In the aftermath of the 2008 election, the Republican Party has begun going through the litany of reasons that they lost. While the GOP must do many things better, the one thing that it must do if it wants to win back power is to put forward powerful ideas that persuade today's voters.
President-elect Barack Obama won a decisive victory over Sen. John McCain. Despite Mr. McCain's extraordinary record and his centrist credentials, Mr. Obama's twin themes of change and hope caught fire with American voters, and will now take him to the White House.
Recriminations are naturally flying around the GOP. Some are condemning this campaign as one of the worst in history, without a clear theme or overall strategy, inconsistent and reactionary tactics, a staff that excluded some of the best talent available, and a woeful lack of organization. Others are blaming the candidate, who despite his exceptional courage, honor and service, ruled certain topics and tactics off-limits that could have been devastatingly effective. Some blame missed opportunities. Some blame President Bush. Others blame Sarah Palin. Many blame the response to the economic meltdown.
But the truth is the only way the Republican Party can regain power is through having better ideas. State constitutional amendments protecting traditional marriage passed in several states, including liberal California. Other conservative measures passed in various states. These show America is still a center-right nation. Voters have not rejected conservative principles, and in fact still favor them.
In one sense, elections are simply mathematics. If the GOP wants to regain power, it must communicate an agenda in such a way that it gets more than half of the voters to vote for it.
The electorate, however, is changing. Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain. The Obama campaign also made gains among Catholics, immigrants, churchgoers, women and young voters. If Republicans want to retake the White House and Congress, they must find ways to appeal to those voters.
Republicans do not need to abandon their principles. Americans prefer lower taxes to higher taxes. They prefer strong national defenses to weakened defenses. They practice their faith and respect other faiths; they support marriage and the Second Amendment; they want strong families and strong homes. Americans also want personal liberty and economic opportunity. The Republican vision of Ronald Reagan can still win elections in this country.