Now that the dust has settled and we have elected a new president, the GOP must figure out how to re-build itself after a second electoral disaster.
Where does the Republican Party go from here? And most importantly, what does the future hold for the conservative movement?
I believe one of two things will happen to the party – either it will move even further to the center and left, and embrace more neo-conservatism and outright liberalism because it thinks the country is at that point, or it will dump its current leadership and embrace the conservatism of Reagan, thereby giving voters a true choice.
Democrats have now united under the banner of extreme leftism; Republicans must unite under the banner of true conservatism.
Consider what has happened to the Republican Party since its historic takeover of Congress in 1994, an electoral triumph of true conservatism. The party was able to maintain its hold on Congress throughout the remainder of the Clinton presidency by staying true to its principles, then continued control of both chambers and the White House with the election of George W. Bush in 2000. This hold remained through the 2004 election, when the GOP reached its zenith with 232 House members and 55 Senators.
During this era of Republican rule, the Democratic Party was on the ropes. Members were switching parties, they had no strong candidates with a coherent message to speak of, and the party seemed to be loosing its grip and its hope of ever regaining the White House or Congress. Even many state and local races seemed hopeless. The GOP dominated in governor’s mansions and state houses.
Oh what a difference a few years, and many bad policies, has made.
Republicans, under Bush, outspend Democrats and expanded government far beyond anything liberals could have ever hoped to do. The national debt doubled and Washington grew by 40 percent in just six years. Voters reacted and now the party finds itself in a worse situation than did Democrats just four years ago. Many members are dejected and gloomy, candidates have been horrid, and the message has been lost, forgotten, or abandoned.
Yet now is not the time to panic. There can be a silver lining to this political shipwreck. The McCain-Bush neoconservative wing of the party has been permanently damaged and should never rise again. This election was a complete repudiation of those discredited policies – rampant and out-of-control spending, huge deficits, free trade, and wars without end.
I have taken the liberty to list a few items which I think will help bring about the revival of the party and the conservative movement:
1) Oust the Leadership – This perhaps is the most important step. If the leadership in the House, Senate, and national party hierarchy are not thrown out, then any meaningful reform is moot. McConnell, Boehner, and the leaders of the national party have failed and need to go in favor of new, young, and conservative, leaders who can take the party in a new direction. Paul Ryan and Mike Pence come to mind in the House, as well as Tom Coburn in the Senate. Moderate-to-Liberal Republicans, Rhinos, and “Obamacans” should all be ousted as well.
We should follow the example of the Whig Party in dealing with President John Tyler, who assumed office with the death of William Henry Harrison in 1841. Tyler, a states’ rights advocate placed on the ticket to attract Southern votes, betrayed key Whig principles, thereby provoking party anger. In 1842 a mass meeting was held in Washington, led by Henry Clay, whereby President Tyler was literally read out of the party.
2) Craft a New Message – Any new message should be based on old conservative principles – limited government, states’ rights, low taxes, balanced budgets, no public debt, sound money, strong military defense, non-interventionist foreign policy, and fair trade. Recently emerging reformist conservative ideas, like “heroic conservatism” and the like should be rejected. Reformers like David Frum and David Brooks seek to make the GOP more like the Democratic Party, but we just lost an election trying that. To advance in the future we must look to the past.
3) Rebuild the Party from the Grassroots – A complete overhaul will not be successful simply by making a few changes at the top; the bottom is just as important. New, young leaders need to rise up in local and state party organizations and vigorously promote the message and recruit candidates. College Republican groups across the country need to recruit new leaders and work to promote the party and its true ideals among the younger generations. The people need to be able to trust the “Republican” brand again.
These changes, as well as a newfound respect and promotion of our Founding principles, will revive the Republican Party like nothing else can. We must offer the nation a true choice, either in the GOP or out of it, or face decades out of power.