Whenever one of our major political parties loses an election - usually involving the presidency, but also House of Congress, governorships, and even state legislatures - there's often a proctological exam of sorts.
What went wrong? Why did we lose? What's our path forward back to victory?
This was last done by the GOP in 2012. It was not well received, and largely ignored. Many of us were erroneously led to believe by conservative pundits and pollsters that Romney was a virtual lock to win that election.
|RNC Headquarters, Washington, DC|
Of course, Romney lost, and it wasn't even close. Turns out working class voters, despite their animosity towards President Obama, weren't keen to show up and support a former hedge fund manager with an garage elevator for his cars in his ritzy La Jolla garage who strapped the family dog to the top of his car for family vacations. Never mind the businesses he shuttered, reorganized and sold off after destroying a few hundred if not thousands of jobs. Nothing he's done since has endeared him to rank and file Republicans. Maybe in Utah.
Elections are organic. Presidential candidates emerge that reflect a reaction to the incumbent, or past presidency. Trump was the antidote to diffident and condescending Barack Obama; "Sleepy Joe" turned out to be attractive to suburban voters tired of an erratic and combative Donald Trump. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he has begun to turn the Republican Party into a multi-ethnic working class party. That's a pretty good path forward, even if it came at the cost of losing elitist college-educated voters.
Republicans do not need a navel-gazing commission to figure out why they lost this time. Yes, election irregularities, no matter the media's effort to sweep them under the rug, were a significant factor. But like most every other election, this one was personality, not agenda driven. It really was all about Trump. A few of us said months ago that if Trump made this about himself, he would likely lose; if he could make it about a choice, he would likely win.
He chose to make it about himself.
There is a path forward for Republicans, but it won't be easy; they must return to an agenda-driven, not personality driven party. Think Contract With America, which resulted, in 1994, in the first Republican House majority in 40 years (it wasn't because people were enamored with Newt Gingrich). Think of Ronald Reagan's "Are You Better Off" debate performance with incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980. Even George H. W. Bush used the crime issue in 1988 to secure the presidency after trailing, in some polls, by 17 percent just 4 months prior to the election.
As an emerging multi-ethnic working class party, Republicans are poised to seize an aspirational agenda that should grow their ranks among minority Americans looking to embrace the American dream. Embracing free enterprise instead of government as the solution to create good-paying jobs; supporting community policing strategies like those successfully implemented in Camden, New Jersey, to ensure safe streets; and embracing school choice, charter schools, and other reforms to offer struggling minority communities a way forward out of poverty. Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) won a close race in 2018 with a larger-than-expected level of support from African American mothers who embraced his education agenda.
And perhaps for the first time in awhile, international relations may be poised to return to center stage. China is more than an adversary - they mean to dominate us. Thank President Trump and Mike Pompeo, his estimable Secretary of State and likely presidential candidate, for tearing the mask of China's real intentions. China is likely to expand it's hegemonic activity in dangerous ways during a Biden/Harris Administration, and don't forget Iran's ambitions in the Middle East.
But here's the real key. Republicans may have not the White House (barely) in 2020, but the won seats in the House, almost kept the US Senate despite having to defend nearly twice as many seats as Democrats, and maintained control of governorships and legislatures across the US. They didn't lose a single incumbent US House Republican, and captured both Houses of the New Hampshire legislature. They even gained a seat in Pennsylvania's state senate, and might gain a second.
That suggests that the Republican's path forward won't emanate from Washington, but from the grassroots. It also suggests that the Republican Party should do something big and symbolic to get things started. While largely cosmetic, it would be a huge signal that they're serious.
Move the Republican National Committee away from Washington, DC to somewhere in real America.
I almost don't care where. Perhaps Dallas. Maybe St. Louis, or Denver. I'm okay with Cleveland, Kansas City, or perhaps Nashville. Put the party leadership and apparatus where the people are. Divorce from the Washington lobbyists and monied interests that dominate our nation's capitol and the party apparatus. Reconnect the GOP, at all levels, with working families in real towns, cities, and states that embody and personify the values and principles Republicans are supposed to represent. That's not Washington, DC or any of its deep blue suburbs.
Yes, it is symbolic. Yes, it might make it more challenging to reach the corporate media that remains ensconced in Washington and New York (another problem - maybe focus on major regional media, instead of hostile Acela corridor activists?). Technology and the pandemic have made physical location less important. But it would clearly suggest to Americans that the GOP is the party of America, while Democrats are the party of Washington elites. Which they are.
There really is no reason why the GOP cannot build a national technological and grassroots juggernaut outside of our Nation's capital. Let the House and Senate GOP campaign committees stay in DC - they serve incumbents primarily, after all. But unmoor the RNC from the grips of Washington, DC to connect with real America.