Ever since Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, the Republican Party has encountered widespread public discontent. Republicans have a steep hill to climb to gain – let alone maintain – ground in the 2014 election. The government shutdown and undue blame has all but obliterated conservative support across the nation.
But now that the Left is severely hemorrhaging from the destructive failure of Obamacare’s implementation, the Republican Party may be able to luck out and reattain the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo is not as good as it sounds. Since the mid-2000s, the status quo equates to a dominant Democratic Party versus underdog Republicans, who have been given failed chance after failed chance to prove they can be less disconnected, less uncompromising, and less corrupt than their liberal counterparts.
Republicans cannot continue to use the same old arguments over and over again. Recession tactics, in particular, are out of season. The economy is “growing,” and Democrats will be more than ready to take credit for that. The government shutdown will undoubtedly be touted as the pinnacle of conservative efforts to end the public sector completely, much to the dismay of every former, current, or potential recipient of federal welfare. The Republican party cannot and will not ever win the presidency again without the support of at least some of the “47%”.
Winning in 2014 and beyond will require a bold new strategy. Republicans need rebranding, not redefinition, and there is one way to accomplish that. Here is the first step: reject the “establishment.” Let me explain.
Although not entirely, Tea Party conservatives since 2011 have redirected their efforts from challenging President Obama and the Left to challenging the Republican establishment. Even within Congress, there seems to be a deep internal rift among the GOP, and it’s nothing more than a major handicap in winning elections. Mixed signals scare away voters like sound scares away fish. Philosophical consistency among the party is a necessity to put voters at ease and convince them to reconsider Republican candidates. However, aligning the entire message is a long-term goal. It cannot be accomplished overnight, or even in a matter of a few years. For now, the party must realign the core ideal: individualism and limited government.
The Republican Party, on almost every level, has deviated from clearly and eloquently defending its core principles. Regaining that ability may be the most painful step needed for revival. Republicans must reject the establishment, but not in the colloquial sense. To win, they need to disown their symbol of conservatism: Ronald Reagan.
Since Reagan was President, Republicans have not articulated core values well, and many Republican politicians do not even try to do so. The Great Communicator is the modern Republican crutch, yielding the simple and catchy argument “Ronald Reagan,” which is not acceptable or sufficient for winning debates. The ideas Reagan now embodies are the only acceptable arguments a conservative should ever wield. I do not mean to degrade such a great President as Reagan, but he is simply a man, and men are corruptible. By associating the entire core conservative platform of limited government with a single individual, the Republican Party has declared open season on Reagan’s legacy. Every flaw in Reagan’s person, every policy mistake he made in office, every negative figure or misrepresented statistic from his time, all chip away at the Republican platform. As the symbol of Reagan is corrupted, so is the philosophy of conservatism. Democrats need only to rewrite the history of America’s 1980s to secure a liberal dynasty.
It is not Reagan the man, but his ideas, that must live on. He can no longer save this country, but at one time his arguments did. They can again. Republicans must relearn to articulate the essential ideas of conservatism. “Lower taxes and less regulations,” if not properly explained, sounds like a plan to help the rich become richer. In fact, the contemporary image of the GOP is that of rich white men trying to benefit rich white men, and that’s exactly what the GOP will be if Republican politicians continue to talk and argue as they do now. But if they continue to use Reagan as a shield, it will only be a matter of time before the vulnerabilities are exposed completely. Reagan has been used as a punching bag for Democrats, and Republicans should be ashamed for letting that happen to their hero.
Breaking from Reagan will be very difficult for Republicans to stomach, but if the conservative flag is to be carried again, their dislocated shoulder must be put back in place. Overall, this is a minor step in the path to Republican redemption, but a critical first step that must be taken soon before Reagan’s legacy, and conservatism itself, is corrupted completely.
Photo by DonkeyHotey