drum by the Democrat propaganda machine– their “mechanics” and “processes.” We’re like Betamax or Apple– we have the vastly superior product but we get vastly out-marketed. I want to see us “play the game” as well or better than the Democrats and it isn’t helped by asking the impossible of our leaders, especially when they’re in the minority. It’s self-defeating to work against them because of their inability to get the right things done, which puts them in the minority where they cannot get the right things done.

Where we want to go is to educate the public such that the popular solutions are OUR solutions, and there is no disconnect there because they SHOULD be. We’ve thought them through and they’re based on sound principle. Unlike liberal ideas, which never work, but succeed politically to a shameful degree.

Comment by J. Ewing


I have long believed that there are two major parties in the U.S, the party of the dangerous and the party to the stupid. To put it bluntly, Republicans have been the party of the stupid for a very long time. We have not taken advantage and made our case to the people in a way, as you have talked about, that helps them see the benefit. And, the party of the dangerous has done its best to demonize us even more.

We are becoming victims of our own freedoms(what we have left of them). I talk to folks at work and in public about their views on issues, and most of them are too comfortable with a few handouts and the relative freedom we have, thus taking for granted all that has been done to have this freedom. The handouts and bailouts to these folks hide the gradual taking lessening of our freedoms.

I am afraid America is becoming more like Europe–willing to give up freedom and liberty in the name of mediocrity, because at least with mediocrity people will be more equal.

Comment by Cari Beth

Thank you for your website. We musst walk the walk. I ran in 45A and sought NO endorsements. Didn’t win but did it honestly and without any obligations except to those I would serve. My team were bright, honest and exceptionally hard working people. We have to educate the voters (tell the truth) and we have to be an example of sorely missing integrity.

Comment by Karen M Nolte

Thank you for your courage, integrity and effort. My great concern, however, is that you seem to be subscribing to what I consider the false choice that has dominated GOP politics for so long– whether it is better to stand on principle and lose, or moderate principle to win. I am firmly of the belief that the best choice is to stand on principle and win. Without winning, principle doesn’t matter, and with principle, winning /should be/ more likely.

Comment by J. Ewing

It’s about time. When I first attended a precinct caucus in 1986 I was so excited that I could make a difference. Then I listened to Bush the first go back on his no new taxes pledge. I heard Bob Dole say that he had never even read the Republican platform. I watched the contract with America evaporate. I watched so called principled Republicans ignore principle and bargain with the devil to rig Clinton’s impeachment trial so that they wouldn’t face an incumbent Al Gore. Then I watched the federal budget double from $1 trillion in 1990 to $2 trillion in 2000, with Republicans either in charge of the White House or Congress. Then Bush II spend money so fast he would embarrass a drunken sailor. Then I watched the Republican presidential nominee suspend his campaign to go back to vote yes on an unconstitutional federal bailout package. If insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results, then the Republican leadership is insane. The time has come to return to a truly principled, conservative, small government, liberty protecting government. People are hungry for it if we just have the courage to stick to our guns. The existing Republican leadership is “just this close” to being irrelevant and redundant to the liberal establishment. We need the courage to put principle above party and stick to it.

Comment by David Swan

I’m beginning to understand the distinction you are making, but it is still not clear to me how you get from there to a plan for governing a modern society. (I was going to say multicultural, but that is a different issue and part of the problem.) It seems to me that your distinction is artificial and subjective. You claim, for example, that “individual sovereignty” is a principle and that the freedom “to abuse drugs and alcohol” is a value (that some choose) flowing from that principle. But at some point these freedoms impinge upon the sovereignty of others and society rightly creates laws that, yes, curtail one individual’s sovereignty to pursue their individual values, in order to protect another’s. If you change the principle to “Your rights stop at the end of my nose” you have changed the supposedly eternal and unchanging principle. And yet you still have not defined which rights, i.e. values, are wholly within that “arm’s length.” IMHO you need more.

