There are many lessons to take away from yesterday’s election, but the GOP needs to make sure they’re taking away the right ones.
Now I understand that after a crushing defeat, one’s first instinct is to make changes — the bigger the defeat, usually the bigger the changes. I’m seeing many folks around the blogosphere today, for example, suggesting that the GOP needs to broaden its base by embracing amnesty for illegal immigrants or abandoning its socially conservative values.
Uh, not so fast, guys.
First, let’s look back at the campaign. I personally think Mitt Romney ran one of the most effective GOP campaigns in a while. But, as Erick Erickson notes, it’s the messaging, stupid:
Neither side bothered to put forward a serious agenda that stood for much of anything. Barack Obama ran on beating up Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney ran on running away from himself. He stood for nothing and everything at the same time. At least Barack Obama campaigned on the consistent message of hating Mitt Romney.
Compare Romney to Scott Walker. Scott Walker took on the unions in Wisconsin and won big. Romney barely took on Barack Obama. He drew few lines in the sand, made those fungible, and did not stand on many principles. Americans wanted to assess a contrast between the candidates and got blurred lines instead. They went with the politician they knew instead of the one who was different depending on the election season, constituency, and time of day.
Next, the electorate. The times, they are a’ changing and this means the Republican party is also going to need to change its strategy. Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner writes:
The polls have run almost exactly along with the election results. It turns out they were sampling so many more Democrats … because there are more Democrats in the electorate now. Obama’s presidency has attracted more people to the Democratic Party.
That has tough implications for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Since George W. Bush it has operated on the presumption that needs only to rev up its base voters to win an election. This had the happy coincidence of also meaning that the way to win an election was to be solidly conservative. The 2012 election suggests that is no longer enough.
As for where we go from here, I give you Ed Morrissey:
We do not need to change our values, but we do need to find ways to communicate them in an engaging and welcoming manner. We need to think creatively about big issues, philosophy, and how we can relate conservative values to the needs of a wider range of voters. Conservatism cannot become constrictionism, or the realignment will continue, and it will become ever more difficult to win national elections.
This will require a new set of national leaders for the Republican Party and conservatism. We need men and women who can think creatively, produce a positive agenda that isn’t defined by an oppositional nature, and who can eloquently communicate that agenda and the values that drive it. …
Finally, for some closing thoughts, Patriot Danny offers some sage advice:
We had a bad night. Our county lost, our children lost… even New Hampshire chose “die.” There is very little we can do to console ourselves. We must move on. Read your Bible, hug your children, salute a soldier and remember America is still the best country on planet Earth. Keep your head up and pray that the House holds the line and hardens their resolve to resist evil.
As for us, we’re doubling down, not giving up: