One of the hardest things to do in politics, believe it or not, is to standout. Sure you can go off and say something crazy; or even do something inherently stupid that will generate attention.

But most politicians and political parties don’t want that kind of attention. I’m talking about truly standing out: to be recognized for pushing against the conventional wisdom or fighting the status quo; or even better, standing against the prevailing winds of one’s party. That is a lot harder than you may imagine.

In a life spent advancing conservative principles, I have had the privilege of serving as a county chairman, a state chairman, a candidate and an elected official.   When I assumed the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009 on the heels of humiliating defeats in 2006 and 2008, this would be my opportunity to advance those conservative principles in a new way; to go a bit against the grain, to push back on the “establishment” mindset that had led to these back to back devastating losses.

In short, for the party to survive it was time to turn the elephant to face its future. But have you ever tried to turn an elephant? Invariably, whichever end you start with will test your resolve.

GOP ‘lost its voice’

Republicans lost their voice on the things that mattered not long after the 2004 elections; and by 2008 that gap between our rhetoric and our actions had grown to the point that our credibility had completely snapped. From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the implosion of the nation’s economy, more and more Americans began to view the party as out of step with the direction they believed the country should be heading. To make matters worse, what many inside and outside the arty failed to understand was it wasn’t the fault of our ideals or the principles we espoused, but rather the failure of our leadership to honor those principles.

Over time, our principles had morphed into baser motives. We became more interested in red vs. blue state politics, egged on by political know-it-alls and high-priced consultants. The net effect of their “leadership” diminished the noble vision of the Party of Lincoln—the party I had joined at the tender age of 17—as the GOP became the party of big government Republicanism.