The last two weeks in the political world have essentially been an extended postmortem of the Romney campaign. There are essentially two voices of thought coming from the "thought leaders" of the Republican Party. The first one is "double down". Romney wasn't a real conservative and his phoniness showed through and turned off voters. The second one is "we gotta change". The Republican brand and ideology has become so toxic to too many slices of the electorate and unless we change the game, we're not gonna win another Presidential election.
I'm firmly in the second camp. Those trying to double down are misguided, to put it generously. The reason why Romney had to be so phony is because the electorate is dumb. If he recited the conservative mantra on things like spending cuts, there's no way he could have been elected. And his paean to the social conservatives sounded fake because it was fake. He didn't care about issues like abortion, contraceptives, gun control, and gay marriage because it's not in his wheelhouse. He unashamedly threw red meat at the base because he needed the base to turn out.
Well the base did turn out. But Romney lost everywhere else. The base of the Republican Party is too insular, small, and the only reason why it's so potent is because they have a disproportionate say in its party's primaries. So first thing is to blunt their power in picking candidates who are absolutely terrible for the general election.
In this election cycle, the Republicans threw away 2 Senate seats by selecting unelectable candidates in the primary. Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana both won the Republican primary but then went on to lose the general election because they made terrible comments on rape of all issues. This is what boggles me. When it comes to rape, just say the PC friendly thing. Rape is bad. Let's move on.
Instead they have to offer their own interpretations. It was God's will for that woman to get raped. You can't get pregnant in a case of legitimate rape. I mean, it's bad enough that you had those thoughts in the first place. It's downright idiotic to actually say it publicly. It goes to show how absolutely terrible these candidates were for public office.
In order to become more viable, since the white electorate is only going to shrink from here on out, the Republican Party needs to do a better job at courting minorities. They also need to do better among young voters. That means changing stance on immigration. It means eliminating the thinly veiled homophobia that plagues the party. It means softening the rhetoric on things like abortion, rape, and contraception.
In essence, the Republican Party is going to have to marginalize social conservatives. In the 60s and 70s, Nixon built his coalition by picking up the disaffected racists and southerners in the Democratic Party who were cast aside when LBJ pushed for civil rights. That winning coalition endured up to 2006. But now it's time to do the right thing and also court the growing constituencies.
And that means casting aside the social conservatives. And this time, they won't have another major party to pick them up. The sooner the Republicans can marginalize them, the sooner they can win the elections they should win.