Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Post-election Republicans: What now?

To be honest, I was surprised when Brad asked me to write "the conservative's take on Obama's victory." It is one thing to be the self-appointed in house-conservative, but quite another thing to be "representing" the American conservatives, especially when you are not a US citizen in the first place! Still, let me take a stab on it.

It cannot be denied that many of us were shell-shocked, seeing that the conservative projections went wrong. Most famously, of course, is Karl Rove's meltdown on Fox News:

Mitt Romney was so confident that he prepared only a victory speech.Of course, once he lost, the circular firing squad began. First, Romney's entire campaigning strategy was questioned, with many alleged improprieties exposed. The campaign was apparently "flying blind" during the election thanks to a botched vote-tracker system and an ineffective up get-out-to vote operation.

Despite those problems, however, one thing is clear: unlike Paul Krugman's boasts, the Democrats did not win an overwhelming victory (I can dissect so many problems with Krugman's arguments, but I better waste my time on something more productive and constructive, like playing Civilization IV or Ragnarok Online). Obama was elected on a very small margin of victory almost equal to Bush in 2004 (Bush won with 3,012,171 votes in 2004 while Obama won with 3,010,363 -- that number might change, though, as votes are finalized).

Moreover, while the Democrats picked up several seats in the Senate, the Republicans still control the House. The Democrats also only managed to win the Senate because some of the Republican candidates simply self-destructed, notably Akin and Mourdock. The Republicans also hold 30 gubernatorial mansions and almost wiped the Democrats out in the South.

Considering the fact that Obama is an incumbent (and by being an incumbent, he has the bully pulpit and thus starts with many advantages) and has a subservient media beholden to him, covering up all his missteps (Bush would have been tarred and feathered over the unmanned drones, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the entire Libya and Benghazi fiasco) and ready to pounce on every Republican's missteps, it is actually a surprise that his margin of victory was not larger.

Still, a win is a win, and the Republicans and conservatives have to adjust their strategies.

So what the Republicans should do?

First, follow what Jennifer Rubin advocates: broaden the appeal to minorities, such as African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans. A point that's often ignored is that there are many minority supporters of social and fiscal conservativism. George W. Bush tried to broaden the base even further, and it is a shame that the Republican Party didn't follow through; instead, the issue of immigration reform became an albatross on the Republicans' neck. While there are concerns that embracing immigration reforms would alienate Republicans' supporters, I think these concerns are overblown, especially if the immigration issue is tackled carefully.

Second, prevent Obama from controlling the narrative, a task that is hard due to the MSM's bias for the Democrats. Boehner clearly realized that, and thus avoided the "one term president" remark. Instead, he extended an olive branch. Republicans ought to compromise when necessary, but also stick to their guns, notably on budgetary issues, unless the national Republicans wish to share the Californian Republicans' fate, or worse, contribute to something akin to California's disastrous blue model.

Third, avoid self-destructive primaries and do not back undisciplined candidates. While primaries are important, the Republicans need to remember and obey Reagan's Eleventh Amendment. After he won the Republican nomination, Romney could not easily move back to center because he was pushed too far to the extreme. This in the end simply became fodder for the Democrats' firing squad. It would also be wise for the candidates to be better prepared. Governor Perry's disastrous performance, for instance, could have been avoided.

Fourth: mobilize the base effectively. While money helps and is always nice to have, this election shows that base-mobilization remains critical. Republican must find ways to reenergize the base.

Fifth, and actually more importantly, the Republicans also have to help the Tea Party to mature as a political force in American elections and governing. The Tea Party has received a bad rap in the past few elections due to their predilection of supporting bad candidates. And, of course, it has been unfairly caricaturized and stereotyped by the media. For now, this is a flawed asset for the Republicans, but has to be cultivated and reformed nevertheless, because Tea Partiers have fire in their bellies and the enthusiasm to vote.

What should we expect?

Be ready for a really rough second term. Do not expect the Democrats to steamroll the Republicans. The Republicans lost, but only barely. They still control the House. Moreover, with all the vitriol during the election, it would be stupid to expect the Republicans to simply roll over and play dead. The base is outraged and unwilling to compromise, and the Republican leaders will listen to the base.

The market realized that, and thus the Dow plunged last Wednesday. There are expectations that it will be much harder for the two parties to compromise for the next four years.

Therefore, unless Obama wishes his second term to be even more difficult than his first, he should learn to compromise and engage the Republicans.

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