WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2013 ― The GOP’s standing in national politics is at an all-time low. Some of the blame has to go to the people who claim to be the keepers of Conservatism.
The good ship RNC was jarred off-course circa 2003 and finally ran ashore with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s desperate plea to “recalibrate the compass of conservatism.” Jindal’s January 24 speech to the RNC in Charlotte, NC, was intended to motivate the party “to go after every voter.” He called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and to change their image.
The GOP’s problems started in 2003, when Republican leaders collectively convinced the American people that invading Iraq would yield Saddam Hussein’s WMD stockpiles and stabilize the region. Even though other strategic objectives were realized, such as liberating the Kurdish people and promoting democracy, the WMD intelligence snafu overshadowed every Bush victory, and the left exploited it to create an emotional loathing of Republicans.
Bush’s perceived and real ineptitude was the beginning of the fall of the Republican brand. During his presidency, the usual group of Conservative radio personalities seemed to support him out of pure partisan habit, an us versus them approach which amplified American resentment towards Republicans.
This downfall continued in 2006, when Bush urged Congress to pass new immigration laws with the support of Senator John McCain. This may have been a calculated political move to secure the Latino vote, but it was vehemently opposed by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. For months they spouted vitriol against amnesty, McCain’s presidential run, and the Immigration Reform Act, in the process exposing an ideological divide between Republicans and Conservatives.
The left exploited the Limbaugh-led schism by pointing out that President Reagan, the Republican deity, granted amnesty to 3 million undocumented workers in the 1980s. This ideological rift and talk show host proselytizing further pushed potential voters away from the party. Further, President Bush and Republicans continue to take the blame for gun violence, Katrina, the subprime mortgage crisis, unemployment, and the double-dip recession.
In 2012 the GOP nominated Mitt Romney, a “check-pants country club Republican,” who according to Michael Savage, who was simply the wrong man for the GOP at the wrong time. Romney’s polished appearance and wealth were turned into a weakness as the Democrats persuaded voters that success is shameful. Additionally, Romney’s stiff personality coupled with his Mormon religion damped the enthusiasm of his party base. Casual and crossover voters could not relate to Romney, and Limbaugh never fully accepted Romney as a genuine conservative. Missteps like his “47 percent” comment made it even easier for Democrats to paint him as detached from regular Americans.
Republicans seem to have lost the war of ideas and principles. Their shattered image and divided ideology need to be reconciled with what the voting public wants and needs. With two Presidential losses attributed to Limbaugh, Hannity, and Ingrahm’s plan, their credibility as the base of the conservative movement is lost. However it’s not the end of the party, rather an opportunity to regain the national landscape and cut ties with divisive factions in the party. In this case, Republicans should probably take a page out of the Democratic playbook by not letting “a good crisis go to waste,” and conservative voters should consider listening to alternative voices like Michael Savage and Chris Plante.
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