Ah, those Republicans! Having had their rears so elegantly kicked in the 2012 election — a race they were sure they were going to win — they’re now performing a great deal of soul searching, while trying to find a soft place to sit. Yet just a few years ago life was great for them. What happened?
In the early 2000s — controlling all three branches of the U.S. government and grappling with a stunning attack against America by al-Qaeda — the Republican leadership devised an ambitious program of vastly increased Federal power that would project conservatism at home and abroad. They tossed aside the tattered, old-fashioned GOP idea of limited government, while favoring increased entitlements to the elderly (whom they expected to vote for them in gratitude), along with a greatly expanded military presence around the world. This “Neoconservatism” — an aggressive, muscular right-wing approach to governance — would help lead America toward what GOP political strategist Karl Rove called a “permanent Republican majority.”
By 2008 their foreign policy lay in ruins and their overspending and erratic Wall Street policies had plunged the country into the worst recession in decades. Disgusted voters kicked them to the curb and replaced them with Obama and the Democrats. Worse, much of the Republican base — repelled by Neoconservatism’s disregard for many traditional values — broke away to form the Tea Party, which managed to upend several of the GOP’s pet candidates in the 2010 Congressional elections.
Straining to retain the White House, a confused Republican party stumbled along, nominating two weak candidates in a row (McCain, then Romney), men with muddled viewpoints. The Democrats beat them with a cross-cultural, cross-racial candidate who promised more goodies for the poor and more penalties for the rich. To a conservative, it can hardly get worse.
So much for the “permanent Republican majority.” Nice going, dudes.
The media have piled it on, castigating the GOP for being past its prime or irrelevant. They lambaste Republicans as the party of old white men; they attack them for ignoring demographic trends. The Los Angeles Times intoned, “Advice to California’s GOP: Leave — or better yet, change”; another paper gloated, “It’s time for Karl Rove to float away in a balloon”. And so forth. (This isn’t to say the media are left-wing. You’ll have to decide that for yourself.) There is the distinct odor of death around the party; jackals and hyenas and crocodiles are closing in.
Is there anything the GOP can do to save itself from obsolescence — from becoming a mere third party?
Allow me to suggest a possibility. Republicans, by tradition, represent strict ethics: they prize God, country, family, and community. It’s a party that lauds hard work and personal responsibility, a party that disdains wild excesses, such as designer drugs and teen pregnancies and easy divorce and, well, chronic payouts to malingerers. It’s a compelling viewpoint that tugs at the heartstrings of tens of millions of Americans. The mistake the GOP has made, in recent years, is to confuse people of bad moral character with people of color or people of foreign origin. Yet it is precisely those people who can form the core of the new Republican party.
How can this be? First, there is a huge conservative moral streak among churchgoing African Americans: they don’t like moral laxity any more than do Republicans, and they struggle mightily with its effects within their communities. Second, there is a huge conservative moral streak among churchgoing immigrants, especially those from Catholic Latin America. Third, there is a huge conservative moral streak among Asian immigrants, who tend to show great respect for their ancestors and cultural traditions. Only a few newcomers scheme to take us for our free handouts; instead, most immigrants — having gone to the extreme effort of leaving their old homes to come here — are self-selected for hard work and ambition, and most of them support strong family values.
Hard work? Family values? Sound familiar, GOP? These folks are your natural allies! All you have to do is get over your suspicion of their strange skin tones and accents and religions and music. Set those aside, and you have millions upon millions of conservatives-in-the-making.
Okay, Republicans, let’s review:
1. Dump Neoconservatism. It was a stupid idea to begin with — how many hearts and minds did you change overseas with all those invasions? For that matter, how many did you change here in America? — and it vastly increased the size of Federal power, a power you promptly handed to … the Democrats! That was bone-headed.
2. Return to your roots. You’re the party of small government, of hard work and reduced handouts, of family values and sober living. Emphasize those qualities — stand up for your own beliefs! At least be a loyal opposition with something coherent to say — and you’ll grow your constituency.
3. Welcome anyone who shares your values. Stop being squeamish about Hispanics and Blacks and immigrants. Vast numbers of them wish somebody would represent their core values — values you share with them — without belittling or opposing them. Stop believing that the only right-thinking people in America are named Buffy and Biff.
And there you have it, my prescription for a renewed Republican party. The GOP can boast strong values without alienating the very people whose votes it needs. Rather than giving lip service to inclusiveness, it can be the party that really does include all — regardless of culture or color — who share its core human values. It’ll take away that central advantage from the Democrats, whose only remaining distinction will be to offer … what, free contraceptives?
Go ahead, GOP, don’t be shy! Use my approach and win the next election.
…Not that any Republicans are listening to this. Uh … hello? Hello? (*tap tap*) Is this thing on?