Ed Gillespie at the Washington Post:
McDonnell laid out a steady stream of policy initiatives rooted in a commitment to lower taxes, less regulation and innovation. Too often, however, Republicans don't "finish the sentence" and remind voters outside our base why such conservative policies are better. McDonnell's campaign attracted crucial independent voters by focusing on the benefits of his policies.
Ramesh Ponnuru, TIME
Republicans' principal problem in recent elections has not been that they are too far right, or not far right enough... The problem has instead been that voters have not thought Republicans of any stripe had answers to their most pressing concerns.
Democrats have run against George W. Bush for eight years. While successful in 2006 and 2008, it didn’t work in 2004 and it sure didn’t work in 2009. A year of Obama, Pelosi and Reid has given the American people a pretty clear idea of what the Democrats are for, not just what they were against. Hope and Change looks like unlimited spending; a health care plan that is long on smoke, mirrors and promises and short on specifics; Treasury officials who don’t pay their taxes; an antipathy for dissent; Presidential advisors who “speak truth to power” without realizing that they are the power structure now; and an incoherent foreign policy based more on dreams and expectations than actual plans or results.
But, hey, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize!
All that may keep voters from supporting Democrats; but it is not enough to make them support Republicans. We have to finish the sentence.
I see three areas where Republicans must reach a consensus to move forward;
· What are we for?
· How do we bridge the party’s divide on social issues, and unite on all the issues where we agree?
· Are we Glenn Beck populist bomb throwers, or are we serious about winning elections and governing?
Here are some suggestions on what the GOP could be for:
Strong national defense and homeland security, with a recognition that America’s concerns do not end at the shores of the continental United States. We aren't all neocons or internationalists; but we can be neither isolationists nor apologists for all of America’s past evils . We should be willing to negotiate with anyone who will talk to us in good faith, while realizing that not everyone fits that description. ( Ronald Reagan: “Trust but verify.”) The President of the United States (once known as the leader of the Free World) must protect and defend the interests of the United States. If he doesn’t, no one else will. We will work with allies and friends; but we will capitulate to no one.
Civil rights and civil liberties. How do we make sure that while our government is protecting us, they are not infringing on our freedom? On a different level, we benefit from having an enormous amount of data on our behavior stored on the computers of Google, Safeway and Travelocity. How do we make use of technology and still protect the individual's right to privacy?
A belief in equality of opportunity, with no guarantee of equality of results
Energy independence. This is more than just drill here , drill now; it is developing solar and wind power where they make sense, even if it is off Nantucket. It is new, safe nuclear; it is Yucca Mountain. (Sorry, Senator Ensign.) It is increasing energy efficiency everywhere we can.
Tax reform, earmarks reform, and entitlement reform. We’ve had national dialogues on race. How about one on the fact that we have to pay for the services we want?
· Residents of metropolitan Washington DC should not expect to have their highways expanded, their broken water mains repaired, and their teachers and police officers paid, from revenue raised in Walla Walla, Washington. Or vice versa.
· We must limit government spending, whether it is for new fighter jets or bridges to nowhere. We can't fund everything, we need to make wise choices.
· Everybody should pay taxes, not just "the Rich." We should all be invested in the American system.
· The tax code should be fair, simple and transparent. Economic decisions should not be made on the basis of lowering one’s tax liability.
· Entitlement reform is the third rail of American politics, but if Bill Clinton could enact welfare reform, why can’t the GOP tackle entitlements?
Immigration and border control. We are a nation of immigrants; as long as our economy needs inexpensive labor, it will find its way here. At the same time, we have to find a way to control our borders. There’s no easy fix on this one but it is an issue we need to honestly discuss and try to address.
None of this is easy. But we’re smart people. We put a man on the moon. We invented the microchip and the PC and the IPOD. In fifty years we went from the Montgomery bus boycott, to Watts and Detroit, to the assassinations of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr, to Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice and President Barack Obama. We can do this.
Social issues, for the most part, are secondary to me. National security trumps everything else. Yet I know that social conservatives, and those who disagree with them, have valid concerns. Can we agree to disagree? Or, even better, can we find common ground on some issues –that we don’t care what two consenting adults do in their own homes; that government should neither require nor prohibit employers from providing benefits to their employees’ spouses or unmarried partners? That people in New York City may have valid reasons for gun control, which have no relevance to residents of Gage County Nebraska? That religious groups can provide terrific services to those in need, but should not be forced to support practices they disapprove of?
The GOP has come back from defeat before, in 1980 and in 1994, in both years winning contests that no one expected Republicans to win. We can do the same in 2010. But we have to finish the sentence. We don’t have to have a Ronald Reagan or a Barack Obama; we have to offer the American people something to believe in.