The Long Road Back
It has been nine years since the Republican party last won the presidency and both houses of Congress. Since then, the leadership of various sectors has changed, yet Republicans have largely been unable to bring about the kind of popularity they enjoyed during the middle of the last Bush administration. This is not to say that they haven’t tried, or that winning races hasn’t been a priority, but that the public simply has a bad taste in its mouth considering the modern conservative movement.
Currently, the Senate and the White House are held by the Democratic party, giving them a large amount of power, though somewhat stifled by a House of Representatives that maintains a Republican majority. The status quo can essentially be attributed to the successful Democrat effort to cast Republicans as the “Party of No”. Republicans rebelled against Obamacare, Republicans are fighting immigration reform, and Republicans put up a massive fight every time the question of the budget comes up. In the eyes of the public, the GOP appears to be the party that isn’t willing to do much of anything except shoot down the only solutions being presented.
Logistically, the Republicans need to win four seats in the Senate to regain the majority. According to several sources, Republicans already stand to gain three seats in the 2014 Senate elections. This leaves one more spot that needs to be taken. It would be wise, considering the shifting demographics of the Southwest, for a strong conservative effort based on the foundation of a new immigration reform solution, to be made in the race for the contested seat in New Mexico. If an intelligently-developed immigration plan is championed by the GOP candidate there, the benefits will be two-fold, win or lose.
First, Republicans would have the benefit of saying that they have now presented an immigration plan to a Hispanic-majority state. This will help the GOP present a sincere face to the public when discussing immigration issues. The Republican party will finally have given the whole question a try. If it fails, the plan can be reworked depending on the criticism it received from actual concerned voters. If it works, Republicans will have claimed a majority in the Senate, giving them a more commanding presence in the federal government.
The second benefit would be that of bolstering the 2016 Republican nominee’s position on immigration. He would either run with the plan presented by Senate candidate X from New Mexico, if it was successful initially, and make it the centerpiece of his campaign, thus appealing to the fastest growing demographic in the United States and perhaps changing Hispanics from being normally blue to red. Or, if the plan presented in the Senate race did not get the GOP candidate elected, then the presidential candidate could run a modified version that is winnable. Notably, the senatorial candidate does not have to win for either of these benefits to be realized.
And speaking of the White House run, which admittedly isn’t for three more years (almost to the week), serious deviations need to be made to the previous strategies of John McCain and Mitt Romney. To remedy these two candidate’s defeats, I believe the GOP should emulate Barack Obama. During the primaries, McCain and Romney ran center-right campaigns that changed to moderate campaigns after the RNC. In contrast, Obama ran a far left campaign during the Democratic primaries in 2008 and stayed that way even after the DNC. He also won the election. The reason being that people vote for strong principle and not translucent attempts to appeal to everyone.
However, the only way that this would be possible to replicate on the conservative side would be for a GOP nominee to stand on principle, regardless of his, or her, popularity. Therefore, the traditional model of the Bushes, Romney, and McCain will simply have to give way. The Republican party requires a candidate who has taken the time to carefully evaluate his philosophy on government, and how that influences his stance on the issues, not the other way around. This particular philosophy must provide a significant break with the ideals that the Democratic party puts forth. In other words, the national Republican party can no longer afford to market a progressive-lite ideology that is as confusing as it sounds. Instead of walking towards the middle, conservatives need to run the other way, just like Democrats have in the past two presidential elections.
Beyond purely philosophical strategy, there are some wise steps to be taken geographically during the 2016 national presidential campaign. First, given the immigration reform plan outlined above, the Republican candidate should take full advantage of his platform. He should do something unexpected, but something that also makes perfect sense considering his campaign. Something like kicking off his campaign in a state that has 2.6 million illegal immigrants. That’s right, GOP presidential nominee X should start his campaign with an event highlighting his stance on immigration issues in Los Angeles, California.
Doing so would more than likely put California, and its 55 electoral votes, in play for the first time in well over twenty years. In addition, this move could quite easily put New Mexico in the Republican column and the do the same for Florida, which has been a wild-card in the past several elections. If Romney had won these three states, with no other turns, he would have won the election in 2012 with 295 electoral votes. Also, it would force a competitive campaign to be run in traditional Democratic strongholds, putting the liberals on the defensive. This in turn would deny valuable resources in battleground states such as Virginia and Ohio. Plainly put, the benefits of this plan would make reality what the the Republican National Committee only dreams of.
The Republican party must take leadership in the area of immigration if it wishes to continue as a viable national party. It has the opportunity to do so with a well planned Senate race, and a corresponding presidential run. If it chooses to continue to ignore immigration as a national priority, then the Republican party could very well disappear from the national stage very quickly. If chooses to seize the moment and become the “Party of Yes”, then the GOP could be revitalized for generations. But it must choose soon.