Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower will probably be deeply troubled and disappointed with the current state of the Republican Party. The party that once advocated for a limited but active and effective government has suddenly become the party that disdains government. The party that once believed that government has a responsibility to enforce reasonable regulations to guard against corporate greed and corruption that hurt Main Street has relegated itself to being the party of blanket deregulation. This is not what the GOP used to be. Republicans like President Teddy Roosevelt believed that with targeted policies, government can help level the playing field for all Americans. That it can provide an environment that fosters fair market competition and gives people the tools to make decisions for themselves.
The Republican Party of today has become more rigid and narrow-minded as evidenced by the current group of presidential candidates. They appear to be fighting to be the most anti-government, anti-Obama candidate. The party seems to value ideological purity over sound pragmatism. It has confined itself to catchy phrases (cut spending, cap spending, cut taxes, repeal Obamacare) and failed to offer a compelling conservative vision for the country. In an attempt to keep the base happy, it has ignored the broader electorate and failed to adjust to the changing demographics of the country. If the Republican Party wants to be a strong national political party once again, it has to become more inclusive.
First, it must significantly tone down some of its rhetoric. The reasonable voices in the Party need to speak out against members like Newt Gingrich that once said “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.” It’s hard to even conceive that that same person was once leading in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination. A party that wants to be a strong national party cannot engage in or tolerate that kind of provocative rhetoric. President Barack Obama was born in the United States. He’s an earnest public servant, and a patriotic American that deeply loves his country. He’s a good husband, a devoted father and a role model to many Americans. He has been working extremely hard to make things better for the American people. If you don’t believe me, look at his hair compared to when he was sworn in.
Second, the party needs to stop using immigration as a wedge issue. Its frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president (Gov. Romney) cannot be the champion of an immigration policy of “self-deportation.” It makes no sense. Immigrants not only keep our economy vibrant but they also enrich our culture and diversity. Without immigrants, America will be like Europe with an aging population and fewer young people to keep the country strong. Republicans like former Gov. Jeb Bush understand this and has laid out four ways Republicans can win Hispanics back. America will become a minority nation in the next generation, and we need to ensure that our minorities have access to the education they need to make ends meet for their families, thrive in society, and compete in a global economy. The Republican Party has to speak to that.
Just as important, the party shouldn't reject candidates simply because they advocate for reasonable regulations and believe in climate change or some abortion exceptions. The truth is that the current Republican electorate is too volatile to accept such positions. This leads me to believe that if President Obama wins reelection, 2016 could shape up to be a year of revival for the GOP. The Tea Party stronghold should have weakened by then, and that will hopefully give way to presidential candidates like Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Gov. Jon Huntsman, and Gov. Chris Christie. A group of Republicans that can speak not just to the base, but to the entire country. Republicans that are ideologically conservative but moderate in tone and practical in governance. They can and should chart a new course for the Republican Party of the future.