Another example: The Commandments say “Thou shall not kill.” Kill what? An animal? A murderer? A fetus? An embryo? An attacker– foreign or domestic? The Ten Commandments are a good basis for a just society, call them principles if you wish (remembering they proclaim one God and a holy Sabbath), and the Republican platform is probably too much in some areas, including some things that I would call principles and others I would say are “actions” or “attitudes” based on the principles. Somehow, calling them “values” doesn’t seem right to me– again that artificial distinction.

300 words is not enough, but the tax code doesn’t need to run to 7 Million words, either. As a strictly practical matter, the GOP platform may need to be the length it is (saying nothing of content), but it is not useful in that form. Something shorter, like the Contract with America or a “legislative agenda” is both better marketing and better governance. Such specificity serves, in this case, far better than any principles which might underlie them.

It seems to me that the debate over what is a principle, what those “eternal” principles are and /how to state them/ is an intellectual exercise best set aside until we agree on those policy prescriptions that will most quickly move our government in the direction of what most of us think of as Republican principles, though each of us might say them differently and in a different order. The essential is freedom, as you say, and our current government is so onerously burdensome that the direction– the conservative direction– is quite clear. We need more freedom in education, freedom from burdensome taxation and over-regulation, freedom from wanton government spending and social engineering, and freedom from massive debt and government-mandated monetary inflation, as well as freedom from foreign enemies. Heck, I would be happy if the next election’s GOP candidates shared a short, simple “undo list” as their sole platform.

I guess that, in short, I don’t care what principles you hold or how you state them, but I don’t want that to be the focus over “which way” the GOP should go, to the exclusion of the obvious and practical matter of winning the next election in a big way, based on the vague notion of essential principles that we all hold, and displayed in a practical set of policy prescriptions– real legislation– that most voters will recognize as representing their values, or principles, or whatever.

Comment by J. Ewing

You miss the distinction. The “freedom” is the principle. What you choose to do with that freedom is what you value. Individual sovereignty is the freedom to choose. Drugs and alcohol, or whole grain bread and granola, is what one values. Values change over time – “when I was a child, I thought like a child, but when I became a man I gave up childish ways.” If they didn’t, we wouldn’t grow.

Laws, at least just laws, do not impinge on individual sovereignty. Individual sovereignty is the ability to live a moral life, as one understands that to be, and to live to one’s full potential. Understood in that way, laws that simply order society (traffic laws, nuisance laws, laws protecting us from force and fraud) may limit “liberty,” but they do not impinge on individual sovereignty; they do not prevent one from living a moral life nor do they limit human potentiality.

To put that in the context of the “your right to move your arm ends at my nose” argument, it is appropriate to make a law that proscribes consequences (civil and criminal) should by fist contact your nose. Such laws in no way infringe on by individual sovereignty. They do not deny me any unalienable right. However, if to prevent the chance that my fist might under any circumstance contact your nose, a law is passed that no one may move their arms at all, now individual sovereignty is violated. If you think about it, you will see the relevance of this example to the “nanny state” mentality versus a society based on just law.

This concept is noted in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson notes that it is not any individual action of King George that requires independence, but it is the totality of the king’s action to the end of tyranny that required separation from Great Britain.

Here’s another example that relates to your “thou shalt not kill” example, and why the simple “protecting life” is not an adequate governing principle. Consider the classic burning building thought experiment. Trapped in room in a burning building is your family; trapped in another at the opposite end of a hall is a scientist with the cure for cancer, a group of children and nuns and puppies or whomever one might consider worthy individuals. Whom do you save? Your answer is irrelevant (to government); what is relevant is that given you can only save one group, you must make a value judgment. You must rank one life against another. If you are free to choose, your individual sovereignty is not violated. However, if the state passes a law that one must always choose the collective good over the personal good, then you would be punished if you chose to rescue your family. The state would be denying your individual sovereignty.

Yes, Jerry, we have to win elections, but if our purpose is winning elections so we can impose on others our values, then we are no less tyrannical than the other party, and our individual sovereignty is no safer; our freedom to live our values exists only until we lose power. Using the thought experiment example, it is just as tyrannical to require that one always save one’s family as it is to require one always act in the collective good. You and I may value family over the common good and always rescue our families before others; we do not have the power to consent to government to make such action a law. It is contrary to the principle of individual sovereignty.

