Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Conservatives should take a page from the Mormons

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Conservatives should take a page from the Mormons

Republicans are falling behind in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the American people.

We ceded a big part of the fight when we handed over all of our school children to the nearest indoctrination centers, but now it's time to fight back.

Once this election is over, it will be time to turn our attention to the long game. And I don't mean winning the 2016 presidential election, although yeah, we should probably work on that too. 

In the meantime, however, we need to go about winning more of the electorate, not because we want power, but because we want our country to be the very best it can be. It's time to return this country to the Shining City on the Hill.

We're not going to do that through internet advertising and television commercials. Changing the culture requires personal, one-on-one attention.

And here's where we take a page from the Mormons: If I were in charge of the Republican Party, I think I'd open and staff small offices in communities that we can slowly turn to our side.  I do not mean an office in Leawood. Johnson County is red -- bordering on deep red. Paul Davis lost Johnson County. The conservative evangelists preached the message in the Golden Ghetto and it stuck. This county doesn't need to be brought to the Republican table. We're already there, pouring the drinks and refreshing the snack bowls.

I am going to use the Third District as an example, however. Though if this Mormon-like outreach is to be on a national scale, Kansas is probably not where I would start to evangelize conservative ideas. Someone with more data (and time to parse it) can probably name the right place.

We need to reach people on their turf, rather than expecting people to come to us. In the third district, Republicans need to move the needle in Kansas City, Kan. There's a large minority population. Many of the families there are headed by a single parent -- this is not the traditional Republican demographic. But Republicans need to reach both are demos -- minorities and single-parent households -- if we're to be successful as a party in the future.

So, in these small offices, likely in urban, under-served communities, we staff the Republican-equivalent of Mormon missionaries -- without the bicycle helmets. Their mission is a campaign that never ceases. Ever. And the job of these missionaries is more than just winning people to our side -- it's winning hearts and minds one person at a time.

The Republican evangelists, if you will, will continue to go door-to-door even when it isn't campaign season. They'll meet three or four times a year with church leaders in their station. They'll meet with community leaders in their station, and they'll use the off time to determine what it is exactly each community needs, and then they'll work to solve those problems.

For example, they land on a doorstop and learn that the neighborhood park is on the verge of condemnation. Our fearless Republican missionaries will work to solve the problem, primarily using private donations and regular, everyday citizens. (They should know a few of them by now, because they've been hitting doorsteps and community meetings regularly.)

There is a mantra among writers: Show, don't tell. If you have a character who sings well, you don't write "Shelly had a voice like an angel." Instead, you write that "The audience rose to its feet cheering when Shelly finished her solo during the school play." Show, don't tell.

That's the point of private citizens solving the park problem with little help of the local government. The people who live in those neighborhoods often have never witnessed what the private sector can do. We need to be catalysts to show them.

Often when a politician comes to the door and listens to a problem, they offer government solutions. They'll sponsor a bill or get in touch with Government Program A. It's job security, I guess, but it "shows" people that government is the solution. We need to do better.

In addition to going door-to-door, these conservative evangelists should be identifying the next generation of conservative leaders. These are the folks they'll call on when they learn about the dilapidated park. Their also the people they'll recruit to run for school boards and city councils. 

I know it sounds insane, but if I were in charge, conservatives would have people out knocking on doors every single day, and organizing massive canvassing projects every few months, instead of once every few months.

Fortunately, there are groups doing some of this. I notice Americans for Prosperity is hiring part-time field directors all over the country. And they organized several efforts during this last election cycle. I really hope they plan to continue that meaningful work.

The DailyKos figured this out in late September: Democrats were spending money hiring professional staff to oversee volunteers and efforts, while Republicans were spending their war chests on television ads and mail. That's so 1985 of the GOP.

I regularly notice help wanted ads on Craigslist for liberal activist paid jobs. Circa 2001, I would have laughed and said their support is all astro-turf. After 2008, I've had a major change of heart.

Republican candidates and organization raise millions and millions each cycle. We need to be wiser about how that money is used. It just makes sense that a paid staffer is going to be more reliable than a volunteer. (Duh. It's like Democrats figured out the principles behind capitalism as it relates to campaigns before Republicans. Frankly, it's an embarrassment.)

Mormons are the fastest growing faith group in the United States. And it probably isn't because their faith -- no offense -- makes the most sense. It's because when people are soul-searching and seeking answers, Mormons are actively engaged in leading people outside their faith community to the answers. 

Many, many of those outside of the typical, GOP demographic must be seeking political answers in today's world. Consider the minority business owners in Ferguson, Mo., who have probably always voted for Democrats. They've got to be doing some political soul-searching these days. 

Sadly, conservatives don't appear to be stepping in to provide some of the answers. I am not bashing the likely Republican-donors who have given to Ferguson business owners online. That's all well and good, but handing a business owner a few bucks doesn't do the same in terms of changing hearts and minds as a personal relationship. 

Imagine the good a set of conservative evangelists who had been in Ferguson for a few years could do in that community. 

Someone needs to study how the Mormons do it, and take a page from their book. 

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