Robin Smith: Candidates or causes?

Robin Smith: Candidates or causes?

November 12th, 2012 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

After an all-consuming election cycle, a series of things occur. Congratulations are earned by the winning campaign, the losing campaign reflects in painful hindsight and emotions among the workers of each campaign range from enthusiastic affirmation to frustrated weariness.

Along with many, I watched the graceful concession speech offered by the GOP nominee Mitt Romney. His words reminded us of the need to solve America's serious economic woes and conveyed heartfelt appreciation to family, supporters and our country.

I also watched President Barack Obama continue to promise solutions rooting in the (patently unfair) notions of "fair share" and collective equality, while rhetoric demanding bipartisanship.

While the words on Obama's teleprompter seemed to cover everything, Romney's conciliatory remarks left something unspoken.

As someone who recruited numerous candidates on the local and state level to seek political office, ran too many campaigns to count over the last two decades and served as the face of a state party for a time, Tuesday's election reminded me of valuable lesson that's been proven true across time, election cycles, and wins and losses.

The candidates who best articulate a cause -- and who see themselves as a vehicle to elevate that cause -- are almost always the best candidates. These cause-driven servant leaders are typically focused on the end result that originates from a platform of principles and then collaborates to find a solution.

In contrast, the candidate driven almost exclusively with the hunger to win is a web of personality, a controlling ego thriving on self-regard that calculates tactics and means based on a poll-driven message. Their image transcends any cause.

Both of these candidate profiles may be equally competent, may possess characteristics that are magnetic and charismatic, and may even achieve a measure of success.

In retrospect, the soaring rhetoric of President Obama in his speech after his strong win Tuesday matched all the other empty promises of his first campaign and initial term.

Mitt Romney's very gracious and humble concession speech reminded me of the spent feeling of being in the arena, scrapping it out, putting it all on the line. But later, it occurred to me that nothing in those remarks called for an unshakeable commitment to a limited, Constitutional government that serves its citizens; a renewed call for an exceptional nation that promises equal opportunity not outcomes; or a recognition that the sovereignty and security of America must remain a priority as Al Qaeda is actually expanding its reach.

I had watched a candidate exit stage right with almost half the electorate yearning for a cause that exceeds any partisanship.

The analysis of pundits and experts who've done nothing in politics but read about campaigns continues with declarations that Republicans must rebrand, that Democrats must maneuver for momentum and pontification of Independent voters. The tug of war persists.

Sadly, the fight is really not a battle of ideas, but, instead, a pageant of candidates who appear every few years to prance about the stage of popularity.

A Chattanoogan named Bill Brock served as the Republican National Committee chairman during the slog of the Jimmy Carter economy and as an articulate governor named Ronald Reagan eloquently communicated his message that was poured in the mold of sound principles. The Brock Model set in motion the function of a political organization and mechanics of success.

While many were focused on a rebranding or even renaming of the GOP, then-Chairman Brock observed, "We don't need to change our name; we just need to live up to it." A worthy cause, indeed.

Robin Smith, a consultant at Rivers Edge Alliance, is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009.