BEAM: What’s Next For Republicans?

The Republican Party has been getting plenty of advice following President Obama’s re-election last November, and Gov. Bobby Jindal raced to be first in line. After campaigning for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Jindal was quick to criticize the former Massachusetts governor for dividing the country with his comment that he (Romney) wasn’t concerned about 47 percent of Americans who wouldn’t vote for him anyway.

Jindal seized on that comment again last week when he addressed the Republican National Committee at its winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

“We must compete for every single vote,” the governor said. “The 47 percent and the 53 percent. And any other combination of numbers that add up to 100 percent… We are going after every vote as we work to unite all Americans.”

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Republicans have to demonstrate their party cares about the future of the American people.

Romney received only 47 percent of the popular vote. Obama clearly demonstrated that reaching more voters was the key to his victory. The president got 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 67 percent of the youth (18-29) vote.

It’s obvious those are three areas where Republicans are going to have to do a lot of work to improve their future election chances. So where do they start?

Jindal said the GOP has to (1) demonstrate it believes in a color-blind society, (2) quit making stupid remarks on controversial issues, (3) stop being known as the party of big business, big banks “or big anything,” (4) put its focus on the states and local governments, (5) compete for every vote and (6) deal with and trust real people outside of Washington, D.C.

None of that will come easily for some. Remarks made last week by Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, prove that is the case. Villere said Vice President Joe Biden should cancel plans for a fund-raiser with Louisiana’s senior U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

“I call on Sen. Landrieu to cancel this event and to inform Mr. Biden that he is not welcome in Louisiana,” Villere said.

If Villere knew his history, he wouldn’t make such a ridiculous statement. Biden isn’t a popular fellow in some parts, but his office deserves more dignity. And the vice president has been well-received in Louisiana during a number of trips he has made here. Consider what Dinah Landry, executive director of the Cameron Council on Aging, said about Biden’s reception when the vice president visited Grand Lake in 2010 to talk about disaster aid after Hurricane Ike.

“They (senior citizens) are very excited, and they are very appreciative,” Landry said. “They feel very important. One of the ladies told me yesterday that this was the first time in her life that she felt more important than a politician.”

Villere’s comments were exactly what Jindal meant when he said Republicans should quit making stupid remarks.

A number of writers for National Journal, a political news magazine, have devoted considerable space since the election to how the Republican Party can recapture its national prominence.

Beth Reinhard believes adopting a sound policy on immigration reform is “the way to bridge the gap with the fast-growing Hispanic community…”

Ron Fournier said, “In making the rounds on Capitol Hill, I’ve been struck by the recognition among GOP lawmakers that their party must adapt or perish. Some paint a broader picture, pointing out that both political parties need to be better attuned to the public will.”

Tim Alberta and Jim O’Sullivan said the GOP needs to steal some ideas about recruiting, organizing and building a successful campaign from the one waged by Obama. They also believe states have set a good example with their emphasis on education reform, privatization of government services and budget-balancing efforts. None of it is easy. There has been stiff resistance to similar changes in Louisiana.

Matthew Cooper said there are good trends moving in the GOP’s direction, but the party does need to adjust to the realities of a constantly changing American society.

“The Republican Party has great strengths in a country with a deep libertarian streak,” Cooper said. “It’s not a goner any more than the Democrats were in 1972. The GOP can be competitive and it won’t take that much to make it so.”

Jindal summed it up well when he said, “I am not one of those who believe we should moderate, equivocate or otherwise abandon our principles… No, the Republican Party does not need to change our principles … but we might need to change just about everything else we do.”

Republicans have been given a lot of food for thought since losing the presidential election, and that is a good thing. It is obvious much of what the party has been doing wasn’t well-received last November. If GOP officials react positively to some of the cures that have been suggested, they can once again become a vibrant political force. The country needs the balance two effective parties can bring to the table.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].



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