Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The future of the Republican Party

One of the traditional passtimes of the winning side in any election is giving unasked for advice to the losers, which by tradition they never take.

Plenty of folk are offering policy advice, dump market fundamentalism, dump the hate plank and so on. But that is not something a party should do right after the election, even if it was possible. Best not to consider policy at all at this point. If one thing is certain in this economic environment, whatever policy is proposed in 2008 is likely inoperative by 2012.

Instead I have a much better idea for the GOP: civility.

Stop calling your opponents traitors, America haters or friends of terrorism. Just stop, and make clear that anyone in the movement who continues the trash talk is out of the movement for good.

Say goodbye to the likes of Jonah Goldberg (Liberal Fascism) and Ann Coulter (Treason). They are making a pretty good living for themselves, the base love 'em but they are poisoning the entire party, right the way up to the top of the ticket.

What was astonishing in the last election was not that the press turned on McCain after his campaign turned nasty, but the fact that they still felt the need to find excuses for him. McCain earned that pass through decades of cultivating a personal relationship with half the beltway press corps. That pass is not transferable. If Giuliani or Romney had tried the same tactics the GOP would have lost at least another ten points.

Using the same tactics in 2012, whether directly or indirectly would be electoral suicide. They would only serve to remind voters of the reasons why they voted against the GOP in 2008.

A second and linked idea is to stop trying to deny reality when it fails to fit with preconceived ideology.

Republicans should start taking the same hard look at the footnotes and citations of their favorite K-street think-tankers with the same skeptical eye as their opponents. It is not so difficult to spot the people who fit the facts to their conclusions rather than the other way round. These people must be shown the door.

The alternative is to continue to base policy on using an ideology of convenience to justify a grab bag of special donor interests. That may have been a winning policy during the Gingrich years, but not when your opponents are outspending you four to one. Special interest donors are simply not going to pay up when there is no likelihood of a return on the investment.

In short, what is important is not so much a change of policy or principles as to change the way that the Republican party does business.

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