Where Do Republicans Go from Here?

I would not consider myself a talk radio junkie.  I like to listen to talk radio if I happen to be in my car when my favorite shows are on, but I am not the kind of person who is going to leave the radio on while I work.  So I generally catch snippets of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved, usually in about 20 minute intervals. 

Rush airs from 12:00-3:00pm, and Medved airs from 3:00-6:00pm here in the eastern time zone.  Lately it has been interesting to listen to one and then the other address the same issues.  For example, on Arlen Specter’s recent defection to the Democrats, Rush basically said, “Good riddance.”  Medved, on the other hand, interpreted the defection as a tragedy for the Republican party, which he argues must pursue a “big tent” policy if it wants to regain any measure of power in the federal government.

Although they are fairly similar in their own political views, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved represent opposing viewpoints on the kind of strategy Republicans should pursue for the future.  Rush is what you might call a “purist,” one who argues that if Republicans simply get back to the business of articulating true conservatism, their ideas will win them support.  The worst thing Republicans can do now, he argues, is try to be more like Democrats.  Medved, on the other hand, sees the only hope for the Republican party in a broad appeal to moderates and conservatives alike.  If Rush is a “purist,” Medved is more like a pragmatist, one who is seeking a “middle-of-the-road” political strategy.

What should Republicans do now that they have been soundly thumped in two straight elections?  Although I typically prefer Medved’s show over Rush’s, I have to say that Rush has the better argument on this one.  In recent history I can think of two occasions when Republicans pulled off resounding electoral victories: Reagan’s two landslide victories in 1980 and 1984 and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 under the leadership of Newt Gingrich.  Both of these victories were won on the principles of conservatism.  Republicans simply presented a better vision for America, and they did it in an appealing, simple, and articulate way.  That’s how you win elections.

If Republicans want to get off the endangered species list, they need to espouse true conservatism again.  They need to pursue a course of contrast to the Democratic party instead of putting forth “liberalism lite.”  As it did with Bush, the voting public will soon grow tired of the Democratic leadership in Washington.  The better they position themselves as the sensible alternative to liberalism, the better position Republicans will be in to win in 2010 and beyond.

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2 Responses to “Where Do Republicans Go from Here?”

  1. Luke A. Says:

    Howdy from Romania!

    I’m like you, I leave the radio on our local talk station (WTAW) and listen to it when I’m in the car. It’s the infomaniacs in the morning, Rush twice at lunch, and Hannity on the evening drive home (I leave at 4)

    The other day Rush had a guest speaker about the “big tent” idea, who said Republicans should have a “big tent” for voters, but not elected officials. He said, “if you agree with us in most instances, more so than the democrats, then you’re welcome”…that is, if you’re a voter.

    The question becomes, what is a conservative? Most people lump conservatism into three groups, social, economic (fiscal), and foreign policy. (Am I mistaken here?)

    If I’m a fiscal conservative, but a moderate on social policies, am I welcome? Or if I’m conservative on foreign policy (a dove if you will) but socially conservative, is that OK?

    To try to fit the entire nation into two narrowly defined groups is ludicrous, whether they are voters or those people elected to represent the voters. Only small portions of the populace actually occupy the “fringe”, or the polar opposites, of the political spectrum.

    So who, then, is really welcome?

    BTW, die Academie is ALIVE!! goatchze.blogspot.com

  2. fenderpooh Says:

    I think the conservatism that is represented by the Reagan legacy is what Rush has in mind. That would entail fiscal conservatism and social conservatism. As for foreign policy, there it gets a little complicated. Obviously, all conservatives can agree that we must have a strong military and strong national defense. The difficulty comes when we try to decide what kinds of actions with respect to other nations are in the best interest of our national defense. Reagan pursued policies of alliance with those who were the enemies of our enemies. But he didn’t get so deep into something that we ended up doing nation building as we have been doing in Iraq.

    Right now and in the coming years we are going to have internal fights over what kind stance we should take on three social issues: (1) abortion, (2) gay marriage, (3) illegal immigration. There already have been voices in our party saying it is time for us to loosen up on all three. I think that would be a big mistake.

    I think the guest you mentioned on Rush’s show is exactly right: by presenting ourselves as the contrast to the Democrats, we can expand our voting base to include a mass of people who won’t agree with a number of conservative issues, and yet who will nevertheless see a general vision for America that is appealing. We can win back the “Reagan Democrats” if we get back to our core principles and present them in a simple, articulate, and endearing manner. So as far as the voting base is concerned, I say expand the tent all day. But the way to do that, in my thinking, is for the party to espouse a conservative platform and nominate conservative candidates. We really should have gone with Romney this time around. Granted, it was almost an impossible election to win, following 8 years of Bush and an absolute media frenzy over Barack the Builder (“Yes we can!”). But I think we would have had a better shot with a Romney or even a Huckabee.

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