Winning elections ought to be the means to the end of creating a just society – one that recognizes the primacy of individual sovereignty, the sanctity of private property and preservation of the rule of law; if winning is the end in itself, or the means to the end of imposing our will on others, then let the games begin, but let us not pretend that we have any moral high ground or that we are any less the thugs than are progressives. In the end, irrespective of who is in power, the result will be the same – not just the loss of liberty, but the inability to even recognize that liberty has been lost.

Comment by Craig Westover

The discussion above is why we are losing. We debate everything until we are all exhausted. The Democrats unite under a common theme, WIN, argue later.

If we don’t win, you canhave the best ideas, you just can’t implement them.

So it is great to be idealistic, but we need to start winning and we need to do it now! 2010 is do or die! If we lose 2010, we have no party, no debate and no chance of getting anything done.

So can we take a page out of the Democrat play book, just this one time. (And I can’t believe I am saying it)

UNITE, argue later!

Comment by Jennifer

I think there is a way to unite the idealists and the pragmatists without either yielding much ground. That is, we don’t need to all agree on the exact wording of our basic principles. What we can far more easily agree on are some relatively specific legislative initiatives that our State and Nation should adopt, like the Contract with America. These were things that the voters wanted by overwhelming margins, and could be used to convince voters to put Republicans into the majority with a promise to act immediately on them. The only difficulties with this simple strategy are getting this “message” out and getting the voters to believe these are different from the usual politicians’ promises.

That is why, as much as I enjoy the intellectual debate and the word-twiddling involved in these Principles, Platforms and Policies, I worry that time spent on these gets in the way of our becoming united on the pragmatic matter of regaining a Republican majority by agreeing on the “promise.” We can even tolerate a few who dissent on one or the other issues/principles if the majority is large enough. The detailed debate about the practical application of the principles and their best implementation in policy and law can be held after we have a majority capable of bringing them to fruition.

Comment by J. Ewing

Jerry –

This is the same promise that has been made over and over again and never kept – Let’s get elected, get Republicans into power, and then we’ll fight for principles. It doesn’t happen. Frankly, the “Contract with America,” proved to be little more than a focus-group tested litany of issues, some of which actually contradicted constitutional principle, much of which was selected as an entree to power rather than a philosophy of governance.

What the response to “principled conservatism” tells us, measured by response to the “Grassroots for and Open Republican Party website, is that Republicans that put principle ahead of president and party are willing to work to elect Republican candidates, but their support has a price – conservative principle will be honored. Principled conservatives will not be put off nor fooled by the promise of inclusion after elections are run by candidates making pandering, popular not principled promises to voters.

Conservatives must judge issues through the perspective of their principles; it is no longer acceptable, nor necessary, to compromise principle to protect a meaningless partisan majority.

Comment by Craig Westover

That’s the problem. If I can’t believe a politician who tells me exactly what he is going to do about issue X, why would I believe him if he says that he will be guided by principle Y? The principle is at least one step, probably two, from the job of enacting particular legislation in support of the principle.

And I’m tired of hearing that “forsaking principle to win election” cant because I don’t believe it is true for 99% of Republican candidates. They may have different principles than you, or express them differently than you do, and it is certainly possible that they may be led to see the implementation of that principle in law in a different way, but the grassroots of the Party are always going to endorse the most conservative candidate they can find with a chance of being elected. If there is only one running, the delegates have a choice of someone who may not agree with them on every issue/principle, or nobody at all. It’s simple math, you can’t beat somebody with nobody. Worse than this, is that just as we don’t want candidates who forsake principle to win, we don’t want candidates who have all the right principles but lose. I’ve worked for those candidates before; it’s not very satisfying. The fact that we keep electing Democrats to Congress and the Legislature has more to do with the Democrats’ lack of principles– making them willing to lie, cheat and steal to gain political power– than it does Republicans’ lack of principles. There is FAR more to winning elections than having the right principles, whatever they may be, and we need to spend more time as a Party– a group of like-minded individuals– figuring out how to win than we do figuring out how to state the basic principles that most of us already respect and expect.

