Monday, November 3, 2008

The Future of the Republican Party; The GOP's Social and Fiscal Conservative Coalition

I have followed elections since I was a child. A few years ago, I ran across a letter I wrote to my grandfather in 1972 giving my thoughts on the presidential election between Nixon and McGovern. I was 11 years old.

The first vote I cast though was when the Republican Primary in 1980. It was at the Ryker’s Ridge Firehouse, very close to the Central Grade School that I attended Kindergarten through 6th grade. The first vote I cast was for a former California Governor named Ronald Reagan. My best friend, also a Republican, tried to convince me to vote for George Bush I, but I would not budge.

By the fall of 1980, I was living off campus at Ball State University. I will never forget the night of the election. The race was supposed to be close. Instead, Reagan won by a landslide. All over the country, Republican candidates for the Senate and House won who were given no chance to win prior to Election night.

Yep, I saw a true tidal wave in 1980. No election since has matched the overwhelming impact of that 1980 election on the political landscape. Having seen the signs though of what happened in 1980, I know when I see the signs again. And tomorrow I expect, 28 years later, to see another tidal wave, this time one sinking the hopes and aspirations of many Republicans who never saw the crashing wave coming.

It would be easy to focus on the negative, to wish the Republican run lasted at least one more election longer. But to do so would be to delay what is needed the most – a rebirth of the Republican Party.

On November 5th a debate will begin about the future of the Republican Party. Many will point to the social conservatives as reason for the loss and want to cast them and their ideas aside. That would be the wrong conclusion. Republicans win elections by putting together an uneasy coalition of fiscal and social conservatives. One generally cannot win without the other, especially in national elections.

What is wrong with the Republican Party can be summed with telling you a story about a class I taught about four years ago. I polled my class on a number of issues, including which party was best at holding down spending and taxes. To my utter amazement, Democrats were identified as the fiscally conservative party by a 2-1 margin.

Those students jolted me into reality. I had not seen what was going on. Republicans had given up being the fiscally conservative party. During the aftermath of the Reagan years, many people voted for Republicans because they saw the GOP at keeping taxes low and spending down. Today many voters see the GOP as the big spending party, and for good reason. We Republicans have failed to be fiscally responsible stewards of government. We have seen record budget deficits under our watch and now a Republican administration has pushed through Congress an ill-considered $700 billion bailout plan that will be nothing more than a continuation of corporate welfare policies that have dominated the end of the Bush administration.

Tomorrow will be a long day working at the polls. In the evening, I fully expect to return to my home to view the television reports of the Obama tidal wave sweeping over the country. While that wave will drown many a Republican as the evening wears on, in the end it will create an opportunity for Republicans to reassess the direction of the party and put it on a course for victories in the future. That is an opportunity that we Republicans need to seize.

2 comments:

Pete Boggs said...

While I don't share your assessment of the outcome of this election (relying upon a market share losing media that's in the tank for Obama, to tell us or advocate how the people will vote); your assessment of the Republican party is right on the mark.

Diana Vice said...

We have a lot in common. I voted for Ronald Reagan in my first election in 1980, two years after graduating from high school. I sure hope you're wrong about the Democratic landslide, but if that's what it takes to bring the GOP back to its Reagan roots, then it's a price that will be worth it. I hope we learn our lessons well.