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Are National Republicans Tuned in?

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Friday, January 18th, 2013

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


 Where does the Republican Party go from here? Are major changes in both direction and philosophy necessary?  Not a problem say some party operatives.  Don’t overreact to the latest defeat.  The Democrats will screw things up and swing voters will be rushing back to the GOP column in the next election-right?

 Senior Bush adviser, Karl Rove, emulates this “stay the course” line of thinking.  Rove was in my hometown of Baton Rouge last week speaking to a statewide business group. He espoused the institutional party line that there really is no major problem.  The big challenge is mechanical.  Democrats just did a better job of getting out the vote according to his analysis.  The Republican candidate was a hard sell, and the campaign technology was weak.  Oh, and we forgot about the Latinos.  But all this, according to Rove, can be fixed in the future.

 If only it were that simple.  Rove and his cohorts who think along similar lines, are not looking at history.  You have to go back to 1988 to find a Republican candidate for president who was able to garner more than half the popular vote.  In five of the past six elections, Democrats have out polled Republicans.

 Republicans are bragging about holding on to the control of the House of Representatives.  But although Democrats won fewer congressional districts, they received over a million more votes.

 What should be particularly troubling to Republicans is the lack of interest, even disdain, of the fastest growing electoral constituencies for the Republicans.  Three-quarters of Asians and Hispanics ignored the GOP message.  African-Americans overwhelming rejected the Republican ticket.  In central Philadelphia, among 59 districts that were heavily African-American, Romney did not get a vote.  Not one!  The totals were: Obama 19,604, Romney 0.

 The story was similar with most other constituencies.  The Democrats won young voters by 67%, unmarried women by 67% and carried women overall by 55/44%.  The last ditch constituency for Republicans reflects their leadership in Washington — old white guys. Republicans were watching “Madmen,” while Democrats were tuned to “Modern Family.”

Karl Rove and similar voices in the party fail to realize that they have an identity problem, and as far as many observers are concerned, they have lost their way.  And as a result, Middle America has drifted away from a comfort level with the GOP.  The country has changed demographically, but the party of Jefferson and Lincoln remains stuck in a rut.

Both political parties have room for growth, and in the past, they have espoused a “big tent” philosophy, where, within reason, there was room for divergent views.  But the growing perception that the GOP is gravitating towards more extreme positions on the right has become a turnoff for millions of more centralist thinking Republicans.  Obama’s not a U.S. citizen, Obama’s a racist they rave.  The Republican rhetoric has gotten stale.

The shrill voices of survivalists who are hunkering down and building fences have issued a call to arms with rhetoric that is so extreme that it has alienated the many more moderate Republicans.  Party leaders seem to be listening to the loudest voices.  And too often, these voices are on the fringe of the GOP.  To some observers, the Republican extremists have confected a Thelma and Louise strategy of taking the party over the cliff.

You wonder what happened to the moderates in the Republican Party.  It’s simple.  The John McCains and the Lindsay Grahams got scared and moved to the right.  Pragmatism went out the window.  Party leaders keep talking about the leadership of Ronald Reagan.  But the Gipper was pragmatic, raised taxes when necessary, and came out strongly against assault weapons.

How was Obama able to do so well in traditionally Republican western states?  The President won in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and lost by close margins across the west where Republicans generally run up big majorities.  The simple fact is that the GOP has moved away from Western conservatism.  Out west, there is a libertarian streak that wants the government to stay out of an individual’s person life.  And that used to be the case with the Republican Party.  Too often, modern day conservatives seem over concerned with what goes on inside someone’s home, and don’t seem to be concerned enough with what used to be constitutional protections.

The conservative “New American” magazine recently released their annual “Freedom Index,” — a review of congressional votes on limited government, privacy protections, defending personal freedoms and fiscal responsibility. The Senate average of Republicans was a pathetic 47%.

We are bombarded with all the things Republicans are against.  But if a new brand of leadership hopes to emerge in the Republican Party, they need to tell voters what they’re for.  Where is the vision ““ what is the Republican promise?  We live in a different age, and real Americans have a changing set of realities.  And if the Republicans want to regain relevance in the American future, they must get back in touch with the American present.

One of the Republican Party’s “best and brightest” was Congressman Jack Kemp.  He made the point that: “You don’t beat a thesis with an antithesis. You beat it with a better thesis.”

Denial and anger is not going to put the GOP back in the hearts and minds of conservative Americans.  Much more than a shift in tactics is needed to make that happen.  An attitude adjustment, a shift in culture is required.  There is a way for Republicans to come out of the wasteland.  Finding that way requires will, strong backbone, spunk, guts and tenacity.  Who’s there to pick up the mantel and meet this challenge?

There are a number of bold new ideas out there that are consistent with conservative, libertarian values.  Initially, the angry grassroots may not be all that receptive. But proactive growth requires courage — and isn’t that what good leadership is all about?


“Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

Henry Ford

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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