In the wake of John McCain’s defeat two weeks ago yesterday, along with the thorough walloping given to the Republican congressional candidates, many are left wondering how best to rebuild the party. The conservative intelligentia have been quick to place blame for the loss. They place this blame at the feet of McCain, saying that he was too far to the center. Their claim is that the voters, given a choice between a Democrat and a Democrat dressed as a Republican, will always choose the former over the latter. While this is undoubtedly true, those same pundits are quick to blame Sarah Palin, who they say was too far to the right to be palatable to the common voter. In their eyes, the party should simultaneously purge itself of both the moderates and those to the right.
If we listened to these people, we might be inclined to say that the Republican party should dissolve itself altogether.Make no mistake, the Republican party is in desperate need of soul searching. Six years of controlling both the Executive and Legislative branches led to party members behaving like a bunch of drunk fraternity boys at a gentleman’s club. Too much spending, too much debauchery, and waking up with the hangover of a lifetime.
But the cure to a hangover is not to crack open the bottle and start drinking again. There has to be some relaxation, some respite from the errors of the previous night. Most important is to try your hardest to remember exactly what those mistakes were.
Any kneejerk reaction that the party makes as a result of two weeks ago will be the political equivalent of cracking open a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and drinking it down as though the party were John Belushi in Animal House.
Pause. Take a breath. Ignore the elites. Stop pointing fingers and start observing.
The Democrats gained their majorities by using region to their advantage. They found candidates who could appeal to voters in specific areas, largely ignoring ideology. This has moved their ideological average more to the right. But it has also increased their ideological variance. Their congressmen and congresswomen now run all across the political spectrum. Their ultimate quest was for control.
This has made their position very tenuous. If the new blue dogs want to gain any political clout, it will be necessary for them to tow the party line. However, if they agree to the agenda set by Pelosi and Reid, they may quickly earn the ire of their constituents. The Democrats have built up a coalition of differing and oftentimes opposing ideologies. As it stands, they will be unable to please their majorities on issues that really matter.
Reagan recognized this weakness in the Democratic party.That’s why he worked to built a coalition that could strongly agree on all the necessary points that he set forth. This is what the party has really lost. The ability to determine basic principles and agree to fight for them while putting all the rest on the backburner.
Now is not the time to boot anyone, neither moderates nor the social conservatives. Party affiliation is shrinking as it is. Instead, it is vital that the Republican party craft a tale much different from that of the Democrats, that speaks to the truths and values that have made America successful.
Now more than ever, it is necessary for the Republican party to exist.