The victory hangovers have yet to wear off for my colleagues in the U.K. But my U.S. counterparts are already asking, "How can we replicate the sweeping conservative victory here, in the States?" I have the answer and I haven't been quiet about it in the least:
In the U.K., I am brought in by the Conservative Party in the very early days of a campaign, and stay on through the debates to coach their candidates into becoming the best possible versions of themselves. Stateside, such a play would take the form of the Republican Party implementing a similar plan in the nascent stages of the election cycle rather than focusing solely on strategy and leaving candidates largely to their own devices; all but ensuring the 11th hour fire drill.
In 2010, Cameron had failed to deliver a conservative majority and in 2013, no one was taking anything for granted -- not even whether Cameron was the right man for the job. Britain's campaign cycle runs about a year. My work in their epic election began in early 2013: meeting with the sitting MPs, observing them in situ, tagging along to dinner forums often no larger than 20, and once standing in the light drizzle of a weekend Town Hall to address concerns of the voters. It wasn't exactly the world stage but it was the foundational work that needed to be done.
Six months in, a sense of purpose took hold. It's said that the British are hard. But what they are, is brave. And not one candidate shied from casting a critical light on himself, in this newfound purpose. As the dinners grew larger, the plates more expensive, and the hierarchy of support swelled to the highest levels of government, still, we labored on. Two hours here, 10 minutes there. You would've been amazed at so many who could readily focus, to keep honing their skills in the slivers of time between scheduled events. The change transformed all, and positioned our leaders, now confident and ready for vindication, on every front.
Some of my attention was also given to smaller seats, for races that would hardly seem to justify such application or resources, but Britain's Conservative Party has judiciously calculated the benefits of taking an interest in the careers of especially promising junior members. In a much smaller country it wasn't unusual to be in the hustings of two different candidates in a single day.
It is a very different story in the U.S. which would never see me in Florida and Ohio on the same day, but would see that the early meetings are about strategy and spending; and no attention paid to the intimate details of a candidate for whom a voter must eventually commit.
Compared with the U.K., and for all of our talk of party unity in the States, we are fractured from the very start. My first steps here typically begin with financial backers. Only somewhat later do I meet with campaign managers and the candidates themselves. But -- and this is important -- never am I retained by the political party directly. The party itself takes no hand in fostering the careers of promising candidates no matter how bright or promising. Nor do I find the party of much support even when one of its highest ranking members is vulnerable.
So why do we U.S. conservatives refuse a more comprehensive approach to our elections? Are we so opposed to government involvement in business, that we reflexively refuse the business of securing a government? Instead we leave our candidates to cobble together their own teams each election. This is counter-productive, and cannot go on -- especially since we supposedly concern ourselves with the long-term effects of policy, over winning a contest of ideas with token insincerity.
On Britain's election night, the Conservative Party's candidates were the best versions of their genuine statesman-selves, not empty suits, employing words and catchphrases that had tested well the week prior. The opposition had focused on polls of every extraction, and pundits debating strategy ad nauseum. In the end, their polls misled. Mr. Axelrod's one-blueprint-fits-all-nations strategy failed because competing with that Marxist bombast was a regiment of genuine statesmen.
It is that linear, almost grandfatherly, commitment to Queen and Country -- not stratagems or divisiveness masquerading as compassion; that resonated with U.K. voters. There, candidate selection is the responsibility of the parties, so it stands to reason that the greatest distinction between U.S. and U.K. campaigns is in the commitment from the parties from the very outset.
When given the choice, voters will choose the genuine article, every time. As the U.K. saw in district after district, no contrivance can out-maneuver a solid statesman. I have shared this maxim for years. Our question is not, "Can it work for conservatives here", but rather, "Why are we deserting our candidates?" Our Republican Party must take an earlier and more comprehensive alliance with our candidates. Our very future depends on it.
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