Another New Year has arrived, and with it the requisite resolutions for improvement in the coming twelve months. Many of us promise to eat right and exercise more. Most of us probably plan to exercise more spending discipline, too, although that hasn’t translated into political efforts over the last several decades.
One has to wonder what the Republican Party’s New Year resolutions might be. The GOP had a bad 2012, losing the presidential election against an incumbent who looked vulnerable – and who garnered less support in his re-election than in 2008. Republicans lost seats in the Senate, even though they had a numerical advantage from the Democrats’ 2006 gains. They kept the House, but Republicans lost ground despite an advantage from the reapportionment and redistricting that took place between their midterm victory in 2010 and the 2012 election. In all, 2012 was not quite as bad as 2008, but still a year whose passing Republicans will hardly lament.
In all three cases, specific causes and candidate issues contributed to the national defeat, but the issue goes deeper as well. It goes to the identity of the party, and the agenda it represents. To some extent, both major political parties have this problem; tension between factions comes naturally with big tents in politics. Republicans seemed especially incoherent between the Tea Party midterms and the presidential cycle, however.
The man chosen to lead the GOP in 2012, Mitt Romney, had many good qualities, but he hardly represented the kind of grassroots conservatism that prevailed in 2010. Senate candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost winnable races when they proved unable to effectively articulate their social-conservative positions. Many in the GOP debated whether the focus should remain on those issues at all while the nation heads off a series of fiscal cliffs over the next few years. ...
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