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News Section: Opinion

Will the Grown-up Republicans Please Take Back Your Party?

Published Thursday, November 8, 2012 12:10 am

With any luck, 2012 will serve as the wake-up call for the Republican Party. For the second time in a row and the fourth time in their last five presidential nominees, they've been rejected by the American electorate – and the other time they needed a Supreme Court ruling to get their nominee into office for his first term after he lost the popular vote and our state of Florida was unable to determine who'd won here. These failures are despite relative success in both chambers of Congress and growing power in state legislatures and governorships. It's time for Republicans to take a look at why they are unable to connect with the American people on a national level and decide what to do about it.

If I had to sum up the 2012 election, I'd put it like this: Democrats had a frustrated and embattled incumbent, who was about as vulnerable as a sitting president without a sex scandal can be, and Republicans still were unable to agree on a candidate within their party ranks that had a chance at beating him. Why? Because the party is increasingly dominated by its base in the primary process, rendering all of the candidates with the best chance of getting elected in the general election nonstarters. I couldn't help but get the feeling, especially in the final weeks, that undecided voters weren't running toward Barack Obama or even away from Mitt Romney – they were rejecting the platform of the Republican Party and all of the backward, discriminatory and regressive priorities that it has embraced in order to placate vocal members on the far right.

I used to like the Republican Party. In fact, prior to becoming an independent, I used to be a Republican. But the things that appealed to me are either no longer present, or buried under so many deal-breakers that their presence has been rendered moot. To that, the party as a whole pretty much says, so be it – it's my fault I don't see things their way, because there is no room for deviation from what a handful of hacks who've taken over the agenda and defined the core ideological beliefs, which just so happen to serve the special interests that finance the party trough. As long as they keep kicking those who won't drink the Kool-Aid out of the tent, however, the party's chances of taking back the White House only grow slimmer.

Too much of what the Republican Party is selling remains deeply out of step with the American people, who are far more inclusive, compassionate and progressive than the GOP base can even begin to tolerate. So long as you are having to put your party big shots on Sunday talk shows to explain what your vice presidential candidate really meant when he talked about “legitimate rape” as a “method of conception,” himself trying to explain his close relationship with another Republican who had been trying to articulate some dark-age notion that the female body can innately resist pregnancy when sex is forced upon it, you're going to have a hard time building a majority.

When the denial of climate change is a litmus test in your primaries, years of escalating extreme weather capped by a mutant-thunderstorm nor'easter just before the election, will cause even the people who didn't pay attention in science class to start seriously questioning your ability to lead a nation. When you make the fiscal cliff the centerpiece of your scare campaign and then start yelling like Chicken Little that the sky is falling when mandatory across-the-board cuts begin to approach the bloated pork-factory that is the Pentagon, even voters who slept through their freshman econ class are going to have a hard time taking you seriously, especially when your own budget plan proposes raising the debt every year you'd be in office for two entire terms. Ditto when you try and tell women to forget about their uterus and focus on the economy (right after opposing the Fair Pay Act no less); try to tell same-sex couples they're not part of the whole equal rights thing, or suggest that hardworking immigrants self-deport.

You can be a Republican and a conservative and think that it's good business to reduce our dependency on foreign oil by increasing the efficiency in the way we use energy, not just doing away with every environmental precaution in terms of finding more. You can be a Republican and a conservative and be concerned not only about saddling your grandkids with the cost of current budget deficits, but the much-larger and more perilous future financial costs of ignoring climate change. You just can't be those things and survive a modern Republican presidential primary intact to run a general election.

Commonsense Republicans need to take their party back. There were quality potential candidates among their ranks at the start of this cycle – guys like Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal –  but they never stood a chance. So when the crazy-talk crowd like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich couldn't close the deal, once again they went with the plastic, empty-suit establishment candidate just like they did in 1996, 2000 and 2008 – the one who would say whatever they wanted, but without enough conviction to send sane voters running and screaming. Those sane voters just didn't vote for them, and stealing an election seems like a once in a half century thing that can't be relied on as a consistent method of winning the White House, no matter how hard one tries to suppress the vote of their opponents while calling it fighting fraud.

Some Republicans are getting the message, and I hope they'll have the stones to cast out the crazies next time around. The Democrats faced a similar struggle when they came to a fork in the road with the racist forces within their southern ranks, but proved that saying goodbye to a faction that threatened not only the unity of their party, but its viability, was not a choice, but a necessity, were they to survive. If Republicans don't learn that same lesson soon, they may find themselves gone the way of the very party they supplanted: the Whigs – tossed into the dustbin of history by a refusal to accept the reality that the results keep attempting to orient them to.

If the 2016 field features candidates like Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder or former Kansas Governor Bill Graves, it will bode well for the party's chances. But if it's the predictable lot like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul, they can count on another drubbing by the time November rolls around. The number of American voters receptive to that message is clearly under 50 percent and shrinking each cycle. The GOP needs to adapt or get out of the way for the next team. I sincerely hope they choose the former, while getting back to the sort of principles that were their strong suit with regular Americans.

