The Republican Party will be fine.
Part of the reactionary nature of modern politics includes the temptation for political parties to jump off the deep end when they lose an election.
“Who should we blame for the loss?”
“Oh my God, the sky has fallen and we have to change everything.”
“Our party will never win a national election again.”
“We have to change everything we believe in.”
Blah, blah, blah. These chicken-littles need to calm the hell down and study Tuesday’s numbers.
First of all, the Republicans still hold a strong majority in the United States House of Representatives. At least 234 seats are still in their possession with a couple more too close to call with recounts likely. In addition, there are 45 Republican Senators still holding office, more than enough to have serious influence.
By 2014, the Republicans will have held the majority in the House for 16 of the previous 20 years and a majority in the Senate for 10 of those 20 years. In other words, the party has been very viable in the nation legislature for the past 2 decades and still is today.
Further, the Republican candidate for President has garnered at least 45% of the national popular vote in every election since 1964 expect for the 2 that Ross Perot participated in, which diminished the popular vote totals for both majority party candidates.
Republicans now hold 30 of the 50 governorships in the country.
After the 2012 elections, the GOP now hold a majority in 28 State Houses and 28 State Senates.
The Republican Party is as healthy and strong as it has ever been.
The only periods of U.S. history in which the GOP was more successful in national elections was at it’s founding in the mid to late 1800s and in the early 1900s. Other than that, the last 20 years have been heady times for the Republican Party at the ballot boxes.
A little historical context always helps when putting today’s tribulations in perspective.
From 1955 – 1995, Democrats held the majority in the House. The national Republican party spent 40 years out of the majority until the wave election of 1994. Democrats also controlled the majority of the U.S. Senate for 34 of those 40 years. For much of this period, the party could not even recruit serious, credible candidates to run for Congressional seats or statewide offices in much of the country.
Republicans had more success in that 40 year period running for President. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and Reagan occupied the Oval Office for 26 of the 40 years listed above. However, with the exception of Reagan, their personal popularity with the American people was low, doing little to help the GOP brand until 1980.
The bottom line is that Republicans were barely competitive as a national party in the legislature over 4 decades from the mid 50s to the mid 90s. Today is no where near as bad. Not even close.
With so many Republicans currently governing across 50 states and hundreds more in Washington, D.C. it is ludicrous to suggest that it is not a viable or strong national party with a credible message and an opportunity to win every swing district election it participates in. There are literally hundreds of young, talented, smart Republicans rising slowly through the ranks of local and state government. The August GOP Convention put dozens of fresh, young faces on display. These people will that make up the next generation of national Republican leaders. Rubio, Ryan, Martinez, Cruz, Sandoval, Christie, McDonnell and 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.
The Republican Party does not need a whole-sale change of fundamental principles. It needs an upgrade to better represent a new electorate and a new generation.
Economic conservatism on taxes, budgets, debts and spending programs will not and should not change. Some social issues that generate passionate support and opposition will continue to make up a portion of the party platform.
However, the priorities that the party stands for have to be re-arranged and those policies need to be updated based on information and lessons we have gathered over the past several years.
The Republican Party has a compelling policy on education reform, health care reform, entitlement reform, tax reform and national security positions. It needs to craft a more coherent policy message on all of them.
Finally, the party needs to do something that every political party in the world must do from time to time. It needs to take a few months and just listen.
Listen to what the veterans of your party are saying. Listen to what the new generation of young Republicans are saying. Listen to the Libertarian wing of the party who possess so much energy and enthusiasm. Go into the community and listen to the complaints and proposals of seniors, parents, students and small businesses. Listen to the conservative academics who are trying to help you craft a 21st Century national agenda.
When the listening tour is complete, the Party intellectuals will work with activists to craft updated policy points which can then be submitted to the public through our candidates for a second look.
Political parties must reflect the will of the people. To succeed, they form loose coalitions of like minded citizens to form a majority governing partnership. This process of coalition building is never easy and some groups are always unhappy, but they follow along to achieve the goals most important to them.
It is time to broaden the coalition.
Updated policies and rearranged priorities are all it will take to give the next Republican candidate a real shot at winning the White House.
It is not 1954 and the GOP is not entering a 40 year slumber. It is 2012, and we are just doing some maintenance.
The party is still strong. Our future is still bright. Be not afraid.
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