One year ago, the GOP convention came to town, albeit delayed for a day because of sensitivities to what Tropical Storm Isaac, brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, might do.
As Isaac passed and the party began to convene, Republicans began what they thought was the last leg of their road to retake the White House. The convention ended up being a seemingly seamless and perfectly choreographed affair — unless you consider the Isaac issue, Clint Eastwood’s performance with “Obama’s chair,” or the fact that the assembled delegates on the convention floor looked whiter than a bowl of cottage cheese.
Mitt Romney left the convention without much movement in the polls, and days later, the Democrats met in Charlotte, where they held one of their most successful conventions in recent times.
The hopes of Republican voters jumped after the first debate, but Romney couldn’t sustain the enthusiasm and lost big to Obama on Election Day.
For the GOP, the Tampa convention and the Romney campaign with the flaws that came with the candidate are now mere asterisks in the annals of party history. The question is, what have we learned since, and when will the party change?
Since the election, the most common comments I hear about the party contain one of two views, one being from the conservative-leaning members of the party who say the party lost its way and got too liberal and willing to compromise with Democrats. The other was from moderate Republicans who find the party’s hard-line on immigration reform, gay rights and abortion to be off-putting.
Unfortunately for the GOP, there is truth to both concerns, and the present dichotomy between these two views from within the party is unenviable.
The problem is compounded by the fact that millions of people are abandoning the Republicans (as well as the Democrats), preferring instead to register with no-party affiliation.
So what is the GOP to do?
Although counterintuitive to everything the party and its so-called leaders currently believe, I think the Republican Party should strongly advocate for two things.
First, it should support a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and move to direct election of the president as determined by the popular vote, with one candidate required to receive a majority of votes cast. The latter being critical because it would mean never again will a president be elected without a majority vote. Absent a majority, a runoff in a multicandidate election would be required.
Next, the Republicans should advocate to loosen state and federal laws that give nearly unchallengeable strength and influence to the two major political parties. The result of this effort would be the rise of one or more dominant and respectable national third-party organizations in the United States.
All of this is necessary for the survival of the Republican Party as we know it, because right now the party is brain dead, in a coma, and on life support. It has no message but “no,” zero leadership, and an inability to connect and understand the average voter.
The party’s only hope is that it has a miraculous recovery with the assistance of a third party before more voters abandon the GOP and pull the proverbial plug on this relic of the past.
At the presidential level, and more importantly, in congressional campaigns, third-party candidates will allow voters the opportunity to find candidates who legitimately appeal to voters’ values — as opposed to the current two-party system, which tends to cause voters to support not the candidate they like, but the one they dislike the least.
Genuine third-party opportunities would likely result in a smaller but less-fractured Republican Party. Similarly, left-wing liberal elements of the Democratic Party would likely form their own third party, leaving both traditional parties the opportunity to tack toward the reasonable and logical as opposed to the ideological and pander politics of present.
One thing is for sure, voters may be sick of the big-government tax-and-spend policies of the Democrats, but if the GOP continues to be perceived as anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-widows, orphans, and puppy dogs, we’ll never see another Republican president. Legitimizing third-party participation in elections will reduce much of the fringe elements the GOP has so much difficulty dealing with internally, and will allow the party to rebuild its brand based on personal responsibility, accountability and limited government.
Such reforms may be the GOP’s only hope to have long-term relevance and to re-engage the disenfranchised voters of today who view the party as one of rich old white men. If you watched the convention in Tampa last year, you know that’s exactly what the Republican Party has become.
Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and political analyst for Bay News 9.