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Republicans' Navel Gazing and Why It Matters

Losing 54 House seats, 13 (or 14) Senate seats and the presidency over the past four years has effectively pushed Republicans into the political wilderness with no obvious guideposts to help find their way back.

As expected, the collapse of the Republican brand in the 2006 and 2008 elections has brought out any number of theorists from the woodwork -- offering their take on the proper prescription to heal what ails the GOP.

For the most part, we tend to ignore these amateur (and even some professional) analysts as they usually are pushing either a decidedly transparent personal or ideological agenda.

Not so, Tom Davis who left his northern Virginia seat in 2008 after weighing and ultimately deciding against a run for the seat being vacated by Sen. John Warner (R).

Davis is, without question, a fiscal conservative and socially moderate, but he is, also, one of the brightest strategic minds in the GOP. Need proof? When Davis chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2000 and 2002, House Republicans netted six seats.

Given Davis's reputation -- and the current morass in which the GOP finds itself -- we were intrigued to come across an essay penned by the former Virginia member titled "The Way Back."

In it, Davis convincingly make the case that the alleged takeover of the party by social conservatives has worked to its electoral detriment.

Writes Davis:

"We talked to ourselves and not to voters. We became more concerned with stem cell policy than economic policy, and with prayer in schools rather than balance in our public budgets and priorities. Not so long ago, it was easy to paint the Democrats as the party of extremists. Now, they say we're extremists, and voters agree."

While Davis may be overstating the case slightly, he makes a compelling argument that voter perceptions of the two parties have shifted in a negative way for Republicans as a result of the focus by some of the most vocal elements of the party on gay rights, abortion and other social issues.

With Republicans regarded as "far out" on social issues, President-elect Barack Obama was able to co-opt the vast middle with a message of moderation on social issues and, with that hurdle cleared, speak to that critical voting bloc on the economic issues on which the election pivoted.

Davis's other major indictment of the GOP? The wholesale rejection of attempts to court black and Hispanic voters. "We've long-since given up on the African-American vote," he writes. "We're forfeiting the Hispanic vote with unwarranted and unsavory vitriol against immigrants."

Davis has a high-profile supporter in this point -- President George W. Bush. At a press conference on Monday, Bush said that for the GOP to make a comeback its "message has got to be that different points of view are included in the party. ... If the image is we don't like immigrants, then there's probably somebody else out there saying, well, if they don't like the immigrants, they probably don't like me, as well."

As for those who insist that the Republican party has to return to its conservative roots, Davis argues that such a statement ignores electoral reality. "I've heard much talk of going back to our conservative roots, to the issues that helped us win in 1980 and 1994," writes Davis. "That issue matrix has changed so much as to be nearly unrecognizable now."

Why does Davis -- and his argument for what ails the GOP -- matter now? Because Republicans are two weeks to the day away from selecting the next face of their party.

When the Republican National Committee's 168 members convene in Washington on Jan. 28 to choose their next chairman they will be making a significant statement to their own party -- and to the country at large -- about where the party should go from here.

While all six of the serious candidates for the chairmanship insist they are blue-blooded conservatives, there are clearly differences of emphasis among the group.

The "pragmatic" wing of the party is represented by Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Anuzis' message is built on the necessity of reaching out to voters -- particularly in the suburban Midwest -- who have abandoned the party since Ronald Reagan left office; Steele, an African American, talks constantly about the need to find policies that speak to minority groups and, in doing so, grow the party.

The "ideological" wing is represented most prominently by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and, to a lesser extent, by current chair Mike Duncan, South Carolina party chairman Katon Dawson and former Tennessee party chair Chip Saltsman.

All four men proudly tout their personal gun collections and all but Blackwell hail from the south -- the lone remaining geographic stronghold for the party.

None of the six candidates -- with the sort-of exception of Steele -- are known to a national audience. But, the pick still carries huge importance for a party that is currently lost. A direction will be chosen in two weeks times. But will it be the right one to restore Republicans -- eventually -- back to majority status?

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 14, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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Posted by: ArlanBerglas | January 18, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The stated issues the Republican Party stand for are not what they really stand for. Look underneath the gloss. They stand for elitism, rich over poor, rewarding the few at the expense of the rest of us.

If you don't believe me, look at the South. Republicans are the party of segregationists. The party of white majority rule. The party of landowners. The party of business owners.

They're the party of fear. Of gunowners. Of status quo. They're afraid of losing what they have. Fear drives them. Fear like the old southern plantation owners had of their slaves.

We still live in a segregated society, only today it's not white slave-owners against slaves, it's rich against poor, business against employee. It's still a wage-slave society run by elitists. It's as divided as it ever was. There are 2 sets of standards for everyone. The rich get pardoned while the poor go to jail. The rich get Ivy League private schools while the poor get public school. Etc, etc, etc.

The Republicans are for cheap labor, raping the environment for quick money. They say everything they do is for us all, but after they get all their fat pensions & run the rest of us into the ground doing it, what do the rest of us have?

The only way to change things is to participate. Democracy - REAL democracy, not what we have here - is the only way for everyone to prosper. No one else can do what I need to do for myself. Electing representatives hasn't worked. Because they vote for themselves. We need a country “of the people, by the people and for the people”. If everyone had known about the risky mortgages, does anyone think the majority of the people would’ve allowed them to continue? We need information to get around more about what is happening. We need to be part of the system. All of us need to be part at all times, not just on election days.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
-------Edmund Burke

Posted by: rhinehaj | January 16, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP goes with its new slogan, Country First, we can rest assured that it will remain out of power for a long time. No one, not even the uniformed military, really puts country first. Every human being puts his/her family first. When the world feels chaotic, like it does these days, people reach out for each other. Families get tighter, pitch in together to weather the financial, political, whatever storms blowing across or through their lives.

