Monday, January 7, 2013

Republican Soul-Searching

Here's my post from the other day, on that National Journal piece, "What Does It Even Mean to Be a Republican These Days?"

It's a good question. There's a lot wrong with the current GOP, and it'll be interesting to see how the party makes its way out from the wilderness in national elections in the years ahead. The Republicans will come back with a vengeance at some point, but no doubt the soul searching will be painful. And it's quite likely that a new GOP will look little like the old Republican Party of, say, the 1980s and 1990s. If gay marriage becomes accepted under some kind of national consensus, there's still going to be huge fights over abortion rights, immigration, criminal justice issues, and, now more than ever, the right to bear arms. But most important of all will be economic issues. The Democrats are already overreaching on fiscal policy now, and we're looking at a possible period of years-long economic stagnation. At some point the class warfare shtick won't be enough even for liberal partisans. People need to have a chance for themselves and their families. But we'll see. We may well have already reached the point of no return and the Europeanization of America is upon us.

In any event, the New York Times reports, "G.O.P. Begins Soul-Searching After Tax Vote":
WASHINGTON — When Republican leaders in Congress agreed to raise taxes on the wealthy last week, it left the increasingly fractured and feuding party unified on perhaps only one point: that it is at a major crossroads.

From Mitt Romney’s loss on Election Day through the recent tax fight that shattered party discipline in the House of Representatives, Republicans have seen the foundations of their political strategy called into question, stirring a newly urgent debate about how to reshape and redefine their party.

At issue immediately is whether that can be achieved through a shift in tactics and tone, or will instead require a deeper rethinking of the party’s longtime positions on bedrock issues like guns and immigration. President Obama intends to test the willingness of Republicans to bend on those issues in the first months of his new term, when he plans to push for stricter gun control and a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

The coming legislative battles are certain to expose even more division in the party. And with establishment Republicans and Tea Party activists at times speaking as if they are from different parties altogether, concern is spreading throughout the ranks that things could get worse before they get better.

“The Republican Party can’t stay exactly where it is and stick its head in the sand and ignore the fact that the country is changing,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and onetime leader of the Christian Coalition. “On the other hand, if the party were to retreat on core, pro-family stands and its positions on fiscal responsibility and taxes, it could very quickly find itself without a strong demographic support base.”

Having lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, Republicans now face a country that is increasingly younger, multiethnic and skeptical of Republican positions on some social issues. The party’s deficit-cutting agenda relies heavily on reducing taxes for the wealthy, which irks middle-class voters, and cutting spending on government programs, like Social Security and Medicare, that are popular with many voters.

Generational change is also robbing the party of some of its most effective political positions. Same-sex marriage, which less than a decade ago was an issue that reliably drove conservative voters to the polls in favor of Republicans, appears to be losing its potency with an electorate increasingly comfortable with gay unions.

None other than Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker who promised to fight for a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage during the Republican presidential primaries, now says his party must come to terms with the country’s rapidly shifting views on the subject.

“Walking around and pretending it doesn’t exist just means you’re going to become irrelevant,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview.
Continue reading.