Why America needs a vibrant Republican Party, and how it can use a 21st century agenda to expand its appeal.
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Since 1860, America has had only two dominant political parties, the Democrat and Republican Party. They have survived scandals, unpopular Presidents, landslide defeats, wars, depressions, rapid demographic changes, an ever-evolving cultural landscape. They endured because when they lost, the party elders took the time to discern why and how to expand their base into a winning coalition.
It is time the Republican Party takes seriously that task, for the danger signs of its shrinking appeal are there for all to see. The candidate of the Republican party has now lost the popular vote in 7 of the past eight national elections, including all of the last four, defeated by margins ranging from 3 million to 10 million votes. The two Republicans who have served as President since 1992 prevailed only because of the vagaries of the electoral college and razor thin margins in fewer than four states.
It’s advantage in the electoral college is not forever. This past year, Arizona and Georgia turned blue. It is only a matter of time before demographic changes in Texas and North Carolina move them in the same direction.
The past 20 years have laid stark its difficulties with urban and suburban voters, women, the young, the middle class, the college educated and people of color. Rather than scheming ways to undermine democratic rule, or making it harder for minorities to vote, the Republican Party would be better advised to offer something new in the marketplace of ideas.
We are fast becoming a minority majority country. Several states already are, including Texas. Its base of aging white voters is quickly shrinking. Absent a new vision for the 21st century that expands its appeal to a broader swath of the electorate, it will not win another national election.
It is not without the means to expand its appeal. Modernizing an education system that has fallen dangerously behind the rest of the world in math and science. A health care plan that is more than a vow to abolish Obamacare. An economic package that doesn’t rest solely on ballooning federal deficits and tax cuts for the well to do. A foreign policy that brings democracy’s allies to the table for the common good, for we cannot alone counter the growing influence of China. Winning the race with China for dominance in 5G and Artificial Intelligence, and making sure that every community in the country has access to it. Recognizing the reality that our doors to bright and well-educated immigrants will need to remain open, and that walls alone will not fix a badly broken immigration system.
A few years ago, I was in a meeting with a high-ranking member of the Republican House leadership. Half way through the meeting he excused himself to go vote for a bill to abolish Obamacare. As he was leaving, I asked why the leadership had scheduled the vote, given that the Republican Congress had already voted to do it 35 times.
“You’ve made your point already,” I told him. “When are you going to offer a health care plan of your own?” He looked at me and said “Republicans are doing just fine being against everything Democrats are for.” Time has proven him wrong.
At some point, Republicans must decide the American Empire is worthy of a plan to advance it, and too important to be left in the hands of political hacks.
Our status as the world’s greatest democracy is not forever. In the words of Henry Kissinger, democracies come, and democracies go. Empires rise, and empires crumble. A reminder that we are never more than a generation away from losing what more than a million American soldiers have died to preserve.
In a 60 minutes broadcast in 1976, Ronald Reagan said the Republican party would die unless bound by a set of ideals and principles. He became the only Republican in the past 60 years who twice won a majority of the popular vote.
It is important to all Americans that the Republican party survives and becomes a vibrant voice with new ideas and an agenda that expands its retinue. It cannot and will not endure as a grievance driven personality cult bent on subverting democratic rule.