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Open Letter to Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee

Not long ago, Chairman Michael Steele of the Republican National Committee published his “Blueprint for Tomorrow — En-route to a Republican Revolution,” outlining his view of the future for the Republican Party in the U.S.

My concern is that Mr. Steele’s view is too shallow on at least two counts: 1) The “Republican” brand is not “badly tarnished,” it is non-existent, and 2) because there is no “Republican” brand, many of Mr. Steele’s plans will fail.  The party needs a wholesale “house cleaning,” not reforms or improvements in their IT systems.


Chairman Michael Steele:

I am a conservative. I even count myself among “Republicans,” yet.  I have just finished reading your “Blueprint For Tomorrow — En-route to a Republican Revolution” (“Blueprint”).

It may well be that the Republican Party will benefit in the coming election cycles from the radical direction the Obama administration and our current Congress are taking us. However, there is a difference between an externally driven “backlash” and what the Republican Party truly needs. What the party truly needs is an internal “revolution” or, perhaps better and more to the point, a “house cleaning.”

In “Blueprint,” your first “key point” is “Our brand is badly tarnished.”  My hope is that this was an intentional understatement.  From a commercial marketing standpoint the “Republican” brand is not “badly tarnished.”  The “Republican” brand is essentially non-existent.  Or, more properly stated: getting folks to buy the “Republican” brand today is akin to getting folks to believe that the New York Yankees of today are the same team as the New York Yankees of the 1950s and ‘60s (when I thought the World Series was “some team getting to play the Yankees at the end of the season”).

People today have little or no respect for or trust in the “Republican” brand.  There have not been enough Republicans in the Senate, the House of Representatives, the White House, or even in governors’ mansions over the last 20 years who have taken a solid and forthright stand for anything more substantial than assuring their own re-election that would identify the term “Republican” with anything correlating to a “principle” or an “ideology.”  (I am not saying that there have not been any, I am saying there have not been enough to constitute a “Republican” brand.)

You say, “We were the Party of competent management,” yet why were the Republicans not wailing more loudly and incessantly when President George W. Bush (a man I respect for many, many reasons) permitted the Federal Reserve to artificially suppress interest rates well below what a free market would have supported for more than two years?  This action recklessly supported the already badly managed FNMA, FHLMC and FHA mortgage programs that encouraged the promotion of sub-prime mortgages. (And do not try to tell us that the Republicans have not done their share to support the programs promulgated by FNMA and the like.) The market, thus intoxicated by “easy money,” made bad capital investment choices ranging from real estate through manufacturing and distribution channels and all the way to Wall Street and the capital markets themselves.

Sound economists were not silent on the dangers inherent in this “bubble.” However, except for a few somewhat weak attempts to speak up over the years, Republicans have remained content to see “economic growth” — even if it was supported by nothing more than federal policy “hot air,” bad monetary policy, and bad banking.  Instead of these weak attempts, there should have been an incessant howl raised by conscientious Republicans against what was happening.

You and I both know why there was, for the most part, little more than an occasional “squeak” of warning. The fact is, far too many Republicans — just like Democrats — receive significant campaign support from the financial sector.  Indeed, the incestuous relationship between Wall Street and Capitol Hill is the single largest reason that so many financial institutions have been granted the “too large to fail” marker and handed bailout money.  And, of course, when hyper-inflation comes our way in the near future, it will be the financial sector that reaps the rewards.  Why?  Because the financial sector gets hold of the freshly printed fiat money before price-inflation takes effect.  Therefore, with billions or trillions of dollars of inflationary currency in their hands, they get first option to buy whatever assets they choose at pre-inflation prices.

This is the sickening symbiotic connection between politicians without moral anchors or sound principles and a monetary system that can readily be manipulated through a central bank.  No wonder Senator Dodd needs only 5 individuals from his home state to support his campaign while he garners hundreds of thousands of dollars from out-of-state individual donors.

You say, “We were the Party of competent management,” but Republicans — just like the Democrats — have allowed the Social Security system to become nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that makes Madoff look like a piker.  The only difference between what Madoff did and what the U.S. Congress — Democrats and Republicans — have done with Social Security is that no one has arrested any Congressmen or Senators (yet).  Apparently this is because no matter how immoral or how unconstitutional or how (otherwise) illegal or deceptive an act of Congress might be, it is still “legal.” The fact that Republicans have participated in this — almost to the equal of their Democrat cronies — makes it virtually impossible for the “Republican” brand to mean anything to anybody anymore.

You say, “We [the Republicans] were best equipped… to stand squarely for fiscal restraint [and] smaller government.” Refresh our memories, please. We poor folks outside of Washington, DC, are having a really hard time remembering just when that time was.

