Aaron Marks's blog

Tea Party 2010: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Tea Party movement was, until yesterday, a relatively unknown and elusive electoral force, having never existed for a national federal general election. Clearly, it had a great deal of influence among conservatives and Republicans during the primaries, with well-known "establishment" candidates in states such as Delaware, Alaska, and Nevada being knocked out one after another in favor of "Tea Party" candidates. In the immediate aftermath of the 2010 election (and even with a handful of races still undecided), it is hard to argue that the Tea Party wasn't a notable force in the general election as well. However, that force was not always positive, and indeed, some of the Tea Party's influences were bad, while a few instances were downright ugly. As someone who is neither a card-carrying party loyalist nor a dedicated Tea Party member, here is my take on those forces:

The Good

It is impossible to deny that the Tea Party contributed in many positive ways to the massive change of course that was the 2010 election. The Tea Party fueled much of the outrage behind the outcome, driving conservatives around the country to come out and vote in opposition to the President's extreme agenda.  Accordingly, it seems unlikely that the magnitude of Republican gains in the House would have been possible without the Tea Party.  Indeed, early exit poll data suggested that 41% of those voting in House races supported the Tea Party, while 31% opposed it – and that 87% of Tea Party supporters voted for the Republican candidate.

The Tea Party also helped elect immaculate candidates like Marco Rubio. The energy behind the Tea Party movement helped fuel Marco Rubio's lead in the Republican primary, which resulted in Charlie Crist deciding to instead run as an Independent, and ultimately produced a huge victory for Republicans nationwide. I firmly believe that Rubio, an incredibly brilliant and passionate man who will also happen to be the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, will quickly emerge as a leader for the Republican Party. He's someone who can help attract many people from demographics key to long-term GOP sustainability – including Latinos and potentially young voters. Senator-elect Rubio's victory is certainly one of the most exciting developments of yesterday's election results.

The Bad

On the other hand, the Tea Party seems to have been fairly damaging to the prospect of a GOP takeover of the Senate. At the time of writing, Republicans had gained 6 seats in the Senate for a total of 46, which is unquestionably a respectable outcome. It looks like the votes remaining to be counted in Washington and Colorado will push the Democratic candidates over the top in both states – and Alaska is still a question mark, though it seems likely that either candidate will caucus with Republicans.

It's distinctly possible (and in at least one of the cases, fairly likely) that at least two of the Democratic Senate victories could have been Republican victories if not for relatively poor Tea Party candidates.  These candidates are, of course, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware (I'll come back to the latter shortly).

I actually expected Angle to squeak by, albeit very tightly.  The bottom line, however, is that Angle as a candidate left a lot to be desired – just Google "sharron angle gaffe" for a plethora of examples, but this one in particular comes to mind.  Her loss against a highly unpopular and vulnerable Harry Reid is an unambiguous testament to that fact.

Obviously, different results in the two races in Delaware and Nevada – even with the victor in Alaska caucusing with Republicans – would not alone have produced a majority (Republicans would then hold 49 seats in the Senate before CO and WA).  However, it seems hard to believe there won't be a battle in the Senate sometime over the next two years in which those two additional Republican Senators would be helpful.  Not to mention the possibility that Independent Senators Lieberman and Nelson may have chosen to caucus with Republicans.

The Ugly

There's Sharron Angle, and then there's Christine O'Donnell.  I have to make it clear up front that I think Ms. O'Donnell is a wonderful woman.  I had a meeting with her and her campaign manager shortly before she exploded onto the national scene, and I found her well-spoken, intelligent, and extremely personable.  But being a great person is not nearly enough in politics, particularly at the Senatorial level, and there's no way that a reasonable person can honestly say that she was remotely close to being even an acceptable candidate.  When you need to run an ad saying that you're "not a witch," your campaign is clearly in trouble.  Let alone the countless allegations of impropriety in handling campaign funds, which regardless of whether they are true make it unmistakenly clear that the Tea Party members who backed her candidacy and helped her defeat Mike Castle in the primary blatantly failed to properly vet her.

