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The Republican Party: A Strategic View

Generally, I eschew writing about partisan politics, but like everyone else in America – and possibly a plurality of the planet – today the election was a topic of discussion, deconstruction and debate for me.  President Obama and his supporters are reveling in their victory, Republicans and conservatives are organizing circular firing squads, but the good news for America is that the election was fair, free and unmarred by the kind of bitter partisan dispute we saw in 2000. The country has sufficient serious problems and is deeply divided enough without having that cross to bear again.

Some Democrats seem to believe the President has won, if not a “landslide’, at least a crushing victory in squeaking by Governor Mitt Romney. While that belief may be delusional, it is the GOP that is clearly in trouble despite winning nearly half the popular vote and is positioning itself to implode in an ideological civil war.

Some of the more intelligent or interesting reactions I read came from historian Ron Radosh, political scientist Dan Nexon,  conservative wonk Bruno Behrend,  blogger Dave Schuler and the NRO Corner, which had a mixture of teeth-gnashing and cold-eyed realism.

What should the once great Republican Party do?

Admit they have a problem – that a majority of Americans find the GOP to be angry, scary and a little bit nuts:

Chris Christie is not why Romney lost. MSM liberal bias, though real enough and sometimes nasty, did not stop the elections of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush (including the two greatest electoral landslides in American history). Even Romney, though he carries his share of blame as standard bearer for an unsuccessful campaign, is not the whole reason millions of Hispanics and women who previously voted for George W. Bush and John McCain, voted to re-elect Barack Obama.

It wasn’t Mitt Romney (who incidentally, I am no fan of) who decided to spout off  in the midst of a national campaign season about idiocies like “legitimate rape”, the Big Bang theory being from ” the pit of Hell”, that Obama is secretly a Muslim or advocating laws where the government can forcibly ram an ultrasound wand into a woman’s vagina. Really, where did that last bright idea come from – Communist China?

The problem is the Republican Party and mainstream conservatives tolerate and support the presence of angry, misogynistic, ignorant crackpots who scare away normal people. The GOP needs to recall  a lesson from Bill Buckley instead of letting the nuts set themselves up as the arbiters of what is “conservative”.

Focus on the key numbers of American democracy – 51%, 60 % and 270:

Sectarian purity is something best left for Church – at the polling booth you need a majority.

While it is the duty of the opposition party to oppose and Obama is going to give Republicans many ideas or actions worth fervent opposition in his second term, being against something is only part of the equation if the goal is to “win”. The other part is offering a positive alternative or constructive vision that diminishes your opponent while advancing your own cause – a “noble philosophy” that attracts the uncommitted, pumps of the resolve of your allies and demoralizes and daunts your adversaries. A philosophy that builds expanding, winning, governing, coalitions
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An optimistic, inclusive, compelling narrative that makes people proud. Political music for the soul.

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People want, pretty desperately, to buy into a positive vision that offers a great future for the country and their children that says America’s best days are yet to come. That the United States is the preeminent force for Good in the world and should unreservedly remain so. Obama cannot offer that vision and, with some exceptions, neither will his party. The GOP needs to be not just “a” but “THE” middle-class party – the party of strivers and upward social mobility, personal achievement, rising living standards for everyone and freedom. A Party that is attractive because what Republicans are for and what they do, not just what they are against. Or whom.

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The GOP should be the natural political home of Latinos, Asians, Jews and Catholics but it isn’t. It should remember small business and entrepreneurs when voting for garbage like Sarbanes-Oxley or Federal bailouts for crony capitalists, not just when they need them at the ballot box. The truth is, given the state of the economy, Obama’s mediocre record and empty campaign, Romney should have crested toward a Reaganesque 1984 electoral landslide but he did not.

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The Republican Party needs to change it’s current course or lose the game
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20 Responses to “The Republican Party: A Strategic View”

  1. Mr. X Says:

    You could’ve added the sheer hatred and vitriol that greeted the rise of the ‘Ronulans’ and ‘Paulbots’. No thanks did Ron receive for bringing hundreds of thousands of young people into the GOP, save from Reason magazine and a few others.

  2. Bob Colot Says:

    Excellent article. The Republican Party needs to become more inclusive or it will go the way of the Federalists and the Whigs.

