Does anyone else find it interesting that respected GOP leaders such as Governors Jeb Bush and Mitch Daniels, among others (Sarah Palin), have not yet endorsed a candidate? And even those that have endorsed (e.g., House Majority Leader Eric Cantor) seem lukewarm at best? Beyond individuals, it seems the GOP electorate is also unsure of whom they should rally behind, with Governor Romney still failing to take a meaningful lead nationally or in key battleground states such as Ohio.
After eight candidates, twenty-plus debates, and a never-ending news cycle, we're still unable to make a decision. So, what is the hesitation? With logic telling us it certainly isn't for a lack of information, it points to a very simple conclusion: Republicans have failed to paint a clear, compelling, conservative (yet mainstream) vision to unite the party.
While Sen. Santorum (and earlier in the contest, Speaker Gingrich) has been able to utilize emotion-filled and fiery rhetoric to excite the Tea Party and more conservative activists, he has only been able to elicit support from one sub-section of the party. Romney, on the other hand, has made a strong effort to appeal to a broad swath of voters. However, he has been unsuccessful in this regard because his attempts to present himself as both a conservative and a moderate have only further fueled the perception that he is "inauthentic" and a "flip flopper." Have we reached a point where it is impossible to all fit within the same definition of what it means to be "Republican"? And, is it still possible to produce the kind of leadership that can help unite a fractured party?
What originally attracted so many to the GOP was its support for limited government, free enterprise, a respect for our founding ethos of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and a belief in a confident and realistic foreign policy. Let's not forget, our party has a history of bold leadership, under pioneers such as Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan. Incredible leaders that contributed to the end of slavery, championed "trust busting," built the national highway system, and ushered in the end of the Cold War. During a time of such economic and political uncertainty, the GOP would be well served to reflect on the history of its most successful leaders and emulate their qualities. Beyond their accomplishments, these leaders were able to put country above politics and accomplish the "work of the people."
Senator Olympia Snowe spoke for many "lost" members of the party last week in her recent op-ed explaining why she will not seek a fourth term, when she said, "I see a critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us." She goes on to say that, "In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good." Losing mainstream voices like hers this election cycle will only widen the divide of an already fractured party focusing on politicking, not progress.
While Romney looks like a President, and at times plays the part perfectly, his attempt at a "broad message" is lacking bold ideas and a firm conviction on the major issues, leaving many within the party unenthusiastic and nervous for another defeat in November. Ultimately, this vacuum of leadership has allowed the loudest members of the party to control the narrative, which naturally leaves mainstream Republicans left crying out, maybe silently, for bold leadership and common sense, as opposed to political pandering.
For the Republican Party to be attractive again to the various groups that have historically found a home under the "Big Tent," whether it be 2012, 2016 or even 2020, it needs to think big and put forward a new generation of bold ideas that fit neatly within the overarching themes of Republican values. It wouldn't hurt to have a nominee willing and able to stand strong on their convictions either.