“You Have to Have Ideas First”

I recently ran across an interesting article in the National Journal,.. recounting an effort (which I applaud) to “rethink” the GOP–to envision a less apocalyptic and less self-destructive party future.

On a Fri­day in late June in the Texas Hill Coun­try, about an hour out­side Aus­tin, some 30 shoe­less, mostly liber­tari­an, mostly mod­er­ate, mostly Re­pub­lic­an guests gathered at the 720-acre, East­ern-in­spired ranch of Whole Foods cofounder and co-CEO John Mackey, for a con­fer­ence on the fu­ture of the GOP….

The con­fer­ence, of­fi­cially called the Con­clave on the Fu­ture of the Right, was sponsored by the In­sti­tute for Cul­tur­al Evol­u­tion, which, since 2013, has been fo­cused on “de­pol­ar­iz­ing” Amer­ic­an polit­ics.

After years of watching the Grand Old Party pander to a base of social conservatives and move farther and farther to the Right, the libertarians and fiscal conservatives who used to make their home in the GOP, and who have been feeling increasingly alienated from the party, evidently see in the current crisis an impending opportunity to reassert control.

According to the article, the aim of this meet­ing was to en­gage some of them in a con­ver­sa­tion about what their dream party might look like.

The ten­sion between or­der and liberty—and the ques­tion of how to main­tain the un­easy al­li­ance between so­cial con­ser­vat­ives and liber­tari­ans—is hardly new. But the ten­or of the con­ver­sa­tions sug­ges­ted that the at­tendees saw a fu­ture in which they and their val­ues formed the GOP’s base, and so­cial is­sues and their cham­pi­ons were no longer cen­ter stage. Their re­thought, re­newed party would be in­clus­ive and pro­act­ive, and would stand for per­son­al free­dom, smal­ler gov­ern­ment, and en­tre­pren­eur­i­al cap­it­al­ism.

Participants insisted that they weren’t interested in ejecting social conservatives from the party, but that the “politics of fear” have to go.

As Ab­n­er Ma­son, the CEO of Con­se­joSano, an on­line health care com­pany for Span­ish speak­ers, put it, “We’ve got to leave the hate be­hind.”

One of the participants was Rich Tafel, President of the Log Cabin Republicans, who opined that  “Just like the idea of gay mar­riage 20 years ago, the concept of the fu­ture Right “sounds so far-fetched. But I have no doubt that what we’re do­ing is go­ing to ac­tu­ally trans­form it. You have to have ideas first. And you have to stand alone first for a while.”

True–you do have to have ideas first. And I’m rooting for these self-described “thought leaders,” because America desperately needs two rational, adult political parties. But you also have to have a critical mass of people who are willing to leave the fear and hate behind and embrace those ideas.

On that, I’m afraid the jury is still out.


  1. I don’t know if it’s just my personal bias or something I actually detect in the recent political activity in Washington and in the presidential campaign, but it seems to me the light is going out on the Tea Party. Not to say that those who might benefit from keeping it alive aren’t still hanging on, but it seems that more people are expressing how tired they are of that small vocal percentage of people trying to seize control our government.

  2. As usual, Sheila, you have demonstrated again why I follow your blog. I had no idea that some Republicans were meeting to discuss ways to return their party to sanity. And, as usual, you have gone straight to the core of the problem with “…have to have a critical mass of people who are willing to leave fear and hate behind and embrace those ideas.” From my perspective, much of that fear and hate has been generated and kept stirred up by the power seekers who control too many of the fundamentalist and evangelical religions. It appears that the political power seekers in the Republican Party allowed the religious power seekers to have control of all social issues. Reason left the stage, and emotionalism with a foundation of magical thinking took over. Too bad. We need the forward drive of the liberals, but we also need the breaks of the conservatives.

  3. If I am reading Sheila’s blog and Theresa’s comments correctly; the issue is referring to correcting what we saw locally as “the beginning of the end” under Goldsmith in those “thrilling days of yesteryear” with the selling of our city and lack of transparency. It was the basis of President Obama’s book (written before his presidency), “The Audacity of Hope”; it was and is his belief that the leaders of this country from both “sides of the aisle” could once again sit at the bargaining table and find solutions to our problems by compromising.

    Compromise will not work if it is one-sided as it has become under the current administration. Compromise does require ideas first; then the sharing of those ideas and “let the games begin.” The REFUSAL of too many in the GOP to see that they are violating our rights to freedom of religion as stated…and promised…in the 1st Amendment seems to be the core of many of our legal problems today. Does anyone know what their “ideas” are regarding this issue? Who and what are in their cross hairs; what do they ultimately hope to accomplish? How have they manged to slip this religious furor through our local and national governments and courts to reach the current level of depriving Americans of their rights? Medical, marital, voting, educational, personal safety, basic civil and human rights. Whose idea was it to let them get a foothold in almost totalitarian control of America and Americans? How much has it cost the 1% to purchase this country?