  3. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    Hi Zen –
    .
    You and I disagree on politics, but this is a great article and needs to be on every Republican strategist’s screen, along with Balloon Juice to point out some specifics (Note: not safe for hurting Republicans!)
    .
    The country needs two functioning political parties. More would be nice in some ways, but our system seems not to sustain that. Right now we’ve got one. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot of work and thought to rebuild a new party in the space the Republicans have occupied and with the personnal they have left.
    .
    BTW, I used to be a Republican. I left twenty years or more ago, when they started their war on women. Probably won’t go back in my lifetime. The Democrats have now occupied the space I was in.

  4. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    I largely agree, and have said pretty much the same over a series of FB posts and comments.  Couple things though:
    .
    “The GOP should be the natural political home of Latinos, Asians, Jews and Catholics but it isn’t.”–some variant of this idea has circulated for some time now, but I’m not at all certain it is now accurate however accurate it might have once been when social conservatism held greater sway than it does now.  Plus, Dems have already made great grounds with those groups, so I don’t know that “natural political home” would describe GoP future potential so much as that those groups (and incidentally, others, like the LGBT) might be shared more evenly.  Demarcations might finally be drawn according to general fiscal policy differences, FP policy differences, and so forth.   Perhaps social conservatism might more evenly split the groups as well, in some particulars.
    .
    Biggest question that now circles my mind:  Why did posts like yours above wait until post-Nov.6 to be written?   (Had the outcome been a Romney win, would all those heavy proclamations have huddled at the back of the throat for another 4 years?) 

  5. oth Says:

    You have always been a hoot. From your “intelligent” NRO link:

    “In the end, though, Mitt lost because he and his team were incapable of grasping one simple, terrible fact: Far too many Americans today don’t want a job, they want — again, to use Obama’s term — revenge.”

    If there are actually any normal mainstream conservatives, I do know one thing. They are nowhere to be found. They either don’t exist, or they are cowards unable to stand up to the loonies that constipate them so much the day after they’ve lost an election.

    Keep waiting for that fantasy St Reagan that never really was, you’re going to be waiting a long time for that unicorn.

  6. zen Says:

    Hi Curtis,
    .
     Why did posts like yours above wait until post-Nov.6 to be written?   (Had the outcome been a Romney win, would all those heavy proclamations have huddled at the back of the throat for another 4 years?) 
    .
    The willingness to listen was not there in the heat of the campaign and if Romney had skated by, their argument would have been “It’s unpleasant but it worked”. Well, it is unpleasant and a failure to boot now. The future of Bachmanism is the political wilderness.
    .
    Frankly, I doubt a willingness to listen is there now for for the screamers. They are busy finding scapegoats – anyone but themselves and are engaging in hysterics, but the pros whose bread and butter are winning elections might be open to not doubling down on what has just lost two presidential elections in a row. 

  7. zen Says:

    Oth,
    .
    There are plenty of mainstream conservatives, you might want to look around a bit harder. It’s just that many of them have left the GOP and do not feel at home in the Democratic Party either.

  8. david ronfeldt Says:

    From a TIMN perspective, the Republicans lost because they’ve become excessively tribal, and much less institutional and market-oriented.  More to the point, the Republicans lost because of the media:  not the mainstream media or the liberal media, but their very own right-wing conservative media — particularly Fox News, along with right-wing radio talkshows, and all their well-known opinionators.  These media have become so dominated by tribalists who aim to tribalize that they’ve become counter-productive, even destructive for the Republican party.
    .
    The usual frames for discussing what I’m trying to get at are “partisanship” and “polarization”.  But those frames have become too dryly analytical and easy to treat as isolatable criticisms.  At this point, when matters have become so excessive, tribalism is a more accurate, dynamic frame.
    .
    How do extreme tribalists think and act?  They demonize opponents.  They believe it’s okay to lie to outsiders. They require unity, even a kind of purity for their side.  They stress identity and loyalty.  They turn combative and uncompromising.  They shun moderates once on their side.  They engage in magical thinking about their prospects.  Et ceteraa.  And of course they accuse the other side of terrible tribalism.
    .
    There is nothing basically wrong — and much can still be righted — about key Republican principles: e.g., limited government, free enteprise, fiscal and social responsibility, and family.  But recovery from the current debacle calls for more than the kinds of detailed dissections, self-reassurances, and tinkering adjustments that are now being talked about in election post-mortems.  From a TIMN perspective, the party will have to de-tribalize and re-institutionalize, as well as become more market-oriented about ideas, in order to correct its approaches to those principles and restore itself to playing a nationally constructive, attractive role.  And if it’s leaders really do want to temper the roles of tribalism, they are going to have to rethink their relations with those associated media, which gain huge benefits and tout great success from being excessively tribal (while deny being too tribal?).

