First Posted: 5/14/2009 11:45:17 AM | Last Updated: 5/14/2009 11:51:22 AM
POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2009
BY DAVE KITCHELL, HOWEY POLITICS.COM
It’s hard to be a change agent if you don’t want to change.
That may be the simplest way to describe what’s happening with the Republican Party and the rest of the nation.
Channel surf on any given night and the opinions on what has gone wrong with the Grand Old Party vary. Then there are those who contend it’s not so much that Republicans did anything wrong last November. It’s that Democrats finally got it right.
President Barack Obama even took note of the party’s problems at Saturday night’s Washington correspondent dinner. He quipped that the GOP’s request for a bailout wasn’t approved and Rush Limbaugh could not be considered “a troubled asset.”
Nonetheless, there are those who are more seriously waging a fight back for the Republicans. It’s not clear who the leader is, but then again, for years ago, it wasn’t clear who the Democrats were going to have as a presidential candidate.
As Republicans look ahead to 2012, here are some thoughts about rebuilding the Grand Old Party into a Grander New Party:
1. Remember the Hippocratic Oath of Politics. First, do no harm to the Republicans you still have in office and the candidates who sought office but lost. The latter can be recycled into other campaigns and may live to win again in another year. Blaming them or politically crucifying them won’t help.
2. Practice the 11th Commandment of Politics. “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” is a mantra more Republicans should follow. Among them are former Vice President Dick Cheney who was quoted last week as saying that former Secretary of State Colin Powell left the Republican Party long ago, and that Limbaugh spoke more for the Republican Party than Powell did. Ouch. If the GOP wants more people in its tent, this isn’t the way to make it happen.
3. Support Michael Steele. He may not be the most illustrious national chair the party has ever had, but Republicans have few faces of color at a time when Democrats have the first African-American president. If Republicans move to oust him now, they will be in line for as much criticism as Notre Dame was once it dismissed its first black coach, Ty Willingham. Recruiting minorities to run in many districts such as Indiana’s 7th Congressional District would help.
4. Don’t make Sarah Palin the poster girl for GOP women. Adding a woman to the national ticket was a progressive move, but it could be argued Palin was not a strong choice or even a good choice because she was in over her political head with issues ranging from Troopergate to her daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. There are plenty of Republican women who can represent the party as well or better than men are doing. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine is one and former EPA Administrator Christy Todd Whitman is another. The GOP can win back female voters they lost to Democrats when Hillary Clinton ran for president.
5. Don’t alienate Arlen Specter and those like him. The defection of a high-profile GOP senator who has battled cancer and run for president is a deep blow to the party in Pennsylvania, where Republicans need names on the ballot people know. Specter has a distinguished career but was all but exorcised from the party after he crossed over to vote for Obama packages. So did Snowe. Veteran senators like Specter are the pillars of the party and Specter is the closest thing Pennsylvania has to Richard Lugar.
6. Don’t consider Saxby Chambliss’ win a moral victory. The Georgia senator is well-known and Georgia is as red a state as the clay in it. The fact that Chambliss pulled out a run-off election speaks to how far out of touch the party is with voters.
7. In foreign policy, promote the sheriff, not the gunslinger. George W. Bush and Cheney developed a presidential administration persona that had a chip on its shoulder and not a badge on its chest. Working with other nations and the United Nations to be the world cop is the way to go, and abandoning our traditional role in the world makes us appear almost as a rogue state to many nations who are on the fence as our allies.
8. Promote Republicans who are innovators. The party has traditionally embraced the Bush-style candidates who are well-funded, but not well-grounded in innovation. There are plenty of governors from Tim Polenty in Minnesota to Charlie Crist in Florida who can bring something to the party, but the party has to support candidates instead of leaving the innovators at all levels to fend for themselves. If there’s one asset the party has, it’s assets.
9. Learn from the legacy of Ronald Reagan. The GOP’s most popular president in t he past 40 years and probably since Eisenhower if not Lincoln had history on his side because he had the platform to put him there and the rhetoric to underscore it. The message Republicans had in 2008 was more of the same from previous elections.
10. Have a GOP white elephant sale. From Michael Steele to party chairman including Indiana’s Murray Clark, it’s time to realize that what has happened in the past is the past. Obama winning Indiana made history for the Democrats, but it ended an era for Republicans. And that’s the key for the GOP. A new era has begun. As Reagan once said, “It’s morning in America.” It’s up to the GOP to fulfill the rest of the day with the legacy it wants to leave the country and not the regions where it will remain strong by virtue of micro-majorities.
Dave Kitchell is a veteran Indiana columnist who teaches journalism at Ball State.