Has the Republican Party lost its way? Did it get beaten so badly because of Tea Party craziness? Or was it, yet again, too moderate? Did it get beat because it’s party of angry old white men? What lessons should the GOP take away from this drubbing?
Here are some of my brief thoughts.
(1) This was not that much of a drubbing. It was predicted to be a close election. It was a close election. The country remains evenly split. Republicans and Democrats should both keep that in mind. Enough of the American electorate responded to President Obama’s primary message, which was, “better me than him,” for him to win. Certainly not a mandate for four more years of the same.
(2) Candidates, candidates, candidates! Right now, the GOP has a problem with its candidates, and I’m not talking Mitt Romney. Democrats picked up seats in the Senate due to some incredibly inept Republican candidates, not a Democratic groundswell. Whatever the reasons — whether it’s Tea Party extremism or the party getting too comfortable with certain seats, I’m not sure. But the GOP has lost too many races that it should have won over the last 4 years.
(3) Despite the close election, Republicans do have a serious issue with minority appeal and demographic realities. As a result, I suspect we’ll finally see bipartisan immigration reform before 2014. However, Republicans have lost ground on the issue that’s going to be hard to make up. They really need to do some serious outreach. There are Hispanic voters that would fit well in the GOP, but it’s going to take time, words, and action to make them feel comfortable enough to join up or come back.
(4) Republicans need to make peace with the idea of serious healthcare reform. Obamacare isn’t going away; there will be no repeal. It was ultimately a losing wedge issue this time round, it will be more so in future years. The other thing about the Republican stand on healthcare is that it hurts the party’s minority appeal. The issue going forward becomes how to mitigate the negative impacts, of which there will be many. The GOP needs a serious alternative healthcare approach. Now!
(5) The GOP foreign policy does sound like the 1980s part II. Although I don’t believe for a second that Mitt Romney really conceived of Russia as the United States’ primary foreign policy threat, the GOP needs a foreign policy that is more than Israel, Iraq, + military spending.
Before my fellow Republicans despair that we’re entering a new era of Democratic dominance and all is lost, let’s keep in mind one thing: The Democrats have their own problems. Pretty big problems. In his effort to win this election, President Obama repeatedly villainized wealth and openly engaged in the type of class warfare we haven’t seen since before Reagan. I think some damage was done to the Democratic Party as a result. President Obama and Congressional Democrats have some time to try and rehabilitate their image. An improving economy will help. The significance of the Democratic “firewall” of rust belt swing states is also subject to coming demographic realities. Continued unconditional support for unions is going to hurt elsewhere and the political benefits will be reduced as the rust belt becomes less electorally significant. Democrats cannot continue to offer, as their only solutions for an obvious entitlement crisis (1) reduced military spending, and (2) more entitlement programs. Both parties need course corrections.
Finally, let me wax philosophical on a couple things. First, the Tea Party. My few regular readers will know that I’m no great fan of the Tea Party. But for me, the problem with the Tea Party has always been about the penchant for constitutional politics, not the stances on the major issues of our time, which are debt and entitlement reform. The Tea Party energy is a positive thing for the Republican Party; it just needs to be re-directed to where it counts.
Second, Mitt Romney. I was a Jon Huntsman supporter during the primary. I still like Huntsman. But I like Romney as well, and I’ve always thought he would be a tremendous President. I think that Romney represented Republicans well. I think he represented the Mormon Church well. I think the door is now wide open for a Mormon President — of any political persuasion. Mitt ran for office with a deck stacked against him in many ways. Evangelicals were suspicious of his religion. Republicans were suspicious of his record. Democrats attacked his wealth. If he flip-flopped to navigate the minefield, I forgive him. He did a good job.
Anyway, my random morning after thoughts on the national election. Utah thoughts coming soon . . . .