Friday, November 14, 2008

The Herd Meets in Miami.

The GOP has officially started its deconstruction of the sea change that has seen them ousted from power. After the presidential election, it was clear that Republicans were going to have to take stock of their collective position, and try to figure out how to move themselves forward. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Republican Governor's Association met in Miami to sift through the debris. Leaders like Florida Chief Executive Charlie Crist (who hosted the annual gathering) took the opportunity to call for an expansion of the GOP base. The folks in attendance would have been well served to attend closely to Crist's words. Despite the fact that his state went for Obama, the local party did well in stemming the bleeding, ceding only one seat to the Dems in the legislature.

Observations seemed to have flown fast and furious as the politicians disagreed about ways to move forward, and argued about who or what to blame for their recent losses in national government. Curiously, traditional wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage were scarcely mentioned. In a time when the nation faces some of its most formidable challenges in more than half a century, the voting populace is not looking to vilify its less popular members. The "Us vs. Them" mentality that has proved so easy to perpetuate and manipulate over the last eight years is starting to lose its sheen. People are becoming more interested in substantive issues that affect the entire country. The Bush legacy is being increasingly rejected.

So now the GOP is considering turning its attention to energy, education, and the environment. These are areas that their opposition has been working on for decades. As these things become increasingly important to the middle and working classes, Republican leaders are facing being left out in the cold permanently. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty cast light specifically on the recent party approach to energy independence. Pawlenty said, " 'Drill, baby, drill,' by itself, is not an energy policy. We need that, but we need a lot more than that.'' Meanwhile Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal underscored the problem by pointing out, " 'Our bumper-sticker message can't be, 'Vote Republican because the other side is worse' ".

It's fairly easy to interpret some of these comments as criticisms of how the McCain/Palin ticket ran their campaign. There was some speculation at the meeting that John McCain was the worst possible nominee for the highest office in the recently concluded election cycle. Certain individuals suggested that the Arizona senator had "thumbed his nose" at the base (despite his pick for a running mate). Others disagreed, expressing their belief that McCain had the best chance of all the GOP candidates to win a close race against Barack Obama. They also pointed out that a climate that featured an unpopular outgoing president, a controversial war in Iraq, and a crisis in the economy, did not favor a Republican victory.

Not surprisingly participants shied away from attacking Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. After all, she is still the freshest and most noteworthy member of the club. While she represents one side of the growing ideological divide within the GOP, she also happened to be present at the meeting. On Thursday she delivered an address that could have easily been delivered on the stump only a month ago. Ultimately Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour tried to dampen any fomenting dissension by warning, "Anybody here tonight who's talking about the 2012 presidential election needs to get their eye on the ball. We don't need any talk of 2012." Of course one might imagine that his admonition fell on deaf ears.

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Blogger Bubba said...

If Sarah Palin is serious about getting her party's nod in 2012 or beyond, she will first need to reflect long and hard about what it was that drove members of her own party away in 2008. I think that at some point Republicans are going to heal themselves, and that will entail taking a posture that moves much more to the left of uncompromising right that had such an influence on the McCain/Palin ticket this time around. Palin came across as right in line with that element of the party.

It took Democrats a long time to bring back some cohesiveness among all its single focus groups (ie., gays, gun control, women's lib, etc.) that fractured them coming out of the Sixties and early Seventies. Republicans would be well served to use that as a lesson as they pick up the pieces.

I doubt, however, if Palin is the one to carry that torch.

4:46 PM  

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