Oddly, though, Obama makes me feel good to be an American, while Bush simply embarrassed me. Good riddance to him and the faithless party he led.

First, the right wingnuts had a pro-life litmus test. Then, not content with just a litmus test, they began to demonize and destroy anyone who didn't agree with their rigid, irrational anti-choice stance. The vast majority of voters, being middle class and moderate, may not like abortion, but want the choice should their bright, college-bound teenage daughter become pregnant. Family first.

Posted by: cdnunn | January 15, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Those Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats currently vowing to vote

against the stimulus bill are once again trotting forth fresh

evidence of their criminal Stupidity.

WHILE the Federal government can now borrow at Rates ranging from

ZERO to ONE PERCENT -said Congressional Morons refuse to Borrow &

spend...WHEN...they have been doing exactly that for the past 8

years at interest rates many times higher!

Given the unprecedented OPPORTUNITY to rebuild our infrastructure

(criminally starved for decades by same morons)
...@ not more than 1% interest...how stupid do you have to be to

pass up such a golden opportunity?

While we're at it we need to bump up the total from $850 Billion

to a Whole $Trillion or a $Trillion and a half.

Double the Tax Break/welfare (whatever you want to call it) for

that 95% of consumers - from $500 individual and $1,000 family -

to $1,000 individual and $2,000 family.

Those politicos currently blabbling

"no tax cuts, no money for the 95% because the Bush stimulus just

didn't work."
--- never cite any SOURCE for said "info" & conveniently forget

the previous $300 and $600 stimulus was far more than WIPED OUT by

the GAS PRICE increases.

Posted by: elme13 | January 15, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Those Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats currently vowing to vote

against the stimulus bill are once again trotting forth fresh

evidence of their criminal Stupidity.

WHILE the Federal government can now borrow at Rates ranging from

ZERO to ONE PERCENT -said Congressional Morons refuse to Borrow &

spend...WHEN...they have been doing exactly that for the past 8

years at interest rates many times higher!

Given the unprecedented OPPORTUNITY to rebuild our infrastructure

(criminally starved for decades by same morons)
...@ not more than 1% interest...how stupid do you have to be to

pass up such a golden opportunity?

While we're at it we need to bump up the total from $850 Billion

to a Whole $Trillion or a $Trillion and a half.

Double the Tax Break/welfare (whatever you want to call it) for

that 95% of consumers - from $500 individual and $1,000 family -

to $1,000 individual and $2,000 family.

Those politicos currently blabbling

"no tax cuts, no money for the 95% because the Bush stimulus just

didn't work."
--- never cite any SOURCE for said "info" & conveniently forget

the previous $300 and $600 stimulus was far more than WIPED OUT by

the GAS PRICE increases.

Posted by: elme13 | January 15, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that just trying to go back to being the party of low taxes and small government is going to help the Republican party -- because most of its members and supporters still consider themselves to be for low taxes and small government. After all, those are two very general terms, and in today's politics, it's very easy to say, for instance, that one is in favor of low taxes while simultaneously increasing spending. The GOP needs to go back and re-examine what it means to pursue low taxes and small government rather than just use it as a catch phrase.

The party needs to rely more on common sense and less on conventional wisdom. The 2008 election shows that voters are starting to wise up to the fact that a Republican who claims he wants to prevent the government from getting into your personal business might not be telling the truth, or he might not understand why what he's doing runs contrary to what he says he's doing. Until the GOP goes back and really re-examines the message it claims to stand for, it'll have a tough time making headway barring some serious Democratic scandals.

Posted by: GJonahJameson | January 15, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I am a democrat. I voted for Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Obama. However, what we are missing in this conversation is logic. There are political cycles, and when things look bleakest for the party out of power something happens to change the cycle:

2005: It looked like the Dems were out of power for a while, and Katrina and Iraq changed the equation.

1991: The Repubs held the White House for close to 12 years, War in Iraq had Bush at 90% approval, then the Economy went south

1977: The Repubs look through cause of Nixon and Watergate but along came Ronald Reagan in 80

1952: After 20 years of Democratic rule, Eisenhower picks up the Repubs and brushes them off.

1932: After 12 years of Republican rule (that looked to be continuing) the Stock marked Crashed and the Depression came ushering in FDR.

When things look bleakest for a party, somethings happens to change it. I have no doubt that in 6 to 8 years the Republicans will rebound. I would prefer to see a 50/50 nation that means that Reps and Dems have to work hard for my vote.

Posted by: jmr1601 | January 15, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The Republican Party left Me,Not the other way around. Rep. Davis' comments are right on, but don't look for them to follow them until they have had their faces pushed in the mud a few times more. What BOTH parties Fail to understand is the public is tired of the "Promise them anything, but make sure the party survives."

Posted by: asclepious2 | January 15, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP were to actually, um, LISTEN to Tom Davis, they might -- MIGHT -- have a chance to regain the respect and support of enough Americans to give themselves a shot at returning to power.

Too bad for Davis and those conscientious GOPers like him, the Party is presently dominated by True Believers and Dead-Enders.

