Challenges for a Republican renaissance

Posted: Nov 09, 2009 12:00 AM

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and the New York Yankees can look back on a good week. Maybe Steele deserves extra credit.

No one was writing obituaries a year ago for the Yankees as was the case for the Republican Party.

Now we have a different picture. Borrowing from the words of Mark Twain, reports of the death of the Republican Party were greatly exaggerated.

The operative question today for Steele and his party, in the wake of winning governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, both Democratic states in 2008, is "Now what?"

Will voter discontent that led to these Republican victories be parlayed into a genuine Republican renaissance?

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As independent voters move away from Democrats and lean back toward Republicans, which is what happened in Virginia and New Jersey, and what polling over the year has shown to be happening nationwide, will Republicans build a solid new tent?

Will they rebuild their party with values critical to restoring a sick nation to health?

To genuinely rebuild, Republicans must successfully take on two big challenges, one internal and one external.

First, a notion that has divided the party -- that free market economics and the social "values" agenda are separate cards to be played -- must be purged. The more libertarian stream -- Republicans whose principal concerns are limited government, low taxes, and free markets -- have viewed Christian social conservatism as dead weight in the party. This is a mistake.

Christian conservatives, on the other hand, with legitimate concerns about the moral framework of the nation -- concerns about the integrity of the American family and about the ongoing abortion holocaust -- have given shorter shrift to the importance of constitutionally limited government and free markets.

These two streams within the Republican Party that have been flowing in parallel must be channeled into one powerful river. It is not either or. Both are essential.

We cannot lose sight that we won't have a prosperous nation without free markets and limited government as our constitution originally intended.

But we also must recognize that a free economy cannot function without trust, that trust will not exist without a moral people, and that the means through which values and morality are transmitted, generation to generation, is family.

Those who don't appreciate the importance of the social agenda should consider that when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, 18 percent of American babies were born to unwed mothers. Today it is 40 percent. This kind of family disintegration is incompatible with a free and functioning society.

The second challenge, one getting some lip service but practically ignored by Republicans, is the demographic changes occurring in the country.

Although white Americans today constitute 65 percent of our population, the Census Bureau projects that whites will drop below 50 percent by 2042.

In 1976, ninety percent of voters were white. In 2008, 74 percent were white and it's estimated that this will drop to 70 percent in 2016.

Ninety percent of John McCain's support in 2008 was from white voters.

If the Republican Party is to have a future, it must reach non-white Americans, most of whom have been voting for Democrats.

Can this be done with success? Yes. And this is where the two challenges converge.

Not only do big government policies and the moral relativism of Democrats not solve the problems of black and Hispanic communities, they make them worse. Blacks and Hispanics are in critical need of the traditional values of conservatism and the prosperity that can come only from capitalism.

Taking on these two big challenges -- connecting free market capitalism with traditional values, and outreach to non-white America -- will secure a Republican and an American renaissance.