The trainwreck that the Nov. 6 election was for national-level Republicans has prompted a great deal of soul-searching in the GOP.
If this is accurate, this graphic demonstrates what the Republican Party needs to do next:
One assumes Paul isn’t running for president in 2016, when he’ll be 80. The concept that the Republican Party (of which I am not a member) needs to move in a more small-L libertarian direction is absolutely worth consideration, and not just because I happen to agree with a more “conservatarian” approach.
For one thing, the social conservative vote isn’t working out for the GOP. I read somewhere (which means I can’t link to it) that 30 percent of evangelicals don’t vote. I think it’s unlikely that social conservatives will vote for the Democratic Party if the Republican Party deemphasizes social issues; if they don’t vote at all, that would be little different from now, since they’re not winning elections for the GOP.
Consider, as Dan Calabrese does, the subject of abortion rights:
In a winnable red state Senate race, Missouri’s Todd Akin makes an astoundingly stupid statement about rape and pregnancy. He is toast. In just-as-red Indiana, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock makes a slightly more defensible but still incredibly stupid statement about rape and pregnancy. It ultimately costs him the race, and all the conservative triumphalism over the primary takedown of Richard Lugar turns to gnashing of teeth as the seat flips to the Democrats.
Why did these fiascos occur? They occurred because the standard Republican position on abortion, while admirably principled, becomes almost impossible to defend when a skilled and determined questioner starts drilling down into the details. Ask a pro-life Republican what kind of prison sentence they would recommend for a woman who gets an abortion? Good luck getting a clear and confident answer. Rape and incest? I’m with you when you say that God still loves that baby, but get into the details of how you enforce the law that forces the woman to carry the child to term when she doesn’t want to? It’s a disastrous debate moment just waiting to happen.
This is inevitable, though, because the uncompromising nature of the pro-life position demands it. If you oppose all abortion as a matter of principle, because all life is sacred, then your principle also demands that you accept the difficulties involved with enforcing the ban you advocate – politically untenble though they may be. But because they are so politically untenable, politicians inevitably try to squirm, finding ways to make their stances sound less harsh. The next thing you know, you’re trying to claim that rape can’t cause pregnancy. Why would someone say something so absurd? Because as absurd as it is, it seems easier than saying you want to force rape victims to bear the offspring of their rapists.
Once you’ve staked out that position, and the heat is turned on, there is nowhere safe for you to go.
But these are mere political considerations. Yes, it does hurt the GOP with a certain core of female voters, some of whom might be more open to backing them if abortion were not an issue. But as someone who hates abortion, I would be willing to pay that political price if it meant saving the lives of babies.
But that gets us to the other problem. It doesn’t. This is where we get to the practical realities of abortion politics. I can’t even begin to imagine what right-to-life groups have spent over the past 39 years to elect pro-life candidates to every office imaginable at every level of government. It must be astronomical. What has it accomplished? Abortion is still legal in all 50 states because Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. So all those pro-life senators, congressman, state legislators, county commissioners and drain commissioners they worked to elect? Many of them won, but not a single one of them placed a meaningful restriction on abortion. …
That doesn’t mean Republicans have to become pro-choice. If pro-choice means do what you want and either way is fine with me, I am not pro-choice. But it means they recognize – as small-government conservatives do on so many other things – that there is really no governmental solution to this problem. Abortion will only end when women decide to end it. Indeed, that is already starting to happen. Some of the reasons are hopeful (stunningly clear ultrasound images that leave no doubt about the humanity of the child), while others are mixed blessings (out-of-wedlock births no longer carry a stigma so fewer women abort to protect secrets, but we also have a lot more out-of-wedlock births). The point, though, is that nonpolitical factors are doing more to reduce the number of abortions than any political factor ever could.
Another hot-button issue is immigration, about which Aaron Alaghwi says:
This issue has been one which pits the various factions within the Republican Party against each other. You have the liberty wing of the GOP–like myself–who want the market to be the primary force deciding immigration. You have the protectionist wing–old former Democrats who came to the party during the Reagan years but didn’t leave all of their big-government policies (and occasional bigotry) behind, and you have the establishment-types who are probably just trying to find the political winds and go with what’s popular. Also to consider, the large number of Hispanic Republicans at the convention, who are sick and tired of the games by those who seemingly want to choke Latin American immigration off completely. …
There’s this notion that all of the 12 million illegals in American were merely border-hopping people with no respect for our laws. This is far from the truth.
A lot of the “illegals” are only so because of useless bureaucracy that originated not with the founding fathers but with progressives like Woodrow Wilson–a notorious bigot. To understand how things were prior to the progressive era, think prior to the 20th century. And just before the turn of the century there was a Supreme Court ruling on birthright citizenship that gives you a general idea about immigration policy before the federal government became the center of our lives it is today.
If you revisit the rationale behind the 1898 Supreme Court case US v. Wong Kim Ark, you find a realistic solution to the “anchor baby” problem, and you also put a bunch of the ridiculousbirther propaganda about Senator Marco Rubio in the trash heap of conspiracy nonsense where it belongs.
