[cpac recap] Politics is 75% relationships, 25% policy

First in a series of posts from my time at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2010)…

It’s common for me to criticize talk-show hosts who emphasize emotional connection over actual ideas (when I review Glenn Beck’s CPAC speech I heard live, you’ll get another dose.) But according to Ron Nehring, chairman of the Republican Party in California, that’s almost exactly how you win in politics.

His seminar, part of the training track offered by Leadership Institute at CPAC, was peppered with insights that showed how a “people person” will always succeed in politics:

A 30-second visit in person to a voter is 10 times more effective than any phone or direct mail contact

Barack Obama won a majority of both the Jewish vote and Muslim vote. He won majorities of both environmentalists (who want the U.S. to build nothing) and trade unions (desperate for their workers to build anything.) He did it by showing he cared about people’s needs, not by staying 100% pure to a political ideology.

Americans hire drivers, not mechanics.

Nehring, who has helped keep Republicans together in a hostile liberal environment, closed with four principles to win:

  1. Listen: “You have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.”
  2. Learn: “Demonstrate that you’ve really been listening.”
  3. Help: “Your candidacy should help local groups like the Chamber of Commerce, TEA Party, etc. achieve their goals.”
  4. Lead: “Build relationship with all stakeholder groups you could possibly influence – folks on your side and those far outside your comfort zone.”

You can still be a conservative purist, as long as publicly you present the right emphasis: winning candidates, campaigners or (I suppose) even media personalities follow this strategy. Nehring’s ideas clearly line up with what I’ve learned — in seven months on Capitol Hill — about how politics works. Your thoughts?

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