Oh, we remember a few brave folks who stood up — who really stood for something — against the winds and tides of public opinion. But, even when Ronald Reagan was president, were it not for the strength of his personal will and integrity, there were those Republicans in his staff, cabinet and Congress at the time that would have readily jettisoned his economic policy for some good press and slap on the back.

Here is the thing about “brands.”  Brands are not merely “names.”  Behind every outstanding brand is an “idea” or an “ideology.”  People who buy “Michelin” tires over some other brand are not buying “Michelin”; they are buying “safety” or “security.”  People who by a “Rolex” watch over some other brand are not buying “Rolex”; they are buying “prestige.”  These associations are built up over years and years.  However, a “brand” that may take decades to build can be destroyed in a week of bad press.

What does the “Republican” brand stand for today?  It stands for nothing. And the reason it stands for nothing is because for at least the last decade — and likely more than four decades with only spotty exceptions — the great majority of those who bore the title “Republican” have stood for no ideals and no principles. (Oh! Wait! I take that back, most of them have stood for one principle — get re-elected by any means.)

Mr. Steele, you speak of building “coalitions” and “collaborating and coordinating with center-right think tanks, grassroots organizations, and online networks.” The Republican Party’s present image is so tarnished and so degraded that you may very well have to commence these efforts by stealth.

Tell me why any organization that has, in fact, invested in building a solid reputation and “brand” around limited government, free market economics, or sound monetary policy would want to bear the risk of saying that they are “collaborating with” or in any way connected to the Republican Party at this present time?  Since there is so little evidence that the Republican Party represents any of those principles or ideals, the organization with which you seek alliance puts their own “brand” at great risk in agreeing to such an association.  How many Republicans speak great and marvellous things when they are stumping, just to go to Washington or the state house or elsewhere in government to give in time and time again to so-called “political expediencies.”

Here I pause to give you a specific and local example. You are, I know, well aware of our own supposedly upwardly mobile star, Governor Tim Pawlenty.  Here is a man that I respect for many reasons.  However, this man is a supporter of subsidies for the ethanol industry.  There is at least one word in that phrase alone that should be anathema to a principled Republican: “subsidies.”  A free market needs no subsidies for industry.  Subsidies cause capital to be misdirected, thus damaging the economy overall.  And, of course, that is not to mention the fact that this particular subsidy causes our machines to become competitors for our very food supply with little or no proven offsetting benefit of any kind.

Again, you and I both know that this nothing more than a political expedient for Governor Pawlenty. He is willing to sacrifice the principle of free markets and to extract taxes from the people he governs for this senseless waste and, in the end, for nothing more than political gain.

Is that the “Republican” brand?  Because that is what many of us out here, who are trying to figure out what the “Republican” brand is, seem to find everywhere we turn.

Here is another pertinent example. Congressman Erik Paulsen recently supported the COPS Act of 2009.  I wrote him the following:

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User Comments
  1. Donald Dale Milne

    On May 5, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Excellent letter. I wrote something similar to the Michigan State Party chairman, Saul Anuzis, after the 2006 election. Apparently, it was largely ignored as we lost more seats in 2008 by NOT running against some unpopular tax increases. I also believe the brand is lost, as everything it used to stand for has been severely compromised, mostly in the past 8 years. We are in the same situation as a store generic can of beans, where the beans taste the same as a name brand. Only we have lost the advantage of low cost that the beans enjoy.

  2. Rick Pangrazio

    On May 6, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Excellent letter and I mean that sincerely. I have a few comments and don’t have time to be gentle so I will be candid:
    * besides “cleaning house” which I agree with where are the constuctive ideas? We need ideas not just criticism no matter how deserved.
    * the Republican brand may be extinct but we need an alternative to the short sighted policies of the Democrat brand. Their brand is very clear. Big government spending disigned to shift the wealth to help those entitled because they are less fortunate. A nice thought but we must remember that when we give a man a fish and we don’t teach him how to fish we just have postponed when he starves.
    * we need a grass roots revival of the conservative base and we need it quickly. I don’t have time now but I would encourage discussion as to how we can make this happen.

  3. RDCushing

    On May 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Thank you for your comments, Rick. I have offered constructive ideas — and sent them Mr. Steele — in my article entitled “Too Late for Conservatism,” which you can find at

  4. Shane Louthian

    On May 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Awesome letter. Great content, and excellent context.
    Branding is my business. I would love the opportunity to guide the restatement of the GOP brand, and help get this party and this country back on its feet. The unfortunate part is, I hate politics. I despise politicians, especially those in it for life or with their own personal, greedy, agendas.
    I find the need to join their ranks to initiate any sort of change. I rather stick my head in a barrel full of scorpions, but someone has to be the sacrificial lamb. I do this at the expense of my family, because I refuse to give up my principles. The political scene is one of vipers and backstabbers, and it has a changing effect on many a person’s soul. I will fight the tide, I refuse the easy route. I will challenge mediocrity. I do this because it needs to be done.
    Sure, the post I am seeking is on the smallest of stages, but it isn’t easy to find a serpent’s head when it is all coiled up, sometimes you have to start with its tail and work your way up.
    I put it to all of you reading this, join me in the effort. Run for your local offices, run for your state offices, run for your national offices.
    If you are a person of moral fiber, with a heart shielded by what is True, you can be tempted but never turned. It is your duty to turn the tide and join me in the belly of the beast we call Government. If not for your children or grandchildren’s sake, then for what you hold true, and for what our Founding Fathers held true.
    If you agree with anything in RD Cushing’s blog, you are a person of virtue. You have the ability to bring us back as a nation.

