Four months after Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama, the Republican National Committee released an autopsy report to prevent a similar blow out in 2016. Their recommendations?
“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.”
“We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
The party needed to shed its identity as “scary,” “ narrow minded” and filled with “stuffy old men.”
Today, most of that report’s authors have endorsed a 70-year-old loudmouth billionaire who has made a mockery of everything they proposed. After labeling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, his entire post-primary Hispanic outreach was a photo of the candidate grinning over a taco salad.
Trump built a bridge to another minority community by pointing to an audience member and saying, "Look at my African American over here.” He praised another black man for beating up a Caucasian at one of his rallies.
The GOP nominee has criticized POWs because “I like people who weren’t captured,” claimed a confrontational female journalist had “blood coming out of her wherever,” and bragged that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Trump’s offensive, false and downright bizarre statements could fill a midsize bookmobile, so I won’t list them all here. But when you add his promises to harshly restrict trade, order the military to commit war crimes, and his casual contempt for anything resembling “family values,” it shows that Trumpism has finally destroyed Reagan’s three-legged stool. Trump hasn’t simply sawed down a leg or two; he has simultaneously tossed defense conservatives, fiscal conservatives and social conservatives into the wood chipper.
The Republican Party has been destroyed and remade in The Donald’s image.
The rightly reviled GOP establishment should have known that a reckoning was coming. Decades of broken promises and crony kickbacks had to come with an electoral price. But instead of a needed restoration of first principles, the base decided to burn it all down, immolating corruption and classical liberalism alike. Much of the conservative movement has outlived its usefulness, but Trumpism isn’t a case of free-market “creative destruction.” It’s just nihilism with nothing to take its place except a dyed comb-over, a fake tan and tiny hands.
As damaging as President Obama and the Clintons have been, they were never able to infiltrate conservatism and tear it down from inside. With Trump, one big-government con man was able to slap an R at the end of his name and leave rubble in his wake.
Breaking stuff is easy, but building a national party takes a lot of hard work. Despite the tacky skyscrapers bearing Trump’s name, he has trouble staffing a campaign, let alone building an infrastructure that will turn out candidates, volunteers and voters in precincts around the country.
It will take an army of forward-thinking leaders to build a party that welcomes conservatives — an army motivated by clear ideas and concrete action. Unlike the recommendations of the 2012 autopsy, what’s needed is not a Beltway-centric push for round 932 of comprehensive immigration reform, but a full-spectrum return to the small-R republican ideals this nation was founded upon.
After spending the past few years groveling to out-of-touch money men and now spit-shining Trump’s Ferragamos, the GOP leadership is simply not up to the job. Reince Priebus et al. have botched the best chance to elect a conservative president in a generation and have shown none of the skills needed to rebuild a functional party.
New leaders must take their place and clean out the Augean stables of the RNC. Their first initiative should be to patch up relations with their enraged base. Admit that they completely failed on comprehensive immigration reform, repeatedly lied about it to get elected, and apologize with sincere words and potent deeds. This requires a repudiation of blanket amnesty and anything that smacks of open borders.
Illegal immigration certainly isn’t the biggest issue facing the country, but it is a proxy for the chasm dividing Beltway elites from everyone else. This chasm is what fueled the Trump candidacy. Until the GOP proves its honorable intentions on immigration, forget trying to convince the base on anything. Even with a public about-face, it will take a few election cycles before Republican voters trust their party on the issue. Nevertheless, repentance must precede redemption.
Sen. John McCain was re-elected on his promise to “complete the danged fence” just as Trump won the nomination by promising to “build a great wall.” Neither structure will stop illegal immigration, but a concerted effort at border enforcement is necessary before immigration reform is acceptable to most voters.
Then begins the reform of the broader party agenda. It can’t be a list of Democratic-light policies; Republicans’ slouch toward liberalism is what made the base so furious.
The party can assuage middle-class economic anxieties by ending the self-serving racket that is the D.C./Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce power structure. End foolishness such as the Export-Import Bank, which exists only to serve big business. Instead of fretting over the tax rates of CEOs, eliminate loopholes and lobbyist-crafted rules that advantage the monied class. Hack through Washington red tape that interferes with charities, non-profits, religious organizations and small businesses, just as conservative governors are doing across the country.
Stop trying to slow the growth of the government and shrink it outright. Our $19.4 trillion national debt can’t be fixed with half measures.
Most Republicans and many independents don’t want government to do a better job of taking care of them; they want to take care of themselves. If Washington stops meddling in the inconsequential, it can focus on those few things that only the federal government can do, such as protecting the country.
Accomplishing these recommendations is far from easy. Not only will it require years of hard work, it also will require elites to place their fellow Americans’ welfare above their own vanity, power and quarterly dividend statements. This cannot be a temporary pose to trick the rubes but a change in heart, mind and direction. The new party bosses must admit that much of the work they do in Washington is either useless or downright counterproductive.
If the GOP isn’t willing to make these changes, a new party will have to rise from its ashes.