It was 2011 and the San Francisco 49’ers season ended in a loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game. With a new coaching staff Quarterback Alex Smith, who had languished previously, seemed to have hit his stride. But just eight games into the 2012 season Smith suffered a concussion and was replaced by Colin Kaepernick who took the team to a berth in the Super Bowl. Smith was subsequently sent to Kansas City and Kaeperknick continues to run the San Francisco offense. A similar event occurred in 2001 when Tom Brady replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe. The New England Patriots realized who was the better option for their team and went with it. You can call is a business decision, or a sports decision, but the decisions in both cases were based on the question of which man gave the team a better chance to win.
Changing tracks from football to politics, in 2008 the voters gave a majority to the Democrat Party in the House and Senate, and put a radical Democrat in the White House. The former “silent majority” suddenly awoke, became active outside of the voting booth, and in 2010 created a stunning electoral victory for the Republican Party, delivering them the House of Representatives, reducing the Democrat Senate majority and losing the Democrats some 700 seats in elections at all levels nationwide.
If we apply the football analogy to the political situation the Republican Party has just found its new quarterback. All it had to do was put him on the field and run to more victories. The trouble was, that the Republican Party didn’t do that, and appears to have decided that doing so would be a bad idea. The vast majority of Republican old guard “leadership” failed to lead by putting their best players into the game. The result was a loss in 2012 with Mitt Romney’s failed candidacy. Now, the question comes forward: What will happen in 2014 and 2016.
We have already seen the results of the 2012 nomination process. The conservative wing of the Republican Party placed a number of people into the race, but none of them garnered enough support, and eventually had to withdraw when issues that tainted their campaigns. The result was a defeat for Romney, who was not considered a conservative by many Americans. Between three and four million Republican voters stayed home and may well have helped seal the loss.
The Republican Party also failed to make gains in its legislative races, in part because of some ill prepared candidates and in part for failure to adopt the more conservative Tea Party political approach. This continued, despite the tremendous success of Ted Cruz in Texas, where he defeated old guard Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in the primary and coasted to victory in the general election. Now, Dewhurst is facing another election in which three conservatives are all poised to take him down. While he may survive the primary, he is likely to be defeated in the runoff, and will probably not be in office next term. But will the Republican Party achieve its goals in 2014? It may be unlikely. Particularly as a significant percentage of Republican voters are now classifying themselves as “Conservative” and are apparently unwilling to vote for candidates who do not possess credentials of which they approve.
Looking back we see a pattern that has developed over the last several decades. Tradition dictates that the American electorate is divided into roughly three distinct segments. The Right, the Left, and the “independents.” The Right, is supposed to be conservative in outlook, and can be counted to vote Republican. The Left, is likewise, Democrat. Each of these segments is supposed to compose about 35 to 40 percent of the voting public. If we assume that each is closer to 35 percent, then that leaves about 30 percent to the independents who have sometimes been labeled as the “mushy middle.” For several decades now professional political consultant have advertised themselves as the people who are able to deliver that independent group. Yet, post election statistics showed that Mitt Romney won the “independents” yet failed to win the election. Something is obviously wrong.
What may well have occurred is that the traditional model no longer holds. If the indicators that Conservatives are deserting the Republican Party are correct, and it appears that they are, then “independents” are no longer necessarily a mushy middle, but may be more a set of two different groups; one that is still mushy, while the others are more conservative than traditional Republicans. The net result is that the consultants need to deliver two distinct and disparate groups instead of one
There is a way to deliver the two groups, but it is not by moving to the Left as has been the general approach used since the end of the first and only term of George H.W. Bush., and has yielded narrow successes only in the case of his son, George W. Bush. The solution is to return to the Reagan approach, which was to draw broad distinctions between the parties, which is even more possible today than in the past, as the Democrats have moved steadily more to the left and against traditional American values. And while the Republican Party has not moved commensurately to the right, the former Republican electorate has, making the distinction that much more significant, if it is used as an election tool.
The main issue that has hung about the necks of the Republican Old Guard is their desire to win by keeping themselves in the seats of power. Thus, even President Reagan was an aberration and therefore, illegitimate. He could not have won, therefore, the fact that he did must be ignored and the Party must shift to the left in order to keep up with the supposed public shift. This approach is wrongheaded, and will fracture the Republican Party into factions that are Center-Left and Right. Without the other, neither can win, but the Right will not accept driving the nation off of a cliff at twenty mph instead of at 90 mph. The Center-Left faction will not accept that the time for them to cede leadership to new group reflecting more traditional American values, but will insist that they will do well enough being “democrate-lite.”
What remains is that when offered democrat and democrat-lite, the voters seem to prefer the former, which means that the Republican Center-Left cannot win. However, if they give up the left leaning approach and move right, providing a real alternative, while drawing distinctions between the two parties then they will be able to succeed. Unfortunately, people such as John Boehner are not interested in this. Better to “go along to get along” and be a loser than a winner using a winning platform. He will not take the Texas example and emulate Ted Cruz; a winner in the election and in front of the American people.