You can't tell these people anything, because it's not about reason, logic, or even ideology with them -- it's all about Faith. Keeping The Faith is the end-all and be-all, and no ground can ever be given -- to admit even the possibility of error would be to sin before (their version of) God. Rationality has no place in the discussion -- they honestly believe that you can make your own reality.

Good luck getting through to THOSE chuckleheads, Mr. Davis.


Posted by: WaitingForGodot | January 15, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see if the republicans find anything but lint in their navels.

Posted by: Ami_Blue1 | January 15, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for idiots like "Joe" the plummer and Sarah Palin.

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | January 15, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse


vargasgirl1 hits the nail on the head re the Republicans. A few observations in her support:
(1) Every single comment by an admitted Republican is negative about SOMEthing. Every single one.
(2) The juxtaposition of the Republican business stalwarts' opposition to government oversight and its embrace of the nationalization of parts of the banking industry by the Bush administration -- that hypocrital double-think is breath-taking.
(3) The cynical attempt to portray Palin as "conservative." I'm trying to be charitable here, but the kindest thing I can come up with is to avoid calling her a brainless twit. And they're talking her up for 2012! To whom does this woman appeal?
(4) The blatant appeal to the uneducated, such as trying to tie Obama to Ayers, such as insisting on capitalizing HUSSEIN, such as making Joe the Plumber some kind of Republican poster boy despite Joe's laughable lack of anything resembling an IQ above freezing -- all of these tarnished the Republican image.
(5)The continuing beatification of Regan and The Great Deregulation his administration introduced despite the mounting evidence that business unfettered by oversight cannibalizes itself. Government oversight CAN sometimes be a problem, but LACK of it is always worse.

One last thing: if as the Republican mantra keeps telling us the stock market is dependent mostly on blind persuasion that it is dependable, why are the Republicans so dead set at destroying its credibility with their constant fear mongering? Surely they undermine their own contentions in this. Loyal opposition is one thing; constant opposition is somethng else. More double-think.


Posted by: TheFrog1 | January 15, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse


vargasgirl1 hits the nail on the head re the Republicans. A few observations in her support:
(1) Every single comment by an admitted Republican is negative about SOMEthing. Every single one.
(2) The juxtaposition of the Republican business stalwarts' opposition to government oversight and its embrace of the nationalization of parts of the banking industry by the Bush administration -- that hypocrital double-think is breath-taking.
(3) The cynical attempt to portray Palin as "conservative." I'm trying to be charitable here, but the kindest thing I can come up with is to avoid calling her a brainless twit. And they're talking her up for 2012! To whom does this woman appeal?
(4) The blatant appeal to the uneducated, such as trying to tie Obama to Ayers, such as insisting on capitalizing HUSSEIN, such as making Joe the Plumber some kind of Republican poster boy despite Joe's laughable lack of anything resembling an IQ above freezing -- all of these tarnished the Republican image.
(5)The continuing beatification of Regan and The Great Deregulation his administration introduced despite the mounting evidence that business unfettered by oversight cannibalizes itself. Government oversight CAN sometimes be a problem, but LACK of it is always worse.

One last thing: if as the Republican mantra keeps telling us the stock market is dependent mostly on blind persuasion that it is dependable, why are the Republicans so dead set at destroying its credibility with their constant fear mongering? Surely they undermine their own contentions in this. Loyal opposition is one thing; constant opposition is somethng else. More double-think.


Posted by: TheFrog1 | January 15, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Davis was a big enabler of Bush. It isn't that he makes no good points; it is just that he has no more credibility than any one else in that party of failed ideas.

Posted by: havok26 | January 15, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Thank you BUSH family for being nasty and not allowing the OBAMA family to stay at BLAIRHOUSE so their young girls could attend school. Now the REPUBLICANS WILL NEVER, NEVER NEVER BE BACK YAHOOOO!!

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | January 15, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Republicans and Arlen Spector for attacking Eric Holder today. Thank you so much because now this will kill your chances for 2010,2012 and 2016. Now the Democrats will rule for a long time. Its very interesting that you will attack Holder when you guys approved Alberto Gonzalos who was very racist in his practices as General. After attacking Holder you Republicans will never be back!!!! I hope FOXNEWS is next to be canceled after this too.

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | January 15, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Rebuttal to Mr. Davis:

"We’ve long-since given up on the African-American vote. We’re forfeiting the Hispanic vote with unwarranted and unsavory vitriol against immigrants. Youth vote? Gone. We ask for nothing from these idealistic voters, we offer little except chastisement of their lifestyle choices and denial of global warming, and we are woefully behind the Democrats in learning how to connect with them." ... "That’s it. Believe anything else you want, but advocate for those things outside the structure of the party."

And based on the above comment "believe anything you want", why on earth would we believe that your change in attitude is sincere? Give me a break. Your party and its constituents clearly have no room at the inn for anyone who is not white. Nothing your party does will change that position. Your white voters would not be willing to accept anyone but whites into their tent, no matter how many "tokens" you put in place.

"The energy legislation we’ll see in the next Congress will give Republicans a great opportunity to draw bright lines between our policies, which promote growth, innovation, prosperity and choice, and Democrats’ policies, which promote regulation and top-down government dictates and invariably reduce the quality of life."

Seems to me the quality of life was pretty darned good about 10-16 years ago. We've already seen what your deregulation policies bring. Thanks, but no thanks. Clinton was not helpful in many ways to the working class, but he was a darn site better than Mr. Bush and the GOP who walked in lock step with him (until it came to immigration).

