The GOP Needs a Hero
I consider myself more of a spiritual man, than religious one, but I know I would not like to be in purgatory. However, I’m afraid the party that took my political virginity – first as a supporter, then of legal age to vote – is heading into political purgatory.
If you’re one to believe in statistics, polls and projections, like I do, then you can see from this Politico map the Democratic candidate in 2016 needs 23 more electoral college votes to get to the magic number of 270. Whoever the Republican candidate will be, needs 64. Safe states such as California for Democrats and Texas for Republicans will probably remain consistent. It’s the toss-up states, of which there are roughly 7 (NV, CO, IA, OH, VA, NH, FL) that will determine who gets to 270. The deciding factor will likely rest with independent voters, such as myself – since the 2000 elections, I’ve voted Bush (R), Kerry (D), Obama (D) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian). Eighteen months away from US presidential elections and the GOP needs a hero.
Folks such as Morrison Bonpasse on the Democratic side and Michael Kinlaw on the GOP side have declared their intention to seek their respective party’s nomination. Why am I mentioning these two individuals? Because they both represent the extreme fringes of their parties, and both are unlikely to garner much support. However, it’s not the DNC who is being overrun by its extreme wing; it’s the GOP. I’m worried the GOP is directing itself to a similar fate as Britain’s Labour Party during what is considered their “Wilderness Years” from 1979-1997.
Social-religious conservatives such as Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and the likes will likely garner enough attention and Tea Party money to force their relatively moderate counterparts, such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie to the right. The GOP leadership is behaving eerily similar to the British Labour Party of the late 1970’s. Although ideologically speaking, Labour and the GOP are polar opposites, “The Wilderness Labour” and the GOP have both allowed the extreme wings of their party to hijack the center and move against social trends – more on this later.
The reason behind 18 years of political purgatory for the Labour Party wasn’t because the Conservative Party – aka the Tories – was that much better; it was because the people most commonly referred to as the “militant” wing of the party disrupted their core values. Successive Labour leaders faced humiliating election defeat because the center of the party was not united. They lacked a core value; a core message that reflected voter sentiment. They needed a savior, and in 1994, they found that in Tony Blair. Facing a weak opposition and favorable polls, Mr. Blair maneuvered to reign in the extreme fringes and united the party in a move to the center, which won Labour an election landslide in 1997.
Besides his internal moves, Mr. Blair outflanked the Conservative Party by approving some of their policies of the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher, and thus partially hijacking their platform. He also utilized the media to rebrand “Old Labour” into “New Labour”. The message – exactly what Ronald Reagan did for Republicans in 1980, and what Bill Clinton did for Democrats in 1992 – was talk about the future of the country. Bill Clinton told Politico’s Jim Messina back in 2011 “[All] national elections are always a referendum on the future, and the candidate that can grasp that mantle wins.”
Why does this matter for the current crop of GOP candidates? Because in large part they cannot ask the traditional election question of, “are you better off now, than you were eight years ago”. Simple statistical indicators point that yes, more people have jobs and corporations are more profitable now than they were when President Obama took office.
Here are some basic tips:
Have a vision for the future that breaks with hypothetical Iraq War invasion strategies. Jeb Bush wasted one week figuring out his answer. At best he’s flip-flopping on the issue. At worse, he sounds like he doesn’t know what he believes in.
Have a vision on how to eliminate ISIS and don’t point fingers at who created the problem
Don’t stand there and spew out exactly what 8-10 of the most extreme ends of your party are saying about the lack of climate change, gay marriage, legalized marijuana or abortion. Just like the Ultra-Left wing of the Democratic Party, or a Tea Party member, my opinions are skewed to believe what are important subjects for me; but statistics don’t lie. Going against current public opinion on these topics will certainly win you the fringe vote of the GOP. But it will also guarantee a minimum of four more years of a Democrat staying at the White House.
I’d almost scandalously argue that most countries in the western hemisphere are more liberal than the United States. Perhaps even some conservative parties in other countries are more liberal than the Democratic Party. Which is perhaps why David Cameron, the recently re-elected Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom took a page out of Reagan, Clinton and Blair’s book and looked to the future during his campaign. I’m not sure what he truly believes in, but he saw social trends and led with a platform to legalize gay marriage, made climate change a top priority, wants to expand child welfare for working families and eliminating taxes on minimum wage workers
My conclusion is not that the GOP should drop their mantra and move to the left. My conclusion is not even to suggest – at least in this blog – that our political system needs improving. My conclusion is, for the sake of not just the GOP, but also for the viability and health of our democracy, this country needs a more balanced Republican Party. Eighteen months before an election is far too early to decide which candidate to support, but I already know which ones will not be getting my vote here in South Carolina.