With no leadership, with no vision, parties perish. Since 2008, the Republican Party has lacked unifying leadership. During the 2008 election, Arizona Senator John McCain was an also-ran who for months was running for office on a shoe-string. Senator McCain was one of many somber candidates, all of whom served as an unforeseen dress rehearsal for the weak Presidential candidates’field of in 2012. Huckabee was a populist hick to many pundits, or a venal, Southern version of Richard Nixon to others (including Washington Post columnist George Will). Fred Thompson was lazy, Giuliani was crazy, while Sam Brownback backed out early, the first of many Republicans to flip off Romney for his flip-flopping record. Tancredo and Ron Paul were the right-wing versions of Dennis Kucinich and Carol Moseley-Braun (laughably unwinnable). McCain the maverick ( or the moderate, depending on one’ convictions ) blasted Romney as “the real candidate of change”. McCain won the nomination, but he refused to reject the George W. Bush stigma until the very end (“Mr. Obama, I am not George W. Bush”).
Lacking a controlled visionary to embrace a vision which welcomes widespread interests, the 2008 GOP had nothing to bring down President Obama, who represented a new direction (in the wrong direction, of course). This divide remains in the Republican Party. Washington Republicans are “pro-business”while neglecting the “limited government” portion. George W. Bush started this divide, and his poor leadership was the first in a long-line of divided leaders who divvied their party’s power and distracted this country from recovery and prosperity.
There is no excuse for a lack of leadership in the Republican Party, but with Washington wanting one thing, and everyone else seeking something better, this split will grow into a gaping vacuum for Democrats to grab to their advantage. After six years of George W. Bush, the nation witnessed two wars long and lingering in the Middle East. Following intervention in the Schiavo case, followed by Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, and the Transcendent transportation bill, and even National populists like Pat Buchanan were whining in their winding Washington Post op-eds: “Who is W?” “Not My President” one rock group sang, with black T-shirts displaying their rejection. “W.” the standard bearer dragged down tough fights in 2006, like Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who lost by double-digits in Catholic, conservative Pennsylvania. Ohio’s Senator Mike DeWine redefined himself as “independent”,but it was too late for him. K Street, Jack Abramoff, and Tom Foley’s follies with male pages made a bad GOP brand worse.
Despite these reasons, there is still no reason for no leadership for the Republican Party. Without a positive, unifying vision, the GOP had no choice but to become the Party of “No!” Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose grand stint on FOX is ending, was more bombast than ballast her party. The GOP needs an Alpha leader, not a Benji-like hound (like Karl “The Brain”Rove”) or an attack dog who barks but has no bite (Rush Limbaugh). Ronald Reagan was this leader, summed up in one word: optimism. On CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opined once again about “optimism”. The Republican Party needs to be about growth and opportunity, options for the future, not just cuts for the present or reminiscence about the past. Three key characteristics will determine the new Republican leader: Relevant, optimistic, and courageous.
Along with Walker, Virginia Governor Bobby McDonnell,Saragota Springs, Utah mayor Mia Love, and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez define the new face of the Republican Party: diverse, focused, outside of Washington looking in. They care about people, not just polls; they want to respond to people’s views, not just get their votes. They want to be inclusive, but they will not exclude their values, a principle which Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal re-asserted last week. These governors and conservative activists have channeled the grassroots spirit much needed but so lacking during the 2012 election. Their respect for unity respectfully preempted them from laying the blame for 2012 GOP failure where it belonged: Mitt Romney. A weak Presidential candidate who did not really want to run, Governor Romney did not fit “like a glove”. His “47%”comment more likely turned off Republican voters throughout the country, not just on-the-fence Independents and disaffected Democrats. Just as Bush soured the GOP brand in 2006 and 2008, a leader who really wasn’t did not lead anyone to the polls in 2012. The right leader for the center-right party must be just right to right this party and this nation back to recovery and prosperity.
Ronald Reagan unified an ideological coalition of national, social, and fiscal conservatives. In 1984, he swept forty-nine states, including New York and Massachusetts. Not with attacks, bitterness, or even fear, but with a vision of a better future, one which swathe end of Communism and the resurgence of the United States. The GOP needs this leadership: relevant, optimistic, and courageous. Not an attack dog, but a “Leader of the Pack” who will bring in the strays, the wounded, and even the mutts.