US Elections 2012 – Lessons for the GOP


The whole world recently woke up to the news that Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States. Many of you would cheer, many of you would be upset, many (like me) would be indifferent. He’s exceeded my expectations of him in his first term, and good luck to him in his second.

My expectations have also been exceeded by the ability of the Republican Party to destroy itself. I never thought that the GOP would fare so badly in the key states. You might say that the popular vote shows that they have done well. I would disagree – they got less than in 2008.

There are several issues that the GOP must address to ensure that it gets itself back on track with the USA. The fundamental values are the same, but the markets that they have to go for have changed. Here are a few musings of what the GOP must do.


1. Ronald Reagan is dead

I mean, of course, the Republican right’s interpretation of his ideas is dead. Reagan has been misinterpreted by every Republican to being a tax cutting, Russian hating, anti-government, anti-abortion President. He was, but there was a lot more to his presidency than calling the Soviet Union the ‘Evil Empire.’ Romney’s rejection of a 10:1 spending cut to tax rise approach is indicative of the GOP’s turn towards ideology best seen in 2011’s debt ceiling debacle.

Reagan raised taxes on some occasions to tackle his surging deficit. He wasn’t anti-government – he made the point that to the nation he ‘did not want to do away with government’, but make it work. He may have initially attacked Brezhnev bringing the world closer to nuclear war than it has ever been; but he compromised with Gorbachev, signed arms reductions treaties and ended the Cold War. He was not ideological. He was pragmatic, optimistic, inclusive, tolerant and was willing to compromise. Please take heed.


2. Be more inclusive

Many have said that the Republican message has to appeal to more Latinos, to minorities, women and the rest of the country. This does not require a radical shift in ground. The fundamental values of the GOP are aspiration, a strong nation and a moral nation.

Firstly, aspiration was the key to it. Paul Ryan made this the fundamental issue of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. It was something that Thatcher, Major and Blair would argue for in this country. It was what the Latinos, African Americans, and other minorities had to go through like Marco Rubio, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (who was a Democrat), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Secretary Condoleeza Rice. All of these people had their struggles and embodied what previous generations had to go through.

Partly this was the previous notions of the GOP, such as with the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ debacle which painted the GOP as right-wing whack jobs. This is not a good thing. They forgot that George W Bush, post-9/11 made special efforts to reach out to Muslims across the country by reminding the country of the good work Muslims do as citizens of the USA. Movements like the ‘birther’ movement simply portray the right as sore losers and bigots.

Ultimately, they need to remember Reagan, FDR and others who sought to include the country together. Remember, when Reagan told Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall,’ he was offering a hand of friendship as well. Nixon had the ‘silent majority,’ Reagan had the Reagan Democrats. Whoever runs in 2016 needs to unite the country and perhaps undertake a 50 State Strategy to get more people on board.


3.  Get Younger Candidates

In Decision Points, George W Bush pointed out that the GOP had strong candidates in 1992 (Bush Sr.), 1996 (Bob Dole) and 2008 (John McCain). They were defeated by the Baby Boomer generation in Clinton and Obama. This logic appears to have continued. Romney is one year younger than Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr., Obama is four years younger than my dad. Times have moved on and younger candidates need to take to the field. Admittedly there was a dearth of candidates, but it is a point to heed.


4. Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment

‘Thou shalt not insult thy fellow Republican.’ This happened time and again during the Primaries and it gave the Obama campaign ammunition against Romney. On a related point, respond to negative ads sensibly and immediately rather than giving your opponent the upper hand to portray a decent man like Romney in such a horrible light.


5. Give way on social issues

States have chosen to legalize gay marriage and legalize cannabis. Abortion has been legal for decades and would require Senate to approve an anti-abortion judge (difficult and embarrassing if you lose), or it would require a constitutional amendment which is also difficult. Don’t get hung up on these. Surely freedom from government means allowing people to choose for themselves what they want to do?


6. Be worthy of Government

The GOP lost. You have a majority in the House, the President has a new mandate. Take it and work constructively with the President. Oppose where you need to, but don’t oppose for the sake of opposing. Take pragmatic steps to adapt policies. For example, Obamacare exists. Try to give people that freedom of choice by liberalizing the insurance markets for that service so that it can be cheaper through Congress. Rand Paul quite bravely told the RNC that military spending needs to be cut – find where it could be reduced smartly so that the USA is operationally effective. Give constructive ways to reduce the deficit. Approve some tax rises whilst finding reasonable tax cuts. This list could continue.


Ultimately, the GOP needs to find a way to win and take more people on board. The Democrats dealt with shifting demographics by rejecting the politics of segregation, and adapting their beliefs to modern times. The Republican Party has beliefs, but they are becoming stale and need regeneration. If the GOP take this on board, 2016 will be very exciting indeed.



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