OpinionTrending Commentary

Can The Republican Party Be Saved?

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In a gesture that only the truly cynical could fully appreciate, the chairperson of the Republican National Committee (RNC) recently announced the creation of an advisory council to examine why the organization she has led for six years tripped over its shoelaces in the most recent election.

It’s not complicated: the institutional Republican Party doesn’t seem to care about winning. Despite underperforming in three consecutive cycles, the leaders who make up the RNC are about to re-elect — probably by an overwhelming margin — its chairperson, who has led the RNC during those three most recent, most disappointing election cycles.

That’s not the sort of thing a serious, competitive organization does.

With respect to the mundane mechanics of campaigns, the party failed to address three problems this cycle.

First, there was too much former President Donald Trump.

The ubiquitous problem of Mr. Trump presents in two different dimensions — candidate quality and defending democracy.

“Defending democracy” has become shorthand for “Orange man bad.” It is a catch-all that describes the atmospherics and reactions that Mr. Trump elicits. Complaints about candidate quality are really complaints about Mr. Trump’s presence.

What can the advisory council possibly say about Mr. Trump’s presence? We need more of it? We need less of it? What difference would any of that make? Mr. Trump is supported by somewhere between 25 and 50 million Americans, most of whom vote in Republican primaries.

Until that changes, he will pretty much do what he wants in American politics. That extends to the Republican Party: in 2016 he installed the current RNC chairperson, the same chairperson who will be overseeing the examination of the underperformance of the organization she has run for six years.

Second, there was no positive agenda.

It is almost always impossible to defeat something with nothing. Usually, the party out of power offers a few thoughts on what they might do if given the reins.

Not the Republicans. For six long years they have refused to put anything in writing that might be construed as a governing idea. Indeed, efforts to do so have been slapped down, most pointedly by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the senior-most elected official in the national party, who said somewhat archly that the voters would need to give Republicans power before the party would disclose its agenda.

The voters obviously (and probably wisely) decided against taking that risk.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Senate Republicans managed to fritter away the opportunity to pick meaningful fights with the ruling party in the two years prior to the 2022 election. In some cases (CHIPS, infrastructure, and the mismanaged process that led to the IRA) they actually assisted the ruling party in achieving its goals.

Consequently, it is reasonable for voters to have questions about what and who, exactly, the Republicans (especially those in the Senate) care about. Those questions are not likely to be put to bed by the recent, embarrassing failure of the Senate Republicans to defend religious freedom in the Respect for Marriage Act.

Forget about the quality of candidates; Republicans should worry about the quality of their elected officials.

Third, abortion was a more potent issue during this cycle than anticipated, running second only to inflation in concerns mentioned in exit polling. Republican campaigns, managed by consultants who had spent most of their professional careers running campaigns that studiously avoided abortion, had little idea how to frame the issue or talk about it. That was costly.

There is some balm to be found in remembering that in politics it is common to incur short-term electoral damage to achieve a significant policy victory. In the wake of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Democrats lost 63 seats in the House.

No one can remember what that Congress did with its shiny new Republican majority, but Obamacare remains the law of the land.

So, it is likely to be with Dobbs. The victory will remain long after the temporary electoral damage is forgotten.

Who would be willing to trade the Dobbs decision — which conservatives have been steadily working towards for 30 years — for a few more (likely) disappointing Republican Members of Congress that would be here for a moment and then forgotten forever?

Which brings us back to the analysis of what ails Republicans. The intellectual sclerosis and rot among the party’s institutions are pervasive and have many causes — too many consultants, too many elected officials who care only about their own aggrandizement, not enough basic competence, too much indifference to the voters who have no other acceptable alternative.

It will be interesting to see whether the new advisory council will address any of that and whether the chairperson will do the right thing and resign and let someone else give it a try

Michael McKenna is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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2 Comments

  1. Twitter, all the other social and mainstream media, all the Democrats and the FBI now admittedly and provably interfered in the 2020 election by conspiring to bury the Hunter Biden laptop story. But to say that “out loud” makes anyone stating the facts an “election denier” or a conspiracy theorist. But never mind, because that’s ancient history and Biden has had two years to destroy our energy independence, to destroy our economy, and to destroy the middle class in America. It has also allowed them to codify all the other means of election fraud that were illegally instituted without the required state legislative approval during the COVID crises. Massive absentee balloting, unsupervised “drop boxes” and ballot harvesting. Now 27 states have unlimited “no reason required” absentee balloting and 8 states have 100% mail in balloting.

    So everyone now wonders why the predicted “red wave” didn’t happen with our economy, our border, and our criminal justice system being systematically dismantled and destroyed. Well, the “red wave” did happen in Florida (one of the most diverse states in the union) where they have strict controls on absentee voting, require voter ID, put people convicted of voter fraud in jail, and managed to count 8 million votes in one day. A state that used to be a “swing state” and is run by a Governor who mirrors every single MAGA and strong conservative policy and agenda. But, for example, a border state like Arizona, that has been decimated by illegal immigration, can’t count 2 1/2 million votes in over a week and manages to vote in a Democrat Senator and a Democrat Governor that wouldn’t even debate and, oh yeah, that Democrat candidate for Governor also happens to be the current Secretary of Sate in charge of elections. Let that sink in. I suspect sometime after the 2024 elections we might learn about all the fraud in the 2022 mid-terms.

    So election integrity is a huge issue, but the other issue is the leadership of the Republican Party. Before the mid-terms Lindsey Graham sponsored a Federal abortion ban bill that gave a nuclear bomb to the Democrats who were shouting that Republicans would ban abortion. Furthermore, it directly contradicted the Supreme Court dissolution of Roe vs. Wade (that was neither pro or anti-abortion) but simply said that abortion was never a Federal issue but up to each individual state. Then McConnell said we had “mediocre” candidates and funneled money away from critical states like Arizona. Now, unbelievably, he wants an omnibus spending bill that will only increase inflation, allow continued unaccountable billions to Ukraine, and effectively castrate the incoming House majority’s power of the purse over the budget and support the Democrats insane, inflationary and reckless money printing and spending policies. So if the Republican Party is to be saved it must be purged of the dozens of RINO’s who are forever subverting a true Conservative agenda and constantly caving to the Democrats agenda (now supporting the so called “Defense of Marriage Act”) and constantly pushing their own war mongering, Neo-con agenda at the expense of the interests of the American people.

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