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Daryl Rowland Headshot

Taking the GOP From Not-So-Good to Great

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Fix the product and the messaging fixes itself

The issue with the current Republican Party is not a superficial messaging problem, nor is it about a particular policy position such as immigration or gay marriage. It's about the larger product itself. The concept of the party is murky and the murky messaging follows.

The internecine war we are now witnessing is really the inevitable of unraveling of a longstanding misalliance that somehow stitched together pro-business, fiscal conservatives and libertarians with religious fundamentalists, bigots and xenophobes.

The democrats once suffered the same problem with their absurd misalliance of liberal Northeasterners with Southern bigots who were willing to sign on with city sinners as long as they weren't the party of Lincoln.

Fortunately for the Democrats, shrewd Republican operatives like Lee Atwater managed to peel the Southern bigots away from the Democrats, using religion and other social issues as the wedge. Once the party was rid of this absurd historical hangover, it actually created greater party unity and a cleaner concept of what the party stood for. In short, it was a blessing.

This potential moment of cleansing can have the same kind of positive impact for the Republicans.

Many of the current issues that dog the party are in fact offshoots of this fundamental misalliance. Any objective observer can see that the libertarian/pro-business side of the party is the party that can effectively challenge the Democratic party and its emphasis on government intervention.

Meanwhile religious interests can go back to appealing to both parties to further their agenda. This would lessen the degree to which religion is corrupted by political pressure, as well as freeing politicians from the compromise-is-evil view that seems to have bled from religion into congressional politics, where horse-trading is necessary to move legislation forward.

The remainder of the party that are the die-hard bigots, drawn to the party by hatred and xenophobia will gradually dissipate and are too small to be catered to at the expense of the larger party.

Think of the many problems a decoupled Republican Party would shed. Fiscal conservatism/Libertarianism has no conflict with immigration reform. Libertarianism has no conflict with women's rights or contraception. Libertarianism has no conflict with gay rights or gay marriage. Libertarianism supports universal high standards for education that would respect the scientific method and a clear demarcation between theology and science.

The one apparent anomaly is the party's troubling stance on gun regulation, which polls show is at odds with most of the electorate's. On the surface, the notion of an inviolate Second Amendment right seems to perfectly suit a libertarian view.

But delve deeper and you'll find most Republicans have no issue with background checks or restrictions on assault weapons. In fact, recent poles suggest that 90% or more of Americans support moderate gun regulation. This is because all sane libertarian-leaning Americans are enlightened libertarians, meaning they accept that a modern government has many more necessary functions than it had in our simpler agrarian past. After all, most Republicans don't take issue with registering their cars, or laws that regulate driving speeds, car heights, widths or emissions. Moderate gun regulation is no more intrusive on individual liberties. It simply balances those liberties against public safety.

All Americans, regardless of party affiliation, should wish for a successful rebirth of the Republican Party. To maintain the Founding Fathers' goal of preventing tyranny, American politics must maintain at least two major parties that are strong enough to effectively vie for control. A more consistently fiscal conservative/libertarian Republican Party would be a welcome check to the Democrats tendency to potentially rely too heavily on government to solve problems.

The Republicans should seize this moment to focus on their core competency - fiscal conservatism/enlightened libertarianism -- and shed those subsidiaries that muddy their brand position and scare away moderate and independent customers.

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