The Wall Street Journal reported today about the debate among Republicans about the future path their party should take. According to the Journal , one group says that fundamental shifts in policy must be taken to appeal to divergent groups in a pluralistic society. The other “more dominant voice” essentially says that Romney was a train wreck of a candidate, that no dramatic change is necessary, and that a better get out the vote effort is needed. Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan (for my money one of the saner Republicans) saidthis last Saturday in the Wall Street Journal: “Some voted for Mr. Obama because he's a Democrat and they're Democrats, some because he is of the left and they are of the left. But some voters were saying: ‘See the guy we don't like that much, the one presiding over an economy we know is bad and spending policies we know are damaging? The one who pushed through the health-care law we don't like, and who can't handle Washington that well? Well, we like that guy better than you.’”
“That's why this election is a worse psychic blow for Republicans than 2008, when a confluence of forces—the crash, dragged-out wars, his uniqueness as a political figure—came together to make Barack Obama inevitable.
“But he was not inevitable after the past four years. This election was in part a rejection of Republicanism as it is perceived by a sizeable swath of the voting public.
“Yes, Mitt Romney was a limited candidate from a limited field. Yes, his campaign was poor. It's also true that the president was the first in modern history to win a second term while not improving on his first outing. He won in 2008 by 9.5 million votes. He won Tuesday night, at last count, by less than three million.”
Noonan said that Romney’s economic policies reflected that favored by his donors, not that favored by the middle class. She argues that you cannot win elections when large segments of the public think you do not care about them. And they will not think you care if you don’t. She believes a fundamental rethinking of policies is called for within the framework of Republican principles. See here.
It seems clear to me that if the Republicans could not win the Presidential election or regain the Senate with the economy in so bad a shape, they will fare even worse in national elections if they do not engage in a fundamental rethinking resulting in a broader appeal.
Progressives, of course, watch this debate with some relish. Some hope that the Republican Party sticks to its status quo and self destructs, ultimately losing the gerrymandered House. But there is a strong Progressive case for hoping the Republicans get their act together. If the Republicans get their act together, there will be less obstruction on Capital Hill and that will advance the public interest; if the Republicans get their act together, there will be a more serious national debate about public policy; and if the Republicans get their act together, the center will move to the left and so will the Democrats.