Dear Republican Party and Conservative Friends,
I sincerely hope you are beginning to feel a little better. A week ago today you received quite a shock when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election by a very decisive Electoral College margin and a comfortable popular vote lead. To add insult to your injury, four pro-gay-marriage initiatives passed, pro-labor candidates won in Wisconsin and elsewhere, The “Rust Belt” voted solidly for Obama, and liberal women won lots of seats in Congress. We have all heard that Governor Romney and his campaign team are still shell-shocked and trying to understand what happened, because they had been in denial about a potential defeat. Their wake up call was sudden and brutal. Mr. Romney had not even written a concession speech, making his extremely gracious and noble final statement even more remarkable for its genuine dignity and apparent intentionality.
The GOP can have a bright future and win again if you will implement ten steps to Republican rebranding and conservative redemption. I have thought carefully over the past week about whether or not to publish these ten steps. As a liberal Democrat, I’m afraid you might actually read my advice, take it seriously and succeed. I have been a consultant to Fortune 500 companies (conservative Republican institutions largely) for 22 years, facilitating market research, new product development, branding, positioning, and strategic planning projects. The ten steps listed here do not come from nowhere. They are my professional assessment regarding the GOP path to future success, based on decades of analysis of disasters similar to the 2012 election in corporate settings. After thinking twice, I realized that it is healthier for the American democracy to have a thriving but reasonable conservative wing in politics. I consulted with Paul, my very dear friend and fellow blogger for Two Old Liberals, and he urged me to publish these ten steps. I have to agree with his reasoning: “One party rule is very seldom a good idea. People get cocky and arrogant; and they get lazy without an opponent to keep them fit.”
Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption
1. Embrace Hispanics wholeheartedly and become their partners in immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The Bush brothers (Jeb and G. W.) have known for a long time that the Republican Party must embrace Hispanics to survive the rapid demographic evolution of the American electorate toward a minority majority. The wages of ignoring this development became painfully evident for you in last Tuesday’s election. Unfortunately, when President G. W. Bush tried to move the GOP in this direction with friendlier immigration legislation, you rejected it. When the Tea Party extremists and Rush Limbaugh were allowed to hijack the GOP, your message to Hispanics became very hostile: “We don’t want you here. Get out or we will throw you out.”
A lot of Hispanic voters are conservative and would make natural Republicans if you would embrace them and become their advocates. Many Hispanics are devout Catholics who certainly do not believe in abortion or even birth control! Many are hard-working fiscal conservatives who hold very strong family values and would not be supporters of gay marriage. Does that portrait look like Democrats? No, it looks like Republicans, but you have forced them to vote Democratic in self-defense with your hostile rhetoric.
Oh, I know, I know… You believe that you ARE welcoming toward Hispanics and that it is just Democrats who make you look bigoted toward them. Well, Hispanics PERCEIVE hostility from you, and perception is everything in politics and in business. How can you change that perception? You could start by never nominating another candidate who talks about “self-deportation,” and by marginalizing the extreme voices in your party who describe Hispanics as lazy moochers. Support pro-immigration legislation with a path toward citizenship, and then move on to Step 2.
2. Nominate Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as your 2016 presidential ticket. Or find another set of candidates who would be equally attractive to Hispanics. I recommend Jeb and Marco, because Jeb’s wife is Hispanic and they have a son, George Bush III, who is movie star handsome, charismatic, articulate, and Hispanic! Jeb is a center-right Republican who understands the imperative to adopt pro-immigration policies and befriend the exploding Hispanic demographic segment. Marco Rubio is young, good-looking, conservative, articulate, magnetic, and has a storybook gorgeous wife and family… and he is Hispanic. Unless you are ready and willing to become a minor regional party of grumpy old white men and crazy right-wing extremists, you will seriously consider nominating a pro-Hispanic ticket for the 2016 election.