The case ruled that a child born on American soil to immigrant parents who were “engaged in the procurement of non-diplomatic business” (i.e. worked in the private sector) and had established a domicile (homestead law, which varies from state to state) was a natural born citizen. Back then it was pretty much “work hard and obey the laws and you can stay”.
This is the approach we need to take as Republicans. It destroys the liberal media’s ability to smear us as racists. It exposes the Democrats for the hypocrites they are on the issue. But most important of all, it would create something that President Obama hasn’t. Tens of millions of new jobs! …
Hard working people sustain themselves and should not be barred from becoming citizens provided they obey the laws. They should be welcomed with open arms. They will create jobs, create tax revenue, grow the economy and shrink the budget deficit. Its the criminals and the moochers that are the problem and they should be sent home. We have too many Americans that fall into those categories.
If these immigrants “take your job” its because you didn’t work hard enough to defeat them. Sorry bro, but that’s how capitalism works, the best win.
The mechanics of campaigns (in which the Romney campaign apparently was lousy) are necessary but not sufficient, particularly when a party is trying to win races at multiple levels. Andrew Klavan points out that the GOP has to be in the culture too:
To win that game, to create an electorate more deeply committed to true liberty and resistant to the sort of cultural scare tactics the president’s campaign team used so effectively, there are three areas to which conservatives need to commit intellectual and financial resources—three areas that our intelligentsia and funders, in their impractical practicality, too often ignore.
The mainstream news media. Major news outlets, like ABC, NBC, CBS, and the still influential New York Times have now become so ideologically corrupt that they are engaging in the sort of Nixonian cover-ups they once prided themselves on exposing. Their studied creation of non-scandal scandals and non-gaffe gaffes on the right and their active suppression of such true scandals as Fast and Furious and Benghazi on the left amount to journalistic malpractice on behalf of the state. The late Andrew Breitbart understood the depth and extent of the problem better than the cooler establishment heads who wrinkled their noses at him. He declared a guerrilla war on the media in the name of truth.
While Breitbart disciples like John Nolte, Ben Shapiro, and Joel Pollak continue that underground fight, it is long past time for conservative minds and money to take the battle to the mainstream. How is it possible that the mind-boggling success of Fox News has failed to spawn half a dozen imitators at least—especially venues for the libertarian young with their antic sense of political incorrectness? Rupert Murdoch, God love him, can’t live forever. It’s time for others to step up.
The entertainment industry. Conservatives think when they have won an argument in the newspapers, the fight is over. Leftists know their Hippocrates. They know they can rewrite history in novels, on TV, and in the movies, and a generation later, their false versions will be accepted as truth. … It’s not that conservative ideas don’t make their way into popular entertainment; it’s that they always come in disguise. Even leftists love deeply conservative films like the Lord of the Rings and Dark Knight trilogies, because they recognize good values when they’re not forced to apply them to real life. But conservatives themselves quail when conservatives speak their values plainly in the arts. Too preachy, they cry, too much propaganda, too much … too much … conservatism! We don’t need more conservative artists. We need an infrastructure to support them: more funding, more distribution, sympathetic review venues, grants and awards for arts that speak the truth out loud.
Religion for intellectuals. Normally, I would have said number three was “reforming the academy,” but I believe this is where the fight for the academy is centered. Recently, a number of books by secular intellectuals have noted the disaster that is postmodern relativism—the nihilist philosophy that has corrupted and gutted Western liberal education. Education’s End, by Anthony T. Kronman, Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians, by Marcello Pera, and What Ever Happened to Modernism?, by Gabriel Josipovici, come to mind. All lament the abandonment of our commitment to the Great Conversation—the intellectual’s belief that the creative tension of the uniquely brilliant Western literary and philosophical canon can lead us in the direction of moral truth.
But the authors cannot fully grasp the nettle of the solution. Many assume that the Great Conversation depended on the sort of open mind only secularism can provide. As Kronman puts it: “Every religion insists, at the end of the day, that there is only one right answer to the question of life’s meaning,” thus rendering the pluralism of the Great Conversation impossible. I would contend the opposite: only the existence of a God in whose image we are created can support the notion of moral truth at all. It was always Judeo-Christianity, and that alone, that made the Great Conversation possible. Pera understands this intellectually, but cannot really plunk for faith. And therein lies the problem. The triumph of science, the comfort of Western life, and a sophisticated elite virulently hostile to religion have all contributed to an intellectual atmosphere of unbelief—a sense that atheism should be the default mode of reasonable, thinking people. That is a mere prejudice and needs to be answered in the culture, not with Bible-thumping literalism and small-minded judgmentalism—nor with banal happy-talk optimism—but by sound argument made publicly, unabashedly, and without fear. John Adams and the other Founders were right about this: an irreligious people cannot be free. Liberty lives in the palace of moral truth, and you can’t build that palace on the empty air.
