Trying to make the GOP relevent again

30 Nov

Mike Murphy writes for Time.

His thoughts on the Republican Party got this going.

Here’s a heavily abridged and “added to” version of what he has to say:

Republicans cherish the free market.

So now might be the right time to start listening to it.

The party has lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.

That is 20 years of “no, thanks” from the American people.

The worst error politicians can make is to spin themselves and it’s time for the GOP to face the hard truth, no matter how painful.

The Republican brand is dying, many of its strategists are incompetent, and they still design campaigns to prevail in the America of 25 years ago.
(Actually we think they still do things the way the GOP did 60 years ago.)

Identifying the problem is easy.

The Republican challenge is not about better voter-turnout software; it is about policy.

The party turns off Latinos, the fastest-growing voter group in the country, with its opposition to immigration reform that offers a path to citizenship.

The party turns off younger voters, who are much more secular than their parents, with its opposition to same-sex marriage and scolding tone on social issues.

The Republicans have lost much of the party’s once solid connection to the middle class on kitchen-table economic issues.

A debate now rages inside the GOP between the purists, who will as always call for more purity, and the pragmatists, who demand modernization.

The press has mislabeled this as a battle between “moderate” and “right-wing” Republicans.

In fact, the fight is simply over a choice between two definitions of conservatism.

One offers firm opposition to emerging social trends like multiculturalism and secularization.

The alternative is a more secular and modernizing conservatism that ignores most social issues to focus on creating a wide-open opportunity society that promises greater economic freedom and the reform of government institutions like schools that are vital to upward social mobility.

The battle lines are drawn.

While the arithmetic is obvious, teaching basic math to a political party is no simple matter.

The lesson usually requires the heavy hammer of multiple crushing and painful election defeats.

Whether the GOP has learned its lesson yet is the big question.

The party’s biggest funders, mostly hardheaded business types, are in shock and disbelief after providing a virtual blank check to a GOP that promised much and delivered very little.

Among this group, there is much frustration with the party’s perceived focus on divisive social issues and even some dark talk of a donor strike.

There is another, often ignored, GOP weakness: Republicans tend to be more competitive in off-year elections, when voter turnout is far lower than in presidential years and the electorate is therefore older, whiter and more Republican.

It is possible for the GOP to do well in 2014, especially because so many vulnerable Democratic Senators in GOP-leaning states face re-election.

But like the Republican off-year successes of 2010, a few non-presidential-year victories would also provide the GOP with a highly misleading dead-cat bounce.

The electorate in 2016 will look much like the electorate this year, but even more Hispanic and more challenging for the GOP.

And the overall demographic trends that are burying the current Republican coalition will only become stronger with time.

How will this epic battle end?

A stalemate comes to mind if the entrenched GOP members don’t wake up and see the times they are a-changing.

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