Karl Rove's thoughts on this are spot-on:

"It gave me no pleasure to say that she was unlikely to win," he said. "But this again provides a lesson. This is a candidate who was right on the issues, but who had mishandled a series of questions brought up by the press."

From start to finish, Christine O'Donnell's candidacy as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Delaware was flat out ugly.

Bottom Line

Even with a handful of outcomes still up in the air, it is unmistakenly clear that the 2010 election was nothing less than a wave delivered by voters who resoundingly rejected the Democratic agenda.  A great deal of outrage came from members of the Tea Party movement, and that frustration played an important role in delivering substantial gains for Republicans – not only in the Congress, but also in governor's mansion and state legislatures around the nation.  However, with these positives came at least one significant negative – a larger than ideal Democratic margin in the Senate that resulted from a couple of poor Tea Party candidates.

Onward and Upward: Building a Sustainable Majority

This week has been a great one for conservatives across the nation. Scott Brown’s victory proved that, in the words of the increasingly vulnerable Barbara Boxer, “Every state is now in play.” His victory also demonstrated that Republicans can achieve many of the successes that led to Barack Obama becoming the 44th President of the United States — dominating the Internet; raising unbelievable sums of money, especially online; building a massive base of small donors; and having a victory driven by a massive coalition of grassroots activists. With Brown’s victory came the ever-increasing likelihood that the Democrat’s health care bill would be stalled indefinitely. Then came the demise of Air America. All of these events have inspired a new-found confidence among those to the right of center, while liberals and Democrats have pushed the panic button. One of my favorite political minds, Jay Cost, asks, “What Does Obama Do Now?” For those of us on the right, I think conservatives must ask themselves an equally critical question: What do Republicans do now?

I admit that I believe that the GOP is on the verge of a 2010 blowout. As for the magnitude of said blowout, I think it’s too early to say, but in my mind there’s a real chance that Republicans could retake one of the chambers of Congress. However, as I’ve previously cautioned, I don’t believe that a blowout this year will mean things are better for the Republican Party. Winning back seats is great, but as Mindy Finn writes, those on the right must “stop gloating” — and start thinking about building a sustainable majority. A major victory this year will not be the product of a new-found love for the Republican Party; instead, it will be the product of voter disgust and discontent with the status quo, namely with President Obama and Democrats in Congress. The Republican Party is still enormously unpopular itself, and a midterm election blowout due to the aforementioned reasons is not exactly how a sustainable majority is built.

On the other hand, converting what are traditionally considered to be safe blue seats in places like Massachusetts and California (I’m looking at you, Barbara Boxer) to red ones — and finding ways to hold onto those seats — is certainly a step toward a sustainable majority. The same is true of fielding candidates in all 435 Congressional districts every cycle. Embracing transparency and continuing to authentically fight to limit government is another building block in a sustainable majority. Effectively using technology while embracing today’s Age of Participation through peer production is another step. Offering substantial and real policy options that differ from those of the White House and the Democrats is similarly critical.

To the contrary, getting sucked back into the ways of Washington by growing government and increasing spending is a sure way to cede momentum right back to the Democrats. Failing to broaden the base with different demographics, like young voters, Hispanics, or African Americans is another way to likely guarantee that 2010 will be a one-and-done year for Republicans. And of course, growing content with success at any point will inevitably lead right back to defeat.

Like your favorite sports game, momentum is critical in politics. Republicans clearly have the momentum, and barring a dramatic change in the political wind, this momentum will significantly change the composition of the Congress this November. When that happens, the ball will be in the GOP’s court. The crucial question will then be: What will they do with it?

