Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gerson and Wehner Propose GOP Reform

Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner have suggestions for how the Republican Party should reform itself in Commentary.

And it is no wonder that Republican policies can seem stale; they are very nearly identical to those offered up by the party more than 30 years ago. For Republicans to design an agenda that applies to the conditions of 1980 is as if Ronald Reagan designed his agenda for conditions that existed in the Truman years. To be clear: Reasonable tax rates and sound monetary policy remain important economic commitments. But America now confronts a series of challenges that have to do with globalization, stagnant wages, the loss of blue-collar jobs, exploding health-care and college costs, and the collapse of the culture of marriage.

In addition, on a number of these issues the Republican Party has developed a reputation—mostly but not completely unfair—as judgmental and retrograde. It didn’t help that, during last year’s primary season, one of the final two major candidates in the field (Rick Santorum) promised that if elected he would speak out against the damage done to American society by contraception, or that just prior to the general election, two ultimately failed candidates for the Senate spoke with stunning insensitivity about female victims of rape. In combination, all these factors have left many in the GOP in a demoralized state, convinced that the challenges confronting them are not superficial, cyclical, or personality-oriented but that prevailing political forces, as well as prevailing public attitudes, present enormous obstacles to the national success of their party. They are right to be worried.

Gerson and Wehner propose that the GOP:
  • Emulate the Democratic Party's move to the center.  After a drift to the left led to consecutive losses in Presidential elections in the 1980's the Democratic Leadership Council was formed steering the party to the center and culminating in electing Bill Clinton in 1992.
  • Shift to economic policies benefiting middle income voters rather than defending tax cuts for the wealthy. Specifically, they suggest that the GOP oppose corporate welfare.
  • Become more immigrant friendly with comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Drop the opposition to gay marriage and seek to strengthen heterosexual marriage in other ways.
  • Embrace scientific data as a guide for policy rather than outworn ideology or religious fundamentalism (e.g. climate change).
The challenge for primary voters, party activists, and party leaders is different: to create the conditions that will give this talented field the intellectual support and leeway to oppose outworn or extreme ideas within their own coalition and to produce an agenda relevant to our time.

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