GOP Chair Reince Priebus is calling it as he sees it.
"Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren't inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement," Priebus said last month at the National Press Club, describing the GOP's 2012 losses. "There's no one solution. There's a long list of them."
Priebus promised that the Republican Party would embark on a massive makeover. But even as it does so, poll numbers suggest that the effort may not make much difference. According to a Gallup poll, Americans are questioning the value of political parties, describing themselves as independents in record numbers.
"Party labels have become a shorthand for a rigid ideological dividing line — Democrats to the left ... and Republicans to the right," wrote longtime political reporter Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post.
THE TAKEAWAY: If we don't want 512 choices, we have to settle for two.
Kerri's guests invited listeners to analyze the costs and benefits of the two-party system.
Peter Ackerman suggested that instead of a third major party, the country needs a way to get more out of the two parties it has. "I think the last thing this country needs is an additional party," he said, "because they're primarily in the business of their own self-perpetuation."
Hans Noel said that a two-party system fills an essential role in a democracy. He explained:
"If you give people nine policy choices, and you get them to be for and against them, you get 512 different possible combinations across those nine. Right? We can't have 512 different parties. We have to make some choices.
"If we let 512, or even three, people run for office, then what we know is that whoever wins may not actually be the person most people want. So you need parties to sort, and organize, and reduce the number of actual choices that are out there. ... We've failed to do that in the past, and we've seen the consequences. ..."
The result, he said, is that we have a system dominated by the Democrats and Republicans. "And the people who lose out, [because] the Democrats and Republicans don't perfectly represent what they want, they're frustrated because they're forced to compromise with their fellow partisans on one of the two choices. But eliminating the need to compromise? We can't do that.
"So we need an institution that helps mediate that compromise, and that's what parties do. They mediate the compromise so we don't have 512. ... and then you have a choice. And short of eliminating democracy, you need that."
Do you still identify with a political party? Do you feel the necessity for parties is diminishing? Leave your comments below.
• Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in '11. Read more of the Gallup poll. (Gallup)
• Have political parties lost their purpose? "Political parties increasingly are outmatched in resources and organization by special interest groups or those, such as tea party groups, devoted more to furthering a cause than to achieving electoral victory." (Washington Post)
• Neither Republican or Democrat: Why I'm an independent. CNN spoke to voters who refuse to align with one party about why they make that choice. (CNN)
• Peter Ackerman of Americans Elect Is Tired of Politics As Usual. "'We cleared the underbrush of all the anticompetitive elements that are co-designed by the two parties to make sure you don't get on the ballot,' Ackerman says. 'We've created a new way for a candidate to run independently of the two parties.'" (Daily Beast)
• Unshackling the Presidency to Fix the Government. A look at No Labels, a group that created a blueprint that makes the presidential position "more powerful and more accountable." (New York Times)