Dear Young Voters: This Is What You Get When You Don’t Vote

Many of the previous posts I've shared here at The Next Right focus on reaching out to win over young voters. However, in my hometown of Pittsburgh, recent developments are demonstrating exactly what happens when young voters don’t show up to the polls. As you may know, Pittsburgh’s economy has gone from its reliance upon the steel industry to becoming a world-class hub for high-tech industry, such as robotics, health care, nuclear engineering, and biomedical technology. These advances have been made possible by Pittsburgh’s world-class learning institutions, led by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

However, the government of the City of Pittsburgh, like those of many other cities across the country, has a $16.2 million hole in its 2010 operating budget. Almost immediately after his reelection in November, Democratic Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (disclosure: I worked for Ravenstahl’s opponent) announced his previously undisclosed plan to make up for the missing revenue by imposing a tax on college students within the City of Pittsburgh. The proposed tax will amount to 1% of the student’s yearly tuition, which would translate into approximately $130 for in-state students at the University of Pittsburgh, $230 for out-of-state students at the University of Pittsburgh, and as much as $400 for Carnegie Mellon students.

Of course, the presidents of each of the colleges in Pittsburgh denounced the tax, and as you would expect, so have many students who would be taxed. The Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed some of these students:

Jacob Brown, a University of Pittsburgh student, said he had earned $3,500 this year washing cars.

“I barely scrape by,” he said, adding that his out-of-state tuition is paid by scholarships and loans. The $233 he would have to pay if the tax were enacted “would be the better part of a month of rent,” he said, or a big slice out of his bottom-of-the-barrel food bill.

Ashley Kunkle, a Carlow student, said the tax would cost her $217. That’s close to one month’s payment on the $3,000 a year she pays the school after financial aid. The tax would apply to the total tuition bill regardless of whether it was paid for with scholarships.

“I make approximately $3,500 working two jobs,” she said. That “$217 means that I could abandon the city of Pittsburgh to study at other fine institutions where there is no tuition tax.”

Charles Shull, president of Pitt’s student government board, said he made “negative-$12,000 a year” because he takes out student loans that far exceed what he earns. “I pay rent. I pay property taxes. I pay wage taxes,” he said.

The final vote is set to take place tomorrow (Wednesday, December 2), and five of Pittsburgh’s nine members of city council have come out in favor of the tax. Thus, it seems likely that the tax will pass, despite promises from the universities to sue to invalidate it.

Let this entire debacle serve as a reminder to young voters across the country: this is what you get when you don’t exercise your civic duty to vote. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlights this:

The voting districts in student-heavy central Oakland and North Oakland were busy in November 2008, logging participation rates of 48 percent to 70 percent. This year, though, with a mayor’s race at the top of the ballot, one of those same districts saw just 2.3 percent of registered voters come to the polls, while others were in the teens.

Worse, even after the announcement of the tax, student advocacy was almost non-existent, with only 137 students using outreach tools on a website designed to fight the tax:

After the mayor’s 2010 budget address featured the tax, student government leaders from nearly all of the city’s schools gathered at Pitt. CMU’s student government put up a Web site, www.stoptuitiontax.org. As of Wednesday, 2,543 different computer users had visited the site, 108 of those wrote e-mails to City Council, and 29 used it to report that they had called a council member.

Years upon years of a lack of participation by young voters has cemented into many politicians’ minds that they can get away with patently absurd ideas like Ravenstahl’s tuition tax. The only way to change this is for young people to actually show up and vote. If that doesn’t happen, then these young voters have no right to be appalled when they see their own economically struggling city impose its very own tuition tax.

The Youth Vote and the 2009 Elections

Sarah Burris of Future Majority beats me to the punch in rebutting a blog post about a “Rising Tide of the GOP Youth,” as described by The Weekly Standard’s Rachel Hoff. Burris writes:

First, while Rachel is right to congratulate McDonnell for his campaign’s youth outreach, I hardly think it has anything to do with young voters having gone to the GOP…

This doesn’t mean young voters have gone GOP, it means that when you put forth the effort to get young voters, you speak to their issues, and you get out the vote you get a good result.

