I'm not a Republican (or a conservative), so I won't be surprised if the Grand Old Party ignores my advice. However, a well-functioning democracy requires at least two counterbalancing political parties able to compete with each other for the hearts and minds of the masses. Tuesday's election results show that one party -- the Republicans -- may be lurching toward irrelevancy and national oblivion. The Republicans have been brutalized in the last two national election cycles and, if the reporting on party machinations is correct, seems determined to repeat the mistakes that have led it to significant electoral defeats. If the Republicans double down on the kinds of conservative-led simple-minded, narrow-issue, intellectual hatred that has led the party to great success during the last generation or so, then it will become a largely impotent regional party teetering on oblivion. The party must take three steps to avoid going the way of the Whigs.
First, recapture the moderates. For all the talk about the Democrats' problems in the South, Republican performance in the northeastern part of the country is an embarrassment to a party that purports to be national in reach. Chris Shays' loss on Tuesday marks the end of an era in Republican politics. He was the last Republican to represent a New England district. Even when Republicans were dominating the south, there were still Democrats in the house from that region. Add to that the beating moderates have been taking for years at the hands of conservatives, it's no wonder many moderate voters have decided to join up with the Democrats. Delusional pronouncements from Republican leaders notwithstanding, America is not a center-right country -- to believe otherwise shows contempt for the mounting evidence to the contrary. If the GOP doesn't recapture moderates, then it can forget ever being competitive with the Democrats.
Second, acknowledge that the arc of ideology is bending away from conservatism. All ideologies have their day and recent elections have shown that conservatism is approaching dusk. It will rise again, just as liberalism is on the upswing now after years of decline. Just not now. The current crop of conservatives who argue that the party is losing because it is not conservative enough are in desperate need of push back from party moderates and liberals. The conservative takeover of the party brought it great success. That same movement has run its course and is turning off voters left and right. An ideology based on saying "no" to helping people and "yes" to war, wasteful spending, and expanding the gap between rich and poor will continue its downward trajectory.
Third, embrace diversity. Did you see the crowd shots during speeches at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul? It resembled an America that no longer exists. The Census Bureau issued a press release in the summer of 2008 that projects that by 2042, the United States will no longer be a White majority nation. Of course, you would have never known that by watching the Republican National Convention. African Americans, for example, comprised just 1.5 percent of the delegates to this years convention. Relying on a graying base of a shrinking demographic to win elections is a losing proposition when the other side is collecting virtually all of the groups that are growing. President-elect Barack Obama won 95 percent of the Black vote. That's not a big surprise, but a four-point increase from Vice President Al Gore's 2000 performance. Moreover, Obama's larger share came from a larger pie, as total Black turnout grew all over the country. GOP performance with Latino voters is growing worse by the day as well. Obama won 67 percent of the largest and fastest growing minority group in the country. That's a 14 percent jump from 2004. The Republican's deport, arrest, and build a wall approach to illegal immigration has inflamed Latino voters, many of whom voted GOP on cultural issues. If they GOP doesn't get serious about diversity, then it will have to write off sections of the far west. How can a party win a national election if it's not competitive in the northeast, mid-Atlantic, or far west?
The Republicans have a bigger problem than they think. Continuing with the same ideological leadership and ignoring the demographic reality facing the country will only make things worse. While I do take a bit of a perverse delight in the current state of the party, I also understand that two parties competing for the center of the electorate is, ultimately, better for the country than one. The GOP is so far out of the mainstream and riven with delusion about how they got there that a reality is necessary. Let's hope someone is listening.
Michael K. Fauntroy is a professor, author, and, a political commentator whose most recent television appearances include the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and the Early Show. He blogs at MichaelFauntroy.com.