On Sunday night, the country and pop star phenom raked in eight Billboard Music Awards, including Top Artist. Conservatives could take a few tips from the 25-year-old musician.
1. Embrace the New, But Don’t Forget the Old
Swift is the interior designer’s version of modern vintage. She’s a 1920s school desk wedged next to a leather couch with clean lines. She’s here and now, tweeting and instagramming and dumping Spotify like it’s so 2013. But her style is a bit vintage, as is her latest album, titled the year of her birth but including a nod to the ’80s.
Oh yeah, baby. Like, the good ’80s. You want to hate it but you find yourself singing along. She’s the perfect blend of nostalgia and modernity. She lives in the here and now, but she’s okay with her parent’s favorite music.
Conservatives could use a bit of this. Some of their ideas are decades and even centuries old—of course we still love Ronald Reagan!—but what about the people born after 1970? Like, you know that politician who possesses likeability, proven political experience, common sense, and is super hip and cool? I don’t either. Let’s change that. It’s okay to pay homage to our ancestors, but let’s remember it’s 2015: We can dress like it, talk like it, and campaign like it—and find some candidates who model it, too.
2. Be Sexier
I don’t necessarily mean sex appeal a la Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, although to each his own. I think a man with a brain and a budget plan is hot (helloooooo Paul Ryan) but I’m a nerd. Most people need some pizazz to get them excited about politics. Conservatives, generally, aren’t known for making their ideas seem exciting or even appealing. It’s all, look at my graphs, my 200-page reports, my economics in 1,000 easy lessons.
But seriously: What’s at the core of conservatism? Liberty. Personal responsibility. Limited government. Freedom. What’s sexier than living in a country where you can do what you want, with whom you want, for however long you want? When people think of conservatives, they think people who are opposed to gender identity issues, gay marriage, and abortion rights. But they’re for a lot of great things, too. I’m talking about core beliefs Thomas Jefferson wrote about and Patrick Henry was willing to die over. Nothing is sexier than liberty, people. How about we start making it sound that way?
3. Shake It Off
Swift is known for her ability laugh at her critics and shake off whatever they say. From her older song, “Mean,” to the recent hits “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space,” Swift has no problem identifying how ridiculous her critics—both personal and professional—sound and shaking it all off in stride.
Conservatives take themselves pretty seriously, and the reasons are understandable. They believe in ideas that are constantly under attack; they promote a way of life that’s always being threatened. You need only remember the recession or look at the last 20 years of foreign relations to see that. When it comes to criticism, it’s hard to have thick skin, hard to brush it off. They’re not always sore losers, but they like to pout when critics rage.
Remember these tweets from the last election? They might make a point, sure, but they also sound a little whiny:
We also don’t know 4 sure that the public is as pathetically wrongheaded as it appears. It really could be they rely on a corrupt media
— David Limbaugh (@DavidLimbaugh) November 7, 2012
— Anita Ketchum (@hotchibobo) November 7, 2012
During the 2012 election, the police issued a warrant for the arrest of Republican primary candidate Gary Smith after surveillance video showed him slashing the tires of at least four fellow Republicans, including his primary opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones. In 2013, Ken Cuccinelli declined to call and congratulate opponent Terry McAuliffe for winning the Virginia governor’s race. Sigh.
Conservatives need to own what they believe, spar with their critics in a calm, logical manner, and then move on. They have bigger things to do than let their critics get them down. Haters gonna hate, fakers gonna fake….just shake it off already, why don’t you?
4. Go for Broke
For years, Swift was known as a country artist. After several albums, she decided to cross over to pop music—something few artists do successfully. Swift ventured into the drama with a team of experts and a plan to write and produce great music and execute albums to critical success. Like her or not, appreciate her music or not, she has a zillion fans and piles of awards. She has been successful in the music industry.
Conservatives ideals and values really are all for naught if they fail, election after election, to win. Whether it’s because the candidate was stale, the campaign was poorly run, or the ideas sounded lame, what good is touting freedom and personal responsibility if nobody is in office to make sure things stay that way? Post-election, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus presented a 100-page “Growth and Opportunity Project” report to the National Press Club. “As it makes clear, there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement.” It’s time conservatives take a few cues from Swift: Cross over where you need, make a plan to win, and execute it.