The road ahead

I want to write a post about where the Republican party should be headed, what they should be doing, and what I forsee as the future of the Grand Old Party. But it has to start at a strange place – with John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. It’s not that I wanted to start it there, rather I started writing about one topic, and then was taken up by my theorising about the future of the Republicans. So here goes. Bear with me – it’s logical and progresses well (I feel), but I just thought I’d put the warning out there.

Also, I wrote this before Clinton’s name was floated for Secretary of State, and certainly before she accepted the position. It was a hypothetical that hasn’t turned out (well, not yet because there’s some avenues that she could still persue). However, what I write about the Republican party still stands true.

A lot of people (myself included) thought former Senator John Edwards would be Attorney-General. That’s off the table now that he’s admitted to an affair. It’s these kinds unfortunate taints that Obama needs to stick clear of through his first term. Sure, it has nothing to do with politics and is of no concern (well, shouldn’t be) to the electorate, but it’s the way things work.

So with that hole opened up, let’s look at a handful of candidates for the job. A very dark horse would be Hillary Clinton – former lawyer, primary opponent, learned in politics and a multi-term senator. She’s a very dark horse because, well, let’s face it, her and Obama probably still aren’t sending each other Christmas cards. Similarly, with her run, and now near-on impossibility of ever getting into the White House in her own right, she needs to look to other offices to build her reputation further. Senate Majority (or if the Democrats lost control after the mid-terms, Minority) Leader would probably be her most covetted position at the moment. It’s a powerful post, especially with Democrat leads in the House and Senate, and control of the White House. Bargaining doesn’t have to cross party lines, just has to fit into factional lines. Leading the Senate means pretty much leading the votes Obama will need to get things passed. However, she needs to gather up and retain the numbers first – at least 10 loyal senators, 15 prefferable.

Then again, she also has to hope the Nevada Senior Senator Harry Reid doesn’t want the job anymore, and neither do the other 56 or so senators that they job might go to. In all seriousness, Clinton isn’t a heavyweight in the Senate – she’s from a traditionally Democratic state, so she can’t claim she needs the position because she can hold a swing seat. She’s a junior senator to boot – even her companion from New York has a claim to the position before her, and neither of them before the likes of ….

So the truth of the matter is, Clinton might want to focus her efforts on Senate Majority Leader before taking up the post of Attorney-General (if she was even offered it). Governor of New York, the state she represents in the Senate but does not originate from, is also on the cards. However, she’d have to wait until Mike Bloomberg, current mayor of New York, made his intentions clear. At the moment, Bloomberg is an independent come Republican. He’s a true centrist, he’s good great economic credentials, and would be a shoe-in for the governor’s house.

What does this have to do with anything? Like I said, Bloomberg is an independent. The Democrats want to keep him that way because he is the sort of guy that could be destined for higher things. He’s well liked across the state, especially in Democratic New York, who knew he was a former Republican and still voted him in. He’s got the power and charisma to challenge for the seat that Clinton would have to step down from should she become governor – which sees the Democrats lose an important, traditional seat from a blue state. Not what they want.

But worse, should Clinton run for the governorship in New York, it’s entirely possible that the Republicans would try and get Bloomberg to challenge. It would be a monster battle between the two, and an epic fight between the party machines, but I expect Bloomberg would win, ensuring that he had a lock on the seat for at least 4 years. What could he do from there? Depending how much of a party man he is, he could reestablish the Republican Party as a force in the state that sees Democrats hold the state House, Senate, and every burrough in New York City. If the Republicans could challenge for a general election win in New York, it cuts off one of the Democrat’s giant advantages in general elections. New York, with 35 electoral college votes, and California, with 55 electoral college votes, give the Democrats a given 90 EV advantage in any election. The Republicans only have Texas, with 34 EVs. Shift New York to the Republicans, and the tables are turned completely.

Now, I’m not saying New York is going red, or that Bloomberg would flip it, or anything of the sort. Wah I’m saying is that if the Republican party are smart about things, now that they are having a big inward-looking reflection before they shake things up and reform their platform, they should think about scenarios like this. Look to who the possible future faces are of the party and build up around them while at the same time, target some of the given Democratic strengths. The Republicans really need to challenge in New England, the Great Lakes, and on the East Coast. Not in all of them, maybe just 5 states total. They nearly did in the past two election – Minnesota and Wisconsin nearly went red in 2004 – but never as effective as they should, and certainly they have never won one of them recently. If the Republicans can challenge for New York or California, Pennsylvania, Washington or Oregon, Michigan or Minnesota or Wisconsin (not the ‘or’s there – it doesn’t have to be all of them, one or two might even suffice) then the Republicans begin to even the playing field.

