A Sustainable America

The GOP convention will be in Tampa Florida, August 27 - 30

(This is the fourth post in a row about the state of the Republican party.  It sums up my points from the last three posts, and puts forth a vision of how the GOP could recover.   I’m a former Republican who sees the state of a party that used to be far more moderate and pragmatic as sad and dangerous.  Even if they make the changes I suggest I wouldn’t come back – I’ve moved too far to the so-called left.  But I think we need a strong, reasonable conservative voice in the political arena).

I like President Obama and intend on voting for his re-election.  I don’t like him so much that I revel in the apparent implosion of the Republican party.   The country needs two strong parties offering different perspectives and ideas.   As Walter Lippmann noted in The Essential Opposition, democracy is a process designed to produce better results.  To do so requires that both sides listen and engage each other.   If the two parties end up being like parallel universes, not only will it be hard to get anything done, but the crucible of debate and discussion will not help the two sides critically assess the arguments and see ideas and possibilities they overlooked.   Learning stops if people think they have an ideology that gives them all the answers.  Ideologies are always vast over-simplifications of reality.

So to that end, I’ll proscribe what I think the Republicans need to become viable either for 2012, or at least 2016:

1.  An optimistic future oriented message.   As I noted awhile back, the tone of the campaign from the GOP has been intently negative.   America’s collapsing, our freedoms are in jeopardy, Obama’s going to take away your guns, etc.   For the true believing conservatives this is their reality — the Democrats are threatening the American dream enabled by a media that cheerleads and schools that indoctrinate.   It’s a kind of fairy tale where liberals are evildoers wanting to destroy the good, while conservatives are fighting against all odds to preserve the American dream.

That kind of story line will keep the true believers motivated but doesn’t appeal to independents who look at Obama and say, “he doesn’t seem that bad, but I’m not sure he’s handling the job well.”   They aren’t looking for someone to save us from doom and gloom, but someone who might offer a better vision of what should be done.  (Note: one can find a mirror image fairy tale on the far left too — both sides have their true believers).

Here’s my suggestion:  Start with the slogan: Building a Sustainable America.  This slogan may sound awkward at first, but bear with me.  Sustainability has been a key word for progressives concerned about climate change, the environment and the future.   The GOP can claim it as their own and sound forward looking and progressive.  This would appeal to independents and even moderate Democrats.

Second, it can fit GOP policies.   They could talk about economic sustainability (cut spending, focus on debt, defend entitlement reform), social sustainability (the need to protect American values – vague enough to appeal to social conservatives without turning off independents), and political sustainability (foreign affairs, the US role in the world, etc.)    This is a positive forward looking message that would still speak to the main themes of the GOP.   Instead of being negative and petty, it could be lofty and persuasive.  It has the advantage of suggesting that there is a danger inherent continuing the policies in place, meaning that the Republicans don’t have to ditch their critique completely.

2.  Ditch the current crop of candidates:   Mitt Romney probably would be a decent Republican President.  At this time, however he’s damaged goods both amongst independents and within the Republican base.   What they need to do is go into their convention in Tampa without a clear candidate, and then find someone who can unite the party behind a positive message.   Americans don’t really focus until Labor Day anyway, a breath of fresh air could gain quick support.

They also need a fresh face.  Not Daniels of Indiana or Christie of New Jersey.  Daniels is too bland, and Christie too fat.   Presidential elections are very much marketing campaigns, you need a candidate who looks the part.   I think they should instead choose a woman from Alaska.   No, not THAT woman!  I’m talking Lisa Murkowski.

Lisa Murkowski - rugged Alaskan spunk without the crazy!

Murkowski won her Senate campaign in 2010 as a write in candidate, defeating Joe Miller, who narrowly beat her in the GOP primary.  Many tea party types hated her after that, but Miller was a very weak candidate and now her appeal to independents and ability to inspire a rare write in Senate victory play in her favor.   Coming from Alaska her professionalism contrasts to the flakiness that Sarah Palin represents.  In that sense it would put a new, more serious face on the Republican party.