  4. How about the conservatives accept the fact that the religious right wing need to stop trying to make this THEIR country and try to understand that the world is evolving and education of the masses is one reason for it. So many are leaving the church behind and the elders seem to believe that it is making us an ungodly society. Maybe they should consider that THEIR ways and beliefs are just not something most of us share.
    You can be good without God.

    The dumbing down of citizens with reality tv and infotainment news is causing a societal crisis that needs to be addressed. Young people are educated far more than the elders of society and the introduction of the internet has provided information to the masses that creates a society with critical thinking skills that questions the church’s old beliefs. Thinking people see that the church’s teachings are not providing citizens with ‘the golden rule’ but instead teach hate and fear of the world today.

    Fear and hate have created an environment that is causing society to view everyone else as the ‘others’ rather than part of this wonderful world of humans. We all want security in our lives, an income to provide for our families but the stress of the corporations who do not uplift their employees but tear them down instead is causing all of this stress. Profits over people is what the corporations have done to make our lives stressful; fearful of unemployment and the loss of security in our future. Seems to me that the GOP has sided with the corporations and left us humans out of the equation which is nothing that their bible teaches them. The far right have uplifted the corporations and instead use the bible as their defense which is totally illogical.

  5. Sheila – This development is a like breath of fresh air. Thanks once again for providing information I wouldn’t have learned were it not for you.

  6. Republicans have historic majorities in state legislative chambers and governorships. They have majorities in both houses of Congress unmatched in 80 years. The Republican brand is hardly suffering. It’s the Democrats that have suffered massive electoral failure at every level sans the White House during the last 7 years. It would seem an article on why the Democratic Party’s message is failing would be more appropriate.

  7. When we discuss these problems here it usually boils down to our discomfort with both the beliefs of the extreme right and their methods. Let’s address them separately.

    Beliefs: “would stand for per­son­al free­dom, smal­ler gov­ern­ment, and en­tre­pren­eur­i­al cap­it­al­ism” is the way the article described their beliefs.

    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t stand for personal freedom. Period. Do any of you?

    What America has led the world in discovering is that real personal freedom doesn’t come from small government at all but effective government. Freedom for all is the purpose of democratic government. Government is all of the laws that keep me from imposing what’s best for me on everybody else which would inherently and unnecessarily limit their personal freedom. Think of the evolution of personal freedom over the 250 years of American history. We are now, or were before the Tea Party, probably the freest people to ever walk the earth. Free to not only follow our dreams unrestrained by those who believe that we come second to but largely free from the random misfortunes of life. Hunger, illness, catastrophe.

    There is simply nothing objective that supports the need to blindly reduce or increase the size of government. Should all human institutions continuously improve by increasing customer satisfaction and decreasing waste? Of course! Would that make our government smaller? Nobody knows! It might make it bigger. It will evolve continuously to the size that it needs to be to maximize customer satisfaction and minimize waste as will business and religion and education and entertainment. The small government thing is only a byproduct of the business foolishness that has hurt us so badly that was based on the concept that running a business is simply a matter of shrinking budgets.

    I also don’t know anyone here who isn’t in favor of en­tre­pren­eur­i­al cap­it­al­ism. But most of us recognize that the magic behind that is competition and regulation and that it works by distributing wealth up. So right sized government is a necessary partner to effective right sized en­tre­pren­eur­i­al cap­it­al­ism through regulation to maximize competition and clarify customer (voter) expectations and progressive taxes to limit wealth distribution to levels that promote social stability.

    Our method for progress is and always has been democracy. All of the governed with equal say in hiring and firing those who do the work of governance. That doesn’t need enhancement. Democracy has earned its preeminence in the world as mankind’s greatest invention for political entities.

    America isn’t a problem to be solved. It’s a success that can be enhanced. Or it was until the Tea Party started messing with it.

    Republicans followed the Tea Party out the door. If they want to rejoin Americans all in building on our past success they are more than welcome.

  8. Paul:

    Paul Ryan said in his Speakership acceptance speech yesterday “But let’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going. We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.”

    Do you agree?

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/paul-ryan-elected-speaker-transcript-full-text-215351#ixzz3q3xe1GU3

  9. Hmmm, should say “right sized en­tre­pren­eur­i­al cap­it­al­ism through” but my screen shows some extra letters superimposed over it. Does yours? I wouldn’t know how to input what my screen shows if I had to.

  10. When Mitt Romney was running for President he would not say publicly but was caught saying privately that he was in favor of those with most wealth having more power over those with the least.

    Personal freedom?

  11. Robust is an old adjective recently revived as a frequent descriptor when describing a conversation, and today’s conversation is robust, healthy, and vigorous.

