Exclusive: Republicans Shouldn’t Take Lessons from Those Who Lost November’s Election

by MARGARET CALHOUN HEMENWAY April 28, 2009
John McCain's senior campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, in his first political appearance since November's election, addressed the Log Cabin Republicans, urging fellow Republicans to "warm up to gay rights" and warning that the GOP risks becoming the "religious party" with its opposition to same-sex marriage. Schmidt also warned against using the Bible for rationale against gay marriage. 

It is remarkable that Mr. Schmidt could espouse gay marriage as a recruiting tool for Republicans, when both Hillary Clinton and her victorious primary rival, Barack Obama, opposed it during the campaign. Does Schmidt believe Republicans can win elections by becoming more liberal than Democrats? 

Did Schmidt miss the fact that ultra-liberal California state voters rejected gay marriage and that the very categories of voters that Republican strategists suggest the party most needs to win over, i.e. Hispanics, blacks and other minorities - who were a critical factor in rejection of gay marriage in California - including Muslims - are with the Republican party on social issues? That is, as long as party standard-bearers have the political courage to raise these issues. Schmidt claims, paradoxically, that "The rapid growth of the Hispanic-American population, for instance, could soon cost Republicans the entire southwest if we don't recover our previous share of the vote", but he seems clueless that these voters are largely Catholic, pro-life, against homosexual marriage and in general, socially conservative.

Ronald Reagan won election - twice - as a bold conservative. George H.W. Bush won election in part because of his association with the extraordinarily popular and successful Reagan presidency, but blew it when he raised taxes and defied his famous "read my lips" no tax pledge. Bob Dole was no conservative, nor was John McCain, who spent much of his career winning praise from the liberal Washington Post by going against the party faithful on major issues like campaign finance reform and amnesty for illegal aliens. 

George W. Bush campaigned as a "compassionate conservative" but abandoned fiscal conservatism with his huge new entitlement program for prescription drugs, his education initiative championed by ultra-liberal Sen.Ted Kennedy, "Leave no Child Behind," and vast increases for AIDS funding in Africa.  He was re-elected narrowly and largely because he was a war President, but in the end, lost confidence from Republican voters because of spending excess, and was blamed unfairly by Democrats for the housing crisis. 

McCain's tipping point during the campaign, as political strategist Dick Morris pointed out, was the first Bush bail-out. By agreeing to the bail-out, McCain looked like just another Big Government spender. His reluctance as well to confront Obama's major weaknesses, particularly his close affiliation with the inflammatory "God D*** America" Rev. Wright, his affiliations with Weathermen Underground terrorist Bill Ayers and his failure to produce a legitimate birth certificate (while McCain was defensive on his birth in Panama and was forced to produce his official birth records) all pointed to a campaign of strategic weakness and indecisiveness.

The track record of the Republican Party in running moderate to liberal candidates at the national level is abysmal. They simply cannot win elections because the party base, which remains conservative, like much of the country, either stays at home or votes for a third party candidate. 

Listening to numerous campaign ads last fall, Barack Obama sounded more Republican than McCain. He painted his Arizona opponent as a man who would tax health insurance while Obama promised a tax cut for 95% of Americans. Just two years earlier, the man who is now his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, plotted to retake control of the House of Representatives and delivered the House Speakership to the extremely leftwing Democrat Nancy Pelosi. Emanuel's agenda was clever but deceptive: soliciting many conservative Democrats (pro-life/pro-Second Amendment) to run against Republicans in competitive districts. These Republicans couldn't attack their opponents for being liberal on socially conservative issues.

The future of the GOP lies not in listening to advice from losing, liberal strategists but in restoring conservative principles and remembering why Reagan was so stunningly successful against extraordinary odds. Veering left would only relegate the party to sitting by the sidelines as Obama's radical socialist juggernaut advances. 

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Margaret Calhoun Hemenway spent fifteen years on Capitol Hill, in both the House and Senate and five years as a White House appointee serving President Bush at both DoD and NASA.


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