To: The Republican Party
From: A Liberal Democrat from New York
Subject: Some Constructive Criticism for 2016
As the Grand Ol’ Party is still smarting from last week’s Election Day whipping, trying to figure out just what went so horribly wrong, optimists ought to set their sights on put together a better campaign in 2016. As a rabidly liberal Jewish Democrat from New York, I might be the last person whom the RNC might look to for advice; I am not from a swing state, and I’m the kind of person the RNC has completely written off. But since I respect some conservative principles, and I see some inherent worth in the health of our democracy by having a viable Republican Party, I feel obligated to lend some frank advice. Judging by the extent of Republican losses last week, I might be the best kind of person to listen to.
New York is now taken for granted in the blue column, and Democrats control every statewide office in Albany. This one-party regime is a creation not so much because New York Democrats run a flawless operation - boy, are we flawed – as because the New York Republican Party has, as a whole, proven themselves to be a complete and total joke.
But it wasn’t always that way. For years, New York state politics was dominated by Nelson Rockefeller, the ultimate Establishment Republican, and we elected Peekskill Republican George Pataki to the Governor’s office three times. We sent moderate Republicans like Alfonse D’Amato and Jacob Javits to the Senate, Hamilton Fish and Sherwood Boehlert to the House. Even in New York City, the large majorities voted for Rudy Giuliani twice and Mike Bloomberg thrice. We liked these moderate Republicans because they promised to keep business booming and Wall Street roaring, to maintain law and order and make sure the trains ran on time. College-educated, socially liberal suburbanites felt comfortable pulling the lever for a Republican who would promise to advance civil rights laws, protect our water and air from pollution, and reform government from the taint of corruption. They were conservative – but not reactionary. There's a big difference.
But something went awry in the mid-2000s, when the New York GOP all but conceded statewide races to the Democratic Party. The breaking point came in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial race when New York Republicans were given a choice between Rick Lazio – a telegenic former Congressman from Long Island – and Carl Paladino – a Buffalo-area developer who reminded many people of their inexplicably petulant, kinda racist father-in-law with whom they struggle at every Thanksgiving to make pleasant small talk. Paladino railed against the “Mosque at Ground Zero”, chastised Andrew Cuomo for attending the Gay Pride Parade, proudly brandished his handgun in public and vowed to repeal the assault weapons ban. Paladino was a running punch line to jokes that didn't even need a set-up. But given the choice between Lazio and Paladino, GOP primary voters inexplicably gave their nomination to the right wing clown. Paladino was trounced 34% to Cuomo’s 61%; his showing was so bad that the Democratic candidate even prevailed in almost every Upstate county. The walking, talking fiasco that was Carl Paladino was an omen of the GOP’s nation-wide ills in 2012. You didn't heed it.
So what does that mean for the national Republican Party if they want to have a chance at the White House in 2016? Well, first of all, try fielding a candidate that could actually campaign in states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California. It's not that we're self-centered, it's just that we're almost half the population of the United States. So long as you give the Democratic Party 196 electoral votes for granted, you’re putting your party at a monumental disadvantage. Stop fielding such total losers.
Speaking of total losers, fuhgettabout Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney didn’t lose this election alone – Paul Ryan lost it too. Though subscribers to The National Review might ogle and fantasize at centerfolds of the Ryan Budget Plan, its draconian cuts to popular social programs were anathema to just about each and every swing voter. Ryan was a drag on the ticket even more so because the “legitimate rape” fiasco extended to the Congressman – who had co-sponsored legislation with Todd Akin to narrow the definition of rape to only cases where violent force was used. This was not just a campaign “gotcha!” moment or guilt-by-association. Paul Ryan is a man who wants to deny victims of rape legal protections if their rapist subdued them with Roofies or psychological coercion - but didn't actually use violent force against them - because that wouldn't be a legitimate rape, in his co-sponsors words. Paul Ryan will never be able to disown this. Besides, Ryan went to lose his home state of Wisconsin by 4.6 points. Putting this loser on the top of the ticket in 2016 would be as bone-headed a decision as the Democrats choice to nominate Walter Mondale in 1984 after he and Carter got creamed four years’ prior. Why put yourself through this again?
