Where Does the GOP Go Now?

Where Does the GOP Go Now? November 7, 2012

Obama won, Romney lost and now we will get the inevitable battle over the future direction of the party. Politico calls it a “looming civil war” and that’s about right, I think. Rush Limbaugh and the other hardcore ideologues will argue that if they would just nominate Real Conservatives and not moderate squishes like Romney and McCain, they’d be unstoppable. But that ignores those pesky things called facts, especially demographic data:

Regardless of whether Romney wins or loses, Republicans must move to confront its demographic crisis. The GOP coalition is undergirded by a shrinking population of older white conservative men from the countryside, while the Democrats rely on an ascendant bloc of minorities, moderate women and culturally tolerant young voters in cities and suburbs. This is why, in every election, since 1992, Democrats have either won the White House or fallen a single state short of the presidency.

“If we lose this election there is only one explanation — demographics,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)…

“Structurally, a Romney loss, following a McCain loss, would be a rebuke to moderates who have wanted ideological conservatives to fill the bus but not drive the bus,” said a GOP operative close to one sure-fire future presidential aspirant. “The nominee in 2016, if he is not a President Romney, will certainly be a card-carrying movement conservative with a track record to match.”

The pragmatists will howl at this and point to the underlying issues in the electorate.

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts,” said Graham. “We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

Of the party’s reliance on a shrinking pool of white men, one former top George W. Bush official said: “We’re in a demographic boa constrictor and it gets tighter every single election.”

And there you have the two sides perfectly defined: pragmatists vs purists. But in a democracy, politics can never, in the end, be about purity. Ideological ranting and raving will, in the end, take a back seat to reality. The question is whether the Republican party can pull off the trick of moderating on issues like gay rights and immigration without losing a good portion of the religious right (and white) base. If they can’t, it’s going to be pretty difficult to cobble together a stable coalition that can win.

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