1.10.2009

More good thinking on where the GOP should go from here

The WSJ has an interesting interview with Haley Barbour, which is worth excerpting at length here:
There's a temptation after a loss like this, he continues, "to purify our party by running off the people that aren't with us 100% of the time, or the people who aren't social conservatives, or the people who aren't this or the people who aren't that." He says party purges like that would be catastrophic. "This is a time for the party to be figuring out how to multiply. Politics is about addition and multiplication, not division and subtraction." He fumes that efforts to evict moderate Republicans in primaries is counterproductive.

Wait, I say, aren't the big spending Republicans who act like Democrats -- people like Ted Stevens of Alaska or Jerry Lewis of California -- the people contaminating the GOP brand? His view is that Republicans need to elect a lot more moderates from the Northeast to regain operating majorities.

Barbour is sending exactly the right signals here -- no faction of the "big tent" needs to be excommunicated, but the balance of power needs to shift away from the conservative Christian side of the party. At the moment, that side is a millstone around the ankles of the GOP, but it doesn't have to be. The Christian Right is highly motivated and involved, and can be a good shot in the arm, but their message doesn't resonate -- indeed, for the "iPod generation" that Barbour is grappling with, these messages are completely counter-productive.

The best people to do that, he insists, are the governors. He reminds me that in the 1990s it was governors like John Engler of Michigan, Fife Symington of Arizona, and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin who led the way on supply-side tax cutting, welfare reform and economic development. I ask him if there are any future Ronald Reagans out there in the states. He mentions Bobby Jindal, Mark Sanford, Jim Douglas and, of course, Sarah Palin. "This has to be a bottom-up rebuilding process," he says. "Republican solutions are going to flow from the states, not from Washington."

I'm disappointed to see him mention Palin in the same breath as Jindal, but the larger focus is right -- that local leaders need to put forward creative solutions that will percolate upward (I'd say Scott Walker is right up there, as well).

There's quite a bit more at the link, especially some good thinking about how the GOP should deal with the current economic situation.