The Right Opinion

The Way Forward

By Charles Krauthammer · Nov. 9, 2012

WASHINGTON – They lose and immediately the chorus begins. Republicans must change or die. A rump party of white America, it must adapt to evolving demographics or forever be the minority.

The only part of this that is even partially true regards Hispanics. They should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion, for example).

The principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants. In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney made the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.

For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe – full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.

I've always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it's the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy on the road to 2016. It would transform the landscape. He'd win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.

The other part of the current lament is that the Republican Party consistently trails among blacks, young people and (unmarried) women. (Republicans are plus-7 among married women.) But this is not for reasons of culture, identity or even affinity. It is because these constituencies tend to be more politically liberal – and Republicans are the conservative party.

The country doesn't need two liberal parties. Yes, Republicans need to weed out candidates who talk like morons about rape. But this doesn't mean the country needs two pro-choice parties either. In fact, more women are pro-life than are pro-choice. The problem here for Republicans is not policy but delicacy – speaking about culturally sensitive and philosophically complex issues with reflection and prudence.

Additionally, warn the doomsayers, Republicans must change not just ethnically but ideologically. Back to the center. Moderation above all!

More nonsense. Tuesday's exit polls showed that by an eight-point margin (51-43), Americans believe that government does too much. And Republicans are the party of smaller government. Moreover, onrushing economic exigencies – crushing debt, unsustainable entitlements – will make the argument for smaller government increasingly unassailable.

So, why give it up? Republicans lost the election not because they advanced a bad argument but because they advanced a good argument not well enough. Romney ran a solid campaign, but he is by nature a Northeastern moderate. He sincerely adopted the new conservatism but still spoke it as a second language.

More Ford '76 than Reagan '80, Romney is a transitional figure, both generationally and ideologically. Behind him, the party has an extraordinarily strong bench. In Congress – Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte, (the incoming) Ted Cruz and others. And the governors – Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, plus former governor Jeb Bush and the soon retiring Mitch Daniels. (Chris Christie is currently in rehab.)

They were all either a little too young or just not personally prepared to run in 2012. No longer. There may not be a Reagan among them, but this generation of rising leaders is philosophically rooted and politically fluent in the new constitutional conservatism.

Ignore the trimmers. There's no need for radical change. The other party thinks it owns the demographic future – counter that in one stroke by fixing the Latino problem. Do not, however, abandon the party's philosophical anchor. In a world where European social democracy is imploding before our eyes, the party of smaller, more modernized government owns the ideological future.

Romney is a good man who made the best argument he could, and nearly won. He would have made a superb chief executive, but he (like the Clinton machine) could not match Barack Obama in the darker arts of public persuasion.

The answer to Romney's failure is not retreat, not aping the Democrats' patchwork pandering. It is to make the case for restrained, rationalized and reformed government in stark contradistinction to Obama's increasingly unsustainable big-spending, big-government paternalism.

Republicans: No whimpering. No whining. No reinvention when none is needed. Do conservatism, but do it better. There's a whole generation of leaders ready to do just that.

© 2012, The Washington Post Writers Group

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15 Comments

d.w.hudson in Michigan said:

Democrats. 1986.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:15 AM

Cal in So Cal said:

Yet another brilliant observation by the country's number one "pundit" - for
lack of a better word. After this cogent observation, one can only say -
bravo! Ya did it again, Dr. Charles. Bravo!

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Jeremy in CA said:

Exactly.

Well, except the part about Romney making "the best argument he could". Romney ran a nightmarishly awful campaign. In spite of his awfulness, the door to the presidency was wide open after the first debate and Romney refused to step through. Instead he went cautious and tried to run out the clock---a bad strategy unless you've got a huge lead, and Romney was still trailing at the time...

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Jeremy in CA said:

Just a couple more quibbles...

First, Christie is not "in rehab"; he's the political equivalent of dead meat. He'll never make a comeback after his embarrassing (and costly) embrace of Obama. Second, why would anyone include Jeb Bush in a listing of Republican stars of the future? He'll never be the nominee, or even a major powerbroker in the party.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Tapdaddy in Indiana replied:

Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM

jksisco in irvine, ca said:

A number of the voter groups targeted by Obama are going to find out the "hidden" truth, you cannot trust his highness. When these voter groups realize their wallets are going to be picked rather heavily, buyers remorse will settle in; will it be enough to turn them to the other side, of course not, because once a fool, always a fool.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Torp44 in Ione, Wa. said:

Nawww,....it ain't gonna work! The only true conservatives we've seen were the "Tea Party", & we've just seen how they were ignored. Nope,....this time I think it's time to let obama & the liberals have their way. Just let 'em run the country into the ground, & after the big collapse we'll see if there are any liberals left. In the meantime, if you're a conservative it might be a good time to sell everything & get out of the country for a few years. The next 4 years will not be pretty.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM

Torp44 in Ione, Wa. said:

Nawww, Dr. Krauthamer, ....it ain't gonna work! The only true conservatives we've seen were the "Tea Party", & we've just seen how they were ignored. Nope, ...this time I think it's time to let obama & the liberals have their way. Just let 'em run the country into the ground, & after the big collapse we'll see if there are any liberals left. In the meantime, if you're a conservative it might be a good time to sell everything & get out of the country for a few years. The next 4 years will not be pretty.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Jim in Alabama said:

We are a nation of laws and we must be ever so. But we live in America, the greatest nation on earth, a place people will crawl over glass to reach. For the longest time we were open to all comers. The law didn't hinder our forefathers whose desire to come here was quite the same as these noble friends from the south.

