The Political War of 2012 was won by Barack Obama and the
Democrats in the U.S. senate. Republicans won worthy
battles in the U.S. house and in state governments, but they
lost the war.
I must admit that I thought the “war” would have a different
outcome. I was wrong. So were many elected officials,
pundits, political strategists and consultants.
In the aftermath of 2012, however, some are persisting in
putting forward a Republican agenda not only similar to the
one that lost, but an agenda, in some details, even more likely
to bring about defeat in elections ahead.
These latter folks I call “Kamikaze” Republicans. (I did not,
however, invent this phrase.) They are sincerely convinced that
the 2012 campaign was not conservative enough, even though
the GOP nominee embraced most of the conservative principles
they espouse. They are sincere, but their prescription for their
party does not offer a cure to its problems.
This is a difficult period for Republicans, as they try to
understand what happened in 2012, and what they should do
to win in 2014 and 2016.
John Adams once said that “facts are stubborn things.” The
facts of the American electorate in 2013, and for the foreseeable
future are that Hispanic-American, black, Asian-American, urban
and women voters make up a vital portion of voters, and their
numbers will only increase. That Republican candidates did as
well as they did in 2012, only reinforces the notion that
Americans are basically conservative. It is not difficult to imagine
how well Republicans might do if they could notably increase
their share of voters who belong to these groups that significantly
favored Democrats in 2012.
Some suggest, therefore, that a better nominee in 2012 would have
produced a different result. Perhaps, but even a narrow GOP win
in 2012 would not have changed the results in the U.S.senate, nor
would the Republican Party and its goals then have been likely
easily implemented. Most important, a narrow GOP win would not
have caused conservative policy and ideas to be supported by a clear
majority of Americans.
A compromise policy on immigration, a Jack Kemp-styled appeal
to black middle class voters, new ideas to solve urban problems using
conservative principles, embracing the best of new technology, and
bringing more women into GOP party leadership roles at all levels,
local, state and national, could make a huge difference in election
outcomes. There is no need to pander to these groups to attract
voters to the Republican side, or change fundamental principles, but
there is a need to talk to them.
Those principles and policies include reducing taxes where possible,
lowering federal spending and balancing the federal budget, shrinking
public debt, supporting our long-time allies in the world, decentralizing
government, defending human rights, reforming entitlement programs,
promoting free trade, and maintaining a credible and strong national
defense. If these seem self-evident to conservatives, they need also
explain to and persuade others why they are good and necessary for
the nation as a whole, and for every citizen.
First of all, it is not necessary to win a majority of the voters from
each of these groups. Many of them have historically voted Democratic,
and probably will continue to do so in the near future, especially if they
see the liberal party as the source of entitlements. But each of these
groups, especially Hispanic-Americans, blacks and Asian-Americans,
has a growing entrepreneurial middle class. Conservative issues could
be very appealing to them, if conservatives would make a good-faith
effort to communicate to them. Conservatives already have high-level
officials from these groups, including Supreme Court Associate Justice
Clarence Thomas; U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Tim Scott;
Congressspersons Devin Nunez, Mario Diaz-Balart, Raul Labrador,
Illeana Ros-Letinen, Bill Flores, and Jaime Herrera; Governors Bobby
Jindal, Brian Sandoval, Nikki Haley, and Susana Martinez (not to
mention several others who have recently held office). But voters need
to see an acceptance at the local level, too, and more importantly,
personal outreach and empathetic contact.
Newt Gingrich and others have been persuasively making the case in
recent weeks that the national Republican Party needs to take a hard
look at itself, and adapt some of its policies, campaign strategies and
communication skills, if it is to win elections going forward.
The Republican Party cannot be a majority party if it is only a regional
or a rural/exurban party. It might keep control of the U.S. house, win
many governorships and gain 200 votes in the electoral college if it
does not adapt, but that will only mean winning some contests in the
ongoing struggle for political ideas and policy direction in the nation
while continuing to lose the larger struggle.
It is critical to understand and accept that not everyone can be
completely satisfied by any party that seeks to govern.
To lead the nation, to put into practice their economic and foreign policy
ideas and principles, Republicans must win the presidency and control
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.