Republicans have not won a presidential election is 10 years and without a major change within the party, the GOP may be relegated to the sidelines of American politics for another decade. An obsession towards fundamentally exclusionary policies and the political tactic of obstructionism have boxed the party into an unsustainable future.
It does not have to be this way. Some loyal conservatives are beginning to comprehend the danger of maintaining inflexible views on many of the hot button topics today. Some Tea Party candidates are even beginning to see the writing on the wall—albeit too few and too late. The GOP does not need to compromise on core values: smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, strong national defense, hand up not hand out. It must recognize that the same values that Ronald Reagan espoused in the 1980s will not work for a population that has significantly altered their opinions in some of those areas.
The 2016 election cycle will undoubtedly be a challenge for whomever is christened with the Republican nomination. Whomever ultimately wins the primary nomination is sure to face the first female major party candidate in Hillary Rodham Clinton. They will also be straddled with a GOP platform that is politically charged and a tough sell to whole segments of the electorate. This is going to take a very special messenger to deliver it and to successfully sell it to a majority of Americans in states that will pull an electoral vote majority.
The Republican Party has not seen a reinvention of itself since 1979 with the emergence of Ronald Reagan and his new conservative approach to government. The Democrats twice reinvented themselves in the interim: Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008. It is time for a new Republican with a new message and a new style to break into the open.
Can this be accomplished before 2016 elections?
Absolutely. It's going to take one very special communicator and a message that Americans can rally around. It's also going to take compromise—an art that seems to have left Washington with the retirement of former Senator Howard Baker, the Republican leader from Tennessee.
Republicans can begin building a new message by tackling issues that currently drive supporters away from the party. Candidates need to develop positions and programs that are more inclusive to the many faces of this country. There must be an end to exclusionary policies that drive whole segments of voters to the Democrats in every election. In other words, Republicans must stop conceding the black vote, the Hispanic vote, the poor vote, the gay vote. They must develop programs and positions that attract these voters, or at least do not instantaneously drive them to punch the Democratic candidate on every ballot. White, middle-aged males no longer can win elections—nor should they.
Core values can be protected, but some of those values need to change to reflect who Americans are today. Protecting the sanctity of the family is important and spans across generations. But, today's definition of “family” is different then the 1950s ideal unit depicted in 'Father Knows Best' or the 1970s 'Brady Bunch.' Today the family unit may be a single-parent, a close knit group of friends living together or a same-sex couple raising children of their own. It may even be a hybrid of all of that.
Preserving lower taxes does not have to mean opposing any tax increases or tax code changes. The federal government has changed over the decades, and unless a multitude of federal programs are abolished, the budget is going to require revenue. Sell a fair tax system and Americans will buy it.
But, don't just raise taxes on the wealthy and call it fiscally responsible when those new revenues will do nothing but feed and starving federal bureaucracy.
Republicans are likely to capture the U.S. Senate and expand majorities in the U.S. House this year. Those successes will be a victory for national party leaders and their candidate selection process that has been greatly improved this election cycle. The candidates that win will have done so by finding positions that are more in-step with the voters overall. We already know that Obamacare is extremely unpopular with the overwhelming majority of voters, but it's time to stop the call for repeal. Let's develop a “fix” and implement it.
By November there will be a litany of issues that provide ample campaign fodder against the Democrats. Their victory march over the eight million enrolled in Obamacare will explode in their faces once the numbers of who actually paid for their premiums is released. It will further ignite a war of words once we find out how many of those eight million already had insurance, and how many people lost their insurance in the midst of the failed roll-out of the program. Republicans will err by pointing the finger at Obama. Instead, they need to identify an alternative, package it for the American people, and then find messengers to sell it. That's the key to victory in November and in 2016.
With two more years left in Barack Obama's presidency, there will be plenty of new issues to run against Democrat Hillary Clinton. American prestige in the international community is suffering, No foreign leader takes a warning from this president with any note of seriousness. Foreign leaders who oppose American interests completely ignore this president. The next commander-in-chief will face the daunting task of repairing that image.
All of this can be done, but it's going to require a new message and a new messenger. The same old approach will not work if Republicans expect to emerge from the shadows of being a minority partner in government.