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GOP tries to regroup

December 06, 2008|By JONATHAN R. BURRS

While the majority of Americans look forward to and celebrate a change from what history someday may deem the worst U.S. presidential administration of all times, Republican Party leaders and political strategists head back to the drawing board in search of answers to and resolutions for yet another poor showing in the most recent election cycle.

With Democrats in control of both congressional houses and the presidency, Republicans must consider a shift away from polarizing political commentary and find new and innovative ways to stimulate excitement and invite more Generation "X" Republicans to additional leading roles in the party.

According to CNN, exit polls showed President-elect Barack Obama beating Sen. John McCain handily in every age group except 65 and over, and that margin was just by 10 percentage points.

Minorities went heavily into the Obama camp. Blacks, 96 percent Obama to 3 percent McCain; Latinos, 67 percent Obama to 30 percent McCain; and Asians, 63 percent Obama to 34 percent McCain. These numbers are indicative of what former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell describes as GOP party narrowing.

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On Oct. 19, on "Meet The Press," Powell expressed his views on the Republican approach and Mr. McCain having become "narrower and narrower." Powell went on to say, "Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow."

Most GOP leaders agree something must be done to reform the party; but not everyone agrees on the cause of the two straight electoral thrashings. For example, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) both believe the current leadership needs to change and present a fresh face and bold new direction for the party, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla,), suggested the GOP needs to restore its identity as the party of limited government.

So what are the key reasons for the dwindling support of the Republican Party? Is it the poor economy, the war in Iraq, the meltdown and financial bailout of Wall Street, or are the reasons deeper and more elusive? I believe that the GOP's drift towards obsolescence is a result of a combination of several of these factors, including:

o The Wall Street financial crisis. Risky loan policy, unscrupulous lending practices, corporate greed, and irresponsible borrowing all contributed to the need for a $700 billion government bailout. If this is a result of less government oversight or in essence "limited government," then Democrats, please do us all a favor and provide the necessary level of oversight to keep such events from happening again!

o Second, anyone living on planet Earth the past five years should know that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was the worst military decision made in U.S. history. It stretched an already downsized military thin by splitting ground troops between Afghanistan and Iraq, limiting focus and success in either country.

Next, the pretense for war in Iraq, mismanagement of ground operations, and subsequent post-invasion occupation has prolonged military deployments. That has had an immeasurable effect on military spending, the Social Security fund and rising national debt.

o Third, for years the Republican Party, largely supported by conservative evangelical Christians has been touted as being the party with righteous values. This is a hard sell to the average "Joe," excusing the pun, when every other week media headlines expose another scandal involving a GOP leader.

o The fourth and less visible reason is this - GOP leadership has become a playground for the wealthy. Failed policies, military blunders and hypocritical leadership are only symptoms of a political organization out of touch with its own members and society in general.

In my Herald-Mail column of August 25, 2007, "With bankrupt ideas, GOP goes broke," I predicted the GOP might need to take a "shellacking" in 2008 for party leaders to consider a new strategy, new message, and new direction. The shellacking came and the buzz for reform quickly followed.

Only time will tell if current leadership can move beyond yesterday's failures, backbiting and finger-pointing to rebuild a party and government proportionate to the vision of a great man who once said, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The people spoke loudly on Nov. 5. Now it is up to the GOP to either play or simply go away.

Jonathan R. Burrs is a Hagerstown-area resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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