  5. jamesl

    On May 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    This is a very good letter. We need too clean house, however; how can you clean house when the tools needed to clean house are corrupt, dirty, and broken. When we can actually agree on the correct moral principles. Then maybe we can fix the problems we have not only in our party but OUR Nation. Until we can do this we must pray that God our Father in Heaven coutinues to watch over us and give us daily strength too do what his wishes are!

  6. TakeBackTheRepublicanParty

    On May 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    My name is Scott Babbidge, Founder of Take Back The Republican Party. Great to see so many like minded people looking for solutions to the problems our party and our country face today and as we move into the future.

    Take Back The Republican Party is 100% grass roots. And it is that way by design. Only when we the people come together and work toward common goals of fixing the GOP and the country will we be truly successful. You can learn more about us at

    My personal e-mail address is and I always welcome questions from anyone who cares enough to take the time to write.

    (We are presently a .com as we await word from the IRS on our petition to be classified as a non-profit organization, in case anyone is wondering.)

    Now, on to what makes TBTRP different and better than any other group out there today.

    First, we are an action based organization. It is great to have all the talking heads, but at the end of the day, the only way we are going bring about the changes needed to save America is to act.

    So, what does TBTRP believe and what actions is TBTRP taking to change things?

    1. First, and most important, we must understand that there is a difference between Conservatism and Republicanism. Republicanism, like Socialism, is a set of governing principles.
    Conservative, Moderate and Liberal are social philosophies. Over the last 15 years, the people in charge of the Republican Party have essentially pushed out of the party everyone who is not a social conservative. As a result, people who actually want to vote Republicanism because that’s the group of governing principles they agree with, are so turned off by the divisive tone and intolerance of the GOP, that in protest they either do not vote, or they vote for Democrats.
    2. Once we understand and accept that people want to vote, first and foremost, based on their governing principle beliefs, and that a person can be Republican and have a moderate or even liberal social philosophy. This is because people who believe in Republicanism that are moderate and liberal, and all people who believe in socialism, be they conservative, moderate or liberal ALL put governing principles ahead of social philosophy. It is only those who favor Republicanism that are also conservative that, to date, put social philosophy ahead of governing principles. As a result, we elect people like President Bush who are wonderful social conservatives (and it should be noted here that I am a social conservative too) but though they run on the Republican ticket, when it comes to governing principles, they are anything BUT proponents of Republicanism.
    3. In addition to outlining the reason why the GOP has lost power (#1 and #2 above) we also understand and have created a simple marketing message that regular people easily relate to their own lives. Very simply, that no matter what the liberal media tells them, the fact of the matter is that REAL Republicans believe in small government, low taxes, the restoration and preservation of personal freedom and individual liberties, and defending and upholding the Constitution.
    Our platform calls for a 50% reduction in personal income tax rates. It also calls for a 50% reduction in corporate income tax rates and the elimination of the capital gains tax. Every day, I look people in the eye and ask them to go look at line 44 of their tax return, that’s the amount of money you earned that the government TOOK from you….would you rather have Obama’s $400 tax cut, or would you rather have 50% of what the government took from you back in your family’s monthly budget? You already know the answer….every person wants the 50%!
    4. In addition to these things, and the others listed on our website, we are also actively recruiting and supporting REAL Republicans who will run on Republicanism as a set of governing principles. We are also placing a emphasis on recruiting veterans to run for office at every level. The best leaders in the history of our country served in the military, and instead of treating our veterans like second rate citizens the way Democrats do, we think our brave men and women are great leaders and will have the discipline and courage to lead our country.

    From a long term perspective, we are working hard to raise money to get REAL Republicans elected and to set up scholarship endowments at Rhodes College and Hillsdale College and we will shortly be starting work on the creation of a proper Republicanism based civics and economics curriculum which we are going to give, free of charge, to every high school in America.

    Thanks for reading, and I welcome your involvement. We are a national grass roots team. We need everyone to get involved with us to help spread the word and grow our influence. In our first 5 days in existence our web site got hits from each of the 50 states, and ever since our exposure is growing. But we need people to get off the sidelines and get into the game with us.

    Together we can fix America!


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