Douglas: Republican Revival

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1854 a group of disgruntled Democrats joined with Whigs and Free Soilers
to form a new political party. Their goal was to stop the expansion of
slavery. They called themselves ‘Republicans.’ Their second Presidential
nominee, Abraham Lincoln, prevailed and the GOP dominated our national
elections until the New Deal. Freed slaves flocked to the party of the
Great Emancipator.

Fast forward a century-and-a-half: President
Obama received 93% of the black vote. The party of Lincoln, who gave his
life to save the Union and extend freedom to all, is now unattractive
to the descendants of those whose rights and welfare were the very
reason for its founding.

The fastest-growing minority in our
nation, Hispanics, also overwhelmingly rejected the Republicans last
year. A survey concludes that it wasn’t due to the Republican
presidential candidate’s stance on immigration, as is widely believed;
rather, respondents said that they trust the Democrats to fix the
economy and improve education. Eight years earlier President Bush had
received nearly half of Hispanic votes, but Governor Romney attracted
barely a quarter. These are family-oriented, church-going folks who
believe in entrepreneurship – and ought to have responded to a
Republican message.

Surely swing voters last fall were
unimpressed by the relentless quest for the President’s birth
certificate and the insensitive comments about rape by several Senate
nominees. And it couldn’t have helped that the GOP presidential
standard-bearer appeared to dismiss 47% of the electorate as moochers.
Clearly, to compete in future elections, something has to change. Part
of the answer is greater success in fundraising, voter turnout and using
social media, but it will take much more.

The Republican
National Committee just released a study showing an obvious diagnosis,
but there are two different visions of where the party should go. One is
of ideological purity. The other is of broadening the party base,
becoming the true big tent, accepting differences among those who call
themselves Republicans and directing the collective energy to winning

First of all, mutual respect is essential.
Republicans have strongly held views on many controversial topics, such
as gay marriage, abortion, physician-assisted suicide and gun control.
But surely we can acknowledge all points of view on these issues and
still work together to achieve our common goals.

Outreach is
critical. I’ve had the privilege of participating in several
naturalization ceremonies when new Americans took the oath of allegiance
and assumed the obligations of citizenship. Immigrants are among the
most patriotic people I’ve met and should be receptive to Republican
ideas. Only a party that welcomes them will succeed; otherwise it will
be swamped by changing demographics.

Relevance is key. Every
American wants a decent job, a safe and pleasant place to live, a good
education for his or her kids and financial security throughout one’s
working years and beyond. That’s what Republicans should be discussing
with the American people. The Democrats were discouraged after the
Reagan years, but they came back. Today’s path to success for the GOP is
clear – the Party needs only to take it.

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