3. Become enthusiastic supporters of women and empower them in society and politics. Stop the “war on women” now! I know, I know… You do not believe there ever was a GOP war on women. You feel that Democrats and a few right-wing wackos pinned that undeserved reputation on you. Okay… maybe so. But women PERCEIVE that you are hostile toward them, and perception is everything. How could you have let this happen, Republicans? Women make up the majority of the electorate, for God’s sake! You simply cannot allow this continuing perception that you want government to be able to intrude into women’s private lives and take control of their bodies. Issue a commandment to all old men in the GOP forbidding them from mentioning rape ever again. They lost that right with “legitimate rape” and rape that is “God’s will.” And any hint of trespassing into a woman’s control over her own body with ideas like “forced trans-vaginal probes” (speaking of rape…) is strictly forbidden, forever, period.
The Republican Party must enthusiastically support women and their right to earn equal pay for equal work and hold positions of power and authority in American society and politics. In this connection, it is time to aggressively seek and cultivate female candidates for office. The age of women in politics is thundering toward America like a tsunami along with the Hispanic and minority majority. You don’t believe me? Take a look at New Hampshire’s 2013 delegation to Congress — all women. Also in 2013, on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House of Representatives, women and minorities will comprise the majority for the first time in history, and it won’t be the last time.
When you look for female GOP candidates, run as fast as you can away from anyone who says she can see Russia from her house, or who urges citizens to exercise 2nd amendment remedies, or who thinks she might have been a witch at one time. Walk away from all these nut cases who have taken over your party and its messaging. Start looking for women candidates formed in the mold of hard-working, sane, professionals like Kay Bailey Hutchison, Olympia Snow, and Condoleezza Rice. You know they are among you. Bring them forward.
4. Exercise control over your nominating process to avoid extremists and run candidates who can win. Republicans had a chance to take back the Senate in the 2012 election but you blew it again with extreme right-wing candidates who insulted and verbally abused the electorate. You cannot win elections when you attack the people you need to vote for you — women, Hispanics, gays, and other minorities. Stop it!
And your slate of presidential candidates in the Republican primaries this year looked like a clown car — Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, etc… Give us a break! Do you really expect the American electorate to take you seriously when you present a list of crazy candidates like those for the presidency? Weren’t you embarrassed? It was very amusing and entertaining for the rest of us, but also pretty scary, when we considered that you were actually proposing that one of these nut cases should hold the most powerful job on earth.
There were four reasonable candidates — Tim Pawlenty, John Huntsman, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Pawlenty was apparently too moderate and ran out of money and steam early and dropped out. Huntsman was too liberal for you. Ron Paul was too libertarian and uncontrollable. And that left only Romney who was pushed so far to the right by the endless primary debates with clown candidates that he ultimately did not have a chance in the general election, despite his desperate last-minute attempt to disavow everything he had said during the primaries and turn hard toward the center. Get a grip on your nomination and primary processes, GOP, or your clown car will be replaced by a new and more reasonable party of serious, classic conservatives. You cannot win with your current slate of Tea Party extremists and dogmatic right-wing ideologues.
5. Befriend the LGBT segment and support gay rights and marriage. I’ll never understand it, but apparently there are lots of us gay people who would like to be conservative Republicans. A “gay Republican” has always seemed to me, as someone once described it, to be “like a 12-point buck at an NRA convention.” But, be that as it may, there are lots of LGBT people who want to get into your club, and can’t do it, because you constantly tell us you don’t want us or like us and we are an abomination against God and nature. You didn’t want to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and you don’t want to let us marry each other. Now, I ask you, what American institutions are more conservative than the military and marriage? We are asking for the right to serve our country in the armed forces and enter into the commitment, stability and responsibility of the institution of legal marriage. As conservatives YOU should be applauding these impulses and helping us to realize them. Then you’d get lots of gay votes, which if I’m not mistaken, still count as much as straight votes.
