Both major American national political parties face significant change
going forward, but it is the Republican Party which must address its basic
priorities and policies in the immediate weeks and months of the 2013-14
The GOP failed to win back the presidency against a relatively weak
Democratic incumbent in 2012. As well, it failed to make gains in the
2012 U.S. senate races even though it had a tremendous mathematical
advantage to do so. The surprise about these failures has so unnerved the
Republican base that it has so far ignored how close the 2012 election really
was, and failed so far to get beyond its chronic internal stalemates.
The Republican Party's advantage in 2012 was primarily on economic
issues, but its grass roots leaders turned much of their attention to social
issues, especially in the nomination process, that the majority of
Americans felt were not its priorities.
Some elements of the GOP now prefer to blame the abortion issue as the
reason for their party's failures in 2012. But that is not supported by any
electoral data. What did hurt some Republican senatorial candidates was their
self-destructive expression of extremist views that have no support among
even most Republican and other pro-life supporters. For the foreseeable future,
the GOP will be primarily an anti-abortion party, as the Democrats will be
pro-abortion. But this issue will not be dispositive unless the candidate
who holds either view does so, and says so, from an extremist position.
On the other hand, the issues of immigration, citizenship and border control
will likely be some of the keys to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
There is no greater proof of this than the polls which show that an immigration
reform GOP candidate would receive almost double the number of Hispanic
votes than Mitt Romney received in 2012.
GOP politicians from border areas or with Hispanic heritages generally have
practical and reasonable views on immigration. This should come as no surprise.
They answer directly to voters who must deal with this issue every day. Newt
Gingrich is one of the few non-border, non-Hispanic politicians who has figured
out the way forward on this question for his party. His party should pay attention
to what he is saying, and what other Republican leaders who want to put this issue
behind them are saying.
A preoccupation with volatile and emotional social issues has tied one or both
arms of the Republican Party behind its back. While it is true that numbers of
Americans feel sincerely and passionately about these issues, their numbers are
relatively small. They do have perhaps enough votes to sabotage a Republican
nominee for president in 2016, but they lack the votes necessary to assure his or
her election. This is the dilemma facing the party.
I repeat: the critical issues facing the nation are economic issues, including the
impact of Obamacare, continued deficits, continued high unemployment,
potential emerging inflation, free trade, education reform and entitlement reform,
If the party fails to present its policies successfully on these issues, first in 2014,
then in 2016, it will lose again, no matter how much it beefs up its get-out-the-vote
A party which is perceived as xenophobic, intolerant and pessimistic about the
prospects of its own citizens might win local and state elections on occasion, but it
cannot elect a president, and it cannot govern a large nation facing increasing
competition and threat from outside its borders.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.