Republicans still reeling from the November elections and fiscal cliff negotiations that left them with a bruising 43:1 ratio of revenue to the cuts they sought might be in the mood for some payback.

But before they prepare to go to the mattresses, it might behoove GOP leadership to take a moment to look inward. There’s a reason President Obama won re-election despite a sputtering economy and a failed record of broken promises. And, there’s a reason the Republican brand has suffered. It has little if nothing to do with our ideas: conservative values—like limited government, gun rights and life—are still very popular.

But if we want to win another presidency in the 21st century, I suggest we consider the following new rules going forward:

Democrats aren’t the Visigoths. We won’t attract voters by convincing them liberals are terrible people. Conservatism has an uplifting message that we need to articulate, explain and promote at every opportunity. And smile more often—voters will be far less terrified of us if we don’t look like we want to eat their children.

Banish the “O” word. Conservatives must stop explaining conservatism based on everything Obama is not. Our policies exist apart from the president and apart from Democrats. Let’s try to explain them without referencing the Left.

Disregard the shiny object. Celebrities are fun, sure. But they’re also, for the most part, morons. Clint Eastwood, Jon Voight and whomever else offers to help our cause will not be foisted on the American people as spokespeople for the movement. Except in very rare cases, they’re reckless, they’re unserious, and they’re bad communicators.

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