    Yes, I’m sensing a positive change in mainstream Republicans with their distancing themselves from the ultra-conservative, Tea Party right-wing fringe.

    I have a peculiar way of viewing American two-party politics as it impacts our democratic way of life, a visual image of a fine hand-woven rug. As you know, hand-woven rugs have fringe at both ends. Each strand of that fringe runs the entire length of the rug, is actually the skeleton of the rug, and is knotted and tied off at each end for one purpose – to keep the rug from unraveling.

    Our fringe is unraveling from both ends of the rug calling for skilled artisans to tie off the individual strands before we have more fringe than rug. The US is a tapestry of interesting colorful people, a tapestry woven by skilled artisans. Without skilled artisans to knot and tie off the individual threads, this priceless tapestry, like a hand-woven rug will unravel.

  12. Ogden makes a good point. The issue I see with the Democrat Party is that some respects they are DINOs. Evan Bayh, Joe Donnely, and John Gregg are good examples of the Corporate Democrats.

    As another example I have used: Would Bill Clinton have been elected President the first time if he would have campaigned for passing NAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the Telecommunications Act which allowed the conglomeration into the Mega-Media, tossed Glass-Steagall in the trash, and DOMA. Bill Clinton did nothing to help the Unions, he took their money of course. You might have done as well to vote for Bush the Elder.

    So now we have Hillary Clinton just one more Corporate Democrat. Who recently changed her platform to oppose TPP and Keystone Pipeline. There are Social Issues that divide Democrats and Republicans, but with the exception of Bernie Sanders the idea of the Democrat Party being the party of Main Street is gone. The Democrat Party at it’s leadership, Nationally, and at the State Level is firmly in the hands of Wall Street and the 1%.

  13. Paul, the approval rating of our Congress is at an all time historical low and, as you stated, the Republican party holds a majority in both houses. This speaks quite loudly about the broken Republican party.

  14. Paul and Louie think that Republicans are right on track despite the new Speaker of the House admitting that they broke Congress. But there’s more.


    The candidates don’t want to air their differences in public so they are attacking journalism and the RNC. They want apparently a debate in name only. I can’t say that I blame them. I think that the herd of candidates is rubbing the herd of candidates the wrong way and journalists are reporting that as news. Which it is.

    If they’re on the right track I wonder what the wrong track looks like.

  15. From Nov 30 to Dec 11 representatives from every nation on earth will meet in Paris to decide how to save the earth from us. While the exact outcome will not be known for a few decades the immediate results will analyzed endlessly to try to estimate whether or not our only home can afford us.

    Notably absent will be Republicans from America who want profits today without regard to tax payer expenses tomorrow.

    Again you can’t blame them for staying away. No telling how the world would react to being told corporate profits today are more important than their lives.

    Also not missed would be their organization skills or lack thereof. Getting essential agreement from an enterprise as big and diverse as the whole of mankind takes the epitome of political and statesmanship skills. It’s not likely that Republicans inability to run their own show would cut the mustard there.

  16. The only reason that the conservatives have a majority is that the actual amount of people voting in 2010 and 2014 were lower than presidential election years. Like historically low voter turn out. I think part of this was that the Dems running didn’t defend the President’s policies and so voters stayed home. And DINO’s don’t cut it for most of us on the left.
    That’s why I’m #FeelingTheBern! Bernie Sanders is the most liberal candidate we’ve seen since FDR and yet, the MSM thinks Hillary is going to be the nominee. And after watching the GOP debate (which was awful), so do the candidates on the other side. I believe if we have a HUGE voter turnout in the primaries next spring, Hillary will see her numbers drop considerably because many like me will purposely vote for Bernie because he speaks for us. Good luck Hillary because you’ll need it.
    By the way, thanks for your kind comment Nancy.

  17. Republicans are debating personal choice.

    For instance would you rather leave here by gunshot, inadequate healthcare, violent weather, drowned by rising seas or inadequate nurishment and hydration?

  18. I feel that the GOP majority in state legislatures has much more to do with a willingness to corrupt than to rule. The majority of states that are GOP, were historically in the Dem column and they didn’t use their temporary power to twist the system in their favour. Chicanery appears to be the realm of the GOP.

  19. “The only reason that the conservatives have a majority”

    A reason, Girl, not the only reason.

    Another reason is that they’ve discovered the power of avoiding truth. There is a certain critical percentage of our population who automatically believe that hearing what they wish was true makes it fact.

    Milking that cow is pretty lucrative.

  20. To wit: Dems outvote the GOP in every election in nearly every state. The ‘fix’ has insured their vote is so diluted that a majority vote results in a minority representation. Then they brag about it!

  21. Sadly, you can’t “return to sanity” through libertarianism. Libertarianism isn’t sane.

  22. I would like to interject that gerrymandering is another factor in why the Republicans have so many offices. It takes a lot more Democrats voting to overcome the inherent lack of competition built into the system.