Barry Goldwater understood this. Remember him?… your 1964 Republican nominee for the presidency? I’ll never forget him: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He also famously said, “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” In 1993 on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Senator Goldwater said, “I see no harm at all with having gays in the military… I think that if you left it up to the American people, the attitude would be, ‘What the hell, there’s nothing wrong with a gay as long as he doesn’t misbehave himself.” True classic conservatives want to get government out of people’s bedrooms and private lives and grant everyone fundamental civil rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Return to your classic conservative roots and the fundamental principles of freedom to win elections again, Republicans.
6. Support clean renewable energy sources and the effort to stop and reverse climate change. My Nov 4, 2012 post at http://TwoOldLiberals.com entitled “Mother Nature Sends Sandy to Make Climate Change a Conservative Issue,” defines five compelling reasons why climate change is a conservative issue: A.) Loss of property; B.) Extinction is bad for profits; C.) Cost of preparedness and disaster response; D.) Public and political pressure mounts; E.) Everyone cares about the survival and happiness of their kids and grandkids. Beyond that, what could be a more natural conservative value than leaving our children and grandchildren an environment that is at least as healthy and able to sustain life as the one we inherited? Conservatives are careful to maintain their home as an investment in the future stability and security of their families. The earth is our only home. It is time for conservatives to demand that we stop destroying this habitat for the sake of our children.
7. Work openly to reverse voter suppression and support the Voter Empowerment Act. You may have heard earlier in the campaign that there was an “enthusiasm gap” among Democrats. There probably actually was a disturbing degree of apathy among Democrats at that stage. But you took care of that by doing everything in your power to suppress the traditionally Democratic vote. You worked hard to make voting impossible for seniors, students, poor people, and anyone without a photo ID. You tried to shut down early voting and same-day registration wherever possible. You sent out disinformation about the date and location for voting. You did not provide enough voting sites, machines or ballots so that many people had to wait 2 or 4 or 6 hours in line, jeopardizing their jobs and their children’s safety. The net result was rage on the part of the people whose vote you tried to suppress. That anger more than filled the “enthusiasm gap,” and those folks came out like never before to vote. Your tactics backfired. Oh, I know, I know… You think that you did not do this at all… that it was some other nefarious force sabotaging voter rights to make you look bad. But these people PERCEIVE that you tried to stop them from voting, and perception is everything. How can you correct this perception? Work openly to reverse voter suppression, and support the Voter Empowerment Act. Become known as every voter’s advocate and friend.
8. Define fiscal conservatism as more than just eliminating taxes and regulations for business and banking. I know it is near and dear to your hearts, Republicans, but this continuing crusade to reduce taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans just isn’t going to fly anymore. At least 60% of Americans want the wealthy to pay their fair share. And since we have all been suffering through the Great Recession for over four years, we certainly do not buy the line that simply removing regulations from business and banking and allowing the free market to have its way will work at all. We know too much now. We know that greed is part of human nature and will take over if unchecked. We are also smart enough to know that the math for balancing the budget and paying down the national debt will not work if you refuse to add more tax revenues into the equation and insist on increasing military spending, as did Mitt Romney in his ill-fated campaign.
A lot of people are naturally fiscally conservative — even some moderates and some liberals. But you are going to have to say more than just “no taxes or regulation,” to get more of the fiscally conservative vote. You will need to outline detailed plans and programs that define fiscal conservatism, in a way that makes intuitive sense to strapped middle class householders who are desperately trying to balance their own budgets, pay down their debts, and stay afloat financially in the midst of a recession. You will also want to explain to voters how your fiscal policies will help them to do that in their personal lives.
9. Revive the moderate wing of the Republican Party. After last Tuesday, isn’t it time to give the electorate a moderate option within the GOP again? I’m old enough to recall when there was a liberal wing of the Republican Party — George Romney was one of them, ironically, and, of course, Nelson Rockefeller. Today American politics has moved so far to the right that I sometimes feel I cannot find any moderates in either party, let alone liberals. But, of course, you do have moderates — very highly respected individuals within the GOP — Gen. Colin Powell, Ambassador John Huntsman, Gov. Chris Christie, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and others. If it is true that elections are won in the center, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to offer the electorate some centrist candidates? And while you are at it, stop holding so many debates in your primaries. They only force everyone to the extreme right.