"We also need to stop talking about how much we hate government if we expect people to elect us to run it. Perfecting it, reducing it to its ideal size, having it accomplish what we need with minimal resources requires that we embrace it and study it and work hard at it."

But you DO HATE government, that's why your party is so bad at governing. Not talking about it doesn't mean you won't still believe it.

"Also, as Newt Gingrich has pointed out, we need to remember that every election is important and that it’s important we field good candidates in every race. Eight years ago, we found out it mattered a great deal who the Secretary of State in Florida was."

Oh my goodness! Finally a statement by a GOP'er that admits Catherine Harris' role in bringing us the worst President in our history. Between her and the Supremes who had NO BUSINESS taking the Bush v. Gore case that by the Constitution should have been decided by the House, if no other remedy could be had.

Try as you all might, I'll never believe the GOP has had a TRUE change of heart. You are what you are and like leopards, I don't expect you to change your spots, no matter what your rhetoric.

Posted by: treetracker | January 14, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

..."well run government that allows people to lead their lives without the government's fingers poked into every nook and cranny..."
------
When (if ever) was the last time the GOP accomplished that?

Posted by: JRM2 | January 14, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I am so happy that FOXNEWS, FOX and Freinds, HANNITY, O'RIELLY FACTOR, RUSH LIM,and Geraldo will continue for the next 4 years making the REPUBLICANS look like complete idiots yahoo!!

Posted by: mattadamsdietmanager1014 | January 14, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

The GOP will try to have it both ways, they elect Blackwell (Hey, look we're inclusive) but otherwise change none of their policies (It was the voters that were wrong in '06 and '08, so why change a good thing?)

The base feels that Palin '12 will right the ship, cuz dog gone it she's pit bull with lipstick. Americans love that kind of stuff. That my friends is the GOP whistling past the graveyard.

Posted by: Roofelstoon | January 14, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Attucks: Great response on your part jcline. When the GOP actualy goes back to standing for something meaningful, and not just being against everything Obama proposes; when it stops worshiping power at the cost of principle; and (above all) when it quits letting the wildly out-of-touch-with reality Religious Right dictate most policies, then it will regain its honor and return to power.
Until then, we can expect more sensible GOP congressperson to leave.

Posted by: vegasgirl1 | January 14, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm a life-long Democrat and was an early Obama supporter (and 2004 Deaniac).

If Tom Davis were the soul of the Republican Party, I'd switch. Sadly, he's not. Bible thumping Southern rednecks are.

Posted by: sw7104 | January 14, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

All this BS out the social conservatives causing the downfall of the Republican party is laughable. Take a look at some polls and tell me who is out of the mainstream. Vast majority of the people in this country are against gay marriage, majority of the people are also against abortion on demand in all stages of pregnancy (Obama's postion), marjority of the people are against unchecked immigration (legal and illegal), majority does not support the extreme gun control position of Obama's Democratic party (I put this in as social conservative position because the libs usually do even though it's really a constitutional question) and I could go on but you get the picture. The reason the Republicans became a minority party in the congress in 2006 was a combination of their own incompetence/corruption and bad timing (6 years of running the White House and 4 running both houses of Congress brought on voter fatigue). They lost in 2008 presidential election and more house and senate seats because the party in charge of the white house for two terms almost always loses the presidency and members of congress and because the economy was in the toilet and public always stupidly blames the party controlling the presidency. The media helped a lot too. The Democrats are completely responsible for the economy now and will get the blame in 2010 if it isn't doing a lot better. Even thought the media will try to still somehow blame Republicans. So the Repuplicans have a shot at coming back. To do so the Republican party needs to get back to basics of limited as well as well run government that allows people to lead their lives without the government's fingers poked into every nook and cranny. They need to appeal to minority groups by articulating their beliefs in such a way that shows how the Republican pary can help them acheive their goals (which are similar to everyone else's goals in this country) of achieving the American dream. Somehow I doubt that if asked that the majority of people in this country including minorites want their taxes raised, massive amounts of new goverment spending and regulations or government run healthcare. All Democrat principals. I also doubt that the Republicans will gain any more voters by all of a suddent becoming pro abortion, pro stem cell research, pro gay marriage. Why vote for a Republicrat when you can vote for a real Democrat.

Posted by: RobT1 | January 14, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

For the last two decades, the Republicans have steadily purged themselves of all moderates, of anyone who did not toe the party line, of anyone who did not support the party leaders with every fiber of their being. Under leaders like DeLay and a dozen other of the top far-right powerbrokers, apostasy was ruthlessly punished. Moderates were primaried out, the religiously or socially tolerant were excoriated, the legislatively balanced were forced from their positions -- all in service to a supposed permanent ideological governance, one that valued ideological purity over all else. Over knowledge, over experience, over common sense, over the very fabric of the law -- the ideology of hard-right conservatism trumped it all. Toe the line, and you were granted jobs in the administration, or positions of leadership in Iraq, or plum committee assignments. Voice disapproval -- you were nothing. You woke up the next morning to a White House Press Secretary declaring that you were a disgruntled brat, one with emotional or mental impairments that were responsible for your pitiable desertion.

After twenty years of purging, all the Republicans have left is that hard-right extreme. They shoved everyone else out willingly: it seems hardly surprising that now, faced with the fruits of it all, they are finding that all constituencies of the nation that they sought to condemn, belittle or purge are no longer interested in supporting them now.

