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13 November 2012

What Now, Republicans?


After last week's Electoral College spanking, and the ensuing losses of two U.S. Senate seats that should have been safe, questions abound about the state of the GOP.

In the coming weeks and months, there is likely going to be a conversation amongst Republicans -- and conservatives in general -- about the future of the GOP. At least, I would hope there would be a conversation.

Many in the Republican party are going to cry, "We aren't running candidates that are conservative enough" and "Mitt Romney was too moderate". These people would be dead wrong.

The problem is not that a candidate is "not conservative enough". Rather, the problem is that the brand of conservatism that the current Republican party espouses is not modern enough.

I could try to explain it on my own, but Doug has arguably the best explanation on the subject that I've ever read. On immigration:
The GOP has increasingly become the party of whites, and specifically white males, and this is a segment of the population that is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the voting population while African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans. Unless the party does something to reverse this trend by becoming more attractive to non-white demographic groups, it is going to find itself increasingly shunted to the side in national elections. Party leaders like Jeb Bush, and his protege Marco Rubio, recognize this and have been urging the party to take steps to deal with this issue before it’s too late. Before now, they’ve been largely ignored and anyone who suggests that the party needs to consider backing reform of the nation’s Immigration laws is denounced as favoring “amnesty.” Now, though, it seems as though this message is finally starting to get through, at least in these initial days after the election.

There will be plenty of resistance to any suggestion that the party change its position on immigration, no doubt. While the Tea Party claims that it is solely concerned with economic issues, there has always been a decided anti-immigrant, nativist, tinge to its policy pronouncements, and I’m already seeing people in that wing of the GOP threatening revolt if the party leadership in Washington gives even a single inch on this issue. The fact that such a modification is in the long-term interest of both the GOP and the nation doesn’t seem to phase them one bit. Whether Boehner, McConnell and the others will be able to maneuver around this force without causing trouble for the party is something that remains to be seen.
And, on social issues:
It was only a few months ago that Republicans in Virginia were pursing a bill that would have mandated invasive trans-vaginal ultrasounds for every woman in the Commonwealth who wanted an abortion. That led to a national backlash that forced Virginia legislators to revise the bill significantly and drop plans to pursue a controversial bill that would have defined all life as beginning at conception, resulting in a ban not only on abortion but also on most forms of In-Vitro Fertilization. A month later, when a woman named Sandra Fluke testified before Congress regarding the PPACA’s insurance mandates as applied to institutions run by religious organizations, one of the most prominent figures on the right called her a slut and not a single prominent Republican politician rose up to denounce him. According to exit polls, women made up 53% of the electorate on Tuesday and they went for President Obama over Mitt Romney 55% to 44%. After everything that has happened this year, is that any surprise?
If Republicans are to remain the second of the two major political parties in this country -- and why wouldn't they want to -- they are going to have to take a good hard look in the mirror.

Gone are the days of GOP victories that rely entirely on winning the white, Evangelical vote, as that demographic is no longer a majority in this country. Or, at least, is not a voting majority.

I would argue that Republicans have much, much more to offer Americans than a Bible-thumping, gun-toting, immigrant-excluding brand of conservatism.

If the Republican party wants to remain a political force in the United States, it needs to have a collective shift of focus from the aforementioned issues. Instead of having a platform that emphasizes social issues like abortion, "traditional family values", and a stance on immigration that is more punitive than it is welcoming, the dominant conservative party should return to core values like individual and personal responsibility, states' rights, and a smaller role of the federal government in the collective daily life of Americans.

From National Review's credenda:
It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side.

The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.
Granted, when William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote the mission statement of his fledgling conservative publication, Communism was on the rise and a threat to the security of the United States. Much of his rhetoric at the time was a direct response to the perceived threat of Communism, and a fear of an infestation of Communist thought in America.

That said, even though Communism was defeated in the 20th century, I would still contend that Republicans need a bit more of Buckley's brand of conservatism and a bit less of Sarah Palin's.

The sad truth is the political party that for so many years was referred to as 'the Big Tent party' is no longer a big tent. Shit, it's barely a pop-tent. Republicans need to open that sucker back up so that a person of any race, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality feels welcomed -- and not excluded. Or worse, judged and discriminated against.

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