Dear GOP: Innovate!

Dear Republican Party,


So you lost. And it must have been especially painful, being the party of free markets and creative destruction that you are, that the forces behind your failure was your reluctance to innovate.

Conservative success up until this point has been on the basis of innovation. In the 70s great conservative thinkers put forth their sound rebukes of Nixon-style corruption and Carter-style stagflation under the pretense limited government. By the time Communism was collapsing and the failure of central planning was most obvious, your view of American Exceptionalism seemed self-evident.

But when George Bush came into power he ignored the new context of the 21st century. Instead of innovating where change was necessarily, like with Finance, Health Care or Education Reform, ill-conceived tax cuts and an all out war on terror were the path chosen. This was fundamentally a problem of nostalgia. The enemy was not as clear cut as Communism was. And globalization made American Exceptionalism unsustainable in its current form.

Then came the 2006 elections. The Democrats innovated with an anti-war message. They won. In 2008 the Democrats innovated with the promise of universal health care, ending the war, confronting climate change, and fighting corporate excess. They won.

All the while your Republican message floundered. It argued to stay the course, that the economy was fundamentally strong, that the environment didn't much matter, and that social conservatism could survive in the 21st century.

It is no surprise that as the world secularizes social conservatism seems more and more absurd. It is no surprise that limited government loses its appeal when private fraud is rampant. The Democrats won because they stayed competitive and innovated on what were all the biggest issues. The painful thing was that Republicans weren't out of ideas. On education alone you had dozens of innovative ideas like vouchers that could have revolutionized the quality of American public schools yet were never implement.

What's the lesson to be learned from this? If you want to win again, Republican Party, you're going to have to literally renew itself -- creative destruction applied to ideology. Social Conservatives will have to back off. Foreign Policy hawks will have to become more pragmatic. Science and rationality should be favored over faith and tradition. The environment must be priority. Supply Siders must align themselves with the middle class instead of Wall Street. Civil liberty must be seen as just as important as economic liberty. And a more youthful leadership must resist special interest and tackle corporate welfare.

And a note on wasteful spending: Earmark reform is going to be necessary, but it a go-no-where argument when A. Obama is for it too, B. Earmarks account for so little of what is spent, and C. you're just as guilty in its abuse. No one is going to take your anti-spending message seriously after Bush.

These changes are going to happen eventually but if you try first to revert back to the supposed ideal of Reagan Conservatism your party will only continue to sink. I'm not asking you to move towards the center, just into the new century. It's time to find something new.



Samuel Hammond

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Very good post

As my handle suggests, I am very liberal on most issues. That said, I created an account on the next right in order to get some dialogue going, and to see if I can understand exactly why conservatives/Republicans (however you identify) think the way you do. I do think that there's room for some respectful disagreement, and that we can learn from each other.


I think that this post enumerates the ways (in the abstract, of course--we can't yet know how/who the Republicans might recover with) that a political party can come back. From a partisan standpoint, I hope that everyone here derides it as silly and starts calling it names--it'll be all the easier for Democrats to win elections until a sizeable period of time after--and only after--you do these things.


But I just wanted to stop by and say hello. Let's keep an interesting conversation going, shall we?

Agreed, this is a good post

But I see the only other person to comment is an admitted liberal.  I'm an Independent, formerly GOP, and share many of your thoughts. 

I especially appreciated the irony of this point:  "And it must have been especially painful, being the party of free markets and creative destruction that you are, that the forces behind your failure was your reluctance to innovate."