We’ve often been told the best form of education comes from the experience of failure. If that’s truly the case, then the Republican party just doubled its IQ.
But learning is about more than just experiencing failure; it is nothing more than one of many bumps in the road if it is not understood completely and properly, and acted upon. Over the past two weeks, I’ve witnessed the GOP leadership thoroughly fumble its attempt to comprehend what went wrong in 2012 and what can and should be done to correct it in the future. Analysts on both sides have agreed that Republicans must modernize –accept amnesty, gay marriage, and abortion–or face the perpetual inability to win elections, and Republicans are responding accordingly.
Essentially, Republicans are completely misinterpreting what happened, and they need to stop, take a step back, breath, and try again. The party does not need to and should not “modernize” in the common sense for several reasons.
First, to change values for the sole purpose of gaining votes is immoral, and no politician who does such a thing should be supported. The American people want to elect officials who have a strong set of beliefs and ideals that they are willing to enthusiastically and unapologetically defend, rather than changing positions at the whim of the latest polls.
Furthermore, to bring support for same-sex marriage, abortion, amnesty to the Republican party would be to make it indistinguishable from Democrats in almost every non-fiscal issue, and few voters would change party lines. There’s no reason to make that shift, which would alienate the social conservative wing of the party. As commentators suggest that Republicans need to distance themselves from social conservatives, I have wonder how they expect it to win by alienating such a large portion of its base.
Finally, and most importantly, the Republican party did not lose the election because of bad ideas, it lost because it utterly failed to explain its ideas on all levels. Conservative ideas of free enterprise, a smaller, fiscally responisble government, and individual liberty and responsibility comprise a set of beliefs grounded on intellectual, moral, and historical arguments, yet Republican leaders embraced none of these arguments fully.
Republicans make no attempt to explain economically or historically why lower taxes, less regulation, and a disinterested government is better for the economy and the prosperity of all. There are, however, a great deal of examples in the 20th century alone that could make this argument irrefutable. Instead, they let the left paint them as corrupt corporatist politicians making deals with rich businessmen.
Conservatives casually and very occasionally suggest being pro-immigration while making their main arguments against illegal immigration, yet they never counter the xenophobic stereotype crafted by Democrats. Republicans need to reframe the argument in their own favor first by championing increased and easier legal immigration, and then by listening to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who made a keen observation following the election: in the 1980s, Republicans negotiated an amnesty bill bringing citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants in return for securing the border. The border was never secured. To avoid repeating mistakes of the past, Republicans should demand that the border must be closed before amnesty can be discussed.
And anyone can recognize that Republicans are inept when it comes to arguments about same-sex marriage and abortion. But too many people see that as a sign of Republicans being wrong, especially now. The GOP’s mistake is not in having these ideas, but in allowing Democrats to assume the moral high-ground. Religious explanations are obsolete; the large mass of atheists on both sides will prevent Republicans from continuing to win religious arguments. Force Democrats to face abortion as a question of defining life on logical, non-religious terms. Ground beliefs against same-sex marriage on the first amendment to debate involvement in marriage at all. This is what must be done to win the voters in the middle.
Ultimately, there is much to be done in the Republican party moving forward, but the to-do list does not and should not contain pandering to voters. Rather, the next four years are an opportunity to re-craft and refine our arguments, reapply to them the moral, rational, and historical support they stand upon, and prepare to strip the left of its unopposed claim to moral superiority. If this simple task is not accomplished, if we are unable to convince Americans that conservativism is the only path to prosperity, our country will face a grim future.