How the Republican Party can save itself, and reform US electoral politics

Obama and the Democrats largely faced down and won a referendum this week.  Obama lost only two states that he carried in the 2008 election and gained 71% of the Latino vote.  Though Republicans held on to the House, they lost state and Senate seats and had no hope of winning the presidential election.  Their moderate, likeable candidate, Mitt Romney, was forced right on issues he has been moderate to liberal on, health care and abortion namely, and managed to alienate Latinos, women, and the young voters he needed to win.

There are generally two perspectives on the Republican Party at present.  Moderate Republicans and independents see a dangerous shift to the right.  They see the Republican party as out of touch with the electorate and determined to maintain a strangle hold on the country in a backwards, unprogressive way.   Generally these voters agree with the party on its nominally austere fiscal policy suggestions, but are socially liberal.  Issues such as gay marriage, abortion, universal health care, and even increased international cooperation generally make them turn towards the Democratic Party looking for solutions.  Unfortunately this is the only other place to look, and they may not find what they’re hoping to see there either.

Conservative Republicans are concerned about just the opposite phenomenon.  The Republican Party has gone soft in its attempt to cater to the moderate voter, pick up independents, and gain the faith of the fiscally conservative Democrat.  These voters include religious conservatives, but also social conservatives and even libertarians who wish to pull the party from the folly of developing social policy according to the Democratic Party.

This election has made it clear that a divided Republican Party cannot win a major election.  Obama and the Democrats didn’t do a better job than Republicans in the past year of bipartisanship.  They have not put forth better ideas for managing an economy in the doldrums and really haven’t achieved what Obama laid out in his 2008 campaign.  The Republicans simply cannot win because they are set to achieve even less.  Mitt Romney couldn’t win the election because to the first type of Republican he cowed to the right and to the second type he is not a genuine Conservative.

Furthermore it is unlikely that the Republican Party, as it sits back to lick wounds and approach the next election, should have any more hope for 2016. It is most likely that Republican candidates for 2016 will try to rectify Romney’s mistake with the conservative right.  Candidates must appear even more conservative.  They will be even more loath to reach across the aisle and tarnish their reputation with bipartisanship.  The next four years is likely to espouse be politics as usual with extreme partisanship and deadlock.

This is a fate that the US cannot afford.  Without bipartisan cooperation this government will never achieve a budget deal and save the country from the looming fiscal cliff, let alone reform health care policy and improve education and the future of the economy.

The divisions within the party are holding it back.  The party should split.  The majority, moderate Republican Party must continue its drift to the left, picking up the independents and moderate voters it covets, while consciously allowing the conservative right to be alienated.  A Republican party capable of standing on a conservative fiscal platform without alienating socially progressive voters would handily steal independents from the Democrats, easily weakening their opponent party.  It is evident that this is where the majority of Republicans, moderates, independents, and a large portion of the American electorate in general reside.

The split would, admittedly, be unattractive to the most socially conservative portion of the party given its smaller size and individuals would most likely be unconvinced of its merit.  It is advisable that for the greater gain of the party that they cast off this smaller section, who would benefit as well.   The fiscally and more socially conservative Republicans, left without a party would be forced to form a new one.  There is significant enough electorate for these voters to develop a third, truly conservative party, which actually represents their ideals.  The Tea Party is a testament to the popularity and potential for such a move.  If these voters would separate from the Republican Party rather than cowing to their more liberalized agenda and their back breaking, please everyone, Romney-type candidates they too could pick up large numbers of conservative independent voters and the many non-voters who see themselves as having no representation.

Two parties, more specifically focused would be able to attract the voters who are alienated by the present party’s thinly veiled double personality.  Because conservatives easily outnumber liberals in the US, together, as a coalition in Congress, they would overpower the Democratic numbers and the party.  In turn, it may well force the Democratic Party to split in response, allowing more specific parties such as the Greens, to pick up other voters who similarly disagree with certain aspects of the larger Democratic platform.

This is just the sort of electoral reform that US politics require.  At present the US population is forced to choose between two parties that are trying desperately to cater to the wishes of as many voters as possible, rather than the ideals that make them parties.  If the major parties split, along ideological lines, smaller parties that are actually capable of developing and maintaining their ideals would emerge.  This would give the American people the choice they deserve, among multiple parties, and would allow them to give allegiance to a party that actually stands for something.

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