Reports of the death of the Republican Party are greatly exaggerated, notwithstanding the release Monday of the details of an "autopsy" figuring out what went wrong in the 2012 elections.
The 98-page report, entitled "Growth and Opportunity Project," from party Chairman Reince Priebus, offers recommendations for -- get ready now -- "a path forward." Moving beyond the cliches, the party and grass-roots activists should note that Republicans currently hold 30 of the nation's 50 governorships, including blue states Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In 24 of those 30 states, the GOP controls the legislatures. Those are not the grunts and moans of a dying elephant, despite what frightened Republicans may have read in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other Democratic Party organs.
Amidst four months of post-election postmortems it should further be remembered that President Obama won re-election with 3.6 million fewer votes than he won in 2008. A win is a win, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement, and more attributable to the Democrats' big money and a good ground game than to shortcomings in the Republican principles. Republicans lost eight House seats and two in the Senate, the latter entirely attributable to the self-inflicted wounds of candidates in Missouri and Indiana. The notion that the GOP faces an "existential crisis" is entirely "overdone," as Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, says.
In 2010, Democrats lost 63 House seats -- the most by either party in any midterm elections since 1938. Republicans picked up six Senate seats and 628 state legislative seats in that distant year. Yet, despite taking a drubbing far more devastating than the one Republicans suffered last year, the partisan morticians did not circle the Democratic Party headquarters to collect the corpses.
Republicans should correct a few elements in their strategy. Given the train/bus/plane wreck Mr. Obama had made of the economy, the party needed bad luck to lose, and supplied it. Republicans can take to heart some of the postgame analysis in the autopsy report.
That blueprint calls for "drastic changes to almost every major element of the modern Republican Party," including recasting the GOP's image, electoral strategy and policy emphasis. This could be particularly uncomfortable for the party establishment, the so-called country-club wing of the party, which can always be expected to run from the sound of the guns. But the last thing Republicans should do is to become Democrat Light, to return to the "me, too" approach that the party elders, some of them elderly indeed in fighting spirit, will prescribe. What America cries for is a party that can articulate conservative values, with neither rant nor rave, and never cry retreat from its principles.
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