I wish I felt comfortable celebrating the fact that the 2009 elections meant young voters were turning toward the GOP, but unfortunately I just don’t buy it. Hoff suggests that “18-29 year olds in Virginia voted for Bob McDonnell over the Democrat 54% to 44%” could indicate a new trend, but as Burris notes, in Virginia there was not a “strong Democrat at the top of the ticket but…[there was] a strong Republican.” The unfortunate fact is that one Republican candidate’s successful effort in winning the youth vote does not indicate any sort of trend for future elections (for a counterargument, just look to New Jersey, where 57% of young voters voted for Corzine).

And while Hoff notes that “turnout among 18-29 year olds was 19% in New Jersey and only 17% in Virginia,” an “alarmingly low” turnout, it would be a huge mistake for the GOP to write off the youth vote based upon these numbers. As I have written previously, what’s at stake here is that the Republican Party stands to lose a generation of voters to the Democratic Party, potentially for life. Although Chairman Steele has taken some major efforts to reform the Republican National Committee, such as a huge push to modernize the RNC’s new media efforts, there still has not been a substantial push by Steele’s RNC to win over young voters.

In the end, both Burris and Hoff agree that making a real, authentic effort to earn the votes of young voters will result in young voter turnout. The Republican Party still has time left to turn the tide and prevent many of today’s young voters from becoming lifelong Democrats; however, the clock is ticking and time is running out. Major congratulations are due to the McDonnell campaign and their young voter outreach, but there is no time to pat ourselves on the back. Both the RNC and Republican candidates must follow Bob McDonnell’s lead and find unique new ways to reach out to and ultimately win over young voters.

Why a 2010 Blowout Will Not Mean Things Are Better

After the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans celebrated electoral victories that many thought would put them in the position to maintain a long-term majority. In turn, Democrats pushed the panic button and began looking for ways to turn things around. Likewise, after 2006 and 2008, it was the opposite effect, with Democrats claiming a permanent majority, and Republicans looking to rebuild.

Once again, the political climate seems to be changing, this time in favor of Republicans. President Obama’s approval ratings are continuing to trend significantly downward, with the latest Rasmussen Poll even suggesting that the majority of Americans disapprove. More voters believe that the economic stimulus plan has hurt the economy than helped it. Support for the public health option continues to tumble, too.

Looking at these trends and others, Patrick Ruffini writes that a 2010 blowout is quite possible, and I really don’t disagree at all. However, I wanted to offer a word of caution in the case Republicans win (or win big) in 2010, despite the fact that I recently Tweeted the following:

No more “[Name] for President” group invites on Facebook, please. Let’s focus on winning in 2010 first and worry about 2012 after!

Such a victory in 2010 will by no means indicate that things are better for Republicans long-term. Rather, it would be the result of a number of fortunate circumstances. Just see Ruffini’s suggestions as to why Republicans should prepared for a blow out:

  • The horrendous 2006 and 2008 cycles have depressed Republican totals in Congress to far below the historical mean. Though the fact that there were two successive 20+ seat losses in the House and 5+ seat losses in the Senate in the House is historically unique, collectively they equal one 1980 or 1994-style wipeout — after which Democrats finally began to recover.
  • The unique confluence of youth and African American turnout for Obama padded vote totals for Congressional Democrats by about 4 points — and in a midterm — I’m sorry — those votes won’t be there. We saw this pretty clearly in the Georgia Senate runoff. In 2012, however, those voters might be back — making 2010 an opportune moment for a promising Congressional challenger to gain a foothold.
  • The Democrats are now clearly responsible for everything, and trying to blame Bush and the GOP wears thinner and thinner by the day. Even if the economy recovers somewhat, and with massive job losses still on the horizon, I don’t see people feeling that recovery, let’s remember that the economy was in a clear recovery by 1994 but that didn’t help Clinton and Democrats.

The bottom line — and what Republicans cannot forget, even with a huge win in 2010 — is that these fortunate circumstances are not something around which you can build a sustainable majority. Voters aren’t always going to be ticked about the economy, the Democrats won’t always have a filibuster-proof majority, and although the “unique confluence of youth and African American turnout” may not be there in 2010, as Ruffini notes, “in 2012 … those voters might be back”. And as I’ve been writing about lately, the RNC hasn’t done a darn thing to try to win over young voters while the DNC continues to find new ways to earn their support. While these voters may not show up in 2010, in 10-15 years they will no longer be youth voters — instead, they will represent the kind of middle-aged voters that Republicans will need to turn out, both during Presidential election years and during mid-term and other off years.

So while there are many reasons to be excited about the prospects of 2010, the political climate will likely change again from 2010 to 2012, as it often does.  Although focusing on the short-term may end in positive results in 2010, Republicans still must think long-term about building a sustainable majority. Otherwise, the GOP may soon again face another 2006 or 2008 — but the next time, it may be much harder to turn around.

Once Again, the RNC Stands Pat While the DNC Innovatively Involves Young Voters

While the RNC continues to stand pat instead of giving young voters a legitimate role in the future of the Party — or even simply establishing its own Young Voter Outreach Arm to compete with the Democratic National Committee’s Youth Council — the Democrats continue to find new and innovative ways to involve young voters in the Democratic Party.

Michael Connery at Future Majority notes that the DNC Youth Council, along with College Democrats, is holding a joint fundraiser, presumably to “show the party committees that young people can help [Democrats] raise money.” You can view the entire event for the “Celebrating Youth Fundraiser” on Facebook, but the highlight is this:

Come meet Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), DNC Vice Chair Raymond Buckley, DNC Political Director Clyde Williams, Organizing for America Political Director Addisu Demissie, former Obama for America Youth Vote Director Leigh Arsenault, and young staffers from the Obama administration to learn about the amazing career opportunities available in Democratic politics.

For a party that sits squarely in the filibuster-less minority status, I would think that the RNC would be eager to find innovative ways like this to involve young voters and recruit new young faces to help rebuild the party.

After all, when Michael Steele took over as Chairman of the RNC, we were promised that things would change. So when will the RNC start fighting to win young voters and to involve new leaders in the party’s future?

Rubio vs. Crist Will Prove Who Controls the GOP

For much of the build up to the 2008 Democratic primaries, the consensus among political oddsmakers, pollsters, and politicos (myself included) was that Hillary Clinton was virtually a shoo-in to win the Democratic nomination. After all, the Clintons were the most powerful name in the Democratic Party, and as a result the Democratic machine fought tooth and nail to ensure Clinton’s victory. However, after the Iowa caucus, it became clear that Barack Obama — the junior Senator from Illinois with less than a full term of experience under his belt — would provide some serious competition for the nomination. In the end, the Democratic machine backing Clinton was pitted against the grassroots who supported Obama, and a fairly incredible phenomenon in politics happened: the grassroots won!

The ongoing Senate race in Florida between Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist presents the Republicans with the very same narrative. Crist has received the endorsement of the NRSC, while a large portion of the GOP grassroots and netroots has expressed an outpouring of disdain for the endorsement and are fighting to elect Rubio (or at least for the NRSC to remain neutral in the race). Although not quite at the Presidential level, this is very much the GOP’s version of Obama vs. Clinton.

Of course, the important question here then is, “Who ultimately controls the GOP, the grassroots or the machine?” — and obviously, the only way to answer this question is to see how the race turns out.

(Personally, I’ll be pulling for the grassroots. If you feel the same way, you can donate to Marco Rubio here.)

Announcing the Petition for Our Future

Two days ago, I wrote that we must give young voters a legitimate role in the future of the Republican Party. The clock is ticking for these crucial changes to take place. Recognizing this, our team of young Republicans at NextGenGOP and I have launched the Petition for Our Future. Now you can join the many voices asking Chairman Steele to expand the role of young voters in the GOP by signing the petition! Please sign the petition and encourage your friends to do the same!

