First, as I have said numerous times on these pages, Romney was simply not a strong candidate. In an age of populism, in an age in which people want a President, more than ever, to understand their lives and the challenges they face as they live through the end (hopefully) of the Great Recession, the Republicans nominated the least populist presidential candidate on the planet. Romney never represented traditional conservative Republican values and he never represented the much demonized tea party. Both groups came to claim Romney as their own after reaching the end of the primary road with only one candidate standing in a weak field. But in the end, being against the other guy, is not sufficient motivation for Republicans and conservatives to go out and vote. Nobody was enthused about the choices this general election but President Obama offered more of what people wanted.
Now my ideas on the future of the Republican Party:
- DON'T OVERSTATE THE PROBLEM: While the Republican Party has problems, it is important to not overstate the problem. In 2010, the Republicans won an enormous mid-term election, sweeping races the party had never won before. The much demonized Tea Party was the energy behind that election. While the Tea Party could stand to modify its tactics, the populist message is still appealing. While Democrats rebounded in 2012, the victory was not nearly what it is being spun as. President Obama's winning margin was down significantly from 2008 as was his vote totals. It's hard to claim an overwhelming mandate when the winning candidate received 50.4% of the vote in what was essentially a two person race. Republicans are not that far away from winning the Presidency again.
- REPUBLICANS NEED TO REACH OUT TO MINORITIES, ESPECIALLY HISPANICS: Romney did especially well with white voters. The trouble for the GOP is that there are relatively fewer of us today than there were during the days of Reagan. While African-Americans understandably coalesced behind the first ever African-American President, the GOP can do so much more in reaching that demographic in the future.. Same to with Hispanics. IN 2004, George Bush, II managed to get 44% of the Hispanic vote. Just two elections later the Republican nominee is down to 27%, a swing of 34% in a rapidly expanding demographic. There are plenty of African-Americans and Latinos who are conservative and to whom the Republican philosophy should appeal. With regard to Latinos, while they vote primarily on other things than immigration, the immigration issue has important symbolic meaning. That meaning was that Latinos are not welcome in the GOP. Supporting comprehensive immigration reform and compassion on the issue would go miles toward eliminating animosity many Latinos feel about the GOP. Bottom line is Republicans cannot win unless they learn to craft their message to attract non-minority voters. I am confident they can do it.
- REPUBLICANS NEED TO STOP BEING THE PARTY OF NO: Republicans were steadfastly against Obamacare and rightfully so. But they failed to put forth any plan that would take its place. Everyone knows health care insurance is screwed up in this country. Instead of putting forth a credible plan that encouraged much needed competition that would lead to lower premiums and better coverage,Republicans instead chose to confine their message to criticism of Obamacare. And it is not just health insurance. Republicans across the board failed to put forth a positive agenda for America's future, not just criticize the Democrats. Republicans can win on ideas. They can't win on criticism.
- EMBRACE POPULISM: The early tea party was popular in part because of its message against corporate welfare and the bailouts. There is a lot of anger about the taxpayer's money being given to corporate fat cats in the form of taxpayer subsidies and corporate bailouts. Instead of nominating someone who could appeal to working class men and women, the GOP nominated the very epitome of wealth and privilege. Voters today want a President that they can sit down and have a beer with. While President Obama is not the ultimate candidate in that regard, he is light years ahead of Mitt Romney.
- DON'T GET CAUGHT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY; SUPPORT SAME SEX MARRIAGE: Republicans are on the wrong side of history on this issue. The percent of voters in support of allowing same sex marriage is rapidly increasing. Further, it is a generational time bomb. Younger people in overwhelming numbers support allowing same sex marriage. In 25 years, maybe less,opposition to same sex marriage will be seen the same as opposition to interracial marriage is seen today. Republicans, the party of civil rights, should not be on the wrong side of this civil rights issue.
- REPUBLICANS NEED TO BE THE PARTY OF LIBERTY: The GOP needs to be the party of liberty, the party that supports the principles of freedom. While Republicans certainly should not abandon the socially conservative issues that are so appealing to a large segment of the GOP coalition, there is plenty of room to support freedom, especially when that freedom does not directly affect others. The decriminalization/legalization of marijuana is coming. The GOP should lead the way in realizing the problems criminalization of cannabis has caused and support treating it like alcohol. Likewise the Republicans should take the lead in pointing out the failure of the War on Drugs and stopping the abuses of things like civil forfeiture and the Patriot Act.
- REPUBLICANS NEED TO GET BACK TO MAKING THE ABORTION ISSUE ABOUT LIFE: For over 30 years the abortion issue has been a winning issue for Republicans. Today the polling shows pro-life position is stronger than it has ever been in the polls. Perhaps too strong because GOP primaries have pushed Republican candidates into taking absolutist positions that don't make exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother. One can certainly argue that there is a philosophical inconsistency with being pro-life, but then supporting the exceptions. But there is no doubt that if Democrats can succeed in making the abortion issue about whether to have rape and incest exceptions, which unlike abortion on demand mandated by current law, are very popular. Republicans and their pro-life supporters are foolish for risking losing the public debate on abortion because they won't budge on exceptions that don't make up 1% of the abortions done in this country. 99% of a loaf of bread is better than none of it.
- STOP DRINKING THE KOOL-AID: Many on the right were shocked by the election result. That's because they listened almost exclusively to right-wing television and radio in which people told them what they wanted to hear...that the polls weren't right, that there was a lot of support for Mitt Romney, and, in fact, he would win by a landslide. Republicans need to get out more. Turn the TV from FoxNews to CNN, even MSNBC. Listen to what the other side is saying. If Republicans want a stronger party, they need to venture out into the world. The right-wing media often is telling people want they want to hear, which isn't always necessarily the truth. The truth is President Obama is not the devil. He is a reasonably popular President who gives every appearance of being a competent and moderate leader. Meanwhile they saw Romney as being the leader of the party of angry white men. Republicans should have shown President Obama more respect, not just for being President but also as a skilled politician. The number one mistake in electoral politics is to underestimate your opponent. Democrats did it twice with Reagan and the Republicans did it with President Obama this past election.