Written by Vincent Gioia
May 19, 2008
By Vincent Gioia
If the Republican Party has lost its way, how can voters be expected to follow them?
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the latest politician masquerading as a Republican to call for the party to change its ways and adopt Democrat policies to win elections. Some years ago Arnold said the Republican Party was in danger of "dying at the box office" if it failed to appeal to a wider group of voters.
The popular song sung by the Republican Party stalwarts this year is "the Republican brand has become damaged goods." One GOP representative has gone so far as to say "if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf." However the thing about any "brand" is that the public loses confidence in the brand when the quality of the merchandise deteriorates.
The Republican candidate for president, who won the nomination by default, John McCain, is also leading the way to transform the Republican Party into a mere shadow of its former self by adopting similar Democrat programs as has the California governor. Columnist Patrick Casey has correctly written regarding the McCain campaign: "The answer for GOP presidential candidate John McCain: take a page out of the Schwarzenegger playbook and sell a product that is "counter" to the current GOP brand on issues like global warming, spending and even immigration reform".
The present direction of the Republican Party is especially unfortunate because the last time the party acted like Republicans in 1994 they took the country by storm, but then they all campaigned and ran on conservative values and issues. As the GOP deviated from conservative principles, they lost public support and voters saw them just as phony Democrats and decided they might just as well vote for the real thing. After all, Republicans in congress and a complicit Republican president adopted Democrat traditions of excessive pork barrel spending, ethical lapses and big brother government policies. Republicans for the last 12 years did not follow anything even slightly resembling conservative policies.
Not even the Republican conservative base trusts Republicans after a long period of Rockefeller-style liberal Republicanism. To regain public confidence Republicans must return to conservative principles, govern in the future as conservatives and reject compromising with liberal policies and legislative proposals. As it is now, Republicans seem to want to out do Democrats for public approval by accepting big spending and jumping on programs rejected by conservatives.
The Schwarzenegger model might work in California now but presenting a "Democrat-Lite" alternative to voters is not good for the state or the country in the long run. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner - the only Republican besides Schwarzenegger elected to statewide office in the last election - said his party's image has deteriorated because GOP candidates have forgotten the party's core principles: lower taxes and less government.
Poizner went on to say "Spending has skyrocketed. ... There's been this real crisis in earmarks, which are not justified, and there's been corruption because of ethics violations. "Republican Party leaders have done a terrible job and let the country down."
"Swing voters are looking for people who have the ability to get things done in both the private sector and public sector. We can win elections if we get back to the basics - and that's something that Senator McCain should do."
Ironically John McCain might win this very important Presidential election because many people understand the alternative, Obama or Clinton, would be disastrous for the United States and the world. Just the Islamic threat and the terror war issues alone together with the worldwide and domestic ramifications if we should lose, are likely enough to bring conservatives out to vote for McCain even though many of them might otherwise be tempted to not vote at all.
But McCain has made it clear that he will not advance positions of importance to conservatives such as on illegal immigration, global warming and universal health insurance. As far as McCain is concerned he expects conservatives to support him even if it means repudiating their conservative beliefs.
I don't think that's the way for Republicans to rebuild the party. Winning elections that way may be expedient but it is not the way Republicans should present themselves if we want to do what's best for the country.
Gallop pollsters and the Pew foundation have concluded that as Republicans have moved away from conservative principles, there has been a decline in the number of voters who identify themselves as Republican. The likely explanation is because there have been no national leaders that challenge Democrats on an ideological basis and promote conservatism. The last nationally recognized GOP leader that advocated conservative ideals was Newt Gingrich - ten years ago. Without such leadership, without such an enunciated conservative agenda for people to believe in and without a Republican Party that does what it promises, it is natural for voters to cease identifying with a party that has lost its way.
Whenever Democrats win in Republican districts it's because the Democrat candidate runs as a conservative. Democrats had to run conservatives to win the three most recent House special elections. The natural home of many of those voters who elected conservative Democrats is really the Republican Party; not the party of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
If Republican leaders continue to say conservatism is no longer a winning strategy it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without anyone in the GOP publicly promoting conservative ideology and a true conservative agenda as a solution to our problems, how do we know that it won't work? When it's been tried in the past, it's attracted enthusiastic supporters and voters - and been quite successful.
We should do that again; I firmly believe most Americans are conservative and would elect candidates with conservative ideology if given a chance.