I want candidates that will stand on principle, espouse specific solutions to issues, and win. If they don’t follow through when they have the majority, we hound them about it, but you can’t very well hound them when they’re in the minority, and have you ever tried to persuade a Democrat to solve a problem caused by too much government?

It still bothers me that some people seem to overlook what the late, great Vince Lombardi said: “Winning isn’t everything. Winning is the only thing.” If you don’t win, your principles go nowhere, and in fact great damage can be done to them (look at the news). If you do win, you may not get the principled solutions you want followed to the letter (again assuming we all agreed what they are) but at least you have the possibility.

Politics is like a debating society. It isn’t who is “right” on the issue, or who is taking a principled stand. It’s about presentation and effective talking points, and wise use of time. Being right on principle has almost nothing to do with getting elected. A Republican probably can’t be elected without some principles on display, but a Democrat can do so easily. Republicans think being right is tantamount to electoral success, and they are wrong about that. It isn’t fair, but we still have to find a way to win the game.

Comment by J. Ewing

Bottom line, we all know we have to do the blocking and tackling, the door knocking, the technology upgrades and the like to win elections. But we also have to have a message. The Democrats are going to give you free health care; what’s your positive message? Democrats are going to tax the rich to pay for it; what’s your positive message? Out of work? The Democrats are going to give you a job. What’s your positive message? Read Krugman’s column in the NY Times today; what’s your positive response? (He’s lying, cheating, and stealing doesn’t cut it.) How can you create solutions to specific problems if you’re not working from a set of core principles? That’s like trying to build an airplane without factoring in gravity. Fact is, we’ve been playing the political game and promising people what they want to hear as the way to get elected; how’s that workin’ out for us?

Milton Friedman said, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” To paraphrase Mr. Friedman, underlying most arguments that principles have little to do with winning elections is a lack of faith in the principles themselves.

Comment by Craig Westover

Can I agree? Yes, we have not won elections because we have not had that positive message– that “solution”– based in basic conservative principles, and we have not been able to sell that message as well as the Democrats can sell their more attractive (but false) message.

We have to have the message, we have to sell the message and still do all the other things that win elections. Just knowing what our principles are, or having candidates that know what they are, or even having good solutions based on those principles, mean pretty much diddly squat– I think that’s the PoliSci term– at winning elections. If or all of those were the determining factor, I’m fairly certain Republicans would hold a 122-12 majority in the State Legislature, rather than 45-89, barely able to sustain a veto if every one of them agrees with the same interpretation of “basic Republican principles” as the (fortunately Republican) Governor.

We have to do all of these things because doing just some of them will not matter. Fortunately, they are not mutually exclusive and in fact support one another. Having clearly defined Republican principles, not just written down somewhere but clearly communicated by our stands on the issues– our solutions– will help restore the Republican “brand.” That helps two ways: it attracts those few who vote based on issues, and the substantially larger number who vote knowing only party affiliation, those looking for an “R” or, as likely a “not-D.” Unfortunately, these two groups do not constitute a majority in a majority of places.

There are a large number of voters that always vote Democrat, and there are a large number that vote based on emotion, and there is considerable overlap between these two. The winning Republican message for these people has nothing to do with our principles, or the solutions we have based on them, and in fact just talking about “principles” or “conservative solutions” will get you either blank stares or glares, depending. This message has to start with “we care” and strictly talk about common sense solutions– the kind that everybody already and naturally understands. THEN the challenge is getting that message out past the huge media filter, biased reporting, and the Democrat’s Big Lie fueled by Democrats Big Money, and THEN we have to do the whole array of things you call “basic blocking and tackling” that the Democrats are still beating us at doing.

I’m still thinking that of the top 10 things Republicans need to do to win the next election, defining our principles is near the bottom, at best, especially when we all have a fair idea, I think, of what they are or you wouldn’t be getting general agreement with how you have enunciated them here. If this agreement can be used to further some or all of the other things we have to do to win elections and thereby advance the conservative cause (the ONLY way to do it), great. Don’t stop!

Comment by J. Ewing

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