Marsha Blackburn, just elected to her third term as representative to the House of Representatives from Tennessee’s seventh district, has established herself as an up-and-coming conservative in Congress. As House Republicans face minority rule in the 110th Congress, Blackburn has thrown her hat in the leadership-contest ring. Late Wednesday, Blackburn answered some quick questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez about new life in the election, life in the minority, and her role in the new Congress.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What went wrong Tuesday for Republicans?
Representative Blackburn: The ultimate problem was that Americans believed — fairly or not — that Republicans had become more about power than principle. We have to get back to the basics and remind people what it is we stand for and why our philosophy is the better one for America. Democrats didn’t so much beat us as they stood quietly by while we suffered from self-inflicted wounds. The answer to our ailment is a disciplined and aggressive communications strategy built around our party’s core principles. We can’/t afford to be out-communicated the way we’ve been the past year.
Lopez: How much did Foley hurt the GOP? Or was it something else entirely?
Rep. Blackburn: The Foley situation reduced our ability to be heard on policy issues at a critical moment in the election cycle. Who could hear Republican candidates through the blaring noise? What the Foley situation revealed though was that we were on much shakier ground than some had believed. Again, the long-term trouble can be linked back to our inability to make clear what we stand for, why we stand for it, and why America should side with us. This is as much about communications skills as it is about policy. That being said, Americans had high expectations on a range of issues for a Party that held the White House and Congress — in some areas we didn’t live up to or manage their expectations and we paid a price for that.
Lopez: How much of Election Day was about the president?
Rep. Blackburn: Clearly Election Day was a reflection of unease. What portion of that can be attributed to the president or Congress is difficult to say, but it was a message to our party that people expect more from us. That’s a challenge we have to take up and meet if we’re going to regain our majority.
Lopez: How worried are you about life in a House under Speaker Pelosi? San Fran rules the Beltway?
Rep. Blackburn: The average American is closer to any of our GOP members in political philosophy than they are to a San Francisco liberal like Nancy Pelosi. We describe Rep. Pelosi like that because she truly is among the most liberal of the liberals. And that’s saying a lot! The problem for a Speaker Pelosi is that if she attempts to push her views through the House it’s going to create tremendous problems for a large number of House Democrats. If she goes as far to the left as she’d like, 2008 will be replete with Democratic losses. I’m worried about the sort of policies we’ll see under a Speaker Pelosi, but I believe most Americans will not support much of what she would like to do and when they see the Democrats in action, they’ll make their displeasure known loud and clear.
Lopez: Does the GOP need a woman in leadership to counter her?
Rep. Blackburn: It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Lopez: There were a lot of different pre-election rumors. Will you surprise people and run for whip? Leader?
Blackburn: I intend to run for House Republican Conference Chairman. This is the position on the leadership team that works with Members to develop the communications strategy we as House Republicans use to share our vision for America. I spent decades in sales and marketing and started my own marketing firm, and I hope I can bring what I learned in the private sector to our Conference.
Lopez: What are you looking for in new House leadership?
Rep. Blackburn: We’re looking for a passionate commitment to our core principles — smaller government, lower taxes, strong defenses, individual freedoms – from our House Republican leadership. We need to reaffirm what we stand for and be certain our leaders are going to put those beliefs before anything else.
Lopez: If you could talk to every next-Congress GOPer — pep talk ‘em — today, what would you say?
Rep. Blackburn: All is not lost! Democrats won because they didn’t tell Americans the truth about what they really believed. Their ideas are so bad that they have to keep them quiet. Imagine how awful that must feel! We lost because we didn’t trumpet our ideas enough and we didn’t stick to our core beliefs enough. We have the better vision for America, we just have to get back to that vision and share it with voters more effectively.