WASHINGTON — The U.S. Republican Party has begun a period of introspection following President Barack Obama’s re-election victory on November 6. Debates about the future of the Republican Party began right after Mitt Romney conceded defeat on Election Night.
“This election is over, but our principles endure,” Romney told supporters in his concession speech.
Applying new lessons
Republicans consequently began a debate about what went wrong in the election and how to fix it in the future.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal argues the party needs to moderate its tone and reach out to minorities, women and younger people, groups that strongly supported Obama.
“We do not need to demonize, and we also do not need to be saying stupid things. We do not need to pander or change our principles, but at the same time we can be respectful,” Jindal stressed.
Among those who share Jindal’s analysis is Ken Duberstein who served as former President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff.
“The Republican Party can have very strong principles, many of which I agree with and I am very comfortable. But we have to start tearing down walls and tearing down barriers and not erecting them. That is what the Republican Party needs to be doing,” he said.
Duberstein also said the party needs to be more open to compromise with the president and congressional Democrats.
“Purity is not a winning campaign strategy nor is it a governing strategy. Politics in America is give and take. Politics is the art of the compromise,” he said.
In addition to tone, Republicans must find a way to diversify their support within a constantly changing U.S. electorate.
“They cannot simply be the party of old white men, of Protestant men. They have to appeal to African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, suburban women and young people,” said Historian Matthew Dallek, who is with the University of California.
Dallek expects some Republicans will be more flexible about immigration reform and offering younger immigrants a path to legal residency.
“But I do think that what you will see is Republican leaders looking for ways to be more politically expedient and pragmatic, however that is defined in the moment, on things like immigration reform,” he said.
Two retiring Republican senators, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas have put forward one version of reform that could help the party’s image with Hispanic voters.
Analysts like Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution believe that in a broader sense, the Republican Party has a lot of work to do to improve its image with voters.
“Being conservative is fine, but not being dogmatic or ideological zealots. And they are really going to have to operate within the mainstream of American politics, and it going to be fascinating to see how they adjust now to their longer-term challenges,” said Mann.
Analysts predict lots of debates ahead for a party eager to move on after its latest election defeat.