A look back

by thoughtfulconservative

Last night’s election, while disappointing was not the disaster many thought it would be. Democrats are far short of the “super majority,” and didn’t pick up as many in the House as predicted by some. I attribute this to the fact that, although people want change, they don’t want revolution. They are mostly satisfied with their lives, but want some stuff fixed.

McCain lost and he lost by about what pundits predicted. The interesting thing was that it was over before Florida, Indiana, and North Carolina were decided.

So where should the Republican Party go from here?

Many have said that Sarah Palin has the inside track for 2012. Of course many thought Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in. I like Gov. Palin and believe she would be no worse a candidate than Barack Obama. But four years is a long way off.

President-elect Obama seems to have won by appealing to African-Americans, young people, and Hispanics. It’s also clear that tax cuts as a campaign strategy works about as well as abortion (but note that anti-gay marriage proposals passed in FL and CA; reminds me of two years ago, when the marriage amendment and an opinion question concerning restoring the death penalty passed in a year when Republicans were defeated nationwide).

If Republicans want to win elections, we have to figure out how to appeal to the groups that went big for Obama. We either have to come up with new ideas as Paul Ryan (although like Nick, I am troubled of his support for the bailout) or we have to sell the old ideas better.

I think part of McCain’s failure was not selling the ideas better. He spent too much energy attacking Obama for things that didn’t seem to matter to the electorate. One could argue the reasons why the people didn’t care, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

But, better than coming up with new ideas, I think Republicans have to prove that they are willing to follow those ideas themselves.

The Republican Party has traditionally been the party of small government. The past 8 years were anything but. If we decide we want to continue to be the party of small government, we have to mean it.

I’m not sure that’s what the American people want. They seem to be satisfied with government being involved in areas that Republicans traditionally haven’t been comfortable with. Health care is one area.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth will follow in the coming days and in fact, has already started. The death of conservatism has already been proclaimed.

We shall see.

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11 Responses to “A look back”

  1. If we decide we want to continue to be the party of small government, we have to mean it.

    I’m not sure that’s what the American people want. They seem to be satisfied with government being involved in areas that Republicans traditionally haven’t been comfortable with. Health care is one area.

    I think you’re onto something here. Just as Bill Clinton and the Democrats had to recognize that some traditionally Republican ideas were simply too resonant with America to ignore (NAFTA, welfare reform, etc.), so today’s Republican party has to start realizing that they can’t fail to deliver health care reform and new environmental initiatives and still win elections. And I’m not talking shell-game lip-service about them, either. Proposing “market reforms” to fix health care, or calls for greenhouse gas-related industries to “volunteer” to do better isn’t going to cut it anymore. It’ll have to be as real as NAFTA was, or you can plan on the GOP going the way of the Whig party.

  2. Dean, do you think Palin is next in line? I was tuned in to the liveblog on bootsandsabers and some there seemed to think Romney was next in line for the candidacy. I’m not entirely sure the Republican party will be ready for either of them when the time comes. I am of the mind that Republicans will want someone far closer to the base than Romney and more experienced than Palin (although through the lense of this election it would appear that experience is a moot point). An awful lot has been said about Paul Ryan in regards to his “Roadmap”. Is this a local phenomenon or is he duly noted on the national level? And if so is he a possible candidate for the next election?

  3. Dave, Palin and Romney would have to be the front runners right now with the baggage you described.

    Paul Ryan may be a possibility although I don’t think he’s looking that high at the moment. Probably Kohl’s seat or the governorship or leadership in the House.

    He has been noted on the national level and many people like what they see.

    scott, very good analogy and I think you’re right.

  4. “I think part of McCain’s failure was not selling the ideas better”

    Really? Wasn’t the problem that McCains ideas were the same as Bush’s ideas, and a giant majority of the country has determined– through experience– that these ideas weren’t much good?

    If you keep thinking the problem is that the people don’t understand the ideas, because your candidate doesn’t explain them well, aren’t you going to keep getting the same results?

  5. Matt, two of McCain’s ideas (that I know of, I’m just sitting here typing this; I haven’t researched it) were the same as Bush’s–tax cuts (perhaps expanding to economic policy) and Iraq. That’s what the Obama camp used to tie him to Bush.

    But McCain was right–there were other things that he differed with Bush on, energy policy, environmental policy, and others. In fact, even on Iraq, McCain disagreed with the conduct of the war and it could be argued–that’s all we can do, it can never be proved–if the war had been conducted as McCain wanted it to, we wouldn’t have had the problems.

    And perhaps “better” was a poor choice of words. One could argue the campaign was doomed when the attack ads started. Again that’s something we’ll never know.

    And as you might note, selling the idea is only one solution I mention in the post. Maybe the idea *is* wrong. Maybe we need to look at *what* we’re trying to sell as scott mentioned.

  6. The one take away I have from this election is that you can’t “out Democrat” the Democrats.

    Being a Democrat-lite isn’t going to work.

    The party needs to rediscover the roots of conservatism, small government, low taxes, free markets.

    I believe we also need to realign under the Reagan model and reclaim the “Joe the Plumber” sector. We do that with core conservative values.

    More controversial, but needs to be said, I think the party has to look long and hard at the so-called religious right. The socially conservative with a decidedly liberal economic policy position (I’m looking at you Gov. Huckabee). I think they need to be at least marginalized if not outright ejected. But that is just me…

  7. Good points, Sinner. I wouldn’t want to be Democrat-lite, but I think we can learn from them. Having a 50 state strategy has been mentioned by others. Finding those popular themes that agree with conservative thought and emphasizing them.

    Even though I’m socially conservative (albeit a libertarian bent), I agree that Gov. Huckabee is not the answer, as much as I like his populism and folksiness. We just had 8 years of something very similar, and no one really liked how it turned out.

    But right now it seems that people are really concerned about the economy (regulation) and health care and until we find answers that resonate with them on these issues, we will not win elections, in Wisconsin or the nation.

  8. Sinner, I agree with you 100% (probably more). The Reagan model of governance is, in my opinion, the correct and logical way to go. The problem is getting a person in the White House that governs in that fashion. Explaining that model to the American electorate is the issue. There were a couple of reasons Reagan was called “The Great Communicator”. One, he was able to accurately and intelligently voice his beliefs and policies to the masses and two, was charismatic enough to get you to listen to that message. There is nobody in this party, as of right now that I believe can do what is needed to get that message out and understood. I say this with all the hope that a person or person’s can be found and quickly, otherwise we’re looking at a minimum of 8 years of who-knows-what.

    As for the religious right, I believe you are correct in that assessment as well. It was a necessary “grass roots” group that was needed after the Clinton years, but the message(s) of the party cannot be driven by them anymore. Social conservatism is good, and I believe necessary, but that is only a small portion of the leadership pie. Security, tax policies, foreign policy, etc, is just as important (possibly more) as social policies, and that needs to be a focus of the Republican Party if they want to regain control of the legislature, and the executive portions of government.

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