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The Tentacle


November 12, 2008

The Incredibly Shrinking Republican Party

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The ink is hardly dry on the “historic” election of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and already those with 20/20 hindsight are dissecting and revising the two-year ordeal, known as the 2008 presidential election, with the conviction of someone who has just seen a flying saucer land in the backyard.

 

Where to begin?

 

For one thing, the Republican Party vigorously participated in its own victimization. It was as if the party had a psychotic episode of multiple manifestations and as a result, carefully choreographed its own suicide.

 

The Republican Party forgot its historic roots as standing for conservative fiscal policies, optimism and opportunity, personal accountability, and small, but responsive and efficient government.

 

Instead of reaching out to seize the opportunities afforded by changing political dynamics and demographics, it pathologically groped its navel in narcissistic delight.

 

However, my disdain is not heaped upon Arizona Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Although, let’s be clear, their campaign was undisciplined, inarticulate, uninspiring, and unfocused.

 

Much of my scorn is reserved for the failure of the national party leadership in general and the Republican congressional leaders in particular.

 

Nevertheless, in consideration of the media bias heaped upon President George W. Bush and the GOP, nine consecutive months of job losses, one of the most untimely historic financial crises to have ever impacted upon a presidential election, and the low approval rating of a sitting president from the same party, the McCain-Palin ticket heroically resonated against politically impossible odds.

 

In the words of George Will: “September’s financial storm probably sealed Obama's victory by raising the electorate’s anxieties while lowering its confidence in Obama’s opponent. John McCain’s responses – suspending, sort of, his campaign, ratcheting up his rhetoric about Wall Street ‘greed and corruption’ – suggested a line spoken solemnly by the Capitol Steps’ George W. Bush impersonator: ‘Uncertain times call for uncertain leadership.’ ”

 

Charles Krauthammer wisely noted the “fact that John McCain got 46 percent of the electorate when 75 percent said the country was going in the wrong direction is quite remarkable.”

 

The most disturbing lesson to be learned is that the “uncertain leadership” of the Republican Party has led directly to, what political commentator Juan Williams has wryly observed to be “the incredibly shrinking Republican Party.”

 

What does “the incredibly shrinking party” mean? If the 2008 elections taught us anything, it ratified that the Republican Party has shrinking appeal for middle class soccer moms, African-Americans, Hispanics, and the younger voter.

 

One needs to look no farther than an analysis of the Hispanic vote – the fastest growing demographic in the nation.

 

Of course, the irony here is that it was Senator McCain who, just before the 2008 presidential primaries, crossed party lines and participated in a broad sweeping bipartisan proposal for immigration reform.

 

The merits of the proposal are certainly fodder for discussion; but what quickly became repugnant was the overall response of the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, which seemed hell-bent on alienating as many Hispanics as possible in the shortest amount of time.

 

In the other hand Hispanics were certainly not enamored with the candidacy of Senator Obama, as evidenced in the Democrat primaries.

 

Yet they found themselves stuck between a Republican Party, which showed nothing but contempt for Spanish-speaking citizens during the immigration reform discussion, and Senator Obama, who lost the Latino vote to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton by a margin of two-to-one; according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

 

Incredibly, a review of the exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Center determined that “Hispanics voted for Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin by a margin of more than two-to-one in the 2008 presidential election, 67% versus 31%.”

 

In 2004 President Bush carried 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. That was considerably “higher than the 21% share of the Hispanic vote that Sen. Robert Dole received as the GOP presidential nominee in 1996,” according to Pew.

 

The question then is how does the Republican Party turn two-steps forward and one-step backward into a forward thinking strategy for the future?

 

Why is this important? Well, bear in mind that Senator Obama beat Senator McCain 52 to 46 percent. For perspective, according to columnist Michael Barone, Senator Obama’s margin of victory was “2 points ahead of Bush in 2004 and one point behind George H. W. Bush in 1988.”

 

Moreover, columnist Donald Lambro observes that a recent Pew Research Center poll “found that 43 percent (of the country favors) ‘a bigger government offering more services’ versus 45 percent who favor ‘a smaller government with fewer services.’ ”

 

Future success will remain a pitched battle over a few, yet decisive, percentage points – and there is no room for arrogance, obnoxious personality disorder, lack of discipline or error.

 

Despite pre-written obituaries and euphoric analysis by liberals, conservatism is not broken and center-right public policies have not been discredited.

 

The Republican Party is what is broken and with careful planning and thoughtful approaches, it can be fixed.

 

Of course, we can also count on the Democrat Party helping the situation by judging the results of the 2008 elections to be free reign to implement ultra-leftist ideology and thereby alienating Middle America.

 

The future of the Republican Party is with the old thinking and the old guard stepping aside and giving way to people who think like Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Governor Palin, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

 

Meanwhile, during the initial honeymoon of President Obama, Republicans should never miss an opportunity to sit down and shut up. It will behoove conservatives to understand that the Republican Party will remain irrelevant until it can get its act together and has something positive to say.

 

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

 



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