The GOP lost its 'big tent'
Ken Davis is managing director of Duane Morris Government Affairs If you are a conservative white Republican man over 55, congratulations are in order: Yours is the only voting bloc that supported John McCain.
is managing director of Duane Morris Government Affairs
If you are a conservative white Republican man over 55, congratulations are in order: Yours is the only voting bloc that supported John McCain.
Unfortunately, that demographic will not be enough to return the GOP to national power. And Republicans are losing power at the local level, too. Urban and suburban voters have rejected the party's social conservatism and its overemphasis of rural and exurban issues. Politically, the inner-ring suburbs have become almost indistinguishable from the central cities.
Especially in Pennsylvania, the Republican Party has turned a blind eye to these trends, and it's paying the price. My own Montgomery County, where I chaired the GOP for four years, saw only 10 municipalities - its least populous - vote Republican in both 2004 and 2008.
So the Republican Party has entered a soul-searching time. We must adopt the role of the opposition in a full-throated but responsible way. Our positions must be principled and practical - constructive alternatives to those put forward by Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.
The economy is the most important issue facing our country. The government has set a course of unprecedented intervention in business and the economy, and the nation will spend billions on it. Congressional Republicans must oppose Democratic overreaching on economic and tax policy.
The GOP also should embrace globalization. Trade and economic development create jobs, and jobs generate tax revenue. Democrats, who have criticized President Bush for trying to export American democracy to the world, are foolishly attempting to export U.S. labor and environmental standards.
With regard to national defense and foreign policy, the GOP must not shrink from its historically internationalist view of the world. Conciliation with our allies does not mean concession. The Democrats run the risk of turning inward, and Republicans should articulate the alternative.
In the social-policy realm, Republicans have positioned themselves as the party for straight marriage and against gay rights, for "life" and against "choice," for native Americans and against aspiring Americans. But in this election, the economy trumped all of those so-called wedge issues. Voters' concerns were jobs and income, health care and education - not Republicans' view of what their values should be.
Politically, we must abandon the fallacious notion of solidifying our "base." Whatever happened to the Republicans' "big tent"?
The answer is that the Democrats took it. They unapologetically recruited pro-life and pro-energy candidates, while we stuck to litmus-test issues that exclude people rather than include them.
Our base alone cannot win national elections. Independents are the new base, and we run the risk of achieving permanent minority status if we ignore them.
The Republican Party has a great history of electoral success. It has consistently elected its candidates to statewide office despite registration disadvantages.
The late Sen. Hugh Scott, whom I worked for, set the example in 1964, when he overcame Lyndon Johnson's landslide in Pennsylvania to win his second term. Scott was a winner because he made Democratic and independent voters part of his base. Let's not abandon that great legacy.