I have no particular interest in them learning this lesson, of course. As far as I am concerned the last thirty years have proven modern conservatism to be not just ill conceived, but paranoid, divisive, willfully incompetent, obtusely premised, and in sum utterly valueless to the nation -- a waste of political oxygen. Something to be burned at the stake, and the ashes scattered, never to be heard from again.

But I expect they will, in the next years, at least try to retool their party into one that at least pretends to be more tolerant of, well, anyone not fully immersed in the notion that Ayn Rand and James Dobson rule the universe. The coming bloodshed between the two factions -- conservative true believers who can look at the last eight years and see absolutely nothing worth doing differently, nothing but a smashing but sadly misunderstood success, versus those that truly wish to temper the party in an effort to regain at least some semblance of their former power -- will, no doubt, be a glorious thing to behold.

Posted by: DrainYou | January 14, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I think most voters could comprehend voting for fiscal conservatives regardless of whether or not they were social conservatives. But then the Republicans started spending like drunken sailors, while fumbling an unpopular war, and wanting to enter your private life with their social conservative messages. At that point the voters simply surrendered and said "enough already."

John McCain was in the fiscal conservative wing but social center part of the party. The social conservatives tied him to their bumper and dragged him around the country until Obama just had to stand there and say "I'm not Bush or McCain" in order to win.

McCain should be proud that he actually was in the race until the economy collapsed around him like a flaming house. By November, I don't think Ronald Reagan could have won this election for the Republicans.

Posted by: raydh | January 14, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

DoctorB says it all. Put the Bible down. Embrace Science. Stop the wrapped in the flag, dissent is disloyalty, false patriotism. No true American patriot can support internal spying by the government, torture and denial of habeus corpus.

Republicans will spend a well-deserved 40 years in the political wilderness.

Posted by: thebobbob | January 14, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Social issues, primarily gay rights and abortion, in my opinion, are very important only to a relatively small minority of people, maybe about 15% each on the left and right. The Republicans may be and should be the minority party as long as most in the GOP adhere to their rigid ideological agenda of tax cuts for the rich and businesses, indifference toward the needy, opposition to major health care reform and degradation of the environment. They are way out of the mainstream on each of these issues: tax cuts, help for the needy, health care and protecting the environment.

Unless the Republicans sincerely adopt more moderate positions on these issues, the only way they are likely to improve their political prospects is by the Obama administration and Democrats making big mistakes, which is possible.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 14, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The GOP hasn't done well in the last two election cycles because of (1) an unpopular war that wasn't prosecuted well, (2) corruption, and (3) a bad economy. In other words, big stuff not exactly related to specific policy positions. Being more moderate on gay rights or abortion wouldn't have saved the GOP. Being more moderate in general didn't save McCain.

The road back for the GOP? The same stuff that got them into trouble. If the economy stays bad, eventually people are going to start blaming it on Obama. The Democrats are developing a robust culture of corruption.

I'm not going to make any predictions about 2010 or 2012, but I will say that if the economy doesn't turn around, Obama will be a one-termer.

Posted by: wapo9 | January 14, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

dcgrasso wrote:
The late, unlamented Lee Atwater is probably the person who can be identified most closely with the eventual downfall of the Republican Party. His tactics turned the party into the divisive, bitter fringe that many Americans think it has become. His legacy, unfortunately, is alive and well-- though it's notable that he recanted at least some of his tactics before he died.
_____________________________________

Funny, but, this crossed my mind as well. I thought, Atwater and Rove, his protege, set it on a destructive path for themselves and the country 20 years ago.
They do need to purge themselves of the Atwater-Rove thinking and mindset that is embodied by Limbaugh and Fox, ect. that promote that whole way of thinking.

Posted by: vwcat | January 14, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I would have to add to my post that the GOPs mantra of tax cuts is also out dated.
For one, tax cuts is not the answer to all the ills of our country and need to have updated and workable theories. Tax cuts are only something that only help the uber rich anyway.
It is also part of the ME ME thinking. Wanting everything and all the goods and services available but, not wanting to pay a dime for them.
You have to either have less police and fire services and let your streets go unrepaired or you have to realize you have to pay for the things that make your community and country a pleasant place to live.
Cutting taxes to corporations do not make jobs, either. Proven fact is that the companies use the money for other things like relocating jobs overseas while increasing their profits. They don't create jobs.
The party needs to let go of the thinking that tax cuts cures everything and are the only idea they have.

Posted by: vwcat | January 14, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Having just finished reading Mr. Davis' column, I would suggest that rather than "overstating the case," he actually understates it.

After the years of deregulation, I believe the majority of Americans would prefer MORE regulation. Less regulation gives us markets out of control, less oversight of toxic materials in toys coming from overseas, and food and drugs that are unsafe, for just a few examples.

I'd also suggest that the majority of Americans would prefer to get off oil-based energy sources completely, rather than drilling for more oil. Take a look at the cars that have sat on the lot for a year: gas guzzlers. Even now that gas prices are much lower than a year ago, public transportation ridership continues to go up, and the SUVs still don't sell. Mr. Davis is correct that the youth vote is "... Gone. We ask for nothing from these idealistic voters, we offer little except chastisement of their lifestyle choices and denial of global warming, and we are woefully behind the Democrats in learning how to connect with them." However, he fails to recognize the answers he gives are not accepted by either the majority of Americans, or the youth who could be the future of his party.