Other than firing all their pollsters (since they all grossly overestimated the likely GOP turnout), the GOP and conservatives need to get out of their bubble, as David Boaz sees it:
The first thing Republicans should do is stop reading only the conservative media. The conservative echo chamber apparently convinced them that Romney was winning the election. Romney himself is reported to have been “shell-shocked” by his loss. I wasn’t, because I’d been reading the polls, including the swing-state polls. If the conservative media are going to tell Republicans what they want to hear, then smart Republicans had better start looking at a broader range of media.
Boaz also addresses the GOP’s problems with non-white-male voters:
During the civil rights era, conservatives – including party-switching Democrats such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms – adamantly resisted the push for equal rights and equal dignity for African Americans. When women began to demand an equal place in society, politics, and the economy, conservatives said that a woman’s place was in the home. After those positions were no longer tenable, conservatives and Republicans came to accept race and gender equality, and they don’t understand why they still face a gender gap and overwhelming opposition from black voters. In our own time Republicans have sent hostile messages to Hispanics on the immigration issue and to gay voters on marriage and other issues. And they are in the process of permanently alienating those voters, too. As former Reason magazine editor Virginia Postrel says, “Policy aside, people rarely vote for pols they think despise them.” …
The idealized Republican/conservative message of individual liberty, limited government, and economic growth ought to appeal to most voters. But Republicans have to accept, as even Dick Cheney saw, that “freedom means freedom for everyone,” and then they have to be consistent in delivering and applying that message. The hole they’ve dug with voters outside their straight white male base will take time to climb out of. They’d better get started.
The other thing the GOP needs to do is find better communicators among and for its candidates. Thomas Sowell:
The most successful Republican presidential candidate of the past half-century — Ronald Reagan, who was elected and re-elected with landslide victories — bore little resemblance to the moderate candidates that Republican conventional wisdom depicts as the key to victory, even though most of these moderate candidates have in fact gone down to defeat.
One of the biggest differences between Reagan and these latter-day losers was that Reagan paid great attention to explaining his policies and values. He was called “the great communicator,” but much more than a gift for words was involved. The issues that defined Reagan’s vision were things he had thought about, written about and debated for years before he reached the White House.
Reagan was like a veteran quarterback who comes up to the line of scrimmage, takes a glance at how the other team is deployed against him, and knows automatically what he needs to do. There is not enough time to figure it out from scratch, while waiting for the ball to be snapped. You have to have figured out such things long before the game began, and now just need to execute.
Very few Republican candidates for any office today show any sign of such in-depth preparation on issues. Mitt Romney, for example, inadvertently showed his lack of preparation when he indicated that he was in favor of indexing the minimum wage rate, so that it would rise automatically with inflation.
That sounds fine. But the cold fact is that minimum wage laws create massive unemployment among black teenagers. Conversely, one of the lowest rates of unemployment among black teenagers occurred in the 1940s, when inflation virtually repealed the minimum wage law passed in 1938, since even unskilled labor was paid more in inflated dollars than the minimum wage law required. …
It seems unlikely that Gov. Romney had time to learn about such things during this year’s busy election campaign. He was like a rookie quarterback with just a few seconds to try to figure out the opposing team’s complex formations before the ball is snapped.
The irony of Sowell’s observation is that Reagan, similarly to George W. Bush, was regularly derided for his supposed lack of intellect. And both Reagan and the younger Bush probably laughed about that through their two terms each. On the other hand, Reagan’s brilliance was that he could communicate what he wanted to say while at the same time disarming his opponents with variations of “There you go again.” Reagan didn’t hate his opponents, though some of his opponents hated Reagan. (One wonders how Reagan would have dealt with the bile factory Nancy Pelosi.)
If there’s a theme the GOP needs to develop and emphasize, Michael Carney says it’s the theme of opportunity:
The new Republican populism should declare war on the cronies and special interests who use big government to rig the game in their favor and deny opportunity to those trying to climb the ladder and live the American dream.
It’s time for free-market populism and a Republican Party that fights against all forms of political privilege — a party that champions all who want to work and take risks in order to improve their lives and raise a family. …
The GOP is out of power and it needs to play to the disaffected. The disaffected are not the wealthy, an obvious point that conservatives can’t seem to understand. The wealthy got wealthier under Obama, and corporations earned record profits while median family earnings fell. Obama uses these facts to defuse the charges he’s a socialist. Republicans should use them to show that Obama’s big government expands the privileges of the privileged class.
Instead of trying to convince successful people that Democrats will take away their wealth, why not explain to the middle class that big government is keeping them down?
Americans look at Washington and know the game is rigged against them. Conservatives can promise to level the field by getting the bureaucrats and politicians out of it.
Regulations disproportionately harm small businesses and thus benefit the big guys who can afford to hire Byron or Kimberly Dorgan. Bailouts of existing giants keep entrepreneurs from entering a field.
Every small businessman, ambitious immigrant, and would-be-entrepreneur should be a Republican. So should every working man who sees his tax dollars going to Warren Buffett, General Electric and Pfizer.
Democrats run the game these days, and that game is rigged. Republicans need to woo those are losing the game.