The silver lining around the cloud that was the Republican failure this November (after all, it wasn’t so much the person as the party many of us were rooting for) is that we now have a chance to pull back and take a good hard look at what went wrong over the last decade or so in the party that has caused this massive shift to the left, particularly among young voters.
Party leaders are already getting together to discuss the future of the GOP, so I thought maybe some of us party grassroots folk should do the same. Here’s my take on what happened, and what needs to happen as we move forward.
At the helm of this sinking ship is the word “irrelevant.” The mainstream media and late-night comedians did a great job labelling Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the party as old and greedy white men who care little about you except for your money and your vote. They branded Republicans as being the party of Washington corruption, and Democrats the party of the people. And so we chose the oldest, whitest, and most expired Washington insider we could to go up against Obama – a fresh face who clearly communicated a message of change and renewal. True, it’s silly – that age and experience should be a bad thing – but it does reveal how out of touch party leaders have been with the up-and-comers. 18-25 year olds have known only ONE Republican president, and they barely remember the Clinton years. McCain’s campaign ignored this generation and its needs. It’s not that Republicans have nothing to say to them, they’re just not saying it… or they’re not doing so effectively.
As a candidate, McCain was a horrible choice in the first place. Aside from the aforementioned reasons, he ran as a fiscally moderate and socially conservative. What we needed was someone to actually represent small government, not wait until a plumber in the hand-shake line finally challenges Obama on the issue of high taxes. Obama got off way too easy because Republicans were not strong enough on their principles to put his ideas to the fire. And while I myself am socially conservative, I believe that by putting social conservative issues on the forefront of the party platform we have alienated many people who believe in small government and individual responsibility, but who are still undecided, or slightly left, on social issues. We can still be the party that supports family values, without making that the core of our objectives. The message of liberty is drowned out by the calls for censorship and restraint. People are looking to the party that offers real solutions to real problems.
The Republican brand has been tainted in the public eye. We have an unpopular president whose biggest problem was not so much in making bad choices but in not communicating his rationale for such choices to the people he served. Americans felt disconnected from their leadership. Far too many Republican congressmen have been caught in scandalous activity over the last 5 years. Pork-barrel spending is out of control. Spending in general is out of control. Our actions have not matched our rhetoric, and we are losing the public’s trust because of it. When Obama arrived on the scene with his message of “change” capitalized by a sense of honesty and transparency the public embraced him. They didn’t vote for socialism or for liberalism, they voted for something that felt real. As I read on another blog recently – “we didn’t vote left, we voted cool.”
The story in 2012 will largely depend on whether Obama is successful with the public or not. Notice I didn’t say “successful as a president.” In my opinion Obama targeted the less politically educated and ran more on ideals that on realistic objectives. The people who put him into office have high expectations, and it’s those very expectations that may spell the end of his career when people realize that the change they voted for was a farce. If Obama fails to live up to public expectations the Republicans will have a shot at taking back the Oval Office, but in order to do so, they’ll have to make some changes.
First, we must immediately get rid of wasteful spending and reject congressmen who engage in immoral activity, and we must make the public very aware of our efforts. We have to show the American people that we believe in responsibility and accountability.
Second, we have to sharpen our message like a lead pencil – Smaller government is better government, and here’s why. There are good and many reasons that our founders set things up the way they did, and we must communicate these reasons to the public in modern language. It must be clear, it must be concise. America believes in it’s traditional principles, but those ideas are being covertly challenged by Democrats who are using the cover of social responsibility to further enlarge the Federal Government. We must be able to expose the agenda for what it is and tell Americans why this is the wrong solution. But we can’t stop there, we must also explain why ours is the right one. We must get back to the principles – states rights, fiscal responsibility, individual liberties, free-market, innovation, competition, etc.
The party needs a new face, both figuratively and literally. In the figurative sense we have to peel off the tainted public view of the party and renew our identity as a party with solutions and ideas for America’s future. We can be pro-environment without excessive regulation, pro-energy without ties to oil, pro-heathcare without government takeover, pro-technology, and pro-education. We should embrace a new term – “philanthrocapitalism” – where we find creative ways to encourage social service and charity in a way that provides benefits to businesses and wealthy individuals. Bottom line: People want big businesses to act fairly, and many see the free-market as having no accountability for such fairness. We can encourage companies to be socially responsible by making it advantageous, thereby protecting liberty while encouraging fairness. We could also use a handful of new faces among the higher ranks. Though Sarah Palin wasn’t the best VP choice, her image was valuable in countering the “old and out-of-touch white men” image that has been placed on Republicans. There are a handful of young and bright Governors such as Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, and Palin herself, that will really help to establish a sense of freshness in the party.
We must emphasize opportunity in America as something that is waiting for you, and exists in the form of good choices, it’s not something that is handed to you. Too many people are falling for the belief that the land of opportunity and equality means that we should all be the same and have the same. We are different people with different strengths and talents. The key is to find what you’re good at, educate yourself, work hard and be honest. Every building requires an architect and a construction worker. We must celebrate our differences, not suppress them.
Lastly, we must define the proper role of government in a free society. What is the government’s responsibility and what should be handled by the citizens? While we understand the need for homeless shelters, is it better for government to provide them or for private charities? And for those cases where government must step in, is it the proper role of the Federal Government, or should states reserve their own authority. After all, we are the United States of America, not one.