I'm a firm progressive/liberal Democrat, but I'm also extremely distrustful of one-party rule. I was a child during the Eisenhower years, but remember the two parties working together in the '50's and early '60's in mutual cooperation. While Republican losses in 1964 and 1974 might well have been "more devastating than this year's," to quote Mr. Davis, I see more polarization this year than there was back then. The moderate wing of the Republican party was still alive and well, boasting such people as Gerald Ford, Jacob Javits, Charles Mathias, and Nelson Rockefeller-- people who would be drummed out of the current party.

The late, unlamented Lee Atwater is probably the person who can be identified most closely with the eventual downfall of the Republican Party. His tactics turned the party into the divisive, bitter fringe that many Americans think it has become. His legacy, unfortunately, is alive and well-- though it's notable that he recanted at least some of his tactics before he died.

I look forward to the day when the party out of power, whichever it may be, is referred to as "the loyal opposition." Unfortunately, I don't think Mr. Davis has quite grasped all the current political realities. Republicans need to come back toward a more civil center before voters begin to accept their party principles again.

Posted by: dcgrasso1 | January 14, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The problem for republicans is seeing the flaw in conservatism.
It worked during a time when the country was in a selfish era of What about me. Conservatism;s underlining message was a very selfish one. It touted greed, get what's mine, rejection of compassion for others and helping those in need - instead blaming the victim and cheering on the vultures.
It rejected the idea of community and unity. It played up making the opposition the enemy instead of people with differing views.
They called it individualism but, it basically rewarded selfishness and coldness.
When the economy collapsed suddenly people found they needed others. They need family and friends and community. Suddenly they found they needed We over ME.
Moving further right will just keep the GOP isolated. It's harsh as well as off putting.
The GOP needs to accept that many of the ideas of conservatism failed and is over.
They need to reinvent themselves and become more moderate, not less. And they need to reject the tenants of selfishness and divisiveness in their thinking and message.

Posted by: vwcat | January 14, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

There are several parts of Davis' theories that don't hold up. Look at the Republicans who lost in '06. Most were "moderate" Republicans, not conservative Republicans. Secondly, the drunken sailor spending/corrupt Congress hurt the brand more than any social issue could ever have. When people don't see a difference in governing, they accept the alternative with all its baggage. Third, Bush's renunciation of his campaign pledge not to engage in Nation Building, hurt us very much. The problem is now that people see Republicans as less capable from the Democrats in ability to govern. Unfortunately, we'll have to sit and wait for the new Congress and Administration to see whether they go back to traditional democrat principles. If marginal tax rates go back up to 70%, if unions get preferences which hurt non-union immigrants, if inflation takes off, if crazy social engineering gets legislated, or we start watching misery indexes again, Republicans will be back. If however, the Democrats now govern in the center and say "no" to some of their constituencies, it will be a long time in the wilderness for the Republican party at the National level. The way back will be for Republicans to focus on state and local issues build up its farm system so to speak and be ready for prime time with proven records of management competence on issues that matter to people, a responsive government that is run efficiently and delivers the services that people need.

Posted by: genericrepub | January 14, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I used to be a Republican, until maybe 1992. The party left me. I could not swallow the oogedy-boogedy KoolAid (thanks for this term to columnist Kathleen Parker) — Biblical inerrancy, no abortion ever, acute homophobia, strident creationism, no stem-cell research, no scientific sex education for kids, and no contraception even though it is the best defense against abortion. As a Democrat and a member of the United Church of Christ, I'm destined for that big eternal hibachi down below, along with more than half of America's voters. If Tom Davis and others want seriously to fix the Republican Party, they need to cut down the almost total clout of the oogedy-boogedy folks.

Posted by: cwh2 | January 14, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

The republican region of dominance has shrunk to the states of the old South. The southern strategy succeeded far too well.
Now they think a Virginian named Davis can lead the new confederacy back to the light?
oldswede

Posted by: biblioid-ctblogs | January 14, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Social issues are of much less importance to most people than economic and national security issues. The econcomic issues have become so severe to even crowd out the national security issues that were preoccupying Americans as recently as six months ago. It is going to be a long time before Americans have the luxury of focusing on social issues again. Barack Obama will present the Republicans with a big problem. He is going to challenge them to be part of the solution rather than being dedicated to sustaining the problem. That choice is likely to split the remnants of the party. It remains to be seen in what proportions they divide and how that division feeds into future elections. But if Obama is successful in achieving a culture of progress through cooperation, we may never see the same political landscape again.

Posted by: dnjake | January 14, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I was a Republican. Until I went to college. There if you raised your left hand you were drumed out. The Republicans have forced people like me a fiscal conservative at all costs to leave. The Republicans would now rather stop one abortion, gay marriage or save another Terry Schiavo than balance the budget. I won't come back until these people are condemed by the head of their party. He/She must come out and condem W, Jeb, Palin etc and say they are do not represent the Republican party. They do not hold American beliefs. They are Unamerican. These people lack any moral integrity. Jeb I hope your wife is on life support and you want to pull the plug so you can start dating again. I will make sure to sue to keep her alive on your dime. Palin way to teach your daughter abstinance and say how proud you are of her. Way to love the sin and the sinner. And W is just morally responsible for thousands of deaths. And if he doesn't ask forgiveness ("I don't make mistakes") he will burn forever in hell. Sunscreen 1 million please

Posted by: dganderson13 | January 14, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Fix,

I rarely take issue but I must with your assessment of Davis as a "fiscal conservative." Davis voted for the 2003 Medicare Drug Bill, the largest entitlement expansion since LBJ.
Also, the National Taxpayers Union (they rank every single roll call vote that has an affect on federal spending) has given him grades of C, C-, C-, C, and C for the past 5 years. Davis is no fiscal conservative.

