Soul-searching is not in the GOP’s blood. Many Republicans see themselves as stoic, rugged and hardworking individuals. But after twice losing the White House to an ex-community organizer and failing to mobilize the base, Republicans need to take a trip to a mountainous valley, sip some tea and meditate.
In the quiet of nature, I think Republicans would find that the solutions to winning lie within themselves. After my own reflection, I developed three key insights into how the GOP can win presidential elections going forward:
#1 Keep an open mind
Early on, talking heads like Ann Coulter disparaged Romney and endorsed other candidates. In February of 2011, Coulter said: "If we don't run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose." However, as the field narrowed to Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Coulter began advising the GOP faithful that Romney alone could beat President Obama. Coulter should have stood by her 2011 prediction.
Other talking heads like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh inadvertently divided the conservative base by devoting entire radio segments to scoffing at Paul and his followers. As I predicted, this jejune behavior teed Obama up for a hole-in-one.
And, over a year ago, many Republicans began writing off candidates like Herman Cain and Paul as “unelectable.” At the time, I advised conservatives that it was too early to make such assessments and to instead “start saying electable.”
Going forward, I think Republicans will have more success if they spend time researching all the candidates with an open mind before writing off individuals like Cain and Paul who were both capable of challenging Obama and attracting minorities and independents.
#2 Embrace allies
At the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, the Romney camp and the RNC used a controversial process to change RNC Rule 40(b), which stated:
Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a plurality of the delegates from each of five (5) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.
The New American explains: “Ron Paul unquestionably qualified for nomination under [the 40(b)] rule, but he was denied placement on the ballot — and an opportunity to address the convention on behalf of his nomination — in what amounts to a total takeover of the Republican Party by the RNC and Mitt Romney.
Additional rule changes all but guaranteed that in the future the RNC will not allow itself to be embarrassed by “grassroots” candidates. Not only did the RNC rob Ron Paul of delegates he won fairly at the Maine state convention, it prevented any who follow in his footsteps from winning any delegates in the first place.”
Going forward, I think Republicans should make an effort to embrace their allies—libertarian conservatives who want limited government, sound money, individual liberty, and believe states have a 10th Amendment constitutional right to determine social issues.
#3 Stick to principle
The past two elections tell us that Americans will not vote for GOP moderates like John McCain and Romney. Americans want to elect a leader, and a leader projects consistency, principle and passion.
To independents, Romney came across as inconsistent, unprincipled and out-of-touch. His health care plan in Massachusetts was Obama’s playbook for Obamacare. Initially pro-abortion, he ran as a pro-life candidate. And while polls indicate that the majority of Americans are tired of military engagement in the Middle East, Romney’s foreign policy proposals sounded more extremist, expensive and interventionist than Obama’s.
So, given a choice, why would an independent voter choose a candidate who seemed nearly identical to Obama on healthcare, inconsistent on social issues and ready to engage the United States in more military adventurism?
Remember the February 22 presidential debate? It was “Mr. Consistent,” Ron Paul, who gained the most traction on Twitter with statements of principle like:
“Planned Parenthood should get nothing.”
“The [birth control] pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society.”
“Guns don’t kill, criminals kill.”
There is a reason why Paul attracts crowds of thousands of young people and independents. Republicans should not sell out on matters of principle; Republicans simply need more zeal and consistency in their message.
Going forward, I think there are many opportunities for Republicans to reach out to independents while staying principled. After a hard loss, perhaps a meditative retreat in nature is all Republicans need to recharge for big wins ahead.