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Whither the Republican Party?

Posted by Bob Moore on

Bob Moore

Bob Moore

It's been nearly three months since President Obama and the Democrat Party won a reaffirmation for four more years of their policies. Hispanics, Blacks and Asians repudiated the GOP in huge numbers in November's election.

Republicans won the white vote and little else in an election that they had thought winnable. As a result, they are attempting to regroup and prepare for 2014 and 2016. I have decided to offer free of charge to the GOP my suggestions for how to improve their electoral chances.

First, rediscover broader definitions of conservatism than those in current use. Yes, conservatives desire smaller government. However, rising libertarian influence ignores that government should still accomplish the common good.

Historically conservatives have wanted to preserve and support the best in society and matched that with occasional, needed reform. The libertarian drive for almost no government forsakes the government functions of preserving and reforming.

Conservatives disagree with liberals on the size and roles of government but they do not hate government. This is fundamental. Like liberals, conservatives embrace the necessity of government. They just want it to do differently with less.

Second, define in positive terms what that "differently" can be. The GOP succeeds with voters as they climb in economic status. Minorities become more Republican as their education and wealth increase.

Democrats, through their support for government assistance, have made great inroads particularly with Hispanics who currently need that support. Hispanics are in the same position that past waves of immigrants found themselves—at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Republicans can build a future with this rapidly growing minority group by being the party that opens doors to opportunity. That opportunity needs to be more than the mantra of lower taxes.

Republicans should be the champions of education and economic growth. Policies that increase affordable higher education and support entrepreneurship should be front and center. Conservatives are often suspicious of higher education, as they perceive bias against their ideology.

For example, I had a conversation with a statewide GOP candidate in 2007. When asked what role he saw for education in turning Michigan's economy around, he shared an anecdote about a young man who dropped out of high school, attended a trade school and now had a good paying job to support his family—as if that were a realistic pathway for the entire state!

The GOP's fear of higher education makes them foolish. Regardless of bias in higher education, historically each year of college (and the larger salaries that go with it) increases support for Republicans among all major demographic groups.

This focus on opportunity needs to include a rebuff of those in the GOP that will not compromise on immigration reform. A recent immigration editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Jeb Bush would be a good starting point.

This leads me to my third suggestion. Quit treating compromise like a dirty word. An ideologically pure party is an interest group because it will never be large enough to govern.

For the next two years, recognize that controlling 1/3 of the law-making apparatus is not sufficient for governance but is more than adequate for forcing compromise. Walk the fine line of forcing concessions from President Obama and the Democratic Senate without being obstructionist.

This will be difficult because of the 24-hour news cycle, the internet and social media. Negotiation with its bluffs, head-fakes and games of chicken is much more difficult in the glare of partisan media scrutiny.

It will also be difficult if the GOP House fails to keep the adults in the room in front of the cameras. The media loves the fringes of the parties. Do not give it to them.

Fourth, find new ways to communicate with the American public. Preaching to the choir through Fox News and Rush Limbaugh is not a media strategy. We are in an age of continuous campaigns.

President Obama has morphed his campaign into a policy group that will be running ads and spending money to shape American's views. The GOP needs to raise the funds and build the structure to respond.

Finally, in 2014 and 2016 convince your first string to run. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Herman Caine all led the Republican primary field at one point or another as the party desperately sought to find the anti-Romney. Being the last man standing in that bunch is not necessarily an accomplishment.

Unlike 1992, when Bill Clinton emerged as a diamond in the rough among a collection of feeble Democratic candidates, Romney proved to be a lump of coal. The GOP retained the House and lost the presidency and several Senate seats in a close election.

The party does not have to abandon its principles to win future elections. It, however, needs to recover some principles it has discarded and within those principles champion needed reforms that benefit a broader group of Americans.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.


Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.