I doubt they’d choose her though, she’s too moderate (and anyway, I’d prefer Olympia Snowe if they went that route).  They need someone not tainted by this year’s mudfest.  Only Jon Huntsman qualifies, he was too weak to be scathed by the infighting; the others are have all been blemished by the sheer negativity of the campaign.  Jeb Bush may be the best personal choice, but the country probably doesn’t want another President Bush, at least not at this point.

3.  Demographics and Infromation reform: There is nothing about conservative thinking that makes immigration reform something to be avoided.  In fact, Ronald Reagan promoted and championed the most comprehensive reform in history back in the 80s.   Now the GOP has to embrace the kind of reform President Bush and Senator McCain tried to push in 2007, only to be stymied by the right wing of their party.   This is essential if they are going to adjust to demographic change in the country.   They have to mount a credible challenge for Hispanic voters, and their current anti-immigration stance hurts them.   Saying “we’re only opposed to illegal immigration” doesn’t work — they have to embrace reform and then court hispanic voters who tend already to be socially conservative.

Polls show Obama leading in the Latino vote 6 to 1, with no Republican above 14%.  That’s because of the immigration issue  and the harsh stance taken by the GOP.   It is the most severe self-inflicted wound the party has given itself.

4.  It’ll never be 1980 again.   All this will go for naught if the GOP doesn’t take seriously the fact that the country is profoundly different than it was 30 years ago.  Gay marriage is here and will continue to expand.   Contraception?   Sorry Rick.   I think the tea party/nostalgia/’end of liberty’ bit in the GOP is a short term reaction to the shock of 1) a black President named Barack Hussein Obama who grew up outside the continental US and seems strange compared to past Presidents; 2) the apparent decline of US power and prestige in the world, creating a fear of a ‘post-American world’; and 3) demographic and cultural change as whites are soon to be less than 50% of the population and society becomes more secular and diverse.   Many can’t comprehend how quickly after 9-11 what they thought was a conservative shift to a more forceful America went south so quickly.

Republicans don’t have to accept the direction the country is going, but nostalgia and a desire to “take back” America in the sense of going back to what used to be isn’t going to work.  They have to futurize their message and their ideology.   That requires rejection of the tea party and a shift towards a less shrill and ideological conservatism.   That’s not going to be easy, but ultimately that’s necessary for the GOP to succeed.

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  1. #1 by Alan Scott on March 7, 2012 - 1:04 pm

    Scott,

    Your assessment of the Republican’s Party’s implosion or death is premature, or wishful thinking . You also wish it to be more reasonable. Democratic Party Lite . Something in the middle to keep your guys from totally falling off the left side of Flat Earth. As far as debate and listening and Global Warming, that also is amusing . There is no debate on Global Warming. You guys have already settled it . The real issue from your perspective is silencing those who dare challenge this Gospel . You may want to watch the far left part of your party when you pass judgment on crazies .

  2. #2 by sekanblogger on March 7, 2012 - 6:00 pm

    The whole ‘take back America’ meme is ridiculous. It’s stating that America is lost or stolen or something of that sort. Of course, neither is the case. The reality is that, as you’ve pointed out, America has changed. The conservatives are trying to conserve something that no longer exists; The old Ward Cleaver household.
    If they did stick to a positive message about the economy and steer away from social issues they would have a much better chance. Not going to happen huh?

  3. #3 by Alan Scott on March 8, 2012 - 12:36 pm

    You guys are trying to give us, your opponents advice. As if you want us to do good . You want us to fail . Social issues ? Tell me that the most radical drugged up hippies wanted gay marriage in the 1960s ? You guys really think a majority of Americans want that ? Referendums in as loony toon states as California came out against it . The only thing stopping those are left wing judges. Then abortion. You guys believe that human beings who happen to live inside of a uterus should be allowed to have scissors pushed through their skulls.

    I’ve seen the pictures of dead fetuses and they sure look like dead babies to me .

