In the wake of Obama’s Inaugural Address, there is much talk of the Republican Party and its inherent tensions. The immediate post-Obama speech talking points slammed the president’s militant tone, and decried the return of liberalism and its big government component. With the debt ceiling and budget talks ahead, it is fair to say these arguments will dominate the rhetoric of Congressional Republicans.
Outside the proverbial Washington Beltway, however, other Republican voices are being heard. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal keeps repeating that the GOP must not be the “stupid ideas” party and open itself to new realities. Respected Republican TV host Joe Scarborough and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush continue to push their party toward a more centrist, fiscal conservativism. Columnist David Frum is another voice of reason heard on the airwaves.
Meanwhile, Fox News fires populist, ultra conservative Sarah Palin with all her celebrity status, and hires ultra liberal firebrand, former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch is also saying nice things about rival CNN’s Piers Morgan in the light of his on-air gun control advocacy. Trying to decipher a coherent message from all these tendencies is close to impossible; except to say, this healthy demeanor may help the Republican party if it wishes to restore its national relevancy.
Post election analyses show the magnitude of the November Republican defeat. Granted, they may have chosen an empty-suit type nominee in Mitt Romney, but they lost the popular vote in the White House race and in both Houses of Congress. Only a gerrymandered House kept Republican Speaker John Boehner in his job.
Obama’s coalition made up of progressives, millennials, single women, urban voters, and minorities show the depth of the change occurring in the United States. Recall that 10 years ago, Republicans wanted a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a wife. Today, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been repealed, and the majority of Americans are unopposed to gay marriage.
America is obviously undergoing demographic change, clearly upsetting the tradition coalitions of the GOP. Bipartisan talks on immigration show that maybe the politicians are beginning to see the same changes. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, may actually be the crucial and decisive factor in a bipartisan approach to immigration reform. Since the election, he has indicated his intention to bring a proposition of his own. Earlier this week, he joined a bipartisan group of senators to promote a common policy.
The sudden Palin departure from Fox is a sign that more traditional, moderate Republican voices are beginning to resurface. But the GOP needs more than an ousting of Palin. It will need to revisit its history, and see if the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan can be attuned to the emerging, new America.