Monday, November 26, 2012

The Way Forward for Republicans

Jeb Bush is not it. Sorry.

I'm not saying Jeb Bush isn't someone Republicans might choose as a presidential nominee. I could see that happening. And that's part of the problem Republicans have. They need a sharper break with their recent past and they seem unwilling to make that break.

As for Jeb himself, some Republicans think he's the way forward because he is well-regarded for his job as Governor and because he is more "Latino-friendly" (not a hard-liner on immigration and his wife is Mexican).

Here's why that's wrong:

1) "Bush" - You can pretty much count the number of times Romney said the name in 2012 on one hand. And this was not a mistake by Romney. The name remains toxic among too many independents and even among some Republicans. Jeb gave a full-throated defense of his brother's presidency at the Republican Convention this year. It didn't rehabilitate GW's image any.

2) Between 1952 and 2004 (52 years and 14 presidential elections), Republicans put together a ticket that didn't have a Nixon, a Dole, or a Bush on it just 1 time (1964). That's kind of creepy. These days, there's a fine line between partisanship and tribalism. Turning back to another Bush gets way too close to the tribalism side of things. The turn to McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012 was not quite the "fresh" makeover the Republicans needed. They desperately need that now.

3) Republicans don't so much need new ideas as they need a return to reason and "reasonableness." Mitt Romney actually pledged during the Republican primaries that he would not support $10 in spending cuts in return for $1 in tax increases because this would be $1 in tax increases too much. Voters sense this lack of reasonableness on various issues. A CNN poll out today indicates that 70% of Americans believe the Republican Party does not do enough to compromise with the President while just under half say the same about the President. Jeb Bush cannot be the new face of Republican reasonableness. And that brings us back to the root of the problem ...

The Republican Party has a problem with their base. Both political parties are prone to extremism in their primary processes. But it is worse in the Republican Party. How do we know? Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (not to mention Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain and Rick Perry and Donald Trump) were serious alternatives to Mitt Romney in the primaries. They won serious primaries and got lots of votes. Dennis Kucinich ran for president but he never got a significant number of votes anywhere. The radical left does not hold the same sway in Democratic primaries as the radical right does in Republican primaries. It is not enough for Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Jon Huntsman to run. They need to have the space for these candidates to say reasonable things and still win the nomination. That space didn't exist in 2012.

It is a long way to 2016 and Republicans have time. But I'm not hopeful that Republicans have learned the key lessons yet. Nominating Jeb Bush would be a sure sign they haven't learned these lessons at all.

No comments: