I really wish I was more like Martha Boneta. For those of you involved in Republicans politics, you’ve probably met Martha. She’s the owner of Liberty Farms in Paris, Virginia. If you want to take a look at the beautiful land she’s cultivating, you can join my wife and the rest of the Virginia Federation of Republican Women next weekend at VFRW’s fundraiser, which Martha is graciously hosting at Liberty.
For those who don’t know Martha, you won’t find a more upbeat, sunny personality in Virginia politics. Despite the fact that she is the poster child for an overreaching, over-regulating government – she and her farm have been fighting for years now against bogus government intrusion that have threatened the viability of Liberty Farms – she has never lost her smile and her willingness to pitch in and help. Despite having every reason to be pessimistic and negative, Martha is the epitome of the happy warrior. I have never seen her lose her optimism, even in the face of odds that many others would find insurmountable.
For Republicans, right now, it’s easy for us to dwell on the negative and to look around and see nothing but bad news and things to complain about. A look at the political landscape in Virginia can be discouraging. Every statewide office is held by Democrats and the Commonwealth has voted for the Democratic candidate for President two cycles in a row. As we watch the Administration do things we don’t agree with (or do things we do agree with in a disagreeable way), it’s easy to get frustrated and negative.
A look around the rest of the world is just as unsettling. Iraq appears to be sliding back into anarchy, and Christians and non-muslims in the region are being persecuted in ways rarely seen since the Roman pogroms of the first hundred years after Christ. Civil unrest at home in Ferguson, sparked by an unexplained police involved shooting continues to rage. The crisis on the border continues to simmer, while Congress has left for the August recess after firmly committing to do nothing.
But if we simply resign ourselves to the idea that things aren’t going to get any better and the best we can do is stop the bleeding, we’re a political party and a political movement that is dead from the neck up.
The drumbeat of pessimism, anger, fear and defeatism isn’t going to inspire the masses of people in the middle where elections are won. It’s not going to convince voters to mark a ballot for a Republican. We have to fight as much against the politics of despair as we do against the loyal opposition.
Think about it this way – which of these candidates would you rather vote for?
Candidate A: Vote for me, because the world as we know it is being destroyed and we have to stop it.
Candidate B: Vote for me, because our best days are ahead of us, and it’s up to us to make them better.
Candidate B is going to win, because he’s saying something people want – a vision that is bright and sunny, not nasty and brutish. Fear, “slippery slopes,” class warfare, thinly veiled bigotry – these are the tools used by those who want to divide, not unite, and they’re tools that may work in the short term. But at what cost? Willie Horton may win a race, but everyone remembers Morning in America because it made them feel good.
Prouder. Stronger. Better.
That’s how we win.
I don’t know how Martha Boneta does it. It’s hard to be optimistic all the time. Despite the fact that I want to take a positive message out there, I can’t always do that. And given that I spend far too much time on the internet, that wave of negativity is constantly washing over me and I find too much of it is rubbing off. I know I’ve been as guilty as the next guy for engaging in the negative aspect of politics. I hear it loud and clear when I get criticized for too many denunciations, and I agree with my critics that I’ve done enough denouncing for a while. I’m sure somebody in the comments is going to remind me of that – but don’t worry, I have a very active conscience and I know my faults.
I want our candidates to win in November, so I hope that all of them will take a step back – like I have – and look at their messaging. Is it positive? Does it positively portray what we want to do and how we’re going to do it? Are we spending too much time attacking and not enough educating? Are we wasting all of our energy trying to tear down and not enough trying to build up?
Like I said, negativity and negative campaign can win elections, but they aren’t sustainable in the long term. Burnout is a real problem for our hard core activists. Nobody can be angry all the time. Nobody can keep up that level of energy on rage alone. And once that rage is gone, the cold, hard rock of cynicism is all that’s left and that’s a voter or an activist who is going to shut down and walk away.
So I’m going to focus on the positive – and despite the bad things happening, we’ve got a lot of things to optimistic about. The Republican message is still a positive and upbeat one. Our goal of inclusion, of personal responsibility and equal opportunity for all is one that has broad appeal. We are running candidates across the Commonwealth who represent our great diversity – not merely of gender and race, but of ideas and philosophy. And we are finding voters more and more receptive to that message every day.
The great thing about Republicans is that we’ve all got a little Martha Boneta in us. Most of us who got involved in politics didn’t get involved because we want to destroy our opponents. We got into it because we were moved to give back to our community, because we wanted to build a better future for our kids, or we saw something that wasn’t right and we were determined to fix it. By focusing on the positive, we can offer the best contrast between us and our opponents and give voters something to vote for, not just vote against.
Election Day is not that far away, folks. Be like Martha – keep your chin up, your head held high and your eye on the ball. Our best days are still ahead of us.