What’s Not Working and How to Fix It

Jedediah Bila, Red Eye, 11-21-12

By Jedediah Bila

A few nights ago, I had dinner with four family friends. They are somewhat political, but aren’t Democrats or Republicans. If I had to define them, I’d say they leaned conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues. They all voted for Ronald Reagan. They also all voted for Barack Obama. Twice.

Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama–an interesting voting pattern, no? I couldn’t help but try to make sense of it. Here’s what they had to say:

“Reagan made me feel like he understood what I was going through and wanted to fix it.”

“With Reagan, you really understood what he was about, what he stood for, and what he wanted to do.”

“I always felt that with Reagan, it wasn’t about what the other guy was doing wrong; it was about how he was going to make it right.”

“I’m not a conservative, but I understood Reagan’s conservatism. He made the case for it, and it made sense. It wasn’t angry or inflammatory. It was funny, honest, and kind of welcoming.”

I think these comments are worth paying attention to. Sure, these are only four people speaking their minds, but I have heard similar sentiments echoed by hundreds of people over the course of the last few years. And I happen to agree with many of them.

My advice?

Empathy matters. It’s important that people believe that politicians care about them. If they don’t think you care, they probably aren’t going to vote for you.

Pointing out what the other guy is doing wrong won’t get you elected. People have to believe in your ideas, your policies, and your vision. If more time is spent criticizing your opponent than making a case for what you stand for, you lose.

People who don’t align themselves with a political party or don’t feel comfortable defining themselves as “liberal” or “conservative” often can’t stomach preach-to-the-choir perpetual outrage. They crave solutions, and they’ll vote for the person–regardless of his or her political party–who they think is putting forth the clearest agenda.

For months during the 2012 presidential election season, I was concerned that Mitt Romney couldn’t win. I argued with colleagues that I thought he might be in trouble. I, who agreed with him on policy most of the time, couldn’t see his empathy, his outreach, or a clear articulation of his vision. And if I couldn’t see it, I wasn’t convinced that the rest of America could.

With about two weeks to go in that election, I went against my instinct, something I’ve never done in my life. I listened to the emails and phone calls I was getting. I decided that lots of big shots knew better than me.

As it turns out, they didn’t.

I wasn’t wrong for months about Romney, and I won’t be wrong when I tell you that if conservatism doesn’t do a better job of presenting itself to people, the movement will be in serious trouble. If outreach remains unimportant (outreach, not pandering), if some don’t break free from preach-to-the-choir delivery styles and traffic-hungry, knee-jerk outrage, if things like empathy and charisma aren’t recognized as important in our messengers, if politicians don’t prioritize articulating their visions rather than complaining about the other guy’s…then conservatives lose. Again and again and again.

Barack Obama set out to win and he did. Yes, he spewed class warfare. But he also sold class warfare. He made it popular because of how he presented it. He didn’t win by running against McCain’s policies or Romney’s; he won by promoting his own in a way that won public opinion on key issues. I don’t agree with most of Obama’s policies, but his campaign team did a fantastic job. And that shouldn’t be ignored; it should be learned from.

So I won’t be going against my instinct again, that’s for sure.

I also won’t be sugarcoating what I feel are weaknesses in strategy on the right.

And I certainly won’t be ignoring the voices of those who once adored Reagan and now aren’t drawn to conservatism. Because growing a movement begins with listening to what they have to say.

Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila


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Jacquie Doty

Strangely, we now live in a society where evil wins most of the time. Very different from Ronald Reagan’s era.
I am one of those people who sees Barack Obama and his ilk as evil in the extreme, not unlike Mao, Lenin and Stalin. I feel this country is destined to pay for the evil it has spawned, and all of us, both good and evil, will pay dearly for our lack of vigilance in preventing this happenstance.


Empathy may be a requirement for a conservative to get elected, but not a liberal. Obama dragged Romney through the sewer and it did not seem to hurt his re-election. We do have a double standard, and will as long as the media is tilted strongly to the left. What’s the answer? I’m not sure there is one. Maybe things have to get so bad for those on the dole that they stop voting for the sugar daddies that let them down. By the way, Reagan would not stand a chance today, in my opinion. As much as I would love to see him back in the oval office…


Part of the Republican problem (and why Romney received the candidacy) is that many of the early primaries (the caucuses to be exact) permit not just Republicans but anyone to votein their primaries.

Maryland Repblicans opened their primary one year to independents and the Democratic party had people switching parties and voting against the conservative.

Caususes need to stop having these free for alls !
By time Maryland and other later primaries are held the northern Democrats and Independents have selected the republican candidate.

Wayne Bodiford

I agree that Romney was a bad candidate and ran a poor campaign but we will never win the presidency as long as voting minorities outnumber us and the dems keep giving them stuff,

Ed Straub

There is another way, it’s called the libertarian party. Check it out. They have the same values as I do. Small government, security of out nation, and support of the Constitution. Look at it, it’s where I put my vote.


