Thursday, November 13, 2008

Will the empire strike back?

Hi friends

Well, I am not talking about some Star Wars flick here (I have not seen a single Star Wars movie in my life so far). I am talking about the Republican Party.

After the recent loss in the Presidential elections, the party also lost its slender minority in the Senate. In the 100 Senate seats, the Republican Party had held 49 seats, but now holds only 40 seats (Additionally, 2 seats are facing a recount and 1 is facing a re-election). It also lost heavily in the House of Representatives (equivalent to our Lok Sabha). This has certainly led the party to think: "What went wrong? Did we deserve to lose this way? Is this the start of a new Democratic re-alignment for the USA?"

The Republican governors all over the USA met at Miami (Florida) recently and discussed how they could revamp the party and bring it back to power. There were several young faces, the most prominent ones being Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota), Charlie Crist (Florida) and the VP-nominee Sarah Palin (Alaska).

All of them are young people, who are raring to take control of a torn party. They all agree that the party needs to change. Bobby Jindal also looks set to run for President some time soon, mostly in 2012 or 2016. Just read this article on how what the party needs to do to change - Click for "The Hindu". The way he speaks reminds me of the speeches of Obama, only more concrete and practical.

Also, Tim Pawlenty said clearly: "The Republican Party is going to need a lot more than just a comb-over in my opinion. Reagan was president a long time ago." He said that the party must look towards working for 2010, when 36 gubernatorial seats will be up for grabs. Currently, a slight majority of those seats are held by Democrats (Source Link). "The country is changing culturally, demographically, technologically, economically and the like. And the Republican Party isn't changing in a way that reflects those major or macro changes across the country". He was very clear - The safe Republican states where Obama won this year are not safe anymore. (Source Link)

At the meeting, two trains of thought came forward on how to change the party for the better. The first was that Republicans need to broaden their voter base just like they did in 2004 and like the Democrats in 2008. Mr. Crist mentioned that in Florida, a large number of new Democratic voters helped flip a state that in 2004 had solidly backed Republican President George W. Bush. "You have to be inclusive, you have to work for a big tent," he said. "That's about as obvious as the nose on your face."

The second train of thought called for the party to return to its conservative roots. Mark Sanford (South Carolina) compared the Republican Party to a corporate brand that has become tarnished. "I think first find the message, and then stick to the knitting," he said. He cited results of a recent poll showing that only 17% of voters identified Republicans with cutting taxes for the middle class, and suggested the party isn't implementing its tax-cutting mission. "The latest example of the party abandoning its roots was seen last month when Republicans joined Democrats on Capitol Hill to pass the $700 billion banking rescue bill." Testifying at a recent congressional hearing, Gov. Sanford said he was the only governor there who opposed the bill. (Source Link)

Even Tim Pawlenty agrees to this and says that "modernizing" the party doesn't mean the GOP needs to surrender conservative values. "We can be both conservative and modern." (Source Link). Even I reckon that the party must return to its roots. The last few decades of rule have made the party a bit nostalgic. everyone looks back at the Reagan era - He's already dead and he is not the President anymore. You cannot bank on your old victories. The Democrats learned the art of winning fast enough. Obama ran an excellent campaign - no one can deny that.

But one must look towards the future. In my view, Bobby Jindal sure looks like a good candidate in the making. It was nice that Jindal was not selected to become the VP for McCain. He said he was offered the post, but denied it as he wanted to remain the Governor. The end result - intentional or not - is that Jindal will be free of any taint of President George W. Bush or McCain should he run in 2012 or even later (Source Link). Taint seems a harsh word, but the leader is finally responsible for the actions of his/her team.

These youngsters are the future of the party. Palin remains a hope for 2012, provided she learns her history and geography well (she can learn a lot from her own kids perhaps). But Pawlenty, Jindal and many others cannot be ignored. Yes, becoming a Governor doesn't necessarily mean that the state will go that way. Massachusetts, a fairly liberal state, elected Mitt Romney for Governor in the past. But it certainly helps if the Governor emphasizes the importance of the post and introduces measures that could help build the image of the party. they can restore the glory of the Republicans.

It was certainly not a sweeping victory for Obama as the core Red States remained Red. It was not like the 1972 or the 1984 elections when one party swept the election literally (both times it was the Republican Party). But in terms of the voting patterns in the last 3 elections, it was surely a decisive victory for the Democrats. But the Republicans are not yet down and out. they will strike back, and will strike back hard.


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