Voices in the debate about reviving the Republican Party

I spent a good bit of the morning reading news and op-ed pieces about the Republican Party’s future.

Some think that the party needs to retrench and go even farther right, like the couple cited at the end of this post.

Others, like Krauthammer below, seem to think there’s an easy fix — like a massive appeal to Latino voters through dramatically more progressive policies on immigration. But Romney didn’t lose the race simply because of the Latino vote; consider Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa.

Other commentators are doing a little more soul-searching.

None of the commentators that I ready this morning, however, asked the simplest question: Why did Romney and seemingly the entire Republican establishment think that they were winning when the polls were telling them the opposite?

One of the most interesting snippets comes from the Washington Post in Republican Party begins election review to find out what went wrong:

Asked about the GOP’s demographic problems, Boehner said: “What Republicans need to learn is: How do we speak to all Americans? You know, not just the people who look like us and act like us, but how do we speak to all Americans?”

Michael Gerson in How to Renew the GOP:

These changes call for another, more hopeful conservative tradition: that of Edmund Burke. He saw social change as a constant. The goal was to ease a nation’s way through change while retaining what is strongest in its traditions. Burke insisted that the present was better than the past and that the future could be better still if change were grounded in a society’s basic character. And he believed that politics had to suit a society’s real circumstances, not an idealized version of them.

This is the conservative task over the next few years: not to preserve a rigid ideology but to reconstruct a political appeal along improved but principled lines. […]

The Romney campaign was a vast machine with one moving part, its economic critique. The next Republican campaign will need to be capable of complex adjustments of ideology, policy and rhetoric. And it will need one more thing: a candidate with a genuine, creative passion for inclusion.

From Alan Charles Raul, a former Bush administration official, in For Republicans, less purity and more reality:

For the Republican Party faithful, turning things around will require exorcising our tendency over the past several years to divide the electorate and narrow party membership. Remember when there were Reagan Republicans and Reagan Democrats? Perhaps we could try out a new tag line: The new Republican Party — putting the best of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan to work for America.

Republican reformers will earn crossover appeal by developing ideas for fiscal discipline, right-sized government, entitlement reform and business friendliness. They should also show support for such values as personal accountability, meritocracy, equality of opportunity and national pride. Social policies will remain relevant, but party leaders must avoid prioritizing highly divisive issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception. Instead, Republicans should stress more mainstream policies that promote and preserve intact families, in-wedlock births and school choice. These are conservative sentiments, to be sure, but ones with rock-solid support across different demographic groups.

And while new Republicans will oppose unelected judges making social policy, the party must acknowledge the body politic’s right to choose whether it wants to consider marriage as a union of only one man and one woman, or otherwise. Public opinion is obviously evolving, and Republicans are just going to have to get comfortable with evolution.

Charles Krauthammer in The Way Forward:

Republicans lost the election not because they advanced a bad argument but because they advanced a good argument not well enough. […]

Ignore the trimmers. There’s no need for radical change. The other party thinks it owns the demographic future — counter that in one stroke by fixing the Latino problem. Do not, however, abandon the party’s philosophical anchor. In a world where European social democracy is imploding before our eyes, the party of smaller, more modernized government owns the ideological future.

Romney is a good man who made the best argument he could, and nearly won. He would have made a superb chief executive, but he (like the Clinton machine) could not match Barack Obama in the darker arts of public persuasion.

The answer to Romney’s failure is not retreat, not aping the Democrats’ patchwork pandering. It is to make the case for restrained, rationalized and reformed government in stark contradistinction to Obama’s increasingly unsustainable big-spending, big-government paternalism.

David Brooks in The Party of Work:

Let’s just look at one segment, Asian-Americans. Many of these people are leading the lives Republicans celebrate. They are, disproportionately, entrepreneurial, industrious and family-oriented. Yet, on Tuesday, Asian-Americans rejected the Republican Party by 3 to 1. They don’t relate to the Republican equation that more government = less work.

Over all, Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the six post-cold-war elections because large parts of the country have moved on. The basic Republican framing no longer resonates.

Some Republicans argue that they can win over these rising groups with a better immigration policy. That’s necessary but insufficient. The real problem is economic values. […]

Don’t get hung up on whether the federal government is 20 percent or 22 percent of G.D.P. Let Democrats be the party of security, defending the 20th-century welfare state. Be the party that celebrates work and inflames enterprise. Use any tool, public or private, to help people transform their lives.

Liberal columnist Roger Cohen in None of Your Business:

Romney, who lives near the city of Harvard and M.I.T and scientific innovation, threw away an election that was eminently winnable for the G.O.P. by hitching himself to social ideas from another age, ideas that often dress up intolerance in religious garb.

He had to do so to secure his base, or so the conventional thinking goes. But that base got him nowhere. The worst part is I am not sure Romney even believes those ideas himself. In any event, the repudiation from the American people was vehement.

It is absurd that anyone who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative has to look hard for a political home in the United States. The Republican Party has vacated that large terrain. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, stands about there, but appears to have given up national political ambitions.

Social liberalism is ascendant and there is now no reason to believe the trend will stop.

And from Peggy Noonan, Noonan: ‘People Are Afraid of Change’ Republicans got complacent. Now it’s time to rethink.:

A big rethink is in order. The Republican Party has just been given four years to do it. They should get going. Now. For clarity they could start with essential, even existential, questions. Why does the party exist? What is its purpose? What is possible for it in the new America? How can it prosper politically while leading responsibly?

From there, the practical challenges. Some of these are referred to as “the woman problem” or “the Hispanic problem”—they presumably don’t like the GOP. But maybe they think the GOP doesn’t like them. What might be the reasons?

Those who say no change is needed, who suggest the American people just have to get with the program, are kidding themselves and talking in an echo chamber. What will they do if the same party comes forward in 2016 to the same result?

Of course, it’s hard to know how seriously to take Noonan if you go back and read her pre-election complete dismissal of polling data and laughably bad reading of the race and the electorate.

Of course, any attempt to make serious changes to the party — and especially to the quality of the primary fields — will come up against people like this paranoid senior couple:

Four More Years is a long time — enough to dampen the spirit. But the opposite was true for Emma Runion. “The battle is lost, the war is not,” she said. “And it begins today.”

The day after the election, as Republican strategists diced the demographics of their loss — Hispanics and young people went with President Obama — the push was already on to make the GOP more inclusive and reflective of the country. The party needed to gather up more of the middle. In other words, it needed to tame the tea partyers who had moved the party to the right.

It was precisely this mentality that energized Emma Runion and her husband, John, to dig in even harder.

After gathering her signs Wednesday morning, Emma went to her computer. First she scanned it for spyware. “Hackers were very busy last night,” she said. Her second order of business was dropping Fox News as her home page, annoyed with the network for pitching in the towel so early and calling Obama the winner. Her new home page: the Blaze, the Glenn Beck-run news site.