An economy in shambles, a campaign in which the incumbent completely avoided discussing his own record, unemployment above levels above which an incumbent had EVER (that means ever in history) won an election, the rapid fall off of the positives of the incumbent candidate and six huge scandals pending DURING and election – with all of that, the Democrats still managed to dominate the electoral college. With the performance of this President and the current economic setting there is absolutely no reason that this should not have been a cakewalk for the Republicans. To state the obvious, it was not. Does this mean that the Republican party as we know it is dead? I think so.
This does not mean that conservatism or that a conservative party will not rise from the ashes of this election to help guide the country back to economic solvency, just that the GOP has to take a long hard look at itself and make some fundamental changes. During campaigns the Democrats currently hold a serious edge in substantively empty but emotionally moving five second sound bites. Instead or simply reframing the argument, Republicans have chosen to counter these arguments one at a time. Unfortunately we live in a generation of the very short attention spans and people tend to lose focus before the end of the rebuttal. Republicans have really lost the language battle and the Democrats have done a much better job of coining the meaningless but moving phrase (“War on Women,” “the 99%,” “control of a woman’s body,” and the myriad of other Politically Correct pronouncements opposition to which instantly brands you as sexist, elitist or racist.)
Complicating this environment for the GOP is the unfortunate convergence right now of social and economic issues for liberals and the unfortunate split of economic and social issues on the conservative side of things. Conservatives are in virtually uniform agreement that we need a smaller and lest costly government. However, solid economic conservatives splinter off on issues as varied as immigration, same-sex marriage, gays in the military, affirmative action, right to life and other socially liberal issues. As closely divided as the country is today, it doesn’t take much leakage to keep the Democrats in power. Adding to this leakage problem is the “absolutist” attitude that seems currently more prevalent in the Republican party than it does in the Democratic party. By “absolutist” attitude I mean that the voter has checklist of issues that are “musts” and the absence of any one of those issues will lead to the “checklist conservative” not supporting a candidate. Missing from the thinking of many conservatives is the concept of the trustee form of government in which you elect the person whose judgment you trust the most instead of some kind of mathematical calculation.
I have many friends that are in the absolutist camp and will argue that they are tired of compromising and ending up with candidates that are in the middle of the political spectrum. That is all fine and good, but in the absence of national cohesion of conservatives you end up with election outcomes just like the one we just suffered through. Part of the problem is that Ronald Reagan was able to briefly unite the fiscal and social conservatives creating a template that no one has been able to replicate since.
Despite all of these problems, the strength of the conservative movement is for once young and emerging The August GOP Convention put dozens of fresh, young faces on display. These young leaders will that make up the next generation of national Republican leaders including Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Susana Martinez, Ted Cruz, Brian Sandoval, Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell and Scott Walker are just a few of the elected Republicans who are just now starting to gain serious national ambition. There are many more in state legislatures and others who have yet to make their first run for public office.
I don’t have a concrete proposal for what is necessary to solidify conservatives or to revive the GOP, I only know that we have to let go of the Reagan template and start looking for strong leaders and stop trying to vote by checklist.