The Party Postmortem

Reality bites. Never again will I try to dream that Scott Rasmussen just doesn't have it right, this time. But I have to say that I don't feel as badly as I thought I would. Call the below thoughts rationalizations, if you will. I'll call them a plan.

  • OK, let's be honest Republicans. The fact that America just elected a black president is a good thing. It is an important thing. Whether he is a closet socialist, a typical pol, or the messiah reincarnated, the bottom line is that it helps America's standing as the most forward thinking, creative society on earth. We should all be proud that the United States continues to reinvent itself and lead the world toward a better future.
  • And here's another dose of honesty. As Hugh Hewitt said often during the primaries, "John McCain is a great American, an average senator, and a lousy Republican". At the end of the day, he would have governed as a wishy-washy Republican of the Rockefeller mode - not appreciably different from how Obama will likely govern (if he has any hope of being re-elected). I never wanted McCain to represent the Republican Party and I certainly didn't want him to define the party for the next twenty years.
  • My party has been chastened. It has no other option but to reinvent itself. Although McCain ran as a "reformer", I was never confident that he knew the extent of the reform required. Technology is increasing the velocity of change and government will either reinvent itself in the next twenty years or literally be put out of business. Obama appears to be wedded to the past. Big Government, a new New Deal, government as a purveyor of services... these are arcane notions that belong to history. The future is a government that focuses on its core responsibilities and effectively oversees the private sector doing the rest. If Obama doesn't understand that, his will be a short and rocky tenure.
  • Republicans have the chance to completely reorient their party, as Reagan did in his time. The challenges today are about protecting society against dispersed and dangerous technologies, while at the same time allowing those technologies to create fantastic wealth that uplifts people's lives. We live in a world where technological singularity is very much on the horizon. What does it mean? How will we deal with it? As Newt Gingrich often says, we cannot have a government that can't count its citizens when we have businesses that can every day track millions packages worldwide in real time, and deliver the information to a tiny gadget in your pocket.
As we Republicans do our soul searching over the next eighteen months, my hope is that we think Big. The old coalition of economic, military and social conservatives is not adequate to respond to a game changing leader like Obama. We need a new coalition centered around economic growth and creative social policy. We need a leadership that is capable of communicating in a post mass media environment, to a citizenry that expects a productive and responsible government.

If Obama tries to reinstate a dependency driven government like we had in response to the Depression, or like Lyndon Johnson advocated, we should have a plan that picks up the millions of young people who have grown up in an entrepreneurial society. Everyone under forty who is more libertarian than socialist, the kids who want to be the next Silicon Valley hero... we need to have a plan to bring them into the party. Big, lumbering, and expensive government will alienate these folks very quickly. We need to be the reform party that has better answers.

Finally, there are three Republicans who will be important in the near future of the party. The first is Sarah Palin. My view is that she is not the future, but represents the past. She was a band-aid to save McCain from the base in the old coalition. She has good campaigning skills, but probably does not have the chops to be anything more than a senator. Republicans should thank her for her effort, and send her home to Alaska. (Meg Whitman is ready, willing and able to pick up the mantle.)

The second is Bobby Jindal. From my perspective, he's the type of leader we need to nurture and support. Jindal understands the inner workings of government and is smart enough to drive change. He can communicate and he has built a very good resume. We need to build a team around him and position him for the future.

The last person is Newt Gingrich. Newt is brilliant political thinker and a less than perfect politician. A group of reformist Republicans needs to coalesce around Newt and start building a movement that fundamentally rethinks how our party approaches leadership. Newt has been doing this kind of thinking over the past six years and is perfectly prepared to be the focal point for a change movement. We need to let him take the reins as a king maker, but not as a candidate.

So those are my thoughts on this day of days for our country. I wish Obama the best and hope he can be a successful president. But my bet is that he doesn't have the personal capacity to look broadly out into the future and see what "change" is really required. And if and when he can't , I want my party to be ready for the real change that is coming, no matter what the government does.


Terry Cowgill

6:45 AM

Hard to disagree with much of that.

Agree about Palin. If for some reason Ted Stevens cannot serve his next term, Palin might very well appoint herself to serve it out. But she is definitely not presidential material.

I like Jindal, too. He is very impressive and represents the future of the party.

The tricky thing will be redevloping and holding that fragile economic/social/military coalition.

The failure of the Dems to hold their coalition in 2000 probably cost them the White House with Nader in Florida.

They recovered and so will the GOP.


8:27 AM

The only thing you've written that I disagree with is the future of Sarah Palin. Of course, we already have "our" side attacking her and that is one of the fundamentally wrong things about our party -- we go after our own. I just can't believe that after the brilliant things you wrote about the core values of the Republican Party that you would or could throw Sarah Palin under the bus. She believes EXACTLY as you do. Embrace her. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Bobby Jindal!!!


8:50 AM

Well said, as always.


9:49 AM

Janice -

Sometimes tough love is required. Further, it is always dangerous to fall in love with a candidate. After all, we are talking about politics here.

And sorry. I am a true blue Republican (which, btw, used to be the color of the party, until that stupid USA Today map was published), but I turned the tv sound down everytime Palin came on. Off script, she speaks very poorly, her grammar is horrendous and she is no way shape of form ready to be leader of the free world. I may agree with her on a good deal, but I also agree with my mechanic on a lot of issues and I don't want him to be president.

Frankly, I thought I was being kind of nice to her. She could be a senator. She has very good campaigning skills. And, just to put a point on all this, she raised taxes in Alaska and raised the pay off to the citizens of that state, which was little more than raising the corporate income tax to pay for welfare. That is not my kind of Republican, just as McCain was not my kind of Republican. So please don't tell me that she "believes exactly" as I do. I'm a low tax kind of guy.


10:13 AM

Nice rebuttal, Jake. And your point is right on about raising corporate taxes in Alaska. BUT (there's the big "b")I am around self-labeled "smart" people here on campus (which only means highly educated, whatever the h@@@ that means anymore)and I have such problems with the elitism of these "educated" people who say the most incredibly stupid things (I swear I'm not calling YOU elite but only trying to clarify why some arguments rub me the wrong way). I understand your antipathy toward a person who doesn't use proper grammar so I'm not going to argue with you about it. I promise you I haven't fallen in love with Sarah Palin but I do love her. What she did to energize an, at best, anemic campaign should not be overlooked. I'm surprised that McCain received as many votes as he did and I give the credit to Sarah -- she drew huge crowds.
I can't wait to read more of your stuff. You're great!
BTW, interesting tax raises already being discussed in New York. Can you believe so many people really think Obama is going to give them tax breaks? LOL