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  10. joey Says:

    “People want, pretty desperately, to buy into a positive vision that offers a great future for the country and their children that says America’s best days are yet to come. That the United States is the preeminent force for Good in the world and should unreservedly remain so.”

    Maybe the people don’t want a dream, maybe they want realistic understanding of there present situation.  They want realistic economic policies,  they want politicians that get there situation, not sneer at them for being poor,  an inclusive education system, a gap between rich and poor thats narrowing, a frank admission of Americas failings at home.

    But selling them a dream is the easy option.
    Obama sells the dream he just does it better than you guys.

    The question is, can the Republicans face reality?   

     

  11. Ken Hoop Says:

    I would say the GOP should be the “natural political home” of Latinos who have opposed illegal immigration and who have wanted a moratorium placed on legal immigration since circa 1995….of Jews who are anti-Zionist or at least  those who have opposed American meddling in the Middle East on Israel’s side….

    If you are implying more compromise (surrender) then I suggest the majority founding ethnic core abandon the GOP and form a third party to represent its own interests.

    And Rubio will not be a GOP in any scenario for the Dems will always be able to outbid the GOP for
    Hispanic bloc votes, period.

  12. Ken Hoop Says:

    I would say the GOP should be the “natural political home” of Latinos who have opposed illegal immigration and who have wanted a moratorium placed on legal immigration since circa 1995….of Jews who are anti-Zionist or at least  those who have opposed American meddling in the Middle East on Israel’s side….

    If you are implying more compromise (surrender) then I suggest the majority founding ethnic core abandon the GOP and form a third party to represent its own interests.

    And Rubio will not be a GOP savior in any scenario for the Dems will always be able to outbid the GOP for
    Hispanic bloc votes, period.

  13. Mr. X Says:

    I don’t know Zen, as with our clash on Pussy Riot I think somethings are just foreordained — in one case that the women would deliberately seek to enflame the Church, and that the State would react exactly as they and the more nihilistic elements of the Russian ‘opposition’ hoped by making them martyrs in Mordovia instead of humbled women picking up trash along the highways and serving meals to Orthodox orphanages…

    There has always been an anarchist spirit in Russia that cannot create a viable, modernizing opposition. It’s the spirit that killed off Pyotr Stolypin years before he might’ve steered Russia clear of the abyss in World War One (I mention Stolypin here because he is the model of the stern modernizer for both the late Paul Klebnikov and Vladimir Putin).

    And I think similarly this election has revealed the tragic split. It is always those who refuse to surrender the old order who are condemned as tribalist, not the new ‘tribes’ forming along issues like refilling the EBT card or pushing their own countrymen to the head of the immigration line over non-NAFTA nationalities. Mitt Romney ran a good campaign, but one can argue either the white voters disappeared because their votes were not counted in the urban areas or because the GOP nominated the architect of Romneycare whose arguments against Obamacare were handicapped from the start on that basis. I had the distinct feeling as I watched Obama playing basketball on election day nonchalantly that the fix was in and had been in for months if not years. We are a nation divided so that we may be ruled and the elites seem intent on deliberately provoking the ‘bitter clingers’ even as well-meaning folks like Zen urge them to change. Of course they must change but not in the ways that he thinks they will.

  14. Mr. X Says:

    The Dems can always promise mutual enemies more spoils from taxes or the e-printing press. Repubs fail because they by definition have the harder argument to make, the one for personal responsibility. They have been the stupid party for too long on foreign policy and other issues and largely ceding to a handful of libertarians any criticism of the Creepy State (Ron and Rand Paul and Justin Amash and a handful of Senators). But at the end of the day I’d like to think people voted for Obama because of policies and not his skin color, coolness factor, etc etc. But you cannot deny it explains a good chunk of his support and also at the Elite Soros/Corzine level people prefer having a minority president to take on the anger of the hinterlands over a rich white Mormon. Obama is simply a better ‘shield’ in essence for the technocratic centralizing the Establishment is hellbent on than a Mormon.

