The GOP need to reorganize quickly

Since an embarrassing showing on November 4, the GOP has been desperate to fix the problems that led to their losses on Election Day. The slew of names that have been mentioned as possible 2012 presidential candidates, and politicians who can resurrect the party, has been interesting to follow, and it has become apparent that the GOP might not actually understand what they need to do to truly ameliorate the Republican party: to completely re-think their platform. Abraham Lincoln was technically the first Republican president, when the party’s main platform was primarily the opposition to slavery. It was their one unifying ideal, so when it was no longer an issue after the war, the party adjusted and became the party of fiscal conservatives and proponents of small government, similar to the Anti-Federalists of the Revolution era. The party retained the basics of this platform for over 100 years, until sometime in the latter half of the 20th century, a shift to the far right began to occur. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this shift in the Republican party occurred; maybe it was Roe vs. Wade, perhaps in Reagan’s presidency, or in 1994 when the party re-gained majority in Congress. Either way, the 2000 election was the zenith of this shift in the party’s platform, and it was official that the GOP had strayed from its origins. President Bush ran a campaign that still promoted fiscal conservatism, but that put large emphasis on morals, religion, and socially conservative ideas as well. While this proved to be good strategy at the time, since he won the election (sort of…), it began a serious divide in the party, and in the country. By picking up the religious right, Bush was able to guarantee several million votes, simply by proclaiming his disdain for abortion and his devotion to Christian morals. In the meantime, his presidency proved that he was not as fiscally conservative as was expected, allowing billions in Pentagon spending and starting an incredibly expensive war that was, in fact, unnecessary. In addition, he did not really adhere to the small government belief either, with bills like the USA PATRIOT Act giving the government more power than ever. However, his devotion to social conservatism was one promise he did not break. This won the approval of the religious right, but isolated more traditional Republicans who were more concerned with actual matters of state than whether Bush was a good Christian or not. It is understandable that Americans would want their president to be a good, respectable person, but it is blasphemy for one party to claim to have the monopoly on morality; morality and corruption take place on both sides of the political spectrum. Bush’s presidency included several debates on social issues, such as abortion, gay rights, and intelligent design, and these just seemed to polarize the nation even more. What the Republicans did not realize then was how much their new ideals would hurt them in the 2008 election. After Bush’s tumultuous tenure in Washington, the country was fed up with the government in general. The failing economy, two failing wars in the Middle East, and a badly tainted name overseas all led to the need for change, which, as stated on the campaign trail thousands of times, was what everyone wanted. John McCain was nominated by the Republicans as a fairly moderate candidate. Mitt Romney’s religious background was not popular with the religious right, and, although Huckabee was extremely popular with evangelicals, he was a little too far right for the rest of the Republican party. Thus, the middle man was nominated. Despite the public distrust in the party, McCain seemed like a candidate that could actually be competitive against Barack Obama.His campaign made a huge mistake, however, when they decided to pander to both independents and the religious right, a group that had criticized him for being too liberal on several occasions. McCain was not able to run a solid campaign, because half of the time he was trying to sound like a very moderate, bipartisan politician, and the other half he was trying to prove himself as an upstanding man of God. This teetering act between the two sides ended up not convincing either side, but it was the independents’ votes that cost him the election. The campaign overestimated the power of the religious right; they did not realize that even if McCain was not the group’s preferred nominee, he was still going to receive most of their votes because their hesitations about McCain did not override their severe dislike for Obama. Now, names like Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Sarah Palin are being thrown around as possible leaders of the GOP. All of those politicians are known for being incredibly socially conservative but not so experienced when it comes to fixing a depressed economy or regaining international trust. They can all easily excite social conservatives, but the GOP should have learned from this election that that’s not enough anymore. The GOP would do themselves, and everyone else, some good if they would redesign their platform to contain the values that made them a powerful party in the first place: promoting smaller government and giving more responsibility and power to the people, being the financial antithesis of the Democrats by spending less and cutting unnecessary programs, valuing a candidate that is not an everyman, but a very intelligent individual who has the wits to run the nation competently, and relaxing their conservative values a bit. By picking a candidate unlike the previously mentioned politicians, and more like a modern-day Renaissance Man who is willing to stand up for his or her own ideas and not pander, but speak from the heart and the mind (not unlike a certain recently successful candidate), the GOP and their ideas could become relevant again. The nation’s values are changing, and it is time for the Republicans to adjust like they did after the Civil War and once again become the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. It is time for the GOP to stop straddling multiple points of view and to pick a basic set of ideals to advocate. Most of all, it’s time for the GOP to shed its stigma as the party of the religious right, even though it will most likely always get their votes, and to embrace all types of voters interested in a party not based on moral beliefs, but on political actions.