Political armchair quarterbacks of every sort continue to offer their takes on why Mitt Romney lost the election and how prognosticators like Barone and Rove could have gotten it so wrong.
Few would argue that Republicans had the advantage in this election given the state of the economy, the national debt, the uncertainty facing businesses, the questionable foreign policy decisions, the unemployment rate, and on and on we could go. A one term proposition was what President Obama deserved.
Some would have you believe that Republicans just don’t get it, that they are a bunch of old, crusty white guys with outdated ideals whose message simply doesn’t resonate with today’s America.
I don’t buy that. The package may be a factor but the core beliefs are still viable.
More is at play here than most would honestly like to admit or care to discuss. But if conservative Americans are to once again impact the national political scene, a few observations must be addressed and soon.
Pass the Baton
One of the things liberals and Democrats do well is pass the baton to the younger generation. They are not scared to empower up-and-comers within their party. Republicans must learn to do the same.
Conservatives tend to allow their honor and respect for those who came before to inhibit them from recognizing and elevating new leaders. Youth should not be despised; rather it should be appreciated and cultivated within the GOP ranks.
And yes, empowering younger leaders does mean accepting and welcoming diversity, not that most conservatives have an issue with that, but it is a narrative liberals and the national media continue to use to oppress Republican supporters.
A good example of this reluctance to advance the younger generation can be found in many churches across the South with the music wars that have raged for years. On one side are those who have to have their hymnbooks and nothing more than a piano or an organ. On the other are those who want a little more – a screen, a guitar or two, and, God forbid, a drum. Instead of seeking a positive accommodation for all involved (since after all worship should be about God and not personal preferences) many of the older generation dig in their heels and refuse to listen and resolve the issue with a heart of understanding. It is their way or the highway. And so, the younger generation slides away from the church.
Republicans have seen young people drift away. Conservatives cannot afford to promote a torchbearer that is culturally and generationally irrelevant in 2016. Heck, the same can be said of down ticket races from the Senate to Congress to state and local elections even now.
It is time to pass the baton and conservatives must recognize that if there is going to be a tomorrow for the Republican Party in America, tomorrow starts today. After all, it’s about the future of our republic, not just our personal preferences.
Focus on Policy, not Social Issues
As America continues to shift left, conservatives must recognize that they are losing political battles over social issues that are not likely to change even if they controlled every level of government.
Case in point is the Personhood Amendment soundly defeated in the most conservative state in the union, Mississippi. In the 2011 election where Republicans finally captured the advantage in the state legislature and won seven of eight statewide offices, essentially outlawing abortion met its demise.
That doesn’t mean Mississippi isn’t a conservative state and it doesn’t mean that Mississippians do not oppose killing fetuses. It means that voters are more focused on getting government working for them than debating social issues that turn the attention away from principled governance.
Fiscal sanity, employment, debt, defense and other policy initiatives are the political narratives conservatives should be centered on going forward.
No, conservatives shouldn’t stop abhorring abortion or shy away from protecting marriage and promoting Christian values; it just means allowing the churches and religious organizations to take the lead on these issues as they should while focusing governmental energy on resolving the economic crisis and reaffirming America’s greatness in the world.
It is not placing politics over principles; principles should always trump politics. However, there must be a strategy aimed at making the most impact, understanding that if conservatives cannot win and win the majority, the values we seek to revive simply will not happen.
Republicans will not win with a narrative that is so hotly contested and that is routinely used to divide the American people by the nation’s talking heads – just ask Todd Akin in Missouri.
Conservatives must major on policy, focus on practical, principled governance, and keep social issues at bay for the time being.
Voting Rights Act
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act must be challenged if conservative states like Mississippi are going to be able to ensure fair, honest elections while implementing Voter ID laws called for by the vast majority of citizens. Voter fraud is real despite the liberals’ distraction of voter suppression.
Section 5 is the portion of the law that requires states with a history of voter discrimination (mostly in the South) to seek approval for any changes to their election laws from the Department of Justice. And as we have seen under the Obama administration via Attorney General Eric Holder, changes that mirror the will of the people in these conservative states are not likely to see such approval.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to take up Section 5’s constitutionality. The case – Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder – will be deliberated in the coming months with a decision expected by June.
Return to Middle America
One of the most glaring realities following both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections is that conservatives living in the urban centers of America – New York, Pennsylvania, California and the like – as well as in swing states like Ohio continue to have their votes overshadowed by the majority of liberals in these areas. The sheer volume of people elevates their representation in Congress thus boosting their Electoral College numbers making it increasingly difficult for a conservative Republican to win the presidency.
The message of getting off the government dole does not resonate well in these areas and the only answer is for concerned conservatives in urban American to hit the beast where it hurts – in the pocketbook.
Conservatives across the country must recognize their strategic importance to the future of this nation and seek a return to middle America, moving away from these urban centers and back into small town USA where their values and ideals are complimented, not ridiculed.
Stop pouring money into these urban centers. Reinvest yourself and your resources into America’s heartland and away from the liberal east and west coasts.
This sounds like a farfetched notion, but the conversation is one conservatives must have if their voice is to be heard on the national scene. Middle America, small town USA must attract these likeminded conservatives and help shift America’s power base away from Broadway and Hollywood.
Unfortunately the result of an effort aimed at a return to middle America will not show a benefit at least until the next census in 2020 but the endeavor is one that must be undertaken now in hopes of paying dividends not necessarily for our generation but our posterity.
A Way Forward
These observations are only a beginning; many others have and will offer their perspectives in the weeks and months ahead. Conservatives do have a way forward but open, innovative dialogue is a must even if it makes you uncomfortable.
The answer is not to shrink from the challenges ahead. Resolve is needed and required.