The 2012 election was a good one for Democrats. President Barack Obama was re-elected, and Democrats gained seats in both the House and the Senate. Republicans are now trying to figure out what went wrong and what changed from 2010 when Republicans won control of the House with a net gain of 60 seats. Many Republicans are pointing to demographic changes as the cause of their 2012 losses, but Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of the National Review, sees a different source of Republican's weakness at the polls:
The Republican story about how societies prosper -- not just the Romney story -- dwelt on the heroic entrepreneur stifled by taxes and regulations: an important story with which most people do not identify. The ordinary person does not see himself as a great innovator. He, or she, is trying to make a living and support or maybe start a family. A conservative reform of our health-care system and tax code, among other institutions, might help with these goals. About this person, however, Republicans have had little to say.
If Republicans found a way to apply conservative principles in ways that offered tangible benefits to most voters and then talked about this agenda in those terms, they would improve their standing among all of these groups while also increasing their appeal to white working-class voters. For that matter, higher-income voters would prefer candidates who seem practical and solution-oriented. Better "communications skills," that perennial item on the wish list of losing parties, will achieve little if the party does not have an appealing agenda to communicate.
Despair has led many Republicans to question their earlier confidence that America is a "center-right country." It is certainly a country that has strong conservative impulses: skepticism of government, respect for religion, concern for the family. What the country does not have is a center-right party that explains how to act on these impulses to improve the national condition. Until it does, it won't have a center-right political majority either.
Ponnuru joins the Daily Circuit today to discuss the future of the Republican Party, along with James Hohmann, national political reporter for POLITICO.
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