In a recent closed-door speech before the Republican National Committee in Boston, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, considered a leading contender for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, told the committee:
“I’m in this business to win,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re in it. … I think that we have some folks that believe that our job is to be college professors. Now college professors are fine, I guess. You know, college professors basically spout out ideas that nobody ever does anything about. For our ideas to matter, we have to win because, if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout into the wind. So I am going to do anything I need to do to win!”
If this accurately portrays Christie's political strategy, it doesn’t bode well for a Christie-led Republican Party.
Elevating winning over ideas is a prescription for a hollow victory. Granted, a candidate should not just spout unsubstantiated generalities or floating abstractions. He must be armed not just with ideas, but with concrete policy proposals to demonstrate his ideas in action coupled with a strategy for winning.
But if a candidate wins the White House without some sort of popular mandate based on a vision of what constitutes the proper purpose of government, then to what end will he govern? If he hasn’t earned the voters’ acceptance of his vision of where he wants to lead the country, how will he gain the public backing he needs to translate his ideas into legislative action—assuming he even has a vision?
Yes, it is politically risky to ground one’s agenda in firm, explicitly acknowledged ideas. But taking a clear, principled ideological stand is an intellectual investment that, win or lose in the short term, is the only path to a solid governing majority over time. Better to have a solid losing minority to build upon for future elections than an ephemeral majority with no clear idea of what it voted for.
The 2016 Republican nominee must put ideas above winning-at-all-costs. More importantly, the GOP must adopt the “right” ideas—ideas it is supposed to stand for—that is to say, the philosophy of individualism. America desperately needs a political counterweight to the Democrats’ crusading collectivism.
Christie has it exactly backwards. For a victory to matter, it must be grounded in ideas. A Republican Party that stands for nothing but winning elections is, win or lose, doomed to irrelevance.
Political “Left” and “Right” Properly Defined—by Craig Biddle
Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—by Craig Biddle
If Republicans Want to Win, They Must Embrace Individual Rights—by Ari Armstrong