The Republican Party has a bright future if it will only take a slight course correction. It will need to make some hard decisions about party structure, infrastructure support and messaging, and I suspect by 2016, after they recap this year’s elections they will find that these 10 things will help them stay relevant.
1. Condemn Fox News and conservative talk radio
In the Emmy winning HBO telepic Game Change Senator McCain embraces Sarah Palin before his concession speech and says, “You are one of the leaders of the party now. Don’t let yourself get co-opted by Limbaugh and the other extremists. They’ll destroy the party if you let them.”
Soon after the 2008 election, Palin resigned as governor of Alaska and became a paid pundit for Fox News. Republicans have to stop following the drumbeat of Fox News and the conservative talk show pundits. Their mission is to make money and sell books. That is what they are good at. They are neither fair nor balanced. Consider that on the night of the election, the so-called architect, Karl Rove challenged his own network's expertise on live television. Dick Morris, the worst pollster in history, has at least apologized and admitted he was wrong, we have yet to hear from Karl Rove or any of the Fox News pundits. No, for the last 48 hours they have continued to bash Obama and now are slinging arrows at Romney. They accept no responsibility for the results, yet they are the medium for the party. They carry the party message, and some feel they author the party message. Roger Ailes envisioned himself a king maker and he may have destroyed the credibility of the network. Today they are the laughingstock of political punditry. It puzzles me why given the success of Fox News no one has tried to duplicate or challenge their dominance in their market. Why is it that the conservatives are just conceding the market to Fox. Fox has a stranglehold and a monopoly on the conservative brain trust and there needs to be some competition for that market. The most telling moment was when on live TV, Megyn Kelly turned to Karl Rove and said, “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?” Karl Rove may have to turn in his white board for an iPad.
2. Republicans and conservatives have to stop blaming the mainstream media
Newsflash: the majority of the major conservative pundits are part of the mainstream media. O’Reilly, Hannity, Ingraham, Krauthammer, Hume, Limbaugh, Wallace, Levin, Savage are the biggest names in political punditry. They are in the mainstream of political punditry media. It wasn’t the Democrats who exposed the flaws in the Romney campaign; it was the conservative media that provided the game plan on how to beat Romney. The Democrats said thank you for the advice. This is a broad channel and mobile world. They have chosen to cede the market and not create multiple conservative channels, clearly a business decision based on demand and opportunity. I envision that writers and editors of Fox, Breitbart, Drudge, Examiner, and the Washington Times have daily meetings and decide what stories to write that day. Every time a conservative blames the mainstream media all they do is pique the interest of those who will then check it out for themselves. Several of those people never come back. The conservative pundits need to stand on the merit of their own analysis and investigative work and stop crying foul when the message doesn’t generate the attention they feel it deserves.
3. Reduce the control of the social conservatives over the primary season
Republican candidates bend so far to the right they look like the trees in Aruba trying to get the social conservative vote during the primaries. We know that the social conservatives are pro-life, but if you choose that to be the litmus test for service, the Republicans will continue to lose votes. Republicans can’t claim to be primarily concerned about the economy and then enact more anti-abortion legislation throughout the country than economic legislation.
4. Single issues matter, because all those issues are tied back to the economy
The Hispanic population believes immigration is an economic issue, so is women’s reproductive rights, as is same-sex marriage for the LGBTQ community. Affirmative action and diversity is an economic issue. Education may be the biggest economic issue and Romney agreed with Race to the Top. The Democrats understand that, and know how to tie these issues into the overall economic message of the party platform. Over the last 48 hours, there have been countless articles and interviews where Republicans and conservatives have tacitly acknowledged that this is the right strategy for winning the White House, a strategy that 48 hours ago they rejected entirely.
5. The Republican Party has to jettison the right-wing nuts and lunatics in the party and stop making extreme and politically incorrect remarks
Dick Morris should not be allowed on site. It was on full display to the country that the party had no control over its members. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock stayed in the race, after embarrassing the national party. They felt no need to drop out because they know that they openly represented what was not so quietly spoken about behind closed Republican doors. The party platform says no abortion for any reason. Romney’s 47% comment was actually widely defended by prominent Republicans and conservatives. That is what they believe. This is what is discussed among the leaders of the party. The party never sought to temper the Tea Party rhetoric of Allen West and Joe Walsh. Why does Michele Bachmann lead the Tea Party Caucus in the House? The Democrats jettisoned Anthony Weiner, a rising star in the party, for sexting and then lying about it. This is the party of Clinton and Kennedy, but we still said Weiner you have to go.
6. Drop the legacy succession model
The Republican Party has deep bench strength. They just have to drop the legacy succession model that allowed Romney to take his turn, because using that model Rick Santorum will challenge Paul Ryan in the next election and while the conservatives may want Paul Ryan and that is why he was forced on to Romney’s ticket, when it was evident that Romney was leaning towards Rob Portman or Bob McDonnell, the Democrats want him even more. The Republicans have Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, and Brian Sandoval to represent Hispanic issues, and Kelly Ayotte and Nikki Haley to speak on women's issues. They have Chris Christie to represent moderate Republicans and Bobby Jindal to add to their growing diversity in leadership positions. Condoleezza Rice, if she so chooses, could help with the African-American vote, especially since Mia Love lost her race in Utah. Finally, they have Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the conservative governor, intellectual, economic, and policy wonk, who has delivered conservative-backed programs like school vouchers, and Health Savings Accounts for residents of Indiana.
7. Retire Bush 41 and 43
This election marked the end of the Bush era. The Republican National Committee did not invite any of the Bush camp to the convention other than Rice. Romney chose to hire Bush’s foreign policy team — a mistake. Like the social conservatives, the neocons should not be able to exert control over the primaries and foreign policy. Karl Rove and his super PAC spent $400 million of other people’s money. His kingmaker days are over. Jeb Bush and his Latina wife, along with his approval ratings in the Florida Hispanic community is an attractive candidate for 2016, but of late, since the RNC, he has taken to supporting his brother’s legacy and singing his praises. That is a bad signal that he would be tied to the Bush infrastructure.
8. Hire some media and public relations experts
Republicans hemmed and hawed about Obama’s appearances on entertainment TV, his celebrity status, and his “cool” points. Cool works, especially among the young people and the segment of the population that prefer to have their dose of information delivered absent of the fear, uncertainty and doubt measures deployed by both parties this election. They want to see the candidates on the shows and channels they watch. They want the candidates to have not only skill and experience, but they want to be able to relate to them as people. Do they laugh, do they cry, and can they sing. Obama made the rounds on Letterman, Leno, The Daily Show, and The View. The Republicans criticized every appearance. If you don’t think those appearances helped get out the vote, well that is why the GOP is on the outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave looking in.
9. Get a sense of humor
Are there any conservative comedians that can tell a good joke? The funniest jokes about Obama came from comedians that support Obama. Political satire can take the most complex issue and summarize and simplify it in a way that makes it wholly digestible to masses of people. Young people in particular enjoy satire. Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, Bill Maher are household names.
10. Get some relevant celebrity endorsements
Celebrities have the ability to leverage their brand and social media to communicate with millions of fans instantly. The Democrats had George Clooney, Sara Jessica Parker, Eva Longoria, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, and Mariah Carey campaigning for Obama. Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen basically did an Obama tour. Katy Perry was a walking billboard for Obama. The Republicans offered up Clint Eastwood and a chair. Eastwood pointed out that Jon Voight was also a conservative in Hollywood, which of course made all the young people say, “Who is Jon Voight?”