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Friday, November 07, 2008

Rebuilding the Republican Party

After Tuesday's rout, the Republican party finds itself in pretty bad shape. Beaten and bloodied, rejected and discredited, the task for them is to make the party viable again. The swings states have swung blue and Democratic party head Howard Dean's fifty state strategy saw many of the reddest states turn a little more purple. In John McCain's home state of Arizona, Republicans saw Barack Obama come within shouting distance of winning. At the end, the battleground states weren't the midwest, but in traditionally conservative states. Republicans could take nearly nothing for granted.

So today, top Republicans are meeting to sort out what to do. Rebuilding the party is going to be a long, hard slog, but rebuild it they will try to do.

Jonathan Martin, Politico, Oct. 28:

Two days after next week’s election, top conservatives will gather at the Virginia weekend home of one of the movement’s most prominent members to begin a conversation about their role in the GOP and how best to revive a party that may be out of power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue next year.

The meeting will include a "who’s who of conservative leaders -- economic, national security and social," said one attendee, who shared initial word of the secret session only on the basis of anonymity and with some details about the host and location redacted.

The decision to waste no time in plotting their moves in the post-Bush era reflects the widely-held view among many on the right, and elsewhere, that the GOP is heading toward major losses next week.

Nothing better than to get all the people who screwed everything up in the first place together to find a way to straighten it all out. So far, their band-aid solution has been to repeat that the US is a "center-right" country ad nauseum. Barack Obama -- formerly accused by these same people of being Marxist -- has supposedly won the election by running as a conservative. This new line is everywhere on cable and op-ed pages.

If this is any indication of what they'll come up with from their strategy meeting, then we can expect them to assume that their previous line of BS wasn't any good; they need a new line of BS.

If we look at some of the attendees of the big GOP strategy summit, we see a list of old dogs unlikely to learn new tricks. The meeting will be at the Virginia home of long time rightie Brent Bozell, a full-time BS artist. Arranging the meeting is "longtime GOP strategsist and conservative PR executive Greg Mueller." Those names alone cement my assessment that the meeting will only produce new lies.

And a more recent piece by Martin gives us glimpse of how the old Republican party is seeking only to rebrand itself:

In addition to Mueller and Bozell, other conservatives attending the private session will be: Leonard Leo, executive vice preident of the conservative Federalist Society, and a leading figure in the movement on judicial and Catholic issues; Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader who heads Americans for Tax Reform; and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Center and one of the most high-profile social conservatives.

In other words, the nuts who screwed everything up in the first place. You've got two religious right figures and a de facto anarchist. In fact, anti-government activist Norquist is a figure in the Abramoff money-laundering scheme.

These guys, being what's wrong with the Republican party, are getting together to figure out what's wrong with the Republican party. How do you think that'll pan out?

Meanwhile, a coalition of younger conservatives are organizing a coalition to rebuild the GOP in a saner image. Erick Erickson, the managing editor of, Patrick Ruffini, a former RNC eCampaign director, Justin Sayfie, a former spokesperson for Jeb Bush, and others have launched a website to generate ideas --

The coalition's mission statement has some bad news for people like Sarah Palin. "[W]aiting for a political savior to materialize out of thin air is not an option," they write. "Eventually, strong new leaders will emerge. And when they do, they must inherit a party stronger than the one in its current state."

In my opinion, job one for a new GOP should be to drop the anti-intellectualism. Appealing to the lowest common denominator worked for a while, but eventually the message of "don't trust smart people" brought dopes to power and they wound up with candidates like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Driving the brainiacs away wasn't the wisest long-term strategy.

This being a new-media movement, the coalition has launched an interactive site -- -- where users can vote up what they believe are good suggestions. Some of these ideas are just stupid. One genius suggests they get all Christian; "Christians need to realize that the Democratic stance is almost entirely un-Christian," they suggest. This is a new message how? They tried that and they failed.

Another is pretty vacuous; get "cool." "Build an exciting, inspiring and charismatic party that captures young hearts and minds and reminds them why it's 'cool' to be Republican and people can proudly say we are Republican AND educated AND informed AND caring AND diverse AND forward-thinking," this rebuilder writes. A little detail would be helpful here. Why not just suggest "win more?"

But some of the most popular suggestions are damned good ideas. "Realize that the biggest problem with the Republican party is that it is no longer about personal freedom, but about trying to dictate one perfect way of life..." writes one. "The Republican party turned into stricter government. This is not good."

"The party must return to its roots of small government and personal freedom," writes another. "The current platform of exclusion and moralism is unacceptable and will result in the destruction of the party."

"Keep the religious right in a position of power and you will continue to lose people like me; pure moderates who are fed up and disgusted with the Republican party -- whom I used to identify and vote with," one GOPer says. "I will never support a Republican candidate who pledges to keep marriage from gays or overturn Roe v. Wade. The government has no vested interest in defining social norms, and as long as the dogma continues to trend towards Talibanesque doctrine, I won't come back to the party."

Looking through the top ideas, we see bad news for that brain trust in Virginia; lose the religious right, stop being dicks about everything, stop being the authoritarian party. The good news for Democrats is that Republican party leadership isn't going to go for any of this stuff. The bad news is that they don't have to. If the coalition gets some traction, they'll rebuild the party on their own.

For myself, I'm looking forward to a future where the differences between Democrat and Republican are policy based. I'm looking forward to a future where speculation about "what would Jesus do?" isn't part of the national dialogue. I'm looking forward to a time when Republicans aren't spending all their time representing the worst of Americans -- the bigoted, the willfully ignorant, and the authoritarian.

It's an open question as to whether the Republican party can be sane anymore and still survive -- they've been home to nuts for far too long -- but I'd sure like to see them try.