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Can the Republican Party Be Reinvented? Talking Openly About the Elephant in the Room

04/16/2013 12:32 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

After the GOP's resounding electoral defeat in the 2012 presidential election, which blindsided elite Republican strategists, there was an outcry from media pundits, party leaders, and bloggers. The Republican Party had to reinvent itself. In the February 17, 2013 issue of the New York Times Magazine, "The Late Adopters" by Robert Draper asks if young Republican strategists can change the minds of old guard Republican leaders. The subtitle says it all: Can young Republican dissidents rise up and drag the party into the 21st century?

If the Republicans want to be known as the party of job creators, as the Bush administration called the wealthiest Americans, it can begin to walk the party's talk and possibly win back some of the voters who consider the current version of the GOP too extreme. In 2011, there were over 27 million small businesses in the United States, and over 60 percent of all new jobs are created from this sector. Even taking into account the malleable meaning of "small business" this is a significant number. Additional cuts in corporate tax rates have been increasingly ineffective, and have only served to help corporations hold local governments and communities hostage to unreasonable demands.

According to old school Republicans, business is their territory -- so a marked shift toward aggressively helping small business owners (and workers) would be a brilliant maneuver. If top level Republicans actually want to be viewed as job creators and not just believers in union-dismantling and job offshoring, they must step up and bring real, actionable, job creation ideas to the table. Both parties say they believe in more jobs and a stronger economy, and the party that does the most now will be remembered for it later.

As President Obama moves into his second term, we're still recovering from the blunders of the Bush presidency. Mr. Bush has said he'll leave it to the historians to decide whether his presidency was a success or not. Like it or not, his administration was in power during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Tower, the federal government's mismanaged response to Hurricane Katrina, and we endured the near-complete meltdown of the U.S. economy. The aftermath of what many consider the worst presidency in our history has damaged the GOP, and party leaders choosing an entire roster of out-of-touch candidates in 2012 shows the damage is ongoing.

The Republican Party desperately needs to distance itself from the extreme right voices of Limbaugh and Fox News. The ridiculous and often bizarre women-insulting diatribes Limbaugh delivers would have resulted in the firing of any other radio host, but apparently his backers are making enough money that Mr. Limbaugh is untouchable and can keep insulting and proclaiming until he retires. The mainstream approach to Fox News is to make fun of it, such as the ongoing parody on SNL, but the better approach is to call their bluff, and make them accountable for being a real news organization. With Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, and countless other methods, one can instantly verify the truth of any news organization's broadcast content. In the case of Fox News, disproving should have changed into disapproving years ago.

After the Democratic Party lost a large segment of voters in the South due to its progressive civil rights stance in the early 1960s, Republican candidates made it their business to swoop in and pick up white voters who had motivated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the "Southern Strategy" and first adopted by future Republican President Nixon in the late 1960s, it mixed Southern politics, desegregation, and racism, and leaders of the Republican Party locked up Southern voters for several decades. Using the code phrase "state's rights" gave a way for Republican candidates to oppose the federal enforcement of civil rights for blacks, while not coming out and stating their true beliefs. In the late 1970s, the Moral Majority combined Christian fundamentalism with politics, creating an organized force which dramatically changed the political landscape and propelled Ronald Reagan into the presidency. Fast forward to 2013, and the GOP has become the party of evangelical Christianity, and they have all the baggage and increasingly problematic reinvention issues organized religion is undergoing in the modern world. Added to this, the presidential election of 2012 hammered home the need to for a sustained and committed outreach to Latino, Blacks, and ethnic minority voters across the board. The time for closing doors on diversity has passed. In the 21st century, fresh perspectives and being receptive to myriad voices is what will guide the future of politics for both parties, and hopefully form a viable 3rd party.

If the Republicans nominate a young leader who delivers party messages with the voice of a statesman, and puts across party platform ideas that are inclusive and energetic, they may stand a chance in the next presidential election. But, if the strategists' hand-pick a less-than-engaging candidate who comes across as wooden and out of touch, the presidency will be a political prize that keeps getting further away. If Republicans have any chance of reinvigorating their party, it's by moving away from entrenched ideas based on faulty fundamentalism, and moving toward the realistic and humanistic goals of creating a more forward looking, inclusive, innovative, and stronger country.

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