There are worse things in politics than losing. Foremost among them is losing and not even realizing it.
That’s where the Republican Party found itself in 2012, with conservative pundits and politicians alike predicting a comfortable victory for the GOP only days before Mitt Romney was dealt a decisive defeat in the presidential election and the party unexpectedly lost seats in the U.S. Senate.
Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that the GOP had begun to consider its own interpretation of the Obama years as the definitive history. The president, they told themselves, was a historical aberration, elected because of a combination of race, youth and a message so vague as to be nearly universal in its appeal (who, after all, was opposed to hope and change?). After four years of watching that image collide with reality, they reasoned, the electorate would come to its senses.
The shell shock that resulted when this narrative came unspooled in November has occasioned a surplus of soul-searching in Republican ranks, a tendency made flesh in a report released Monday by the Republican National Committee. While the document identifies the party’s deficiencies in areas such as communications, minority outreach and campaign mechanics, it is conspicuously silent on policy, with the exception of a drive-by endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform.
This presents a problem. We have made little secret of the fact that we find the general trend of liberalism lacking on domestic issues — substituting wealth transfers for economic growth and measuring compassion by the expansion of government. Yet we’re equally frustrated by the seeming inability of Republicans to apply the principles of freedom to the concerns of everyday Americans.
Average voters care most about those areas where government frequently intersects with their daily lives — the safety of their neighborhoods, the cost of health care, the quality of their children’s schools or their ability to find a job. Yet what was the GOP discussing during the most memorable moments of last year’s campaign? The “self-deportation” of immigrants, the relationship between rape and pregnancy and the parasitical nature of citizens too poor to pay income taxes. Failing to meet voters’ concerns is bad enough. Displaying active contempt for them is even worse.
Our recommendation for Republicans: Go back to basics. Focus on how school choice can empower the poor and minorities. Make the case that consumer-driven health care outperforms state-directed medicine. Fight against regulations that drive up housing costs and unemployment. Champion increased energy production to drive down prices at the pump. In short, focus on tangible methods of improving the lives of the voters you hope to cultivate.
That human touch would go a long way toward rehabilitating a party that too often seems rigid, removed and out of touch.
From the Orange County Register