The national strategic and organizing structure of the Republican Party cannot save itself. It has become functionally obsolete. The strategy adopted two generations ago—whereby the Republican Party essentially bet everything on the perceived reliability and uniformity of the white male vote—is no longer a serious strategy, no matter how cynical your point of view. The party needs a dramatic infusion of new ideas, more moderate thinkers and genuinely centrist strategy.
A combination of demographic shifts and Republican radicalism has allowed the Democratic Party to hold both the far left and the broad center of the American political spectrum. There are a number of Democratic members of the House and the Senate who are more conservative than many Reagan-era Republicans. A sclerotic adherence to ideological dogma, in many cases without any foundation in the historical or economic record, has led GOP leadership to disavow even those Democrats who could help make a more moderate GOP relevant.
This is the 21st century; Americans believe democracy has secured its place as a world-leading organizing principle, and that public servants should be less ideological and more focused on solving real problems faced by real people. Now, in the third presidential election of the new millennium, the escalating frailty of the GOP’s position in the marketplace of ideas is again more than evident:
- More than $1.5 billion spent essentially just to give the party’s candidates a chance.
- A resounding reinforcement of Pres. Obama’s appeal in every key battleground state, and so a wide Electoral College victory.
- Obama outraised Romney by so much, his campaign actually competed with all of the GOP’s funding sources combined, including the secret-donor billionaire-backed SuperPACs.
- Widening margins favoring Obama among Latino voters and minorities—one important marker of this trend: for the first time since Castro’s revolution, Democrats won a majority of Cuban votes in Florida.
- No serious plan on any issue put forward by the national Republican Party.
The president is trusted, because he has consistently shown, to the surprise of many, and the chagrin of opponents, an ability to identify the responsible way to resolve intensely difficult situations, finding his way to meaningful solutions, even in the face of relentless pervasive Republican obstruction resisting any policy with his support, even their own ideas.
The Republican party is at a crossroads: it must diversify in substantive ways—not with token figureheads whose skin color surprises TV viewers, but who endorse the same failed agenda, but with an entirely new paradigm for organizing, building policy and running campaigns. The new Republican Party, if there is to be one, must become a credible voice for the actual solutions that will directly improve the quality of life of people, families and communities of diverse backgrounds and aspirations.
Posturing will not do the trick; re-explaining trickle-down economics will not do the trick. Only the rise of new voices, new perspectives, new policy positions and a genuinely more inclusive vision of the ideal landscape of American culture and political society, can reverse the trend the Republican party’s current leadership and current hard core have so firmly established.
Just as the Democratic party has become more relevant, more widely appealing and more obviously viable, by including conservative centrists, so the Republican party must acknowledge the existence of progressive moderates, then cultivate and promote them nationally. This would allow the party to expand its reach at the grassroots, gain more credibility on the populist front, and play host to a real, and useful, discussion of diverse ideas and approaches.
There is no way for an ideologically radicalized party, increasingly marginalized by demographic trends, to thrive. Any major national party now has to acknowledge the increasing inclusivity of a successful democracy, and be a party for all of the people. Anything less is just not a serious enough effort in today’s America.
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Originally published Nov. 13, 2012, at IndependentsOfPrinciple.com