Posted by: sambatkins | January 14, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break. All this talk of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years is a bit overblown. Yes, the GOP squandered its assets on on two quixotic wars and allowed the Democrats to strike a pose as the party of reason.
Give the Dems about 4-8 years to overreach and ruin themselves as they are so prone to do, and then make your case that the Repubs are permanently whack.
Posted by: jcline1 | January 14, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse
//

As long as attitudes like yours find safe haven on the right, the GOP is indeed permanently wack. Your kind of vindictive, cynical bitterness shouldn’t have a home on American politics.

Posted by: Attucks | January 14, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The Fix:

While lauding Davis's "The Way Back" (http://www.riponsociety.org/forum109a.htm), you missed this piece of advice it included:

"Also, as Newt Gingrich has pointed out, we need to remember that every election is important and that it’s important we field good candidates in every race. Eight years ago, we found out it mattered a great deal who the Secretary of State in Florida was."

Indeed we did. And the lesson was control of the process of voting is more important than control of the voters. I'm definitely on the left side of the political spectrum but I think it's reasonable for anyone, regardless of their politics, to say that the 2000 Florida election was a very poor example of how to run an election. Yet this is Davis's "evidence" of what the party needs to regain stature????

Posted by: mikerose2 | January 14, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"Give the Dems about 4-8 years to overreach and ruin themselves as they are so prone to do, and then make your case that the Repubs are permanently whack."

You're in pretty sad shape when your only strategy is waiting for your opponent to screw up worse than you have. That doesn't win a lot of games, in sports or life.

Posted by: nodebris | January 14, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break. All this talk of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years is a bit overblown. Yes, the GOP squandered its assets on on two quixotic wars and allowed the Democrats to strike a pose as the party of reason.

Give the Dems about 4-8 years to overreach and ruin themselves as they are so prone to do, and then make your case that the Repubs are permanently whack.

Posted by: jcline1 | January 14, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

One of the facts about political affiliation is that, you vote for a party 2-3 times, you are a committed party member, and it takes a crowbar to move you. As such, the Repukeliscumian Party is headed for huge trouble. No kids that I know are Repukeliscum. They are ALL DEMOCRATS. If Obama REALLY screws up, some might vote Repukeliscum. But I doubt that will happen. By 2012, the entire generation of 18-30 year olds will be Democrats, and will stay that way for a long long time. They HATE the social fascism of the Repukeliscum. The Repukeliscum requirement of Stupidity before Country also drives them nuts. Most if not all are either agnostic or atheistic, and those who are religious are not wackadoodle. They hate guns, in most cases. And here is the killer for the Repukeliscumian mindset - most will have a LOT of trouble getting health insurance.

It could be a LONG time in the wilderness. Hope they have a good tent.

Posted by: bushbudy | January 14, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I watched Fox News the other day with Al Sharpton and the congresswoman from Minnesota (can't remember her name). She tried to keep hammering the point that African Americans OUGHT to be Republicans because the Republican party has views that the AA community agrees with (i.e., vouchers, Prop 8 in California). Essentially, she is arguing the same social issues the the party has been focusing on for years. What she and other Republicans don't get, is that you can't make someone like you if in their gut, they don't believe you, and they think you have a general distaste for them. When push comes to shove, Republicans will have to admit that they haven't been advocates of the average person, and even less so of the economically underprivileged, or even middle class minorities. To make matters worse, Republicans claim to love small government, but insist on spending our tax dollars on bogus programs (Abstinence Education anyone?) while historically fighting against common sense policies like FMLA, which was long supposed to bring the economy to a grinding halt if enacted.

Back to Minnsota: with a 4 percent black population in her state, the congresswoman was trying to explain to Al Sharpton how charter schools and vouchers were good for African Americans. That's what's wrong with the party. There's no self awareness.

Posted by: readerny | January 14, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

To many, gay marriage is a lot less scary than economic depression.

Republicans fail to grasp that.

And they are quickly becoming the party of the old. Younger voters don't understand the fuss about gay marriage (most know openly gay people), and the whole 'elitism' argument that the GOP has used recently is so stupid and divisive that even many Republicans are shaking their heads.

Posted by: HillMan | January 14, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

The Fix writes
"While Davis may be overstating the case slightly, he makes a compelling argument that voter perceptions of the two parties have shifted in a negative way for Republicans as a result of the focus by some of the most vocal elements of the party on gay rights, abortion and other social issues."


Davis is far more compelling than overstating. Even in terms of fiscal conservatism, the party has lost its way. Fiscal conservatism used to mean responsible spending. Now it means cut taxes, no matter what. Budget surplus? Cut taxes! Budget deficit? Cut taxes! War? Cut taxes! Slowing economy? Cut taxes! Booming economy? Cut taxes! Meanwhile, they never cut spending. What's 'conservative' about that? Its irresponsible, short-sighted and extremely damanging to our economic security.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 14, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

My whole family has voted republican for as long as I can remember. We were (are) a White, middle class, religious (but not fanatic),family oriented etc. In other words the "republican base." Not any more. Most of us now vote Democratic. Some of my grandchildren have dated and married people from different cultures and different races. One of us has had an abortion for reasons that SHE found compelling, and we are OK with all that.The republican party however is not. They have become the party of rich, White folks who are fanatics about abortion, immigration and a number of things we now see different. My point is that our family, although it has gotten a lot bigger is basically the same as it was before. It's the republican party that has changed and we will no longer support it. I, and most of my adult family voted for Obama and the Democratic ticket. We will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Opa2 | January 14, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

The Republican party still uses too many litmus tests to vet their nominees. Issues that have passed from the general public debate remain at the forefront of the Republican platform. To live in the past and wish for the return of Reagan is delusional. To base any future direction on past glories is folly.

