By Ben Cohen: It's fairly clear that the Republican Party is in a state of serious disarray after getting hammered in the general election. The once unified party has begun to crack at the seams, fracturing over issues that were once untouchable cornerstones of Republican ideology. Up for grabs are women's rights, the environment, foreign policy and now even taxation. Which strand of Republicanism will define the future of the party? Will the hardliners - the libertarians, religious fundamentalists, and tea party activist win the day, or will moderates find a way to bring the party under control and present a more sensible brand of conservatism going forward?
One thing is clear - what they are doing now is not working, and it's going to get much, much worse. They are facing a demographic nightmare and an evolving public consciousness that free market capitalism and tax cuts are not the solution to the nation's woes. Republicans are going to have to think out of the box if they want long term electoral success, and many of their ideas won't be popular.
While the Left should be happy that the Republicans are a mess, it isn't good for democracy to have one party so removed from reality that there is little point engaging with them. So here are some suggestions for top brass at GOP central - a five step program to get their house in order and get back to being relevant in a rapidly changing country that is leaving them behind. The steps we've outlined won't be easy to implement, but they are necessary if the Republicans want to attract top talent and capture the imagination of the public:
1. Publicly disown prominent media blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, Mark Levin, and Sean Hannity. Moderate Republicans need to take control of the GOP messaging quickly and aggressively, and that begins with creating a very visible rift between the party and the Fox News propaganda complex. This will be extremely painful to do and the backlash will be vicious and prolonged. But Limbaugh et al. are paper tigers with no substance behind their rhetoric and Republicans will have to gamble that in the long term, honesty and reality will win. As Andrew Sullivan stated on Bill Maher's 'Real Time', "The first conservative who will be the future of that [Republican] party will be the one who says Rush Limbaugh does not speak for the Republican Party, he is a poison on the discourse.....You see the media industrial complex on the right is so lucrative, they don’t want to lose him and it is now controlling a political party. That has to be severed, Fox News has to be demonized, has to be cut off.”
2. Join the President in opposing Citizens United. There are already signs that Republicans are aware of just how corrosive and dangerous the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was, and there needs to be a unified effort to reverse the decision and ban unlimited outside funding of political campaigns. As Jonathan Chait wrote during the Republican primary:
The Republican elite is justifiably terrified at the prospect of Newt Gingrich capturing the nomination. Gingrich, as I’ve argued, is riding the wave of revulsion and contempt for President Obama that this same Establishment has stoked for three years. But his campaign is also blowback to the party Establishment in another, more mechanical way. His campaign is surviving entirely as a result of the Citizens United ruling, decried by liberals and celebrated by conservatives, which allows unlimited campaign expenditures, as long as they’re not coordinated with campaigns.
Unlimited funding means that corporate interests will almost always win, or at least drag politics in a direction that works against the long term interests of the Republican Party. The GOP needs to change its economic platform if it wants to remain relevant because the era of Romney style vulture capitalism is getting increasingly harder to sell.
3. Use traditional Republicanism as the basis for a new economic ideology and completely disown Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. Traditional conservatism doesn't bow to markets - it believes in small government, but also believes in curtailing the power of big business. There is a Libertarian dictatorship within the Republican Party, and it has stifled debate making change almost impossible. Market fanaticism has ensured the party has had no new ideas in over 30 years, and this cannot go on. There are Republicans not wedded to the dictates of deregulated markets and they need to be given a more prominent platform. Joe Scarborough represents a type of conservatism that has been long dead in America and has the guts to actually tell the truth about who owns the party. We need to hear more from people like him.
4. Stop lying. The Republican Party has a terrible track record with telling the truth. Mitt Romney's run at the Presidency exemplified modern Republican politics perfectly - it was based on lying about literally everything, from abortion to taxation and global warming. And in particular, Republicans have lied about President Obama. The Republicans have waged a completely dishonest campaign against the President, promoting an insidious mythology that he is some sort of closet communist Muslim who hates America. There are many, many issues that the President can be criticized for - drone killings, the NDAA, wire tapping, his ties to Wall st etc etc - all issues that true conservatives should be seriously concerned about. Instead, the Republican Party has created a make believe Obama and attacked that making them look idiotic in the process.
5. Embrace environmentalism. This could be key to redefining the Republican Party. It sounds far fetched and so contradictory to current Republicanism that dismisses global warming and regards environmentalists as subhuman (Ann Coulter once said, "The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it's yours"), but it could capture an entire new demographic. There are non political Evangelical Christians who would line up behind them if they got serious, activists who would jump ship immediately if the Republicans outflanked the Democrats, and a new generation that is disenchanted with both parties inactivity on the issue.
Do you have any suggestions for the Grand Old Party, or do you think it best they stay confused and politically neutered? Comment below and we'll post the best suggestions!