Getting Over the Loss
Just over two months ago the Republican Party began the slow process of recovery after Mitt Romney’s defeat to Barack Obama. An electoral loss is always hard, but perhaps this year’s defeat was even more painful due to the pundits’ insistence that the race was too close to call. For Romney, the fight for the White House is over, but his party now has to rebuild its hopes for 2016. The Republicans are in a similar position to the British Conservative Party in 2005, after their three consecutive defeats to the Labour Party. Although the party systems in the U.S. and the UK differ considerably, the Republican leadership may wish to adopt some of the strategies used by the Conservatives in their return to government in 2010.
Primarily, the party elected a dynamic new leader to replace the aging Michael Howard. At just 39, David Cameron’s election to the leadership signalled a new image for the Conservative Party which had been in the political wilderness since Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997. Cameron’s youthful image, attractive young wife and family and more moderate image helped to create a regeneration of the wider party image which had become increasingly reactionary and appealed to an older demographic of voters. This is an avenue that the Republicans may wish to pursue, having struggled in the last two elections to gain votes among younger American voters, with a candidate along the lines of a Paul Ryan or Barack Obama.
Cameron also led the Conservatives in a different direction ideologically. For years, the conservatives had become seen as increasingly reactionary and out-of-step with the realities of modern Britain, particularly after Tony Blair’s election as Prime Minister on a wave of optimism and idealism. Cameron’s less aggressive stance on involvement in the European Union, and more liberal positions on social issues contributed to the growing popularity of the party. This is perhaps the area that could cost the Republicans the most in terms of their ideological coherence. It is possible that a more moderate stance on social matters could tempt independents or economically conservative Democrats towards the party.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, in his speech to the party convention in 2005 which propelled him to the forefront of British politics, Cameron claimed that the party needed to accept responsibility for its own electoral failures. He said, “Let’s have the courage to say: they’ve failed – but so have we.” This could be the most important step for the Republicans in the aftermath of this election cycle. This is the chance for the Republicans to evaluate where their weaknesses were revealed and have to opportunity to reinvent themselves in response.
[Image Credit: http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2012/11/16/republican-caryl-rivers]