As Republicans are hurled out of power, party leaders find themselves at a crossroads. They've finally gotten what they deserve for abandoning their core principles and priorities. Their path ahead looks daunting, murky and uncertain. So, what's their next move?
Republicans can develop fresh ways to add a populist spin on the economics of greed, the politics of fear and the culture of apathy. They can search for new and innovative methods to slander liberals and scare up votes.
They can continue seeking new ways to disguise elitist economic policies as desirable for the average Joe. (The only trouble is that prosperity hasn't trickled down to ordinary Americans all decade. And someone should remind Joe the Plumber that Democrats can't take away your wealth when you don't have any.)
The party can maintain its march of cultural ignorance and continue pursuing the aggressive and militaristic foreign policies that have exacerbated global security and weakened America's stature as a world leader.
It can continue to discard robust scientific theories such as evolution and global warming and instead appeal to irrationality and corporate fetishism.
Republicans can continue to alienate intellectuals and lambast those who like to read and learn and be educated. They can further debase themselves in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Or, the party can do some soul-searching, rediscover its core values, and once again come to rely on ideas and principles rather than fear, lies and propaganda. Here are some suggestions.
First, the party needs to rediscover fiscal conservatism. Republicans have become the party of big government, reckless spending and low taxes. It's no wonder there aren't enough digits on the debt clock; party leaders continue to spend like Michael Jackson while refusing to tax.
Second, the party needs to rethink its hawkish foreign policies. September 11, 2001 was a mandate to take more rigorous action to protect the United States and the world from terror, but Republicans immediately exploited it to further their hegemonic and political agendas, thereby abusing and destroying the trust of Americans.
Third, Republicans need to start questioning the principles behind their social conservatism. They can't be the party of limited government and individual liberty while invading people's bedrooms and personal lives. What a woman chooses to do with her body is between her, her family and her doctor. The love between two individuals, no matter their gender, is no business of the state.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) laments in 2006 his party's disintegration "from the big ideas and vision of 1994 to cheap political point-scoring on meaningless wedge issues." Armey explains that "Republican lawmakers forgot the party's principles, became enamored with power and position, and began putting politics over policy."
It comes down to this: Republicans can continue scraping from the bottom of the barrel, or they can reject the barrel in favor of a new and improved one. They can once again prioritize ideas and values, or they can continue eluding reason and trading integrity for votes.
The answer should be clear. As Republican loyalist and former operative John J. Pitney Jr. declares, "You can regain political support only through the power of your ideas."
Regaining America's trust will be a long road; it'll require patience, fortitude and sacrifice, but it'll restore the conservative soul and save the party, maybe even the country in the long-term. Nobody wants a permanent one-party government, not even a committed progressive like me.
Whatever path they choose, it'll be good news for the 90% of Americans disgusted with their governance. The truth is, until Republican leaders choose to take a good, honest look in the mirror, they can forget about returning to power anytime soon.
I know you guys don't like change, but it's time.
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