Republicans are famous for giving their presidential nominations to the candidate who has waited patiently for his turn, usually the Vice President of two-term Republican administration (Nixon, Bush I) or the runner-up in the last primary campaign (McCain, Romney). According to that standard, the GOP’s 2016 nominee would be... (drumroll please)... Rick Santorum. Chew on that for a moment.
If you thought that this election was a disappointment, imagine how bad this day will be four years from now with Rick Santorum – or Rick Perry, or Newt Gingrich, or Michele Bachmann at the top of the ticket. It would be a 20-point washout. Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden would win Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, Montana, maybe even make competitive races in Alabama and Utah, Democrats down the ticket would win filibuster proof supermajorities in the Senate and House that would reign for a generation. If the GOP nominates any of 2012’s fire-breathing runners-up, they would be committing hari-kari and might as well just declare their retirement from electoral politics. Republicans had a real chance to win the White House and the Senate, and this band of nincompoops, through their own humiliatingly stupid, piggish conduct and - I'm sorry - their kooky beliefs about penises and vaginas, just cost you a perfectly winnable election. You do not owe them anything.
If the 2012 elections stand for anything, it is that Republicans who espouse retrograde views on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are now forever doomed – even in Bible Belt states like Indiana and Missouri. If they have ever tried to minimize the pain and suffering of victims of rape, they're done. Toast. If the GOP puts up a “fresh face” like John Thune or Bob “transvaginal ultrasound” McDonnell, it will make little to no difference. Most swing voters, especially in Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire, are thoroughly libertarian on social issues. The Chamber of Commerce, laissez faire wing of the Republican Party needs to acknowledge that the Christian Right’s influence over a GOP candidate is now a veritable kiss of death in these pivotal states and that the nominating committees ought to heed the Scriptural admonition about putting new wine in old bottles.
It’s a good thing that smart conservatives were able to acknowledge that Romney ticket lost so badly in no small part because they had an abjectly awful showing amongst Hispanics, Asians, and – no surprise here – African-Americans. Take this moment to approach the Birthers and the Minutemen and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other racists hiding in plain view and promptly throw them under the bus. The enormous turnout among racial minorities for Obama was not just because they were enamored with the first biracial President – it’s because they were also thoroughly turned off by the Romney campaign’s blatantly race-baiting tactics and much of the Republican platform. Seriously, for your own good, cut it out.
However, fielding a token member of a racial minority group such as Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, or Susana Martinez is no silver bullet to the Republican Party’s gaping, festering sore on matters of race. Some of the most hateful, bigoted comments in the 2012 campaign season came from none other than Herman Cain. People aren’t stupid, and we understand that for the RNC to go search for a dark-skinned candidate committed to spewing derogatory bile on illegal immigrants and food stamp recipients is just playing a game of tokenism. Voters can see through this charade. See, e.g., the electoral fate of Allen West, Mia Love. See, also, Alberto Gonzalez.
So if the Republican Party ever wants to see the inside of the White House again, they have to elect a moderate-to-libertarian conservative who promises competence, strong leadership, and greater fealty to working across party lines to solve America’s problems than to Tea Party ideology. A successful candidate must have some experience working in foreign policy or at least demonstrate enough interest in global affairs so as to go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden for the title of Commander in Chief. A successful candidate pitching to professionals anywhere within commuting distance of a metropolitan area must be able to express genuine interest in improving public transit and not bash those who use it as some "subway-riding elite." He or she must be able to relate with families who are working their butts off to send their kids through college or young professionals struggling to pay off their student loans without deriding us as "snobs." It would help if that candidate hails from a fairly cosmopolitan state or at least has experience working together with racial minorities and immigrant communities with cultures unlike his or her own. It would help if that candidate is able to negotiate with union groups in a decidedly non-antagonistic manner, or at least show some sensitivity to working class concerns. The candidate must acknowledge that global warming is quite real, that it is man-made, that it is a threat to national security and that America needs to drastically overhaul our energy infrastructure to mitigate the threat of future Sandys and Katrinas. Unless the GOP can mature enough to satisfy the above, they will slowly atrophy into a regional minority party that can only win elections in the former Confederacy, the Mormon West, and the depopulating Great Plains.