Well, the polls turned out to be right: Barack Obama defeated John McCain, and will be our 44th President. Democrats increased their margins in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as in the Iowa Legislature. It is safe to say that times are tough for the GOP.
As Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media spend the next two months eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Obama Administration in Washington, we Republicans are left wondering where we went wrong, and how to fix things. In short, we must figure out how to start winning elections again.
Two things are predictable: first, the conservative wing of the party is going attribute the losses this past Tuesday, and two years ago, to an alleged shift to the center. By contrast, the moderate wing of the party is going to allege that the party’s losses are attributable to an extreme move to the right. Second, there will be a call for new leadership within the party. Nationally, there will be at least two changes: President Bush will be leaving office, and a new chairman will be elected for the Republican National Committee. At the state level, the Republican Party of Iowa will have a new chairman, and House Republicans may have a new leader this coming session.
Discussions of the party platform and leadership shake-ups are healthy for any party. But in order for the Republican Party to become a governing party again, we have to go beyond merely being palatable to the party’s moderates and conservatives. We also have to go beyond a few leadership changes.
First, we have to show the American people that we are able to govern again. This will be challenging, but not impossible. Showing that we can govern means embracing pragmatism over ideology. Showing that we can govern means putting the people before ourselves.
Second, we have to reach out to more voters. This means moving beyond our traditional rural southern and Midwestern base. We need young people; Latinos; suburbanites; and people living in the Western part of the country. People in these demographic groups are the future of the country, and we need to work hard to bring them over from the Democratic camp.
Third, we have to change our election strategies. Regardless of whether we like the idea that people can vote early or that absentee ballots are being sent out in September, this is how the game is now being played, and thus far, the Democrats have been kicking our asses. Several State Legislative candidates won on election day, only to find out that they lost too many votes in the 24 days leading up to the election to either retain or pick up a seat.
Fourth, we have to be an aggressive and relentless opposition. Right now, the Democrats control the whole government—if anything bad happens, it is their fault. There are those within the Democratic Party that understand this, and are trying to lower expectations on Obama and company. Let’s not let them get away with it.
Finally, each of us should think about what we can do for the party. Whether it is getting involved in your local Republican party, running for a state or local office, working on a campaign, or just talking with the misguided souls that are about to regret their vote this past Tuesday when April 15 rolls around, we all can and should do our part to bring the party back to where we know it should be.
By W. Sherman