Richmond College '09
It is undeniable that the Republican Party has suffered a massive repudiation by the American electorate. A party that just four years ago seemed to conquer this country is now reduced to near irrelevancy in Washington. On Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president and he will enjoy large majorities of Democrats in both the House and Senate to help push through his agenda. If the Republicans want any chance at playing a role in public policy in the future, they need to realize what they did wrong and where to go from here.
John McCain was probably the most appealing candidate the GOP could field in 2008. The fact that he made this a race is a testament to the fact that he is more widely admired and respected than the party he represents. However, the mood in the country was so overwhelming for change and to slam the door shut on the Bush presidency that McCain was probably doomed from the start. President George Bush and the Washington Republicans have damaged their party thoroughly. Not only have they squandered the GOP's reputation for good managerial government, but they have added the stigma that we are a "stupid party." These are two hurdles that must be overcome for Republicans to have a shot again at power.
The level of incompetence in the Bush administration has been staggering. Through botching the early stages of the Iraq War (a war most Americans believe was completely unnecessary), dropping the ball on Katrina, presiding over a massive spending binge and leaving the responsibility to pay for it to future generations, the current Republican Party has completely lost its hard-earned reputation for frugality and efficient government. Instead of lean, competent government the current GOP unfortunately stinks of cronyism, waste and debt. Though it might not be as exciting as "change we can believe in," Republicans need to prove to this country that we can manage government well, that we have ideas to reform entitlements before they bankrupt the country, that we can provide people with low taxes, lean and efficient government that is conducive to economic growth and job creation. Since we are locked out of power in Washington, it will be up to our state governors to prove that they have the ability to be innovative, reform-minded and results-oriented. The focus will be especially on some of the party's most talented governors such as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Charlie Crist of Florida.
Another problem that is really damaging my party is the perception that we are somehow a "stupid party." This is particularly baffling and distressing considering how we used to be considered the party of business, innovation and the professional class. On issues ranging from global warming to stem cell research to creationism in public schools, the party has gone too far and alienated many people, particularly suburban voters. On these issues we seem narrow-minded and extreme. We need to stop it or else we will face further electoral peril.
In the months and years ahead it is time for the Republican Party to regain its footing and remake itself. The GOP of today is unpalatable to too many people. In certain parts of the country like the Northeast, there is almost no Republican Party to speak of. This is the sign of a party in very bad shape. In saying this, I do not advocate that Republicans abandon their principles, but the current fare of Republican ideas and attitudes are not selling. It is time we try something new.
Finally, many conservatives and Republicans will advocate tacking to the right to energize their base and get back to their roots. In laying out their case, these people will mention Ronald Reagan a lot. Reagan was an excellent president, but he left office 20 years ago. Republicans need to look ahead to the future and not live in some 1980s fantasy land.