"You can't beat something with nothing, and the other side has something. I don't like it, but they have it, and we have to be respectful and mindful of that," Mr. Bush said.The problem isn't that the GOP has nothing. It's that the something isn't what people want. And when the GOP does have something, we don't know why we should vote for it.
Sen. John McCain lost the presidential race because he wasted time talking about some icky old hippie and some nutcase preacher linked to then-Sen. Barack Obama when people wanted to know how Sen. McCain was going to fix the economy. Worse, he buttressed his campaign with a GOP talking-points machine known as Gov. Sarah Palin. She was good for PR but little else.
So now Gov. Bush, Romney and others want to know what they need to do better. I'll offer a few suggestions from Moderate America, since that's whom they're after:
- Lose the weight. We know you want a big tent. But you wouldn't allow a skunk in your big tent, would you? It's time to toss your fringe elements, whether they're card-carrying Republicans or not. That means openly and clearly denouncing a few right-wing blowhard talk show hosts (you know who), one particular right-wing author and columnist (you know which), and unfortunately, a few of your own high-profile party members who are ballast on your balloon. Don't campaign for them, and don't fund their runs.
I know it's painful. I know they energize your base. But look at it this way: even if you do tick off a lot of people in your base, who else will they vote for? They're not going to throw their votes away on a third-party candidate. They certainly won't vote Democrat. You can't be like the Democrats and fear a GOP Ralph Nader. Grow your party and drop your boat anchors. What you pick up will offset what you lose.
- Give people something to vote for. Remember how you took back the House and Senate in 1992? True, some of that was due to the disastrous miscalculations of the Clinton Administration on health care, but Newt Gingrich and company also gave people the "Contract With America." You don't have to promise you'll pass some legislation, but you do need to show people you're facing the issues.
- Acknowlege you messed up. Take some lumps. Tell your voters, "We blew it. We didn't win the way we needed to in Iraq. We didn't know how bad you were hurting in this economy. We cared too much about the people who were feeding us campaign contributions. We deserved to lose last year, and we want to make it up to you. We promise we'll look at new ideas. Some things aren't negotiable, mind you, but if something works to benefit this nation, we're on board, even if it comes from somebody outside the party."