A lot of soul searching in the Republican party lately. And there should be.
First, full disclosure: I'm not a conservative. I'm a ticket-splitter. So, you all can take this with the appropriate number of grains of salt if you like. If you think it's rough being a conservative now, or a liberal in 2002, you should try being neither. It's been a rough life. (; Having said that, I have been involved in politics my whole life. I thought I'd come here and share some of the insights I gained from studying the results of this election.
Here's how I see it. There are two problems confronting the Republican party right now. First, leadership. Second, a vision compatible with the post-2008 electorate. Both of these problems are not as difficult to fix as you might think. In fact, I would bet good money that if someone applied the approach I present here in an off-year state-level race in 2009, or in a Congressional race in 2010, it could move swing districts back to the red side.
My solutions in the full entry.
First, do no harm.
There are several areas that the GOP owns that remain very attractive to non-partisan voters. The Democrats have made astounding gains in liberal institution building since Bush took office. But they are still utterly disconnected from religious folks, Christian or otherwise. This is probably symbolized best by Proposition 8 in California, but that's just a symbol. Liberals recognize the failure of secular values, but they don't have a compelling replacement. Religion has had that for several millennia now.
The other area where the GOP still has a strong brand is in taxation. I'll get to why overall GOP economic policies need a small tweak, but the brand as being against taxes is still very, very strong. Don't harm that.
The other attractive area for swing voters is on national defense. Importantly, this needs to transcend "Florida" issues. In other words, it has to be more than about Israel and douchebags like Castro and Chavez. These folks are good for a few punchlines, but we all know that the only countries that even have a one-time chance of actually harming us are the nuclear armed countries. You all saw how effective it was to lay the smack down on Russia again. Well, don't forget China, possibly North Korea, and possibly Iran.
Of course, in doing this a GOP candidate capable of winning swing areas is going to have to tread very lightly on Iraq. My personal view is that President Bush was 100% correct when he said "mission accomplished." After that, Saddam was captured and executed, and now we're just trying to get those pitiful bastards to run their own government.
…Anyway, I might say that the national defense posture needs to come from a more Pat Buchananish flavor with an instinct to stay out of things that aren't our biz. Even an isolationist has to admit that someone who can put a MIRV over Missouri is our business. Otherwise, not so much.
Second, fix the problems without overcorrecting.
Two good examples of how not to adapt to the other party's wave are Eisenhower and Clinton. Though they were both two term presidents, neither was able to keep the White House for their party. People don't vote for Diet Republicans or Diet Democrats—they just vote for the real thing if they can have it.
To do that though, there needs to be a message that is connected to the party's traditions that is right for 2010/2012, not 1980 or 1994. The most important part of conveying that message will be the spokespeople. Right now I'd say the best guy you've got for this that I can think of is Huckabee. A little rough around the edges, but he has way less repair work to do than some of the other contenders out there. This will happen over time. The bench will produce some new governors and other leaders and one of them will have some real talent. It will come.
Now. Here's what's going to get me in trouble with you guys. Supply side economics. You have to ditch that. I'm not saying tax and spend. In fact, it's absolutely critical to your resurrection that you remain spending cutting tax limiting budget hawks. But even if you "know" in your heart of hearts that it's unfair for the wealthiest to pay more taxes, or that, all things being equal, tax cuts for big business creates jobs, it's becoming both electorally and empirically tough to hold that position.
This is still a middle class country. The middle class has at least as much of a sense of entitlement as the wealthy, and there are more of them. Waaay more. The idea that government will be shrunk so much that balanced budgets can come this way is now at least 30 years away, again. If you believe in that philosophy, you have to get elected to enact it. To get elected now, you need to forget about supply siding.
Guess what a wonderful solution to the whole thing would be? The flat tax. Liberals freak out because they say it's regressive, but compared to the current system, it would actually reflect an increase on higher income folks. The biggest hangup on the flat tax has always been the mortgage interest deduction. Is maybe RIGHT NOW one time where people might be willing to give that up for something else? I do. But please, don't put Poindexter Forbes on the talk show circuit with this.
Just to repeat: being the party of small government in no way commits the party to ay particular tax structure. It just commits it to the minimum possible amount, or less than now. If you truly believe that shrinking the size of government will increase liberty, then who cares how its shrunk?
It may take six months, a year, or two years, but let's just be honest. There is no way in hell that Obama is going to be able to balance the budget or even prevent more huge increases in the debt without an opposition party that will keep tabs on the Congress, and, most likely the President as well.
But politically, the continue to advocate for deficit tax cuts for the wealthy and multinational corporations is untenable. But it will come back.
It also won't be long before Obama gives up on trying to renegotiate trade deals. Any of you who have spent time in small towns, truck stops, churches, or bars know how much people hate NAFTA.
A teacher of mine once said "NAFTA isn't free trade. A free trade agreement would be one page long. NAFTA is 900."
It just depends on how isolationist you want to get.
So, just to sum up:
- Keep the strengths.
- The strengths are defense, religion, and taxes.
- Find new voices unconnected to the Bush era.
- Focus on limiting spending and tax cutting, but doing so in favor of the middle class.