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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Creative Destruction: The Republican Party’s future

Published: November 14, 2008
Section: Opinions

After an unpopular presidential and congressional legacy has damaged the reputation of the Republican Party, the GOP now stands at a vital crossroads in determining its future. The Republicans must now decide how they will carry forward the Republican Party in the short run and in the long run.

First they must determine how they will proceed in the short run in how they will deal with the next president and the overwhelmingly Democratic congress.

Should the GOP go on a permanent attack mode and criticize the Democrats and the President at every chance so as to better energize conservatives for 2010 or should they work hand in hand with the Democrats and the President to create an atmosphere of bi-partisanship to improve the image of the GOP?

They then have to decide how they will handle the long term image of the GOP and what issues they should continue to emphasize and what issues they should relax from. Should the Republicans still lean hard on energizing, yet divisive, social issues, or have those issues run their course and should the GOP try to emphasize issues in other areas? How the Republicans answer these questions will shape the future of the GOP for years to come?

Over the next few years, Republicans are going to have to strike a proper balance between criticism and cooperation when it comes to the Democrats.

Senator McCain’s concession speech set the stage for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans for the next few years; however, this does not mean the Republicans should shy away from attacking President-Elect Obama and the Democrats when the Republicans believe that they are in the wrong.

The GOP should be careful about overly criticizing the Democrats lest they should worsen their negative image from this past election. President-Elect Obama set himself up for some well deserved criticism for his decision not to attend the Global Economic summit where the leaders of several nations are meeting to discuss how to proceed with the handling of the Economic crisis.

Currently it looks like the summit will yield little because the leaders of the other nations will be resistant to working out a deal with an outgoing administration. Who they really want to talk to is President-Elect Obama, if he were to attend the summit there would be a greater chance that progress would be made to an international consensus.

President Obama has just spent the last two years running for this office, convincing us that he has the experience to govern, and then all of a sudden when a summit addressing what will be the single most important issue of his first year as president arrives, he refuses to show, and his only excuse is that he does not want to appear presumptuous fearing that he might look like he is taking control of the executive branch before his inauguration.

So he had his presidential seal ready many months before the election and now he decides to show some modesty? The real reason he is not showing is because the summit will unlikely produce strong results and he does not want his reputation to be damaged by this summit.

Republicans should use this opportunity to remind President Obama of his responsibilities. He should be attending this summit to expedite the recovery of the world markets. They could put pressure on him to attend this summit not for their benefit, but for the benefit of the American people.

However, there will also be opportunities to work with Democrats to get important legislation passed. Republicans should take advantage of these opportunities. One perfect chance for bipartisan cooperation will be with the Healthy Americans Act.

The Healthy Americans Act is a Healthcare bill written by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden that will provide universal coverage while still maintaining mostly privatized healthcare. It gives the left mandated universal coverage and a progressive payment plan while it gives the right individual based coverage and cost neutrality.

While Republicans are not going to approve of all of the aspects of the bill, they should still get behind it because it achieves universal coverage of healthcare without overstepping the line into socialism. Getting behind this bill would be a good sign of cooperation by the GOP. The GOP should not be afraid to keep the Democrats in check, but they should also cooperate with them when it is appropriate.After this election, the GOP needs to rework their message and decide which issues they should focus on. While they should not completely put the social conservative issues on the backburner, the GOP should put less emphasis on them.

Instead, the Republicans should be putting more emphasis on their economic ideas and they should also go back to their ideals of small government. Economics has always been a weakness of the GOP and in this latest election cycle they handled the economic crisis very poorly when instead of addressing the crisis head on, they simply tried to turn the issues to character.

When Obama needed to improve his weakness in foreign policy he went after McCain on foreign policy, he did not try to divert attention to other issues, and by the end of the summer he was gaining significant ground in polls when it came to foreign policy. Obama also dug in on some issues that are usually evangelical rallying points. Obama showed himself as a man of faith and refused to get behind gay marriage during the campaign. His moderation on these issues forced McCain to have to fight for support from evangelicals, a fight that Republicans in the past did not even have to consider. Republicans should likewise focus on their weakness in order to gain ground on independents and moderates. Republicans need to better explain their economic positions because many of them defy conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom states that outsourcing jobs leaves people in the United States with fewer jobs and that lowering taxes for the rich puts more of a burden on the poor, however the exact opposite is true in both these cases.

This was the case this past election cycle when most Americans blamed the financial crisis on deregulation and the Republicans. In truth, much of the blame for the crisis lay in the Government’s intervention into the mortgage market with its support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact it was the Democrats who fought against regulating these mortgage monsters, not the Republicans.

Republicans need to get out and explain these issues thoroughly and simply so that the American people understand that Republicans are not fighting for just big business and the rich, they are fighting for true progress. Republicans need to put more faith on the American people and fight to make them understand their economic positions more clearly. Doing this would put the Democrats on the defense just as the Republicans were for the past two years. This would not only allow conservatives to regain ground in Washington, but it would also lend less credence to the culture wars, which have proven to be truly dividing.

The GOP has much work to do before they can expect to regain the ground they lost in these past two elections. They need to keep the Democrats in check by any means necessary, but they should also cooperate with them when it is appropriate.

The GOP also needs to refocus its message from the divisive social issues to more sensible economic issues such as free trade and small government. If the GOP keeps its head it should be able to recover from this political sweep within the next four years, hopefully.