They are navel gazing, but their navel suffered a hernia....

Posted by: RickJ | January 14, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

WE INTERRUPT THIS POLITICAL NAVEL-GAZING FOR THE FOLLOWING BULLETIN...

PRESIDENT BUSH HAS JUST DECLARED INAUGURATION DAY A 'NATIONAL EMERGENCY'...

ACCORDING TO THE WASH. TIMES, THE FIRST TIME SUCH AN EMERGENCY HAS BEEN DECLARED IN ADVANCE.

IS THAT NOT TANTAMOUNT TO A DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW?

IF THIS WERE JUST ABOUT 'FUNDING' FOR SECURITY AND CLEAN-UP, AS WASH. TIMES STATES, COULDN'T THAT HAVE BEEN DONE WITHOUT A DECLARATION OF 'EMERGENCY'?

TO QUOTE STEPHEN STILLS:

"SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE. WHAT IT IS, AIN'T EXACTLY CLEAR."

*******************************************

SELECTIVE APPLICATION OF ANTI-TERRORISM MEASURES: "THE OBAMA EFFECT"?

PLEA TO OBAMA: CANCEL RISKY, RECKLESS 'SITTING DUCK' TRAIN STUNT


• What happened to Homeland Security warnings of "heightened risk" during Presidential transition?

• How about the late November FBI warning about possible Northeast train station attacks?

• "Amtrak Joe" Biden's longstanding warnings about security flaws along the Amtrak Northeast corridor -- why isn't he waving this whistle stop tour to a halt?

READ THIS LINK AND MAKE IT VIRAL.


http://my.nowpublic.com/world/plea-obama-cancel-risky-reckless-sitting-duck-train-stunt

OR (if link is corrupted):

http://My.NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 14, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

As rock-ribbed Democrat, I'm delighted that the Republicans are in such disarray.

However, the theoretical basis of the Republican Party: lower taxes, smaller government will always have some appeal.

The reality is that the Bush Administration lowered taxes primarily for those at the very top, while dramatically increasing government spending.

That, combined with an unnecessary war, gross incompetence (Katrina), outright malfeasance (Justice Dept.), and outrageous stunts (Terri Schiavo), have ruined the Republican "brand" for the foreseeable future.

The Republicans will come back, but hopefully not for a very, very, long time.

Posted by: Bondosan | January 14, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse


Republicans are learning they cannot have it "all their way, all the time".
They are still in the Reagan era, believe Reagan was God. Heck, it's been almost 30 years since Reagan was President. Get over it!

I am so glad we are getting out of "staunch Republican ways" like they had with my Grandfather's era. My Grandfather has been dead for 36 years, yet the Republican party has not changed.
They love red tape and more agencies (bureacracy), they love "good old boys" (the ones that are on porno sites and gambling sites for 15 hours straight on the NET), they love war and think a bumped up military (at ALL times) will save us.
Militarism mixed with federalism. All those ISM(s) you learned in high school.....Republicans are not for the individual or the individualistic approach to anything. They are for the RICH, to get RICHER, and remember these words well, because they are in the Wash DC BIBLE.
....rich "at all costs possible"
war "at all costs possible"
At all costs possible.
Well, we are paying and paying dearly folks.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | January 14, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Chris, I disagree with your suggestion that Tom Davis overstates his case a little bit. The GOP is being held hostage by its religious right-wingers who make everyone else within and without the party very uncomfortable. Even during the Reagan Revolution there was ample room in the party for fiscally conservative but socially moderate Republicans like Lincoln Chafee or Davis himself. Not so today, and the GOP is paying the price.

I did think Davis overlooked one point in his essay - Americans of all stripes are tired of Congress turning everything into a pork-barrel frenzy of spending. Witness the response to Pres-Elect Obama's stimulus plans: every pol in Washington wants to add more to it for their pet projects. Hillary Clinton talked of "smart power" yesterday; I think most Americans are reasonable and have no problem with "smart spending" that has some accountability and efficiency. Yet, the spending over the last 8 years makes the Dems look like Scrooge. If Republicans had practiced what they preached between 1994 and 2006 when it comes to spending, instead of lowering taxes AND spending profligately, they would probably not be in the wilderness today.

Posted by: stodge | January 14, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

An interesting dilemma - go with the "base" and remain a minority party; pick a pragmatist and risk alienating the base. Truthfully, though, I think the success or failure of the Republican party will be determined by how voters perceive the Obama administration. If they think the country is heading back to the right track, who the republicans select - for party chair or for many elected offices - will matter not. If voters lose faith in Obama, then they might take another look at Republicans and ask if that party speaks to them.

Posted by: -pamela | January 14, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Nixon started it in 1968 when he embraced segregationist icon Strom Thurmond as part of his "Southern Strategy."
The movement picked up steam under Reagan, who embraced the likes of Jerry Falwell & his "Moral Majority" (who were neither a majority nor particularly moral).
As long as the evangelical born-again Christians, who ARE extremists, dominate the GOP, they continue to marginalize the GOP while Democrats further their dominance.

Posted by: DoctorB | January 14, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

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