  23. These comments are spot-on and for the most part just terrific! Pause to pat yourselves on the back (with an exception or two) and then get back to work encouraging others to get busy right there in their own little corners of the world. We CAN do this!

  24. Pete you are just pontificating and putting words into my mouth.. >> Paul and Louie think that Republicans are right on track despite the new Speaker of the House admitting that they broke Congress.

    Louis does not think the Republicans are on the right track. The Democrat Party since the Bill Clinton Era, when it embraced Wall Street has been off the track. The Occupy Movement which was a grass roots movement and could have made a difference in 2012 was ignored by the Corporate Democrats. Bernie is the real deal Democrat, no Pacs and Superpacs for him.

  25. @girl cousin, who defines wealth? What is the USD amount for determining a person as wealthy? Is wealth determined by liquid assets or determined by non-liquid assets?

    A stiffer inheritance tax — not confiscatory — might prevent the pooling of liquid assets in the upper strata (the 0.01%) and there is something to be said for such a thing. But, ‘equality in monetary matters’, in and of itself, is often a meretricious goal compounded by envy and resentment.

    We know what equality looks like. It existed in China a generation or so ago, and it consisted of one-billion people in identical blue cotton suits waving little red books.

    If you’re looking to find the truly wealthy, here’s a good start. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/the-rise-and-rise-and-rise-of-the-001-percent-in-america/283793/

  26. Louie sorry if I misinterpreted your comment. I’m not sure what you mean by pontificating relative to my posts.

    I have no trouble with corporations as long as they’re well regulated and in highly competitive markets. I believe that they serve a very useful purpose in that setting. So I’m not anti-corporate at all. Not that they can’t be improved. All institutions can.

    The big thing though that’s wrong today is the SCOTUS decision on Citizens vs United.

    Another is executive compensation which is begging for regulation.

  27. I’m a confirmed nerd who enjoys playing around with interactive maps and graphs. Spending a couple of minutes playing around with the interactive feature from the link I posted earlier, I learned some jaw-dropping info regarding the 2014 incomes from the US, at least it was jaw-dropping for me.

    Top 1% average income $983,896 Real 2014 US Dollars
    Top 0.01% average income $17,179,318 Real 2014 US Dollars
    Top 1% average income-including capital gains $1,260,508 Real 2014 US Dollars
    Top 0.01% average income-including capital gains $29,032,034 Real 2014 US Dollars

  28. You have Democrat presidential candidates fighting over who can give away the most stuff and all you see is a need for reform on one side of the aisle. On a small scale, this little “love in” is a perfect example of mass hysteria. When republicans do something really stupid, at least some other republicans say, “that was really stupid!” I watch news shows these days mostly to see the next outrage that pundits will rationalize, forgive, or deny. Selling guns to drug cartels? Nothing to see here! Hostile governments donating to favorite charities? Move along now! IRS scandal? Don’t be ridiculous! Voter intimidation? No problem as long as those who were intimidated were WASP’s! Are you not amused or skeptical when liberals give advise to the GOP about how to get better. We used to call such nonsense letting the fox into the henhouse. I will make you a deal though. I will let you remake the GOP if you will let me remake the democrats with Scoop Jackson, Hubert Humphrey, Daniel Moynihan, and John Kennedy.

  29. Pete! I was talking about the disfunctional candidates at the debate with their giveaway sweepstakes. But I will give you an example of a POTUS give away. I assume you understand that bondholders loan money to companies instead of buying stock because bonds USED TO BE less risky than stocks. When a company fails, the bondholders get full compensation before stockholders get a dime. Enter Obama! He gave away the bondholders’ of Chrysler (including AFSCME and the teachers’ unions) money to protect stockholders. Liberals are anxious to enforce rules against Wall Street unless enforcing such rules is inconvenient.

  30. You’re right. Obama could have let everything collapse. Spread severe pain over all stakeholders; workers, customers, and equity and bond holders. Instead he did what obviously worked exactly as planned. Saved the most, accomplished the greatest good. That’s what makes him both liberal and the greatest US President ever.

  31. Pete! What is this BS? Rules are made to be broken? Tens of thousands of people who trusted the system got screwed. They were the cautious ones who got bent over by the man who promised to look out for the little guy! So you actually think major corporations were too big to fail? I thought that was supposed to be the corruption of conservatism. Obama looked out for the auto workers and the major stockholders, most of whom were responsible for the problems at the expense of the little guy. But…you did prove my point that liberals will do anything to defend their sacred cow

  32. “Tens of thousands of people who trusted the system got screwed” instead of millions. If you cared for the 10s of thousands that took the hit why did you vote Bush/Cheney in? What they did was predicted but people like you don’t listen.

    Stop blaming the solution and start blaming the problem. That’s what’s called accountability and that is what conservatives do anything to avoid.

Comments are closed.