Great column. Jedediah. I would guess I’m about 40 years your senior, but your instincts and mine are exactly the same. Romney was not my choice for this latest nomination and my instincts told me that after he received the nomination he would run a lackluster campaign, which is exactly what he did. What boggles my mind is, why didn’t he attack BO with the same vigor he attacked fellow Republicans? I’m convinced he really didn’t want to win the election, but neither did he want a true conservative to win either. In the sport of boxing, one who throws a fight is subject to criminal prosecution. Romney, in my opinion, definately threw this fight. The Republican Party has been taken over by the RINOs. If we conservatives ever expect to win another major election, we need to weed those RINOs out of the party. Then we need to get… Read more »

Pete Speer

BHO won for certain reasons. 1. The long ugly Republican primary wounded every candidate and and gave the Democrats bleeding holes in which to poke. 2. The Republicans refused to concentrate on economic and national security issues; the Tea Party contingent as well. The Democrats brought in (according to their words) 90 computer engineers who were able to determine the social issue position as expressed in the Social Blogs (Facebook and the like) of people who were conservatives on economics and national security. There attacks on Romney in the open and in social media was designed to wean social liberals from their economic conservatism and create the image of Romneyy as a threat to their dearest positions. 3. Romney took no leadership specific positions on economic issues which would have offset this division; Paul Ryan was unable to summon the credibility as he was attacked as well The issue was… Read more »


Jedediah commented that her friends: they leaned conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social issues.

Well, that is a Libertarian! You should check out the party.
You may not agree with EVERYTHING Libertarian, but do you agree with everything of the other parties?



Obama won by lying about his Marxist agenda, by distorting the facts regarding the economy, and by promising governmental support for gay marriage, illegal aliens and abortion and, with the help of the media, consistently and relentlessly demonizing his opponents. The sad fact is that the broad acceptance of sin garners votes more than doing the right thing. That is the perverted culture in which we live. Obama, like the people who voted for him, are hostile to Judeo-Christian values, which gives them a sense of superiority to those of us who are “unevolved” and “clueless” when it comes to the way people prosper in our current environment. I’m not advocating that conservatives emulate that kind of depravity, but that is what conservatives, especially Tea Party conservatives, are up against. The nation, aside from deep contrition in prayer and constant, impassioned intercession, needs for God to raise up a dynamic… Read more »


I agree with a couple of the other comments, any really informed voter, who voted for Reagan in the past, would not have voted for Obama. One did not have to do a lot of digging, to find that His rhetoric did not match his past history, and what little voting history, He did have. This Country, under the Left, is very much going the way of Communism, and they not only have a compliant MSM, they have a controlled MSM(maybe not direct control but ideological control, non the less), just like the old Soviet TASS News Agency. The Country is on a dangerous path, where the Constitution, is no longer the law of the land, it is not even taught in most schools, and We have states passing laws in direct conflict with Federal laws, out right defiance. The young people vote, not out of knowledge, but out of… Read more »

Joe P. Hutchinson

She [article writer] made some points of note. It’s hard to beat Reagan’s style, an acting career helped, [as well as community organizing and learning preaching style from Rev. Jeremiah Wright in BHO’s case] though I do believe Reagan was sincere and not acting. BHO to me was full of himself and BS! To believe that voters believed he ‘cared about them’ is beyond belief! But he did it and they fell for him TWICE though in much smaller popular votes the second time. Low information voters are much easier to sway. History has many accounts of people voting on emotion rather substance — Hitler; Castro and Hugo Chaves as examples. The following may have been true of Reagan but far from it from BHO: It wasn’t angry or inflammatory. This quote from the article is of note for the last weekend prior to election BHO shouted at every rally… Read more »

Glenn Shannon

When you count Democratic votes they are hard to beat anymore. Count blacks, Hispanic, welfare group and if that isn’t enough voter fraud. Now how do you beat that combination? The country has been on a down hill slide since Regan and will continue to do so because there isn’t enough conservative voting people left to change this direction.


Obama won because of the Liberal Media, the Low Information Voter, and the Santa Clause image…. Period.
We’ve lost our country, the young are indoctrinated, college students are indoctrinated, and the public is indoctrinated through the liberal media. About 50% of Americans are on some sort of government assistance.


“. . . knew better than me.” Really?


Jedediah, you and your dining friends are all wrong. The U.S. Constitution and the government it created was not about making us feel good or that it was caring. Social justice is not one of the delegated and limited authority that the Founding Fathers agreed upon as a function of the federal government. The leaders, president, senators and representatives are not elected to make us feel good, but to regulate trade, build post offices and roads, defend our country from invaders, etc, etc, etc. NOT one word about “caring for the citizens of the states.”


Aren’t you saying that–to use a football analogy–winners are those who stay on offense; losers are those who stay on defense?

joseph kay

Thank you ! God Bless you & Family .


“He sold class warfare.” What a sad, profound statement. Just like Hitler, and Mao, and Chavez.

Duke of Earle

Sorry Jedediah, but I’ve become so cynical about politicians I have a VERY hard time believing that ANY of them “understand” me or “care about” the people any more. Almost every one of them postures and proclaims whatever philosophy they think will get them votes, get them reelected, or get them more political power (often translated into personal wealth). If they can successfully convince us voters that they empathize with us, we’ll tend to vote for them. I now look for more fake empathy!
Term limits — short and with no lasting benefits (pension, etc.) will force a change in the motivation to become elected. If done right. What are the odds?

Ed Scott

Funny jedediah did not list the reasons her 4 friends voted for obama. She almost sounds like a liberal trying to come out of the closet.