Die Tageszeitung, Germany
Ryan Can’t Rescue Republicans
By Rieke Havertz
The trick for Republicans will be to find a way to repackage conservative concepts like freedom, fiscal restraint and the notion that less is more when it comes to government into an attractive rhetoric.
Translated By Ron Argentati
5 February 2013
Edited by Rachel Smith
Germany - Die Tageszeitung - Original Article (German)
The Republican Party Needs Realignment
As Barack Obama celebrated his second term inauguration in January, Mitt Romney was long since forgotten. Romney riding a roller-coaster with wind-blown hair or Romney with a far-away look in his eyes at a rural filling station —those are the pictures we now see of the man who was supposed to lead his party back into the White House last November. Private snapshots.
The Republicans dumped their chosen candidate quickly. Romney was never loved and his rapid path to oblivion again reflects the internal struggles the party had with his candidacy. Mitt Romney's candidacy was the result of a political calculation, but those calculations didn't pan out.
After losing two presidential elections, America's conservative party now faces the question of what it must do to win future elections in such a rapidly changing social atmosphere. To lose to an incumbent who was burdened with a weak economy and high unemployment figures is an indictment of the party that set such great store in its own candidate's business acumen.
Women and Asians
Republicans have lost the popular vote to the Democrats in five of the six last presidential elections. On top of that, demographic trends don't favor Republicans. Nearly three-fourths of Latino and Asian votes went to Obama. 92 percent of African-Americans and 55 percent of women voted for him as well. And minorities will make up a majority of the electorate in the coming decades.
So where does the future of the “Grand Old Party” (GOP) lie? In modernization and acceptance of the fact that “elections are won in the middle?” Or will it achieve success through further radicalization and the surrender of its power structures to representatives of the extremely conservative tea party movement?
In the wake of the 2012 election debacle, Republican purists were convinced that Romney was too moderate. From that, they concluded that they should nominate someone like his running mate Paul Ryan or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to run in 2016 — someone firmly based in the most conservative elements of the GOP platform with a proven conservative voting record.
Republican realists, on the other hand, look soberly at the data and call for modernization to prevent the surrender of Latino, African-American and women voters to the Democrats in future elections without a fight. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is seen as a moderate, especially on subjects like climate change and gay partnerships. He attracted the ire of the conservative base recently with his criticisms of the NRA gun lobby. The party's internal squabbles have yet to be decided as evidenced by the fact that Republicans seem to have no party unity in matters such as the budget debate.
Reagan and Nixon
The Republican Party has gone through several phases of ideological debate. Ronald Reagan steered a divided Republican Party to the right in the 1980s, unifying them mainly with his anti-government dogma. But he was nevertheless flexible: He may not have liked tax increases but he voted for several of them while in the process of leading the United States into its biggest budget deficit in history
The tea party categorically rejects any tax increases and would likely say that Reagan was also too moderate. Richard Nixon —reduced essentially to his part in the Watergate scandal and eventual resignation —actively supported healthcare reform and increased social benefits and established the Environmental Protection Agency.
So Republicans do have the capability of renewing and adapting themselves. If they hope to build on past successes, they must open up to current societal and demographic realities. This doesn't mean they must abandon their conservative ideas. Many surveys show that those Americans claiming to hold conservative views consistently outnumber those who call themselves liberals.
The trick for Republicans will be to find a way to repackage conservative concepts like freedom, fiscal restraint and the notion that less is more when it comes to government into an attractive rhetoric. At the same time, they must just as clearly reject the notions that the Mexican border needs stronger barricades and that a woman's place is in the kitchen. The constituency for whom those things are still meaningful — an aging, white, suburban-dwelling middle class —no longer dominates the electorate. The America of the '50s and '60s might still wish it lived in a TV series, but that's not what the future looks like.
George W. and Latinos
Even minorities include a heterogeneous group of voters disposed to conservative concepts. That's evident in younger members of the party such as George W. Bush, someone not especially famous for modern ideas, who managed by way of a moderate immigration policy to attract many Latino votes.
If conservative ideas are advanced without the outmoded resentment, Latinos and other minorities could very well vote Republican. Obama's re-election by no means heralds a liberal revolution.
A GOP split is not an option because of the two-party political system. So if moderate Republicans lose their internal party debate over the coming months, a liberal revolution will not be necessary to make the Republican Party irrelevant.
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