  15. Mr. X Says:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/video/ron-paul-on-fiscal-cliff-and-vows-to-compromise-MYkAiqYBTaiHwXZL9Tvxkw.html

    What I am trying to say is exactly what Dr. Paul told Bloomberg this week — there is a crash coming, this election half of the electorate (with a good amount of padding by fraud in the major cities enabled through 30% voting early and consequent predictive models telling them how many votes to discard/create in the machines) voted to step on the gas. That the wreck may happen in slow motion like Japan but it is now inevitable. At that point I think some of Zen’s remarks about ‘tribalism’ will be largely forgotten, as the real tribalism will shift from Fox News and GE-MSNBC to the streets.

    I hope by that point I’ll be living abroad and keeping myself and my family aside, as The Who sang.

  16. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Mr. X, how extensively have you examined your own propositions?
    .
    Believe me when I say that the question is central to the forthcoming death throes / birth throes of the GoP.
    .
    But maybe ^ line is too vague and mysterious and beside the point, so I’ll try again by asking, if something is “foreordained” what’s the point of worrying overmuch about it or debating it?  I mean, how do you stop, change, alter, direct, and so forth what is inevitable?
    .
    Or is the proposition of inevitability simply a cop-out for doing nothing—or an excuse for doing whatever is done. 

  17. Mr. X Says:

    I have examined mine. There is no mathematical way to pay off the debts that exist. They can only be inflated away or written down. Eventually the pile of debt gets so large that it must either be refinanced out a hundred years like they’re doing in the UK, refinanced mingled with a bigger pile of debt like in Greece, or simply defaulted like Russia in the 1990s. The debt has been built up as an alliance between the High and the Low, between the bankers and those who wanted to live on the dole or expand it. Orwell predicted all of it in the postscript to 1984, and that’s how I see most modern ‘progressive’ parties. The problem is the middle class and broad prosperity they’ve feasted on for decades is dying out, both demographically and more importantly culturally since the culture creates the demographics.

    There is no other way. All are traumatic events. The latter default in Russia of the 1990s is one people very close to me have been through. That’s why I cannot see things the way I used to as an American anymore. But just as Russia recovered from the ashes I know America will, because we have even more people and more resources to revive with. But great pain is coming regardless, and I know I won’t be spared. I’ve moved from the God who is often presented as a Cosmic Santa Claus or pushover to the God of Orthodox Christianity who allows suffering and who does not owe me anything, including an explanation why.

    And regarding a copout or justification for inaction no, quite the opposite. That would be more of the J.R. Nyquist/Joel Skousen Narrative of “WWIII is inevitable so we ought to just dig deeper holes and stock em’ with canned/freeze dried food now.”

    My narrative is more direct. Keep talking to whoever will listen but prepare for the worst. “Live not by lies”

  18. Dave Schuler Says:

    Thanks for the link, Mark.  One thing I haven’t heard mentioned much is that Tuesday was a real flop for white evangelicals.  They simply didn’t deliver.  That means the steam that has been propelling the Republican Party since the 80s is now too weak to elect a president.  
     
    I think the demographic aspects of the race, while significant and important, are being overemphasized.  The issue isn’t that the number of blacks and Hispanics is now overwhelming.  It’s that whites didn’t even vote in the numbers they did in 2008.  That’s not demographics but I don’t know what it is.

  19. PB Says:

    If you look at this Silicon Valley “wish list” you’d think that for the most part it would be naturally Republican. And yet this hotbed of entrepreneurship and innovation overwhelmingly supported Obama. Conservatives need to be honest with themselves and admit that there is something seriously wrong with a movement that is pro-market, pro-business, pro-entrepreneurship and yet is repelling people in one of the key entrepreneurial areas of the country, the place that has become symbolic of the American entrepreneurial spirit. But I suspect that Conservatives will put the ideological blinders on and say there is nothing wrong with their movement, that the problem is all about tactics, organization,  and messaging.

  20. david ronfeldt Says:

    Mark, many thanks for elevating my comment in your new recommended-reading post.  Much appreciated.
    .
    I’d like to highlight a further example about tribalism in Republican circles:  the anti-tax pledge that so many Republicans have felt obligated to sign.  From a TIMN perspective (mine, anyway), it’s a tribal, hierarchically-wielded, anti-market device.  Its imposition is run not so much by a tribal “big man” or chieftain, as by a kind of warlord — a fiscal warlord and his clannish cronies.  Fiscal warlordism is presumably not good for the party as an institution, especially if it stifles and even punishes a market of ideas from emerging around tax issues within the party.
    .


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