The GOP’s Next Move

Republicans should not veer hard to the right in response to Barack Obama's victory.

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David Brooks, a thinking person's conservative, has delivered a strong message to the Republican Party: Prepare for more losses at the polls if there is no attempt to broaden the base.

Writing on the New York Times op-ed page, Brooks says reformers with "new structures and new ideas" will eventually emerge but only after more defeats. Some on the right howled, naturally.

The GOP seems to be listening more these days to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, hardly political theorists (and not so hot as entertainers either). They thrive on being outrageous in their blatherings on radio and TV (Fox, of course).

Within hours of President-elect Obama's choice of Rep. Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff, Limbaugh characterized him as part of the "thug" party operation in Chicago. Emanuel can be a hard-nosed partisan, but Limbaugh should look in the mirror to see a real thug.

Columnist Robert Novak writes that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, despite personal baggage, may be the new voice of leadership. Gingrich has been critical of some of the party's actions.

But talk about baggage! Gingrich cheated on two wives, one while he was calling for Bill Clinton's impeachment for his extramarital dalliances. Besides, Gingrich may be a man of many ideas, but a lot of them are wrong.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is talked up as another choice to lead the party out of the darkness. If that happens, Democrats everywhere should rejoice.

Palin has demonstrated in a few short months after being lifted from obscurity by John McCain that she is not ready for prime time. Some Republicans may find her personally attractive, but her idea of change is a surge further to the right.

The GOP leaders in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, must play to the right in the party ranks if they hope to stay in their respective positions. The word "moderate" is barely heard over the din of rigid conservatism in both houses of Congress. Two Republican incumbents who actually won this month—Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine—warned against any move to the right.

John McCain now returns to the Senate, where he will most likely regain his bearings and be a maverick and even a moderate on a few issues. But his days are over as leader of the party. He deserved better from the Republican voters who, as exit polls on November 4 demonstrated, stayed at home.

The next leader of the GOP is likely to come from the ranks of governors who met last week in Miami.

For example, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a sensible Republican governor, won re-election by a landslide while Obama carried the bright red state. Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida even has many Democrats hailing his handling of affairs there. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is a young man who could attract those 18-to-30-year-old voters who went for Obama in droves.

But there will be no tomorrow for the party if it continues to follow the rants of the Limbaughs or the Hannitys of the world. Where is the leader who is willing to stand up to them and their ilk and tell them to get lost?

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