The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

Urban Conservatism and Virginia’s Republican Party

Much has been made of Michael Steele’s recent comments that the GOP needs to apply its principles to “urban, suburban, and hip hop settings.” Some see such efforts as shortsighted and attempts at pandering. Even more, however, feel that there is no way that the GOP can apply its principles to segments of the electorate that-in their opinion-don’t believe in these principles to begin with.


There are many voters-both across the Commonwealth and nationwide-that believe in the basic principles of conservatism: the ability to conduct commerce and business with a minimum of government interference, a respect for sound fiscal policy, and a belief that faith in God-in whatever name we call him-guides our moral and ethical decisions. It’s when these principles are applied to the current negative stigma of the Republican Party that we begin to lose support, and ultimately elections.


One way that the RPV can begin to rebuild its brand across the Commonwealth is by adapting the principles of urban conservatism to its platform. The urban conservative movement targets low- to middle-income families and stresses common sense in financial literacy, education enhancement and self-sufficiency.  Critical to this movement is the application of conservative principles to urban settings-what our national chairman suggests-to create solutions that voters in these areas can understand.


Let’s look at what an urban conservative platform could consist of in Virginia, and how it compares to our creed.


Promoting Free Enterprise

We believe that the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice.


As Republicans, we believe that the best way for the individual, local community, state, and nation to prosper is through a systems of commerce that operates free of undue regulation from the levels of government (local, state, and federal), and that encourages entrepreneurship. Many organizations-Future Business Leaders of America as an example-and online networking groups stress the importance of the free enterprise system we advocate. The RPV could work to engage these groups-in middle/high schools, colleges, and online-and educate them on the importance of free enterprise. Such an education program, appropriate to the level of engagement, could show the specific effects of a checked, regulated market to the community being spoken to, and how conservative principles relating to commerce and business can help to uplift these communities.


Promoting Personal Responsibility

We believe that all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society.


Virginia’s urban conservative movement could stress the importance of personal responsibility and the consequences of irresponsibility, but could also outline programs that provide services to the community and allow residents to see Republicans living and teaching these principles.


On a nationwide level, over nine million people pas through local jails each year. Here in Virginia, there were 33,351 people incarcerated in state and local jails in October 2008, and approximately 59,423 people on probation and parole. Many of these people will-or have-reentered our communities with little in the way of services or support upon their release. An urban conservative platform in Virginia could include efforts to work within the prison system-especially among juveniles-to ensure that those released have adequate job training or sufficient education to obtain, at minimum, an entry-level job. At the state level, Republican members of the General Assembly could work with the Department of Corrections to create a yearly transition strategy to accomplish these goals, and adapt metrics to show the Virginian electorate the effects of these programs in their local communities. In addition, non-violent felons, contingent on their meeting of certain goals within a given period (obtaining a degree, diploma, or GED; remaining in a job for a certain period with no serious disciplinary action against them; remaining drug-free; acting as a mentor to others) could automatically have their voting rights restored by a bipartisan review board.


Republicans could work to provide opportunities for higher and/or trade education to students within urban communities. As part of an urban conservative platform, local Party units could offer scholarships to deserving urban students who may not have the opportunity to attend college on their own. Local members could work with students who aspire towards positions they hold as mentors. Young and College Republican members could work within schools in their communities as tutors.


The Republican candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Norfolk, John Coggeshall, has advocated placing attorneys and third-year law students in local courts to provide pro bono assistance to those who are unable to afford a lawyer. This would be of great benefit to Virginia’s urban communities, and efforts to replicate this across the Commonwealth could be considered in an urban conservative platform.


Promoting Fiscal Responsibility

We believe that fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government.


Republicans could be on the front lines in educating those in urban communities on the importance of fiscal responsibility. People will better understand our opposition to excessive government spending if they are awakened to the effects of fiscal irresponsibility in their own lives. Virginia’s urban conservative platform could dedicate resources-through individuals, churches, and other non-profit organizations-to educate urban residents on the importance of sound financial policy in their own lives. This is one area where Virginia’s social conservatives can do a lot to help. If we can educate the urban community on, for example, the true cost of raising a family over time, it is possible that we cannot only drive down the number of unplanned pregnancies by unprepared parents, but the number of abortions as well.


Being staunch supporters of our men and women in uniform, local Republican units could reach out to new and newly-separating service members and educate them on fiscal responsibility as well. 


Within our schools, Virginia’s urban conservative platform could include outreach to not only students, but families as well. Ideally, local Republican units or members could offer “family-night”-type seminars that teach financial responsibility, and that involve the whole family in learning.



Applying conservative principles to urban areas does not require us to compromise our principles. On the contrary, this application is more in line with our principles than anything we can do to promote our Party. Adopting an urban conservative platform not only can better our urban communities and their residents, but show that-contrary to the stereotype-Republicans do care about the communities in which they live. The Virginian electorate needs to see the Republican Party in action, taking concrete steps to address the problems that plague many urban communities. Urban conservatism allows us the opportunity to not just apply our principles, but live them as well.

Written by Coby Dillard

February 25, 2009 at 9:33 am

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