A lot of people will say we've got to stand on Principal! The law is the Law!

Let's start here. A hundred plus years back, say. What if Canada had then had the muscle and had taken about a quarter of our land mass. And we'd been kinda half baked ever since, flipping governments like hotcakes, from Communist to borderline Communist-Fascists and worse. And all the jobs were in Canada now and lots of them on land that used to be ours and though we weren't LEGALLY allowed to just traipse across the border there were tons of folks there in those old United States of Canada, y'know, in places like St Louis and Sacramento and Dallas, that just loved to pay us under the table, even though they weren't LEGALLY allowed to. So it just so happens, that what we got left with, was almost all Catholic and now you gotta feed all seven kids. How are you gonna feel about that border. And if you get across and stay around a few years how are you going to feel about the Pols trying to make hay squawking about throwing you out and ten million of your fellow Yankee Americans that did the same. How are your legal immigrant Yankee Americans going to feel about those hypocritical Pols determined to rip up your family for some filthy votes. And how can anyone trust those clowns to stand on that "Principal" and loose the most important election of the century because that's where they stupidly stood?

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Jim in Alabama said:

It is high time the major players of the Republican Party convene a convention of sorts on this question and play it out in public. It need not be a squishy apology session. It should be a public effort aimed at establishing a winning plank for the Republican Party. The premise must be what benefits America. And it must be understood that the Hispanic vote for the conservative cause is, as you so eloquently point out, is an utterly essential element to keeping intact the very foundations of our freedom. Conservative Hispanics should play a major role, in establishing a viable position and in bringing it to fruition on the national stage, again without apology.

Honesty is not the same as pandering. We want your votes because we want our freedom. That is honest. What do we need to do for you to join us? That follows naturally.

The same should be done for the people of Color, and all others, in our desperate cities. Asking what are the most inclusive solutions to the decay brought upon our cities by successive corrupt Democratic administrations.

The Republican Party must permanently cease to be seen as the white guys who grab Hispanics, jail them and throw them out. It must become impossible to tar us as the party who favors incarceration of an immense percentage of the black population on drug and motor vehicle and paternity charges, while turning its back on the decent folks who live and struggle in the inner cities.

Let me just re-iterate.

It is time for the Republican Party to publicly and forcefully state its determination, going forward, to place conservative Blacks and Hispanics and the interests of their people at the center of all efforts to win political power. It is time for the Republican Party to claim its rightful place as the friend to Freedom and the enemy of Slavery.

And it is time to move out in full force against the Racism which motivates the Democratic Party.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

By 2016-we will be in the Hole too deep---perhaps 25-30 trillion dollars. There will be 46 million unemployed and total chaos, with this marxist Devil, from the brimstone cliffs of hell!

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Orf in Pennsylvania said:

No Chuckie, illegal immigration is ILLEGAL. And that means against the law. If the growing Hispanic population of America is worried about enforcing the law, they don't belong here. We are supposed to be a nation of laws. Giving amnesty to illegals is unfair to those who came here legally. It is also unfair to those of us born here in many ways, including the unemployment problem and the stress on welfare handouts. We should not have to worry about illegal immigrants taking jobs away from American citizens. And don't tell me the illegals only do work that Americans don't want to do. BS.

We have an immigration problem -- too many people, legal and illegal, come here to maintain their old country language, culture and lawlessness. They do not belong in America unless they become Americans. Apparently the melting pot melted away many years ago. One of the most dangerous fallacies in recent decades is "Diversity is what made America great." Total nonsense. Unity of culture, law, and religion was what made America great. From many one (e pluribus unum). Now America is balkanized into factions that do not talk to each other and are no longer citizens of one nation.

We used to have immigration laws that allowed people who were something like us and wanted to be Americans to come here. These laws have been altered so as to allow those who are less like us come here without much to offer this country. And so we have whole communities who do not speak English and who want to be hyphenated Americans not whole-hearted Americans. They want what freebies America has to offer them and the freedom to do as they please,

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:50 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA said:

ChasK, say, "i've always been of the "enforcement first" school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it's the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement."
The Hispanics are projecting Democrat Party modus operandi upon Republicans, example 1980's the Dems led by EKennedy promised enforcement for amnesty, Reagan gave amnesty, the Dems reneged on Amnesty, of course, going back on their word, or not producing on their promises is what the Dems do . So now we Republicans want enforcement first or at the very least appropriations and demonstrable process on both enforcement and amnesty in equal tandem before we budge on immigration reform. Otherwise, we'll have a new generation of illegals gaming the entitlements system for redistributive wealth.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:19 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA replied:

Oh & it is always the same no matter the issue, take the fiscal cliff, the Dems want tax rate hikes, etc. & they say they'll cut spending. SUURRRREEEEE, The same as they did with Reagan & Bush41. Remember, Reagan did get tax rate reductions, but we're still waiting on Dems to agree to spending cuts, & remember Bush"no new taxes, no re-elected"41, giving in to tax hikes in exchange for still waiting on Dems to agree to spending cuts. Republicans have the appearance of lying due to promises that Dems fail to keep & the MSM dutifully blames upon the Republicans.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:47 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA replied:

But the Hispanics would know this to be true, were they to assimilate and learn English, they could possibly see thru the MSM/Democrat Spin cycle.

Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:49 PM