Are the Republicans rebounding?Published 8:51am Friday, February 8, 2013
After a stinging 2012 election rejection, Republicans have been doing some soul searching about the future of the party.
There is little disagreement that demographics demand the Republican Party to seek more minority and female votes to win future national elections.
But how to go about attracting new voters, or, alternatively, how to win elections with fewer and fewer voters, is an unresolved issue within the Republican Party.
First, some signs that Republicans have learned little or nothing and are embarking solely upon changing words but not policies are in evidence.
Republicans at the state level continue to work to gerrymander districts to win elections by re-arranging voters into permanent enclaves that protect Republicans more than Democrats. Hardly a noble enterprise.
And Republicans are now considering a truly anti-democratic effort to win presidential elections by changing the rules in some states, granting a Republican presidential candidate an excellent chance to win election by winning far fewer votes than the Democratic candidate.
The idea is to select several states that gave their electoral votes to Obama and change the count in those states from a winner takes all electoral vote, to a district assignment of proportional electoral votes. In Ohio for example, where Obama won 51.1% of the popular vote, Romney won 75 percent of the congressional districts. Under the new rules proposed, that would have changed the outcome and Romney would have won 75 percent of Ohio’s electoral vote.
Do Republicans care that the popular vote would no longer elect the president? Not so much if their candidate would win.
In a similar non-populist effort, several Republican governors are considering what they call “flatter and fairer” state taxes, where income and property taxes would be reduced and sales taxes increased.
This would increase the portion of taxes paid by the poorest citizens and reduce the portion of taxes on the richest citizens, as the sales tax is the most regressive tax.
On the other hand, Republicans have recently taken several steps towards an appreciation that Obama’s re-election has changed the tenor of debate in politics.
Republicans avoided a government shutdown recently over the fiscal cliff, a good move.
And Republicans have evidenced some interest in resolving our troubled Immigration policy.
Finally, while the outcome remains uncertain, Republicans appear more responsive to the public support for improved gun legislation.
Perhaps as important as these policy shifts, Republicans have ended the insulting use of the term “job creators” to describe their rich supporters seeking federal tax breaks. And Republicans have, at least temporarily, stopped claiming their demand for “smaller government” when they actually mean smaller social safety net.
Rep. Eric Cantor, an important conservative voice, gave a speech this week strongly suggesting Republicans stop talking about numbers and begin talking about what can be done “to provide relief to so many millions of Americans who just want their life to work again.”
If Cantor’s theme is adopted maybe government can once again be functional, for that goal is one Democrats embrace and support.
Republicans simply cannot succeed being the party that gloats over potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare, that attacks women’s health care rights, and that favors every war every time in every place.
We need the Republican Party to actually be fiscal conservatives; we need sound budgets; we need strong critics of any administration in a congress willing to assert its constitutional role.
Republicans can do all of these things, yet recognize that it is our middle class that needs their help and support, not the few who favor them with huge campaign contributions.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.