America / Constitution / Politics / Presidential Race 2012

What’s Left of What’s Right: New Conservatism and the Future of the G.O.P.

The resounding defeat for the Republican Party in the presidential election beckons a pause from my usual focus on foreign policy. Instead I want to look at the future of the G.O.P. because the situation is critical. Mitt Romney lost by the greatest margin in a presidential election since, well, last election. The Republican Party is drowning in its own muck, and the only way out is to reform the factors that trapped it there in the first place. What new conservatism needs is, in fact, a reversion to old conservatism, at its principle core.

Unlike other parties that transform with the changing trends and movements, time has worked to the detriment of the G.O.P. Unprecedented social foci on controversial and polarizing issues like abortion and gay marriage make the Republican Party inaccessible to a majority of the population. In this election, the youth vote overwhelmingly went to Obama because they agreed with his social stances, not necessarily his economic policies. This is further supported by the rise of the Libertarian Party that also takes a more progressive stance on social issues, allowing each state the ability to decide based on constituent interest. The idea of state’s rights is indeed one both the Republican Party and Libertarian Party principally share. Even so, this commitment to a limited federal government dichotomizes the actions of the Republican Party, as recent Party platforms seek to create a national stance on social issues. In this sense, the Republican Party must be less conservative by being more conservative.

This issue highlights another fundamental issue that plagues the Right more than the Left: The separation of Church and State. The “Freedom of Religion” clause is constitutionally written under the First Amendment, yet is completely disregarded in action. For reference, the Amendment, verbatim, is as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It is indeed the founding principle of our nation: The United States was created to fight religious oppression from a religiously sponsored State of England. Thusly it would be nonsensical for an electable party to base its policies solely on religious doctrines. To have a separation in law and religion is by no means anti-religion; in fact, it promotes the free practice of religion without restriction. In avoiding staunch stances on religiously fueled topics, the Republican Party could avoid demeaning key groups of voters. The explicit attacks on religiously affiliated issues are dangerous to major voting blocs, specifically women who favored Obama 55% to Romney’s 44%. The perceived alienation of women’s rights in this election is an unnecessary venture the Republican Party chose to undertake and it backfired.

Even so, the historic facts support that the G.O.P. must cater to more than the white male vote. This is evident because Romney lost in every non-white demographic; however, the G.O.P. still saw a shrinking support even in the white male group, dropping from 74% last election to 72% this year.

Moreover, the Republican Party’s insistence on hard lined, big-government approaches to sensitive issues alienates minority populations, which nullifies any chance at capturing their vote. It is important then to assess the effects of Republican stances on minority populations. As examples, the Republican platform of self-deportation does not resonate with Hispanic voters because it does not offer a quantifiable solution to immigration; the idea of cutting entitlements without a replacement system does not resonate with the black community because it does not offer a quantifiable solution to the issue of poverty; and the uncompromising stance on women’s rights does not resonate with female voters because it does not offer quantifiable solution to the issue of personal liberties. Consequently, Obama won the Hispanic vote with 71%, the black vote with 96% and the female vote at the aforementioned 55%. The solution is to appeal to both sides, where Obama won 56% of the moderate vote, by counter intuitively using the most conservative approach by following the Constitution’s provisions.

The movement towards principled conservatism already has a wretched name that is unmentionable in most circles: The Tea Party. The movement has an indubitably negative stigma, and rightfully so because of its most outspoken members. More recently, it was the likes of Todd Akin and his claim of “legitimate rape” that inflamed the passions of the nation. Ignorant comments like this delegitimize a movement whose intention is to adhere to the Constitution, lower government spending, cut taxes and reduce the national deficit. The first step is to stop the vilification of Tea Party by separating the personal views of members from the movement. The core ideals should be embraced by the Right, and the antediluvian opinions must be eradicated. This is because some well-known members like Michele Bachman appear out of touch with the mainstream U.S. electorate because of their personally charged views. For example, Bachman advocates for a theocracy and disdains the notion of a separation of Church and State. Comments in the media that she believes evolution is nothing more than a theory, gay marriage legalization would endanger children and that homosexuality is a personal enslavement singles out minority voting blocs important in any race. While these views do not in any way reflect the principles of the Movement, they become guilty by association— and that should be the launching pad for change.

The solution is that the G.O.P. must utilize some of the Tea Party platform, but strictly stay true to the ideals—the same conservatism on which the Party was founded. Unopposed battles should not be undertaken when not solicited by either side. Taking a stance on controversial and polarizing issues only works to the detriment of the Party; instead it must embrace the idea of moving forward by summoning its past. The country is ready for a conservative movement; it just needs to be incarnated in the proper form.

This election was the Republicans’ to lose, yet Obama still won without fulfilling a majority of his promises from four years ago. It is apparent the problem was not only with Mitt Romney, it was the problem is with the Republican Party. It is time to recoup what’s left of what’s right and create a direction for new conservatism because that is the only way the G.O.P. can emerge from turmoil it has created.