I will not deny that the Republican Party (nationally and locally) has had its share of problems and dysfunctions in the recent past. My purpose here is not to write an in-depth treatise analyzing the causes, suffice it to say that a gross lack of fiscal responsibility and a glaring absence of fealty to other mainstream conservative ideas played major roles.
But let’s be honest: the Party deserves little if any of the blame for the Arlen Specter defection. The man is far less principled than the average member of Congress, and that’s saying a lot. Specter’s party switch (and his ham-handed, self-serving approach in doing so) showed a lack of respect to the voters of Pennsylvania, and to the intelligence of the average American.
That being said, the GOP does have its share of problems.
And for me, John Hawkins at Right Wing News has provided one of the best explanations of the party’s “psychologically out of whack” status and what should be done:
That brings us to where we are today. The conservative base of the GOP feels like it has been used and abused by the Republican Party. Until that changes, we’re not going to cut the party a lot of slack, we’re not going to be very interested in helping moderates, and we’re going to be deeply suspicious of the party.
The way to change that perception is to admit that the party lost its way, reach out to the base to convince them that it has changed, and then to prove the party is getting back to its conservative roots by voting that way. When conservatives become convinced that the GOP is “on their side” again and making a good faith effort to do the right thing, we’ll be much more tolerant of moderates in blue states, we’ll cut the party more slack, and we’ll get fired up again. Having a far left-wing radical in the White House will help on that count, too.
But in the interim, conservatives should remember that if we want to win elections, we need to add people to the Republican Party, not get rid of them and moderates should remember that the beating heart of the GOP, like it or not, will remain conservative for the foreseeable future.
You can reach out to moderates all the livelong day, and if Arlen Specter is worried about being primaried for his sellout on the porkulus package, he’s still going to jump ship. Sorry. It’s hard to see it any other way.
Joshua also has a good suggestion for renewal at the state level: a hands-off approach from state party leaders vis a vis the Tea Party movement.
Is anyone out there listening … really listening?