Less than a week after their presidential candidate was soundly defeated by Barack Obama and as they face heavy losses in both Congress and the Senate (at press time, the Minnesota and Alaska races had yet to be decided), the Grand Old Party convened a governors’ conference in Miami in an attempt to regroup for 2010.
It seems like only yesterday that the GOP was expected to dominate the decade and perhaps the next one as well.
In 2004, President George W. Bush was re-elected and the Republicans held the majority in the House and Senate. However, anger over the current presidential administration has caused the pendulum to shift.
The endlessly quotable Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told the Associated Press “Nationally, the Republican Party is going to go through a Dr. Phil, self-analysis moment.” So what needs to change to turn the tide for the GOP? Foremost, the party needs to acknowledge its mistakes and let the voters believe they have learned from them.
In a recent Wall Street Journal column by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro headlined “The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace,” Shapiro sites bipartisan politics and “unfair scapegoating” for the 30 percent approval ratings for President George W. Bush. Shapiro says that it is a terrible message to send to the rest of the world when we show such disdain for our leader and many of the world’s troubles are “either beyond Bush’s control or existed before he took office.” While I agree that both parties share the blame for the current economic crisis and other failures of the administration (deregulation of the market, the Iraq War, Katrina, etc.), it was the Republican Party that was in power for six of the last eight years and in that time we saw the size of government explode, the deficit skyrocket and domestic tragedies like Katrina handled so poorly it diminished America in the eyes of other countries more than any Bush criticism could.
Republicans need to be honest and critical about their own party members. When Republican Ted Stevens is still in the running to retain his Senate seat even as he faces seven felony counts of filing false financial disclosure forms and no Republican party member comes out and publicly denounces his actions, it is problematic, especially since the GOP constantly labels itself the party of ethics and honesty.
We can be sure that if it was a Democratic senator facing the same charges, Republicans would show the type of outrage they never will for their own missteps. Republicans also need to develop more concise and consistent stances on the current economic and domestic issues. Sure, abortion and gay rights are important issues, but if I’m a college student who has just graduated and am facing thousands of dollars in student loan debt I want a politician that will tell me how he will address it, not just tell me what he wants me to hear.
Republicans should also consider re-thinking this “two Americas” stance it takes when looking at small towns. I’m tired of hearing the Sarah Palins of the world ranting about how the “real Americans”-God-fearing, patriotic, strong families-live in rural towns and wear flag pins. We’re all Americans and we’re all facing the same domestic and economic issues. Time will tell what type of president Barack Obama will turn out to be, but there is no denying that his message of bipartisan brainstorming of solutions in these troubled times is what America needs most. Divisive statements, such as the one made by Georgia loon Paul Broun when he compared Obama to Hitler, simply give the party’s already tarnished reputation another credibility hit.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said his party can resurrect their base, but they need to “stick to what they are known for: cutting taxes, decreasing the size of government and championing issues like abortion.” However, the low Republican turnout for the election suggests that there are many nonbelievers in the party.
A decision to widen the GOP tent would also be a wise move. Sixty-six percent of Hispanics and 95 percent of blacks voted for Barack Obama. With Hispanics being the fastest growing minority in this country, the party cannot afford to give up such a large voting margin. Republicans need to speak to the issues of blacks and Hispanics and offer solutions that both groups can rally behind. Republicans cannot waste pre-campaign time excluding minorities and then, when elections arise, send out Spanish-language robo-calls to Latino districts. It reeks of insincerity.
Right now the party is in shambles. But if they do the things outlined here, they can begin to rebuild the GOP.