Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Way Forward

Despite the fact that an electoral map - especially one that breaks things down by counties - will show you that large swaths of the nation lean Republican, the Grand Old Party couldn't manage to unseat the President, gain a majority in the Senate, or hold on to all of the seats they had in the House of Representatives. This despite the relatively low approval ratings of President Obama, and a constant drumbeat of optimism from Republicans across the country.

So, after an election that stunned Republicans, but seemed to surprise no-one who actually keep an eye on the public, the soul-searching, self-flagellation and recriminations begin.

Here's a dirty little secret about electoral politics in the United States of America - a lot of people don't follow politics or "the issues" closely enough to really make what you'd consider an informed choice. This isn't surprising. There are many, many more issues out there than most of us encounter on a daily basis, and most of us aren't paid to be political analysts. So most people have a general idea about things that informs a partisan affiliation, and they decide whether or not it's worthwhile to show up at the polls. In a nutshell, the Republicans simply couldn't get enough people do decide to show up at the polls. This is in large part because the current GOP has a large number of people in it who appeal to a core group of voters mainly by demonizing everyone else. And that core group just isn't big enough.

In the end, the Republicans are going to have to come to terms with the fact that they need to let go of the short term to position themselves for the long term. And that means allowing both the message and the platform to change to be in line with a greater percentage of the voting public. It's going to be painful. The extremists in the party are going to feel betrayed, and they aren't going to want to see their priorities let go. And the loss of those votes means that the Democrats are going to run things for a while. But the world won't end. Okay, so the Democrats believe in a broader distribution of wealth, and generally have trouble finding any other way to get their beyond taxing one group to provide benefits to another. As long as they don't let the borrowing get too far out of hand, the country will still be here when they are done. And so once the Republicans have excised the divisive parts of their party and platform, and can start working their way back into the levers of power, they can show people how their method would work. And if it's perceived as better, people will embrace it. It's time to get past the idea that partisan affiliation is a stand-in for an IQ test, or a measure of laziness and greed. It takes a well-articulated platform the communicates sound policies at the right time to get into office. Mistaking ideological purity for principled stands doesn't get you there. Sooner or later, someone will realize that. Whether or not it's the current Republican Party or a different group entirely is the only question.

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