Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Future of the Republican Party

At the time of this writing, they haven't officially called it for President Obama, but it's become pretty clear that he has won reelection. And it's become clear that the Republican Party is going to be out in the wilderness for another 4 years. They'll pick up seats in the midterms because of lower turnout in 2014, but the writing is on the wall.

The Republican Party can no longer rely on its traditional constituencies. It must make a bigger play for Latino and women voters or it will never win another Presidential election. The two candidates in the general election that best represent the problem for Republicans? Mourdock and Akin. These two Senate candidates are social conservatives who threw away gimme elections in Missouri and Indiana because of their idiotic comments on rape.

Religious southern whites cannot remain the kingmakers of the Republican Party if it wants to win another Presidency. The future of the GOP lies in a state like Texas, where the Republicans have successfully integrated Latinos into the party by not being completely moronic when it comes to immigration. The future of the GOP lies in a state like New Jersey, where Governor Christie focuses on fiscal issues and keeps social issues out of play. Governor Daniels of Indiana hit the nail on the head when he said the Republicans needed to call a truce on social issues.

Because the real issues focus around government spending, taxes, economic regulation, and the financial health of the average American household. And these are issues that will loom ever larger in the public consciousness because these issues will only grow more important as time goes on.

The wedge issues that currently drive Republicans to the polls? Abortion, gay marriage, immigration? The first issue can still be a winner if there is a drastic restructuring of the message. But the position on gay marriage and immigration must be reversed in order to stay viable as a national party. The Latino population is only going to grow. And the white population is only going to shrink more and more as a percentage of the electorate. As the southern states continue to grow in population, their demographics are becoming increasingly Hispanic.

Gay marriage is also another long term loser. Young voters, and more importantly, young women voters, get turned off by the virulent homophobia behind the Republican opposition to gay marriage. The Democratic Party isn't going to embrace a ban on gay marriage and its usefulness as a wedge issue has been gone since 2004. The culture wars are over on this one. And the Democrats won. Accept it and move on, and stop getting sandbagged by the desire to win over social conservatives.

Abortion is a special circumstance and issue. Currently the Democrats have won over large amounts of women because they frame it as a women's rights issue. But women can be won over if the argument shifts over to a human rights issue. The Republicans need to recalibrate their argument on abortion and also better explain the alternative (adoption, foster care). Latinos (who are overwhelmingly Catholic) and blacks (who are extremely religious) both oppose abortion. But they don't vote on the issue. Women do. The Republicans will either need to adopt the Democratic position (safe, legal, hopefully rare but we'll look the other way if otherwise) or develop a new marketing strategy for presenting their argument on abortion.

There is one area where the Republicans can actually beat the Democrats on their own game. And that's prohibition. It's time to legalize marijuana. Fighting the drug war is costly and diverts precious resources away from more pressing issues. Every year, the public comes out more in favor of the decriminalization of pot. It's only a matter of time before one of the major parties does it. The Republicans might as well use their time in the wilderness to own the issue first, take the initial beating in the opinion polls from voters with families, and then use it to split the Democratic Party in the next general election.

For all the Republican talk about weak economies and bad financial positions, this is still the richest country on Earth and the vast majority of Americans live extremely prosperous and comfortable lives (by any historical measure). We're effectively seeing the Europeanization of America and if the Republicans want to blunt the most important detriments of an increasingly European America, they'll need to concede the social issues and immigration.

1 comment:

  1. What I believe will happen is that in 2016 the GOP will will nominate a social far right conservative because they will be convinced that they nominated a far too "liberal" candidate in Romney. They will be utterly trounced in the election because the electorate is far more centrist than they realize. Maybe then, they will get it and moderate their platform and have a chance in 2020.