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You seem to have an upside-down view of the Republican Party. The party "leaders" have abandoned the conservative faithful to become near-Democrats. (That last part you got right.) I am a Tea Party Conservative, but that is neither a Far Right nor Republican Party position. The basic principle of republican governance is the primacy of each and every individual over and above all groups or even the government itself. The Special Interests now own the US Government. Therein lies the real problem. When the starting point focus of the Republican Party returns to the Individual, then it will be able to again be a contender on the American political scene.
Posted by Henry Sheldon on November 19, 2012

The death of the GOP is overstated. Sure we lost the Presidency and the Senate but we GAINED IN THE HOUSE, GOVERNORSHIPS and STATE/COUNTY/LOCAL!!!!!! 2 years ago in 2010 the GOP had the most massive changeover in the House & the Liberal Media never said --- the Democrats are dead and Obama must compromise. I smell Liberal hypocrisy.
Posted by Steve Vernon on November 10, 2012

Conservatives are a minority with perhaps 35% of the electorate, the only possibility is for conservatives to form a new party representing an orthodox ideology. It may work, it may return America to it's greatness. The RNC has proven itself a dead brand.
Posted by Ron Bockman on November 9, 2012

Well, without listing "those principles Republicans need to get back to" it will be a little difficult to understand the difference between Republicans and Democrats with the suggestions you are making. Moving to the center will only muddle the choices. Personally, I don't care if the Republican party survives or not. I am a conservative. I will always vote my principles, so if the party abandons me, I am good with it. I will simply vote for people who are aligned with my views. That may mean a third party. Becoming the Republicrat Party does not give anyone a choice so the best thing the Republicans can do is explain why their perspective is the only one workable in the long term. After two more years of this administration, the task may not be as difficult as you say.
Posted by Elmer Hilker on November 9, 2012

Thank you for getting to the point so clearly. I live in CA and found your article on friend's FB link. Everyone should read it. It's a touch too edgy but it wakes us up. I voted for Obama but I have several friends who voted for Romney. It might sound strange but your article helped me step out of conflict and into 'thinking' and 'understanding'. Appreciate it.
Posted by Eroca C. Lowe on November 8, 2012

Most of my Republican friends are not being logical. Instead they are angry. They have been told Obama is a sort of Robin Hood who leads the 47% who are "have nots" in taking "stuff" from them, the "haves". Imagine having the sheriff of Nottingham lose the election to Robin Hood if you are rich nobility. The hate and fear is really intense.
Posted by James C Mathews on November 8, 2012

Certainly the Repubs must change the stance on immigration. Tax increases have been approved by the voters, mainly because we have been transformed to a Socialist country where 48% of the population doesn't pay income taxes and those voters have no problem with tax increases that don't affect them. Idiot right wing extremists who believe crazy things about rape or who take public stances on witchcraft also must not be nominated for public office. On the other hand, the surge in Federal spending and the massive debt we are taking on will result in economic collapse/devastation in Obamas 2nd term. If the Repubs become more libertarian (drop the social issues, focus on the economic) they will come back in power.
Posted by Marty Millburg on November 8, 2012

After 45 years as a registered Republican, I went Independent for the reasons you describe so well. I've concluded that Democrat's Waste is more digestible than the Republican's Base. Sen. Lugar should be a Senator today. Is it time for another Party?
Posted by Bernard Croghan on November 8, 2012

As long as the republicans keep fielding moderates then putting a tea party anchor on them they will keep losing as in Sarah"you betcha"Palin & Paul"tea party"Ryan.Personally I think even most republicans are tired of the tea party rhetoric & their looney candidates,but it's their job to weed out these malcontents from their party or risk becoming the fringe party,let's face it their base is getting older & dying off (old white males). If the republicans keep attacking & alienating over half the country's population with their cartoon candidates & looney positions they will eventually lose many of the seats they hold in congress.I think this election shows that the voters trust the democrats to hold the white house but not enough to control both the senate & house thus the GOP win in the house.It was not that they thought the house republicans did a good job but were leery of putting the same party in control of all three branches,but it could change if the house republicans keep playing the same old games they did the last four years.As for energy independence when you can export more oil than you import then the environment shouldn't take a back seat to profits.
Posted by William E.Moore on November 8, 2012

You really know how to kick someone when they are down.
Posted by sara cohen on November 8, 2012

The Republican Party is like Yugo salesmen. They're selling the idea of having the cheapest possible government. Not the *best* government or the *best value* for your tax dollars. Just the cheapest government.

Please note that the Yugo is no longer sold in America. Cheap only goes so far. After all the insults Republicans hurled at non-rich Americans and our elected president, combined with their oft-stated aim to trade in our "Buick-level" government for "Yugo-level" government, it's a wonder any of them are still in office at all. Of course, if they go on working against America and our elected president, they *won't be* in office much longer.

And guess what? That will give us a healthier, happier, more prosperous America. Yay!
Posted by Robin Miller on November 8, 2012

If the Republicans will just keep "drinking the koolaid" and remaining so extreme in their policies - there will be enough of us minorities to start winning the local elections from the old white (read that dying out) Republican base - the sooner the better for the country!
Posted by Sandra J. Gander on November 8, 2012

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