At the same time, we need to reject visibly the view that the ordinary human concern of blue-collar whites about lawless immigration represents racism.
Only the Southern Baptists (who endorsed a pathway to citizenship in 2011) and Catholic conservatives have a credible route to making a persuasive case that does not disrupt the base of the party.
Finally, the Obama electorate defeated marriage. Marriage lost for the first time in all four deep blue states it was on the ballot. We were outspent 8-to-1 -- and few Republicans were willing to speak for marriage, while the whole Democratic establishment and Hollywood campaigned for gay marriage. Last night really is a big loss -- no way to spin it.
But here's the thing: In each of these states, the silent Romney lost even bigger. Marriage outpolled the truce candidate in these deep blue territories by 10 or more points.
The way forward is not the way back. There is an opportunity in this defeat to reassess the conventional wisdom of the GOP.
If we fail, the conservative movement is over.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.