Speculating about the future of the Republican party has become a popular conversation amongst the political pundits. The most popular discussions revolve around who will be the face of the rebranded GOP that will inevitably come about. That isn’t a very interesting topic. In all probability, the big names now will fade and a fresh, charismatic politician will emerge onto the scene and carry the new platform forward. The more important issue is deciding what that platform will look like. There are a few things that must be in that platform to be successful.
Renounce the Religious RightThe religious right is the worst thing to happen to the GOP. There is nothing wrong with their beliefs, I am a Christian myself, but their desire to impose those beliefs on the rest of the country gets them nothing but resentment and a reputation for narrow-minded ignorance. It is vitally important that the influence of this group is greatly reduced or removed entirely. Their needs can be met by the party without their face being on it.
Make Peace with the Gay CommunityWhile it’s true that gay rights don’t have popular support, the active opposition of them by the Republican party makes them look, for lack of a better word, mean. To undo this damage, Republicans should start vehemently defending personal rights from intrusion by the government. This goes along with the principles of small government that Republicans are supposedly for. Government intrusion into peoples lives should be kept to a minimum, and when it is unclear whether a person has a right to do something, err in favor of the right. A Republican that can defend the rights of every citizen, gay or not, will come across as much more principled than somebody writing anti-gay marriage bills just because they know it will pass.
Take Back National SecurityThe Republican dominance of national security issues took a big hit during the Bush administration. Whether or not Bush’s strategies are vindicated, the Republican party still needs to repair the immediate damage to their reputation. One way to draw a clear line between the two parties is free trade. The democratic caucus is too diversified to take a strong position on free trade, and Republicans would be well advised to exploit the clear links between trade and security.
Get a Pragmatic Energy PolicyRepublicans don’t have anything to say about energy. They need to find something. Whether they align themselves with the Democrats or strike out and find something new, the “drill at home” argument isn’t going to cut it. An underrepresented energy policy that the Republicans could take up is one oriented around nuclear power. By simultaneously pushing for nuclear power plants and for more electic motors, their policy would be easy to understand and very green.
Win Back the Latino VoteThe Republicans should have the Latino vote. Their small business support and smart economic policies should speak to Latinos. However, the immigration debate has aliented large numbers of them. The Republicans should come out with a sensible immigration bill that puts amnesty at the top. A party oriented around less goverment interference in people’s lives should apply those principles to any person who wants to be an American.
Find a Good ToneOne of the biggest differences between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats tend to regulate and Repulicans tend to incentivize. This is a point that works well for Republicans. If they can show that they are trying to acheive the same goals as the rest of the country but want to leave choice in the equation, they can almost always win the debate against somebody trying to achieve those goals through force. People do not like to be forced into things, and the Republicans won’t do it. They’ll just charge you a bit.
Stop Being CorruptEvery Republican that gets caught in some corruption scheme or affair reflects poorly on the entire party. Democrats have this problem too, but since they are in power, it will probably be happening more often to them for a while. If the Republicans can have a few scandal free years, they can emerge as the honest brokers for the people. Trust is probably the most important thing you can have in politics, and the Republicans have some time to earn theirs back.
If the Republicans can do these few things, as well as define clear and workable alternative plans for hot issues like education and health care reform, they will be able to compete again. Where the Republican party is currently associated with hate, foolish wars, closed borders, guns, and rednecks, a few smart changes could position them as the party defending the people from government encroachment, accepting of every person, and ready to do what it takes to keep Americans safe and prosperous. That’s a party people can vote for, and one that we haven’t had in a very long time. Perhaps losing power was the best thing to ever happen to the GOP.