We also need your help in spreading the word about the petition. In the next week, we will be adding a page that lists our featured endorsers. This page will show your name and link back to your website! To become a featured endorser, all you need to do is write a blog post about the petition, linking back to the petition here. Once you’ve done so, drop me an e-mail with a link to your blog post by going to my online business card.

We have a great opportunity to encourage Chairman Steele and the Republican National Committee to act now and win back young voters. Please sign the petition, help spread the word, and be a part of this vitally important cause!

Let’s Give Young Voters a Legitimate Role in the Future of the Republican Party

Over at FutureMajority.com, a left-of-center blog that "covers the involvement of young voters in progressive politics," Michael Connery brings attention to this:

Want to be a member of the Democratic National Committee? The DNC Youth Council is now accepting resumes from young people interested in becoming At-Large members.

What exactly is an at-large member of the DNC? At-large members are full-scale, policy-shaping members of the Democratic National Committee who are appointed by the DNC Chairman and approved by the DNC.

Also take note of the fact that the Youth Council is a separate entity from Young Democrats — it is an official arm of the Democratic National Committee charged with winning over the youth vote for the Democratic Party. The Youth Council’s mission reads as follows (emphasis added):

The Democratic National Committee’s Youth Coordinating Council (Youth Council) was formally constituted as a council of the DNC in December 2005. The goal of the Youth Council is to increase opportunities and improve participation by young people, under age 36, in the activities and structure at all levels of the Democratic Party. Among the purpose and goals of the Youth Council is to ensure that the Democratic Party maintains a majority of the youth vote which it currently holds with a wide margin.

Reading all of this forces me to ask two critical questions. First, where is the Republican National Committee’s version of the Youth Council? I’ve previously written that the RNC must establish some sort of “Young Voter Outreach arm,” but to this day nothing of the sort seems to exist (or even be in the works). Indeed, when I did some Googling, the closest thing I could find was an outdated page that still has talking points related to President Bush’s accomplishments.

Second, why isn’t the RNC offering these same sort of full-scale voting positions to young voters? If the GOP wants to win over millennials, then the RNC must be willing to not only listen to young voters but also to give them a substantial role in shaping the future of the party. Putting highly qualified young Republicans in the position to have a real say in the decisions regarding the future of the Republican Party would demonstrate that the GOP actually cares about winning the youth vote and is not just comprised of older generations.

Earlier, Jon Henke wrote a blog post that concluded that:

Republicans had better become more appealing to young people, because patterns established in youth persist for life.

The Democratic National Committee is taking serious strides to woo the youngest bracket of voters by empowering them to make real decisions in the Democratic Party. Without the RNC doing the same, young voters will continue to flock to the Democratic Party — a dangerous trend that could establish a generation of lifelong Democrats. Michael Steele was installed to reform the Republican National Committee and right a rapidly sinking ship. So Mr. Steele, are you listening?

Crossposted at NextGenGOP.com.

It's Time for a Complete Reboot

One of my lesser known traits is that I’m a huge Trekkie (and I don’t say “huge” lightly). However, the Star Trek universe had recently been undergoing a pretty substantial collapse, culminating in the closing of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas. Desperately trying to revive the franchise, Paramount Pictures contacted J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman to create a film that would appeal to a wider audience than the typical Star Trek movie — in essence, entirely rebooting the franchise. One of my concerns as a fanboy was that doing this would substantially change the franchise from Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Judging by the success of Star Trek so far and the overwhelmingly positive reviews the movie has received from both critics and viewers (it is now #62 on IMDB’s top 250 movie list), the reboot has successfully achieved its goal of widespread appeal. And although there were a number of deviations from the days of Roddenberry in the new film, I was able to reconcile these deviations with the fact that the franchise was in dire need of change to regain the widespread appeal that was necessary to keep it alive.

