In Thomas Friedman’s fictional column for The New York Times titled “The Morning After the Morning After,” he advised the Republican Party to move further away from the right if Mitt Romney were to lose the election. Indeed, Romney ostensibly lost the election, but the Republican Party would be extremely remiss to heed his self-styled advice.
The past is prologue and Republican moderates simply do not win very often. From 1933 – 1969, only one Republican candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, won the presidency and during this stretch of repeated failure, the Republican Party was largely the ‘me-too’ party. Centrist Republicans, such as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, and Thomas Dewey won their party’s nomination only to lose in the general election.
Even more telling, in the last two presidential elections, the Republican Party again nominated two moderate candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney – and both lost their respective bids in the general election to a candidate further away from the center.
Clearly, preceding and recent history bespeaks the fact that the path to the American Presidency does not lie in the center for either party. When Al Gore lost to George W. Bush, the Democratic Party did not move to the center, instead the Democratic Party nominated a Massachusetts liberal by the name of John Kerry. After John Kerry lost, the Democratic Party went even further left in search of their next candidate, Barack Obama, who won twice against more politically-centered Republican candidates.
The truth is that moderates, in either party, do not motivate their base very well and a candidate without the full support of their base is a candidate that is unlikely to win.
Mitt Romney is undoubtedly by all accounts, a good businessman, a good family man, and a good man in general, but he is also a centrist candidate. Unfortunately, his moderate nature likely curtailed some much needed enthusiasm for him. For example, on perhaps the most important issue in this campaign, besides the economy and the Benghazi murders, Romney, while referring to Obamacare, inopportunely stated, if elected, “I'm not getting rid of all of healthcare reform.”
Regrettably, Romney’s ill-advised words echoed the words of another aforementioned failed moderate, Thomas Dewey who campaigned more on governing Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal more efficiently, rather than substantively opposing it.
Obamacare, and the new taxes that will affect millions of middleclass families and businesses in 2014, is of monumental importance to a significant portion of the electorate. Yet, Romney who once pledged to repeal Obamacare inexplicably seemed to walk away from that pledge. Further still, in the national debates, Romney repeatedly stated “I agree with the president” instead of drawing more meaningful distinctions, between himself and the president.
With record out-of-control spending, growing astronomical national debt, no federal budget, the first federal government credit-rating downgrade in American history with perhaps another to follow, anemic growth in what is supposed to be a recovery, unconscionably high unemployment rate, and a flailing foreign policy which saw the first death of a U.S. ambassador since 1979 along with a potentially egregious cover-up, this was a very winnable election for the Republican Party – yet Romney, the moderate, lost.
This was undeniably a tough loss for Conservatives who seek individual prosperity through economic freedom rather than government dependency, but important lessons can be learned during such difficult times. After this election, it cannot be any clearer, the Republican Party can no longer afford to nominate moderates if they hope to win the White House.
The Republican Party needs a candidate willing to fight the good fight for Conservatism, a candidate who can effectively articulate conservative principles rather than walk away from them, and a candidate who will not wane into lockstep acquiescence with his or her liberal opponent. In short, the Republican Party needs to look to the right, not the left as Mr. Friedman advises, if they hope to win the presidency.