With Obama fronting for the Democrats, and heading their ticket in 4 years’ time, they will struggle with this, That’s why the next 4 years should be about rebuilding, with the next election about throwing off the dead-weight. Their next candidate needs to run as a true Republican, needs to abandon their moral and ethic crusades (really, stop talking about abortion and gay rights on a national stage and claim they are for states to decide (which is a giant step forward for both issues), campaign for smaller government, for less interference but moderate regulation, economic regularity, and above all national security without a fear-based campaign. They can hold up someone that can afford to lose who also looks the real-deal by Republican, and even political, standards – Gingrich.

His counterpart on the ticket needs to be the right-hook though. The VP spot on the next Republican ticket must, without any doubt, be the true future of the party and the type of Republican that the party needs to be built around. It needs to be someone with experience and political fortitude enough to withstand a defeat as VP, but have a clear and strong enough voice to make the voters believe in a slightly different message to that which the head of the ticket in 2012 speaks. Bobby Jindal is an option. He’s not the only option, but he’s viable. If Governor of Minnesota (note: A Great Lakes state) Tim Pawlenty stays in the game and keeps a good enough profile, he’s another option.

The Republicans can’t go down the Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin path. If they do, mark my words, the party will be wandering around the forrest for a long, long time. The last election was a judgement not just of Bush but of the state of the Republican party. And by a 7% difference, the American people voted down a party that advocate moral and ethical interference in citizen’s lives (when they should be campaigning for less) and economic deregulation (when they should be campaigning for more). If the Republican party wants to continue to harp on about moral and ethical issues being mandated by the government then they can – and they might also receive a house-warming present from Ralph Nader, the Libertarian, and other third-party groups that never amount to anything.

The Democrats, in placing Obama at the front, changed themselves quite quickly. Partly because of Barack Obama himself (his meteoric rise saw him drag the traditional consituants with him, while with the other hand he redrew political voting lines), another part because of Howard Dean (who implemented the 50 state strategy at the DNC prior to the midterms of 2006 – and it’s come up trumps twice now), and finally because the Republicans are lost themselves. You can’t be the second party in a two-party system without defining yourself against the other mob. The Democrats did it perfectly in 2008 – ‘McCain is a Republican. Bush is also a Republican, and bad. Therefore McCain is Bush and McCain is bad. Democrats aren’t Republicans, therefore Democrats are good. I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message.’ The Democrats are finalising this process, but you can already see the titan the party has become in terms of electability – energy independence through green power and oil; ramp up national security but don’t put any more American lives in harm’s way; fix the world economy but fix it domestically; stop the rot in D.C. through change not more of the same from either the Democrats or the Republicans, it’s time for the next generation.

The Republicans have to watch the Democrats closely now. They need to see what parts of the electorate are being left out with these new boundaries. The Republicans kept re-drawing their lines until they excluded too many people. Now we need to look at who the Democrats are excluding. At the moment, it’s the fringe people from all sides that no one wants – red necks, communists, the KKK, anarchists, the Christian hard-right. Funnily enough three of those groups are Republican faithful now. Anyway, the Democrats have draw such a large circle that it makes it nearly impossible for the Republicans to target a specific group just yet, and work them over for the 2012 election.

But the Republicans need to be patient, as I have said. They need to change their platform slowly. Obama got away with it because his own rise was strong enough to drag the party with him – whether the party wanted it (which some factions ceratinly did not (Clintons)) or not. The Repubicans will have to wait at least 6 years, probably longer, until they have finally found their grove. If it’s longer than 6 years (which is the year of the mid-terms between 2012 and 2016), they will probably lose the 2016 election too. That’s why they need a structured and focused ticket like the one I proposed earlier.

Patience also means something else – eventually the Democrats will have to conceed to some groups, rule out others, to the point where they themselves are put into the position of the the Republicans roughly 3 or 4 years ago. They will have lost certain groups, or certain states, due to their policies that sees those same groups or states look to the Republicans for a change. It won’t happen while Obama is around – but probably the second election after he’s gone. The Republicans will only around that time too be able to fully define their party as an opposite to what the Democrats are and capitalise on their lost groups.

So that’s the future I see for the Republicans. It’s a long and lonely road. It requires patience and effort to walk, and a lot of soul-searching by party-powers and faithful. They might have to make some calls that don’t see right, don’t seem ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ (at the moment), and maybe even a little regressive, back to the party’s long history. But they need to do all this and more – otherwise, there’s no future for the Republicans at all. They can’t stay the same party that has lost the 2006 mid-terms and the 2008 general. They can’t be the party that continues to lose positioning in the House and the Senate. They have to shape up or ship out. Those are the only options on the table for them.

Thomas.

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