Now how does all of this relate to politics?  Well, after the devastating 2008 elections, many of those on the right (myself included) believed that things couldn’t get much worse. After all, President-elect Obama had just won in a decisive landslide, and Republicans lost 8 seats in the Senate and 21 in the House. The Democrats outpaced Republicans in virtually every area, and the only glimmer of hope Republicans could hold onto for the next two years was the knowledge that Republicans would be able to filibuster Obama’s most radical plans in the Senate. Today, even this looks incredibly unlikely with Senator Specter switching sides and the reality setting in that comedian-turned-politician Al Franken will likely be the next Senator from Minnesota. For a while I felt cautiously optimistic about the 2010 elections — the energy of Rebuild the Party and similar movements to rebuild the GOP was profound, conservatives seemed to be on the brink of a rightroots movement, Michael Steele took over the reigns at the RNC, and Joseph Cao achieved enormous electoral victory while Jim Tedisco seemed poised to win in NY’s 20th. However, much has changed since those developments, and it seems that Republicans are not on the best track to turn the tide in 2010, let alone in 2012 or beyond. Indeed, although a turnaround is possible, the clock is ticking, and like the Star Trek franchise, the only way that the GOP can turn things around is with a complete reboot.

Over at Time magazine, Michael Grunwald raises some important points about this matter. He writes:

The party’s ideas — about economic issues, social issues and just about everything else — are not popular ideas. They are extremely conservative ideas tarred by association with the extremely unpopular George W. Bush, who helped downsize the party to its extremely conservative base. A hard-right agenda of slashing taxes for the investor class, protecting marriage from gays, blocking universal health insurance and extolling the glories of waterboarding produces terrific ratings for Rush Limbaugh, but it’s not a majority agenda.

While I find much of the content of his argument biased and inaccurate, the overarching point he raises is that the issues Republicans are pursuing are not those of “a majority agenda.” Regardless of whether conservative positions on these issues are popular or unpopular, they aren’t the kind of issues that build a majority and win elections — particularly during trying economic times. This is an important point that Republicans must somehow reconcile if they wish to return to majority status. Jon Henke points out (emphasis added):

The Republican brand does not merely need a little tinkering. The Republican brand is not the victim of Democratic rhetoric and framing. The Republican brand is so bad because people accurately perceive the state of the Republican Party.

And although it is sometimes well deserved (see Arlen Specter’s vote on Obama’s stimulus package), lambasting all of our moderate Senators and Congressmen doesn’t help. One of the things I used to celebrate about the Republican Party was its diversity in ideology — something that continues to diminish with the loss of Specter, giving the Democrats the opportunity to be the ideologically ‘diverse’ party. In a two party system, you cannot build a winning coalition that encompasses only the far side of the political spectrum. The bottom line is that Republicans will likely never see another day in the majority if its electorate only supports candidates with impeccable conservative credentials, outcasting any elected officials or candidates who are near the political middle. In states such as my own (Pennsylvania) and many others in the region, a Republican candidate can only win the general election if he or she is moderate. For just one example of the impact of accepting moderates, look to the U.S. Senate — would you rather have 11 moderate Republicans in the Senate in addition to our current Senators and hold a majority, or only allow full-on conservatives and sit comfortably in the filibuster-proof minority?

The fact is that it is time for a reboot, or as Henke says, “actual, painful, reform.” The Republican Party needs to find new issues around which to coalesce, issues that appeal to mainstream Americans and are not knee-jerk reactions against the Obama administration’s plans. One thing that Republicans cannot wait for is the Democrats to fail. Meanwhile, GOP voters need to realize that moderates — who may not always be perfectly conservative — have their place in a nationally viable party. Only with these recognitions and a total overhaul of the GOP can Republicans move maximum warp speed ahead into the future.

Crossposted at NextGenGOP.

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