    Oh and the funny thing is, a whole lot of these kids who us old timers used to shake their heads at, they grow up, have families and become Ward and June .

    • #4 by Scott Erb on March 8, 2012 - 1:24 pm

      Even Republican insiders admit that gay marriage is an issue the GOP will eventually embrace. The culture is changing — talk to young people and even conservatives support gay marriage. Abortion rights is also a loser for the GOP right wing. Sorry, Alan, you’re on the wrong side of history here.

  4. #5 by Alan Scott on March 8, 2012 - 11:13 pm

    Scott,

    I repeat. If what you say is true then why must left wing judges reverse popular ballot referendums ? I find it funny how your case could have been made in the radical 60s . Where did all of these old fashioned old people come from since then ? America is aging. It is a fact that people get more Conservative with age . Those of you working in Colleges are the exception to the rule .

    The most wild child can become amazingly Conservative once they are supporting a wife and kids .

    • #6 by Scott Erb on March 9, 2012 - 12:28 am

      A number of these judges were appointed by Republicans. But it’s also state legislatures who are passing this. You now that in 1980 this was a non-issue. No state legislator would dare support such a thing. In referenda it’s now close (we’re likely to pass one in favor here in Maine in the fall). Back in the 90s it would have lost 75% to 25%. On no issue in my life have I seen such a massive change in attitudes. Moreover when cultures changes the judiciary often leads the way, they are indicators of culture change. When the civil rights movement started it was the same way — and look how they changed the culture. People also don’t get conservative as they get older, show me evidence of that! Also the idea of “supporting a wife and kids” is becoming obsolete. Women increasingly work and need to in order to support a family. I would not want to be married to a woman who just stayed home and took care of the kids, I’d have trouble respecting such a person. I’m not opposed to people doing it, I just wouldn’t one a stay at home wife — I like the fact my wife earns more than I do!

      These cultural values are changing fast — I think the issue of gay marriage is an indicator of a wide variety of cultural shifts. Conservatives will adapt. Many in the GOP are already talking about this as a “liberty” issue.

  5. #7 by Alan Scott on March 10, 2012 - 3:15 am

    Scott,

    ” Moreover when cultures changes the judiciary often leads the way, they are indicators of culture change. ”

    I agree. In this case they are making law instead of interpreting it .They are also holding back change . Obviously a referendum is to reflect a change in the culture away from the path it was previously trending .

    ” People also don’t get conservative as they get older, show me evidence of that! ”

    I don’t have statistics if that’s what you mean . I just believe it . I know it’s true of myself and I bet even true of you . I would guess you were even more liberal when you were younger than you are now . As far as women making more money than husbands, I don’t see that as liberal or conservative. Merely reality . However the division of labor works out in any family has to do with the earning opportunities and time constraints each couple finds themselves in . I have no problem with full time homemakers or working wives .

    I simply see liberal attitudes as relics of young single adults without responsibilities . Conservative mores are more in line with family obligations, stability, and traditions . Aging also forces recognition of mortality. Hell raisers become religious in a hurry .

    ” These cultural values are changing fast — I think the issue of gay marriage is an indicator of a wide variety of cultural shifts. Conservatives will adapt. Many in the GOP are already talking about this as a “liberty” issue. ”

    There is and there has always been a schism in the GOP. Perot showed that either part going it alone can’t win . Their hatred of Obama will force them to tolerate one another. The Democrats do not currently have that problem. The far left dominates . If Obama gets reelected that will become even more so . Success will embed the Pelosi types . If Obama gets the boot, Democrats will go pretty far right .

  6. #8 by modestypress on March 12, 2012 - 5:34 pm

    Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is worth consideration. Although I have an emotional attraction to anarchism and libertarianism, I don’t consider it a practical form of government. But Johnson has demonstrated that he is practical enough to be a reasonably successful governor. Ron Paul is too old, and has some racist baggage in his campaigning/publishing history. The Republicans could do worse than give Johnson some serious consideration.

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