10. Stop obstructionism and make an effort at bipartisan collegiality and communication. Ever since Sen. Mitch McConnell vowed that his only job was to insure that Barack Obama would be a one-term president, and the Tea Party substituted hostile obstructionism in place of governing, every last vestige of simple civility, let alone comity and collegiality has vanished from Capitol Hill. Serious professional legislators like Republican Senator Olympia Snow are leaving public service, citing the loss of a civil climate essential for governing as their reason. The entire electorate is sick to death of this obstructionism and lack of civility in public life. We miss the days when Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy used to hurl barbed, amusing comments and insults at each other on the floor of the Senate by day and then go out with a bipartisan group for a convivial evening of banter and laughter over drinks and dinner in the evenings. That was healthy for the Republic. The hatred and despair that we see now on Capitol Hill are poisonous and ruinous to the future of governance. It must stop now.
Oh, I know, I know… You feel that this is all the fault of the Democrats, not the Republicans, and it has been pinned on the GOP by the biased liberal press. Okay fine. Let’s say you are right. But the electorate PERCEIVES the obstructionism and lack of civility as coming primarily from the Republican side of the aisle, and perception is everything. So how can you reverse that perception? YOU be the bigger people. YOU take the high road. YOU, Republican Senators and Congress people, should agree that starting today you will invite a bipartisan group of colleagues for drinks and dinner every evening when in Washington D.C. and make every effort to have a good time and maintain a civil tone in everything that is said and done. This is what the American people want. If you restore civility in public discourse and governance, you will begin to win again.
What will be left of conservatism if Republicans adopt these ten steps? Classic conservatism — the high-minded thinking conservatism of decades past — would have adopted all of these ideas without difficulty and considered them a natural part of conservative philosophy. Here’s just a partial list of what’s left: Strict constructionist constitutional interpretation; fiscal conservatism that seeks to balance the budget and pay down the debt; overwhelming military might seems to be popular across the political spectrum (I’m sad to observe;) permissive gun ownership rights (God help us;) capital punishment (God forgive us;) strong law and order programs; smaller centralized government; more power to local and state governments; pro-business policies; superpower policing of international law and order (ill-advised, in my opinion;) expansion of democracy on the planet; support for moral and ethical decency; religious liberty; and the maintenance of an unbiased, objective judiciary.
And… my apologies. I must end this long list of criticisms withone final insult that I hope my Republican friends will consider: Did I mention that it’s all about perception? Today the increasingly brown and young, modern electorate perceives the Republican Party as an outmoded group of very white, much too old, overly male, mean-spirited and grumpy, obstructionist bigots, who care only about preserving power and wealth for the white privileged upper class, and have no clue about what is really happening and changing in America today. I’m very sorry, but that is how you are perceived.
If you want to win again, listen to the young people within your own ranks. They see that America is quickly becoming a minority majority. They know that same-sex marriage is no skin off their own noses and inevitable. If you don’t believe me, listen to Megan McCain and her mom. Your own young people know that the planet is warming so rapidly and dangerously that the very existence of future generations is threatened. Republican youth understand intuitively that power is shifting to women and it is time to get on that band wagon. They know that civil discourse and promoting the right of all Americans to vote is the proper and honorable way to go.
If you want to win the midterm and 2016 elections, you will need to adopt at least steps 1, 2, and 3. Please do, for your own survival. We liberal Democrats need you. We miss the debates and discussions we used to have with you. Those arguments helped both of us define ourselves. We all need the contrast with one another to know what we believe. The dialogue is healthy for democracy and essential for a vibrant America. So, come back to life and sanity, Republicans! Find your way out of the corner into which you have painted yourselves, conservatives! We all need you and we miss you. You are part of our great American family!
Love, – Kevin